Junkyard Find: 1988 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1988 chevrolet caprice classic

The third-gen Chevy Caprice, made for the 1977 through 1990 model years, was the last of the traditional box Caprices. Those of us who came of driving age during the Late Malaise Era came to fear the rear-view-mirror sight of the grille of this car, the early Panther Ford LTD, and the Dodge Diplomat, due to their popularity among police departments in the 1980s. You don’t see many box Caprices these days, but enough were made that they appear in self-service wrecking yards now and then. Here’s a very governmental-looking example I saw in Denver a couple months ago.

Made in Texas by Texans! Sajeev would approve, but his loyalty to the Blue Oval is stronger than his love of Texan-made automobiles.

Carburetors were almost gone by this time, but the Caprice still had a good ol’ Quadrajet on its 305-cubic-inch V8. In 1989, the Caprice got electronic fuel injection (instead of the Holley double-pumper that should have been installed to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall).

GM had toned down all the heraldic crests and related gingerbread on the Caprice by the late 1980s, probably because police departments and rental-car companies don’t care about such things, but you still got a few fleur-de-lis scattered about the car.

85 mph speedometers were no longer mandated by US law in 1988, but we can assume that GM had a few hundred thousand of these things in their warehouses and wanted to use them up.

The Merkur XR4Ti also had an 85 mph speedometer, but it was presented with a certain amount of winking and nudging.

As you can see in this “Hearbeat of America” add from 1988, the Caprice wasn’t getting much emphasis in Chevrolet’s marketing in 1988.

Not the most expensive luxury car, but the most preferred.

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  • RHD RHD on Jul 10, 2015

    Back in the late '80s and early '90s, the local Mennonites would ONLY drive Caprices. A drive by their church parking lot on a Sunday would be a surreal experience.

  • Grant404 Grant404 on Jul 21, 2015

    My second-ever brand new car was a very sharp, well-optioned, two-tone '81 Caprice. For advice on what options to get or avoid, I called my buddy back home who worked for a big Chevy dealer. He told me to get a gas V8 and avoid the V6 (rough idle and transmission complaints) and the 350 diesel (already notorious by then) like the plague. I took his advice and got one with the 305 V8 and I was very satisfied. In fact, out of the 40-ish vehicles I've owned so far, that Caprice is one of my favorites. Soon after buying it in NJ I got transferred to L.A. so it never saw salt or snow. The good news is, being a "box" Chevy in SoCal there's a chance it still survives. The bad news is it might be a lowrider or donked out.

  • Bd2 The hybrid powertrain in the Sportage and Tucson are the ones to get.H/K should discontinue the base NA 2.5L powertrain and just build more of the hybrid.In the future, maybe offer a 2nd, more powerful hybrid (the hybrid 2.5) which will first arrive with the next Telluride/Palisade.Kia also needs to redo the front fascia for the Sportage's refresh.
  • The Oracle I say let the clunkers stay on the roads.
  • Jpolicke Twenty-three grand for a basket case? And it has '66 wheel covers and gas cap so who knows what else isn't original?
  • Scott Can't be a real 1965 Stang as all of those are nothing but a pile of rust that MIGHT be car shaped by now.
  • 56m65711446 So, the engineers/designers that brought us the Pinto are still working at Ford!