1996 Chevrolet Caprice
(Featured on 25th July 2012)
Sellers original description:
1996 was the end of the line for General Motors and their full size rear wheel drive sedans like this Caprice Classic. In typical GM fashion, just about the time they had perfected the recipe, they canceled the program, because these are great cars. With just 8,784 original miles, this 1996 Caprice Classic is the equivalent of an Impala SS, but much more unusual. And, of course, there's always the fun involved in driving a car that can easily be mistaken for a police cruiser.
Ordered new by an 86 year old lady and maintained until her recent death at age 102, this car carries all of the important options, including the 5.7-liter V8. Apparently she wanted an Impala SS, but didn't want bucket seats and a console, so she scanned the order form and built her own version. Aside from the bench seat and a few trim differences, the only substantial difference between this car and an Impala SS is the wheels and tires. There are no details anywhere on how many cars like this were built, but you can bet it wasn't many and the survival numbers must be extremely low. By 1996, the Caprice was an extremely nice car, and with hundreds of thousands built, it was one of the best-built vehicles in America. They survived millions of abusive miles at the hands of police officers and taxicab drivers, and still came back for more.
As with all the low-mileage cars RK Motors Charlotte features, the highest praise we can give this one is that it is as-new in virtually every way. When we talk about restorations, they are inevitably better than new in every way, but original cars are special. There's no bodywork required, no fresh paint on any of the panels, and everything fits the way it did when the guys at the factory put it together. The paint is amazingly nice, and white looks pretty darned good on this big cars body contrasting nicely with the black window treatments and stainless steel grille. And before you dismiss this one as a little old lady special that has been 'parked by feel' for years, take a look at the bumpers. Hardly a mark to be found except for a few specks of road rash, in fact, the front bumper wasn't even drilled for a front license plate. And hailing from warm, sunny Knoxville, Tennessee, this car has never seen snow or salt and is as spotless underneath as it is up top.
The Caprice Classic was available with a run of the mill 4.3 liter V8, but the top motor was the Corvette-derived 5.7 liter LT1, which, in this application made 260 horsepower. One look under the hood is all you'll need to be convinced that this is a low-mileage original car. All the original equipment is intact, including the engine cover up top, which is often the first thing unscrupulous mechanics toss while doing maintenance work. The bottles for the radiator and windshield washer fluid (which are HUGE, by the way) are still clear and white, not yellowed and discolored by age and heat. The belts, hoses, plugs and wires are most likely still the original equipment. There's simply nothing more reliable than a small block Chevy, and these LT1s routinely last longer than 250,000 miles before needing major service. In the case of this time capsule of a car, if it continues at the same rate it has been accumulating miles, will probably run for another 514 years.
The transmission is GM's rugged and dependable 4L60E 4-speed automatic, and it works perfectly. Out back a set of 2.93 gears on a limited slip differential help the Caprice deliver on its EPA estimated 26 MPG on the highway and make it a highly relaxed cruiser. Like the engine bay, everything is original and in remarkably good condition, from the floors and frame, to the suspension and brakes, which all feel like brand new. The original exhaust system has no leaks and has a healthy, albeit subdued; rumble that suggests some pretty serious blasting powder is available under the hood. This car does carry the optional $550 Sport Suspension, which upgraded the standard Caprice to Impala SS specifications for a little more precision on the road. The car currently wears aftermarket aluminum five spoke wheels that feature gunmetal gray paint, machined aluminum lips and 235/70/15 BF Goodrich Long Trail radials. However, if you're a stickler for authenticity, the cars original aluminum alloy turbine wheels that came standard with the Special Value Caprice Sedan Package 3 are included with the sale.
The main reason this car is a Caprice Classic and not an Impala SS is inside, where the original owner insisted on a leather-lined bench instead of the Impalas standard buckets. Nicely preserved and showing hardly any wear at all, this Caprices interior is a plush environment that has legroom galore. If you're the sort of guy who complains about new cars being too small, well, here's your ride. And all the power goodies are included, like power windows, locks, seats, as well as A/C and a moderately good factory stereo system. The gauges are a combination of analog and digital instruments that were cool in the 90s and still function well today. Wood trim is reasonably realistic looking, and covers parts of the dash and door panels to give the Caprice an upscale feel. This was, after all, Chevy's top-of-the-line sedan. In back, there's enough room for the starting front line of an NBA team to get comfortable, and it doesn't look like anyone has ever spent any time back there; it's new in every way. The same holds true for the trunk, which still carries all the original mats, nets, covers and a full-sized spare tire.
Documentation is extensive, as the original owner wisely retained all the original paperwork. We have the original window sticker, 1996 Caprice brochure, order forms, invoice, receipts, owner's manual, the folder with all the supplemental information from the dealer, including a cassette tape, the post-delivery satisfaction survey (never filled out), a thank-you letter from Beaty Chevrolet, the selling dealer, the GM Roadside Assistance plan booklet, and even the original temporary license tag. Wow!
Look around these cars are incredibly hard to find and always in demand. In fact, I might be tempted to assign this one our desirable 'will be gone in a week' status; that's how nice it is and how strong the market is. With all the hardware that makes an Impala SS so cool, plus the updated quarter panels and windows that got rid of the odd Caprice styling, it's a slam-dunk. One owner, low mileage, and perfectly preserved, this is an essentially brand new 1996 Caprice Classic. There will never again be cars like this built anywhere in the world, and the ones that do exist have pretty much been driven into the ground.