It was inevitable. The Brougham era was, while not gone yet, well on its way. 1990 was the last year you could get the 1977-style “New Chevrolet.” The aero-style 1991 Chevrolet Caprice was waiting in the wings. But before that happened, perhaps the Broughamiest Caprice of them all was still available. The Chevrolet Caprice Classic Brougham LS-a car almost as long as its name.
Caprices were always pretty plush, right from the beginning in ’65, when it was a luxury trim level on the Impala Sport Sedan. But the capo di tutti capi of Caprices was, in my humble opinion, the Brougham LS. Oh yes, it was Maximum Brougham. It had it all: opera windows, wire wheel covers, ample chrome trim, V8, whitewalls, leather or velour seating, and many other Broughamesque features. Furthermore, there was no mistaking this large, luxurious Chevrolet for a much more common Caprice Classic Brougham, due to its exclusive Landau coach roof.
Inside, the Brougham LS was basically the same as the non-LS Brougham, but that was hardly a problem. Features included plush floating-pillow styled seating, 20 oz. carpeting, 55/45 divided front seat, courtesy lamps galore. Velour was standard (of course it was!) with leather optional.
During this time Caprices came in four basic flavors. Plain Jane Caprice, upwardly mobile Caprice Classic (with chrome rocker trim and non-taxi grade interior; Caprice Brougham, with poofy seats and full vinyl roof, and of course, the top of the line, the Brougham LS, with its Chrysler Fifth Avenue-inspired Landau roof. Basically, you were getting it for that top, as the standard Brougham, seen above in white, could be had with all of the same equipment.
I imagine they found favor with folks who wanted a Cadillac, but either weren’t enamored of the smaller FWD Sedan de Villes, or liked the remaining RWD Cadillac Brougham, but found the Caprice’s price tag irresistible. At any rate, this was the the last no-holds-barred luxo Caprice, with all those little chrome doodads and whitewalls and other neoclassical bits. It might have been the late ’80s, but there was still a lot of ’70s in its style.
And these cars were on the way out. Tastes were changing. In 1990, the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer and GMC S-15 Jimmy gained four doors and everyone went nuts. Ford followed suit with a four-door Bronco II, renamed Explorer, in 1991, and suddenly the modern SUV eclipsed everything. All the suburban yuppies with two kids and a dog had to have their Eddie Bauer Explorer! The party was pretty much over for the full sized, rear-wheel drive domestic sedan and wagon by 1990, though die-hard RWD fans and fleet sales kept things going another 20 years.
The Caprice itself would be gone after an extended 1996 model year, the huge B-body GM plant in Texas being re-purposed to build the new red-hot four door Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon. And while there was always a luxury Caprice, right to the end, with extra chrome and plusher interiors, they never quite seemed as impressive as the 1977-90 Caprices. They were more modern of course, but at the same time seemed a little plainer. The Hudson Hornet styling didn’t help either.
I was reminded of this about three years ago when I spotted this totally worn out triple burgundy 1990 Brougham LS, sitting in the new arrivals section at the local junkyard. Ironically, it had been sold new just a couple miles down the same road, at Bob Eriksen Chevrolet-Buick.
Although certainly not in Euro luxury territory price-wise, this was not a cheap car in 1990. It was the top of the line Chevrolet, and as such had a top of the line price. Chrome grille and hood ornament were, of course, standard. From 1986 to the final outing of this vintage of Caprice in ’90, little was changed, save for the sealed beams giving way to flush headlamps in 1987.
In fact, the only way I know this is a ’90 is due to the door-mounted seat belts of this car, newly added to Caprices and Cadillac Broughams that year.
I spotted another Brougham LS a couple of years before this, and that one was definitely a 1987-89 as it had the seat belt on the B-pillar.
That car was in impressive condition, and sharp in black. Clearly in the hands of a caring owner! I have seen it in traffic a couple of times since then, and it still looks good.
But this car was its polar opposite. It had been totally run through the wringer! Technically, it was all there, but what was there was toast. I was, however, impressed that all the little chrome bits, the rocker panel trim and side moldings, were still attached to the Swiss-cheesed sheet metal.
I found myself wondering about the original owner of this car. And somehow I had a strong feeling this car had the same owner its whole life.
I was picturing someone like Burgess Meredith in Grumpy Old Men, perhaps newly retired from the local Case or John Deere plants in the area, waltzing in to the Chevy dealer in the autumn of 1989 and buying this Caprice right off the showroom floor. And paying cash.
Over the years, he just kept driving it, long after it had deteriorated to the point where it had zero trade in value. But what the hell, it still runs, might as well keep driving the damn thing!
Then, one day, his kids, now grown with their own families, finally had enough. “Dad, for God’s sake, you’ve got to get rid of that car. It’s a death trap!” The father, rarely driving anymore and now living in a retirement home, finally gives in, and it winds up here.
And not a moment too soon. This car was all used up! Later on, I saw it in the yard, and it was even worse than it looks here. For example, there were no rear foot wells any more. The only solid object was the carpeting! But you can still see a glimpse of the flossy Detroit luxury barge it once was.