This Week’s Klockau Lust Object: 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Estate

Since I have a lot of free time of late, I have been haunting Marketplace a lot, just looking for anything interesting and land yachtish from the ’70s. And today what did I spot but this green on green ’73 Nimitz-class Caprice wagon in San Diego.

Yes, it’s a clamshell GM wagon! So many of these were destroyed in the ’80s and ’90s in Midwestern demolition derbys, that seeing one now is a pretty rare event.

The ’73 Caprice Estate had the 400 CID V8 standard, but the 454 was still available as an option. Anyway you sliced it, these weren’t exactly fuel misers. But you could pull a speedboat or Airstream trailer with ease!

The six passenger version went for $4382, with the nine passenger version $4496. Both were more than even the Caprice Classic convertible, which retailed for $4345. Production was 22,969 and 39,535, respectively-seems the majority of Chevy woody wagon fanciers wanted maximum capacity.

The ad itself was frustratingly short and sweet: “Good condition, runs well, original California wagon, 400ci engine, auto. No rust.” And that last part is suspect because it appears the driver’s side rear quarter panel is developing a healthy crop of it.

But I do love that oh-so-’70s pistachio green paint, with dark green interior! I’m guessing this car was garaged most of its life, as the dash pad appears to be uncracked.

At first blush the ask of 13,900 might seem high, but wagons, once the dork-mobile for ’70s and ’80s high school teens (Hey Bob, ya driving yer mom’s car? Bwahahaha!”), are now getting collectible, since so many had the bark beaten off of them and crushed. And while many FB warriors parrot “That’s too much!” live from their parents’ basements, it is no longer 1990 and you can’t get these for three hundred bucks anymore.

When’s the last time you’ve seen one? I did see a tan ’73 Caprice Estate several years ago at a show in Cambridge, IL, and a ’72 Buick version at the Buick Nationals in 2017 in Milwaukee, but they’re pretty thin on the ground these days. But for the love of God, whoever buys this, get some whitewalls added stat! A Caprice without them is so gauche…

17 Replies to “This Week’s Klockau Lust Object: 1973 Chevrolet Caprice Estate”

  1. John C.

    I am going to join in with the FB warriors in their parents basements that 14k is too much for this example. As with so many of these, this example seems to have gone through a bruiser period with a driver displaying his irony. Sad, because with the clamshell doors and all the fixins, the cars really were honoring the mothers who took on keeping the hearth of the big, intact family, not just with van like function, but with an extra dose of style and upward mobility, here brought forward by the horse farm.

    If my memory serves, the 400 engine was a small block and so teamed with the THM 350. Nothing compared to what was coming with future austerity, but still seems a little weak for the job at hand. We think of the 454 as just an example of the excess of the period, but there were heavy duty jobs that called out for it.

  2. dejal

    CA car with 7 buck a gallon gas. Heh. I bet the miles go up even less than before for the duration or maybe forever.

    • stingray65

      Instead of building the homeless some $100K mini-house or $500K condo, why not just buy up some of these old house sized wagons for $13K and let the homeless do their drugs and defecate in them instead? No need for expensive gas when the gas guzzler is simply used as shelter.

  3. LynnG

    White walls and for god sake remove that flat black paint from the front grill…….
    Tom rust on the left rear quarter could the result of the gas overflow drain being stopped up or the hose missing and gas when the tank is overfilled is running down the inside of the rear quarter. Tom you forgot one foot note, for those who do not remember these, with nine passangers seating, the spare tire is stored vertically behind the left side rear trim panel, ie there was enough space in the the rear quarter below the rear side window to store a tire vertically. In the one picture of the open tail gate you can barely see the hump in the tirm panel. 🙂

      • LynnG

        Carmine got me there, i knew that, guess the word left must have been stuck in my head after I commented on the rust on the left quarter. Wonder if the 454 was not available in CA, GM did not certify some motors for CA in the 70’s and 80’s. That is why some CA Corvettes had a anemic 305 in the CA market back then. Because the 400 2barrel got worse gas mikage then a 454 4 barrel….

  4. hank chinaski

    Time for that trip to Wally World kids! This one is missing the roof rack for Aunt Edna. Is that a leash hanging off the back?

    • Trucky McTruckface

      “You didn’t order the Metallic Pea? You think you hate it now, but wait ’til you drive it!”

  5. CJinSD

    I had plenty of friends who were ferried around to their various activities in Buicks and Oldsmobiles from this generation of station wagons, but I can’t recall ever being near a single Chevrolet similar to this one. I knew people who bought the following generation of Impala and Caprice wagons, but nobody who bought this one. Perhaps it was because of the singularly ugly face.

  6. stingray65

    Hard to imagine there was ever a time when you didn’t need a heavy duty 3/4 ton or 1 ton truck with 4WD and 7 liter turbo-diesel with 10 speed automatic to tow a boat or camper trailer.

  7. Mike

    In a world where regulations didn’t make it impossible, imagine this sleek beast powered by the RWD powertrain from a modern Tahoe. 20+ mpg on the highway, and more cargo capacity.

    Hell, I bet the GM 3.6 V6 coupled with one of the new 8, 9, or 10 speed would do a decent job of motivating this thing properly.

  8. hank chinaski

    You just described the Dodge Magnum. It went over like all wagons do here. Sad face. The Hemi was pretty bitchin, too. Cue a ‘What If’ Hellcat Magnum article.

    • Carmine

      The Magnum was an awkward looking hatchback-sedan, or a sedan with windows in the trunk….true it had a rear cargo compartment but it was as much as an equivalent to a full size wagon as a CTS wagon was.

      As much as people one the internet pine for a wagon, waiting list for $70,000 Suburbans shows what people really want….

  9. Trucky McTruckface

    That’s got to be the ugliest faux wood paneling ever applied to a wagon. The ’73-’74 Malibu and Vega wagons used the same pattern. I think Chevrolet in general always had the least appealing woody option of any brand.

    Aside from the power windows and locks, this looks even more austere and Impala-like than the ’78 sedan that was featured awhile back. At least this has a color-keyed steering wheel, unlike the Impala, so there’s that. And it just looks so wrong without the luggage rack and whitewalls.

    I can’t get too excited about the clamshell wagons, they’re just too bulbous and awkward looking to my eye. The retracting tailgate is a neat trick but seems like more trouble than it’s worth – good luck getting it to work right again if the mechanism craps out or if you get rear-ended. Ford invented the two/three-way tailgate, so I suspect “not invented here” is the main reason GM felt obligated to reinvent the wheel.


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