4.20.2010

TireKicker Time Machine: 1978 Chevrolet Caprice Classic


(UPDATE:  Sharp-eyed TireKicker reader Paul Duca spotted the clues that this is in fact a newer Caprice. We've been able to narrow it down to 1982, '83, '84 or '85. Hit the comments section if you can help us pinpoint it to a single year. We'll change the headline and tags once we've got the right vintage)

It wasn't that long ago that you couldn't drive a city block without seeing three of these.

Oh, wait...it was that long ago. 32 model years since this '78 Chevrolet Caprice Classic rolled off the showroom floor...20 model years since its clean, classic lines were replaced by the dumpy upside-down bathtub models that themselves are becoming (mercifully) scarce.

                          

Hard to believe it now, but this was the downsized full-size Chevrolet...and GM was thought to be taking a big risk when it introduced this body style in the fall of 1976 as a '77 model. 637 pounds lighter than the previous generation, 10 inches shorter and 4 inches narrower.

What nobody realized until they saw the new one was just how badly the Caprice needed a diet. The big Chevy had been packing on the pounds since 1971 (kinda like Elvis at the time).

The new Caprice rapidly became its own benchmark.


                                  

Even in the desert Southwest, where these were a best-seller and where cars don't rust away, these aren't everyday sights anymore in any condition, which makes finding an intact, clean original all the more wonderful.

The NADA guides suggest $800-$2,000 would be enough to take one in this condition home, if you could find one and an owner who wanted to part with it. The best one on earth might set you back $2,500.

                                  

Back in the 90s, the buzz was that these were being bought up used and shipped by the boatload over to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, where they hated the new 90s Caprice styling even more than we did, liked the looks of this one, knew it was virtually bulletproof (in terms of reliability..."bulletproof" tends to be taken more literally in certain parts of the world) and that its air conditioning system could allow the Caprice Classic to double as a meat locker.

If true (and there do seem to be a lot of ads for them from Kuwait online), let's hope they didn't take too many and that there are plenty still here in the USA...hiding in retirement community garages...their 55-year old buyers now 87 and ready to hang up the keys after finding the Caprice a good home.

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