The Chevrolet Caprice is a full-sized automobile manufactured and marketed by Chevrolet, a division of General Motors Company, from 1965 to 1996 model years and from 2011 to 2017. With almost a million sold, full-size Chevrolet sales reached their pinnacle in 1965. During its existence, which encompassed the Biscayne, Bel Air, and Impala, it was the most well-liked automobile in the United States during the 1960s and early 1970s.
History of the Chevrolet Caprice
The history of the name Caprice is murky. Bob Lund, Chevrolet's General Sales Manager, is rumored to have named it after a fancy New York City eatery. One theory suggests that the car was named after James P. Chapman's daughter, Caprice. In 1965, Chevrolet introduced a Caprice Custom Sedan option package for the Impala 4-door hardtop (RPO Z18). Competitors for the Caprice included the Ford LTD, Plymouth VIP, and the AMC Ambassador DPL. These automobiles had more plush upholstery inside and out, a more realistic wood-like dashboard and door panel trim, thicker carpeting, better soundproofing, courtesy lights, and upgraded exterior accessories.
First Generation Chevrolet Caprice (1966–1970)
For the 1966 model year, Chevrolet upgraded the Caprice to series status, solidifying its place as the brand's flagship full-size car. Unlike the fastback roof of the Impala/SS Sport Coupe, this lineup offered a four-door hardtop, a six or nine-seat station wagon, as well as a two-door hardtop with a squared-off formal roofline. Chevrolet used "Caprice Custom" to sell all four Caprice variants. More curved body lines, updated grilles and taillights, optional front fender corner lamps that lit with the headlamps, a redesigned instrument panel with circular instruments, and a new steering wheel were just some of the changes made to the 1967 Caprice. The Caprice underwent a mild makeover for 1968, with a redesigned grille, bumper-mounted taillights, and optional concealed headlights. The new Astro Ventilation system replaced the old vent (wing) windows on Caprice coupes, incorporating additional vents in the dashboard. There were different body lines for the 1969 Caprice and some other full-sized Chevrolets, as well as front bumpers that looped around the grille (with optional disguised headlamps, for which washers could be fitted as a "one-year-only" option). Additionally, all models received ventless front windows. Furthermore, the 1969 Caprice could be outfitted with a "Liquid Tire Chain," a vacuum-activated button that sprayed ice melt on the rear tires, or a revolutionary GM-designed variable-ratio power steering unit. Chevy updated the rear bumper lighting to triple vertical taillamps, and they swapped out the wraparound unit used in 1969 for a more conventional under-grille bumper in 1970.
Second Generation Chevrolet Caprice (1971–1976)
The flagship Caprice was reimagined for 1971 with a lengthened wheelbase of 3,090 mm (121.5 in) and a revised body that echoed Chrysler's aggressive approach to fuselage construction. New to the Caprice were flush exterior door handles and a double-shell roof, which had only been seen on the 1970 1/2 Camaro and the 1970 1/2 Pontiac Firebird. A Cadillac-inspired "egg-crate" grille houses the "Caprice" symbol on the newly designed front fascia, while brushed metal trim frames the taillights on the rear deck. Chevy changed the "Full-Perimeter" frame and all-coil suspension to make the ride smoother and quieter. In 1971, one year before the industry-wide shift to SAE net horsepower ratings, Chevrolet specifications listed both "gross" and "net" horsepower numbers. Standardized SAE net horsepower ratings according to SAE standard J1349 numbers for a more precise horsepower measurement. To account for the effects of the vehicle's components and emission technology, such as the exhaust system and air cleaner, the "net" horsepower was assessed "as installed," resulting in lower power ratings. A year before the federal rule was enacted, Chevrolet gave the 1972 Caprice a facelift with a redesigned bumper and a lower grille than the 1971 models. To do this, Chevy built a bumper inside of another bumper. The bumper and frame were both reinforced by heavy-gauge beams. For the 1973 model year, the Caprice lineup was renamed the Caprice Classic. The Kingswood Estate, known as the Caprice Estate, was renamed because of its new wood-grain side accent. In 1973, the convertible was originally offered as a Caprice model instead of an Impala model. In 1973, Chevrolet updated the exterior with a new cross-hatch grille, an energy-absorbing front bumper (effective up to 5 mph; 8 km/h), and reworked square taillights (once again housed in the bumper). There was a new formal, upright grille on the 1974 versions, and the turn signals had been relocated from the bumper to a new location in the center of the two headlights. The front of the 1975 models was redesigned, with headlamps that swept back, a new grille, and turn signals that were moved back to the bumper, which now slanted rearward at both ends. The updated taillights contour the back of the vehicle. A purely cosmetic trim level, the "Landau," was released in 1975. Six years after its debut in 1971, the Caprice Classic was discontinued after the 1976 model year.
Third Generation Chevrolet Caprice (1977–1990)
The 1977 Caprice Classic, released in late September 1976, was significantly smaller than the 1976 model in every way (length, width, and height). Still, it had more interior capacity (including more headroom, legroom for passengers in the back, and trunk space) and was lighter. General Motors spent $600 million on developing the most modified full-size Chevrolet to date as part of a downsizing project it dubbed "Project 77." Even though the smaller Chevrolets from 1977 still look very large by today's standards, the new Chevrolet's exterior dimensions were more in line with the intermediates of their era. The wheelbase of the 1977 Caprice was 2,900 mm (116 in), the same as that of the Chevrolet Chevelle, which was also in the intermediate vehicle class. A "Sport Coupe" and a "Landau Coupe" version of the Caprice were marketed to consumers. The vinyl top of the Landau Coupe only goes halfway up. The 1977 lineup was known as the Caprice Classic line. For the first time since 1965, a vehicle did not come equipped with a V8 engine. The 1977 Chevrolet Caprice coupes and sedans came standard with Chevy's venerable 250 cu in (4.1 L) six-cylinder powertrain rated at 110 horsepower (82 kW). The 1977 models were the best-selling automobiles in America. For the 1977 model year, Chevrolet manufactured over 660,000 full-size vehicles, the vast majority of which were the four-door Caprice Classic sedan. More than one million compact Chevrolets had been manufactured by 1978. Motor Trend named the 1977 Chevrolet Caprice their Car of the Year, echoing the praise from the public and other auto publications. Chevrolet modified the front and back of the car from 1978 to 1979. From 1980 to 1985, in its first significant update since its downsizing in 1977, Chevrolet gave the Classic a much-needed facelift. In 1983, a Caprice clone from Canada was introduced, the Pontiac Parisienne. From 1986 to 1990, Chevrolet modified the Caprice inside and out with more powerful engines installed.
Fourth Generation Chevrolet Caprice (1991–1996)
The Caprice underwent a significant redesign in April 1990 for the 1991 model year in the United States, ditching the rectilinear design that Chevy had used since 1977 in favor of rounder, more aerodynamic sheet metal. Production of the previous generation model was scheduled to end at General Motors in 1989 for the 1990 model year, per a 1980 decision. However, a judgment was called in 1985 to plan an exterior revamp for further resumption. The first fiberglass working prototype of the current generation was displayed in April 1987 for stock market analysis. The new Caprice was named Motor Trend's 1991 Classic Domestic Car of the Year. As of the first model year, buyers could choose between two trim levels: the Caprice and the Caprice Classic, which were meant to replace the Classic and the Brougham. With the new aerodynamic style of their full-size offering, General Motors aimed to reclaim its position as America's favorite automobile. Unfortunately, the final B-body Caprice was met with negative reviews and did not maintain relatively high sales levels, with almost half coming from fleet sales.
Car enthusiasts called the vehicle a "beached whale" and "an upside-down bathtub." At the same time, the second generation was dubbed the "bubble Caprice" in reaction to the first generation's "box Caprice" moniker for its boxy appearance. Despite the 1991–1993 Caprices' continued use of the same three powertrains and 4L60 transmission as the previous generation, two new engine alternatives with identical external dimensions but different internals were introduced in the fall of 1993 for the 1994 model year. In 1995 and 1996, Chevrolet sold the Impala SS to Middle Eastern markets under the Caprice SS label. Apart from the side letters on the rear quarter panel and the logo on the dashboard, the automobile was identical to its American counterpart. The midsize Chevrolet Lumina, General Motors' financial woes, and a movement in consumer demand away from full-sized family sedans and toward SUVs led to the end of production of the car in December 1996. Plans to bring back the Caprice for the 2000 model year in the United States fell through, but the Holden Caprice was resurrected there. Chevrolet's flagship offering, the Impala, returned to the U.S. passenger car market in 2000 with a front-wheel drive layout.
Fifth Generation Chevrolet Caprice (1999–2006)
Holden's Statesman and Caprice models, which were stretched versions of Holden's Commodore line (which was built on the Opel Omega at the time), were rebadged as Chevrolets for sale in the Middle East and Latin/South American markets. To facilitate the production of export variants, the WH series Statesman/Caprice was the first series to be designed to accommodate both left- and right-hand drives. The left-hand-drive variant of the Chevrolet Lumina offered in the Middle East was originally a left-hand-drive Holden VT Commodore. In 2000, Chevrolet released four trim levels of the Caprice in the Middle East: the entry-level LS, the standard mid-range LTZ, the sporty SS, and the top-of-the-line Royale (introduced in 2002). The primary distinctions between the models were in the form of optional extras and cosmetic touches. The 2004 model years of the Middle Eastern versions of the Holden Statesman and Caprice mirror the 2003 redesigns and facelifts that the company introduced. The latest variants included brand-new front and rear bumpers and an all-new interior. The power plants remained unaltered. Although the sixth-generation model (third-generation Holden Caprice) did not debut until the Caprice PPV several years later, General Motors explored bringing back the Caprice moniker in the United States for the year 2000 as a new Caprice 9C1 in 1999.
Sixth Generation Chevrolet Caprice (2006–2017)
Released in November 2006, the all-new Caprice series was based on the newly unveiled Holden WM Statesman/Caprice. All trim levels of the new Caprice, from the entry-level LS to the top-of-the-line Royale, are powered by the same L98 6.0 L V8 with 360 hp (268 kW). Whereas the Holden WM Statesman front bumper was shared by the LS, LTZ, and Royale, the LS loses the Statesman's signature foglights, found on the LTZ and Royale; the SS receives the Caprice's front bumper and foglamps without the parking sensors. The LS now features the same interior and trims as the VE Commodore Omega, while the VE Commodore V's trims are now standard in the LTZ. Although the Statesman front bumper is used on the LS, LTZ, and Royale, the Caprice and Caprice V bumpers are used on the SS. Similarly to the Holden Caprice and Caprice V, the Royale features a rear-vision camera embedded in the trunk's chrome garnish. This feature is not available on the LS, LTZ, or SS.
In 2017, Chevrolet retailed the Chevrolet Caprice with a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $32,965, which is around $39,830 in 2022.
Chevrolet released the Chevrolet Caprice from 1965 to 1996 and from 2011 to 2017.