By on December 3, 2018

1977 Chevrolet Caprice in Colorado wrecking yard, LH front view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

GM shrank its B-Body full-sized models for the 1977 model year, including the massive-selling Chevrolet Caprice/Impala. This proved a wise move in light of certain geopolitical events a couple of years later, and the 1977-1979 full-sized Chevrolet coupes got a cool “fastback” wraparound rear glass treatment.

Here is such a car, spotted in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.

1977 Chevrolet Caprice in Colorado wrecking yard, front seats - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThough this car was once someone’s customized pride and joy, with metalflake green paint and aftermarket wheels, its glory days are decades in the past. After a long downward spiral, during which its interior got thoroughly mangled and faded, it ended up in the scrap-metal ecosystem.

1977 Chevrolet Caprice in Colorado wrecking yard, headliner repair - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsMost junked General Motors cars from the 1970s and 1980s have tattered headliner cloth held in place with thumbtacks.

1977 Chevrolet Caprice in Colorado wrecking yard, 350 engine - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsUnder the hood, a 350-cubic-inch (that’s 5.7 liters, for those of you who don’t speak freedom) V8 engine generated a depressingly small number of horses. I don’t even have the heart to look it up. Actually, chances are this is the car’s third or fourth small-block V8, since these engines get swapped the way some people change their shoes.

1977 Chevrolet Caprice in Colorado wrecking yard, rear glass - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis piece of glass is worth something, but the nightmare of shipping one to a buyer (who will have a 97 percent chance of being angry about some minor flaw) rules out all but the most industrious and patient parts sellers. I went back to this yard a couple of weeks after shooting these photos and the rear glass was still on the car.

1977 Chevrolet Caprice in Colorado wrecking yard, wheel - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsTry to imagine this car when it looked cool, not the way it appears today.


GM did a big advertising blitz on the new, smaller, full-sized Chevrolets.

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79 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    Don’t know why, but for some reason these Chevys just speak to me. Maybe it’s my love for the basic “box on wheels” design language…

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    One of my dream project cars is to take a two-door Caprice and drop a big block in there, along with transmission and suspension upgrades. As time goes by this dream gets more remote.

  • avatar
    riggodeezil

    That commercial is pure 1970s “Rich Corinthian Leather” schlock. I love it…and it’s 100x better than any Chevy commercial from 2018. Also, unless I’m mistaken, ir’s got Fran Ryan in it. Not quite Ricardo Montalban Star-power but she made a solid career out of playing sweet little old ladies in lots of teevee shows and movies back in them there times.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    There’s a piece of electrical wire (like a heating element) on each side of the rear glass. The glass manufacturer would pass current through the wire to heat it, then bend the glass.

    I’ve always liked these, whether two- or four door. You could even get these with the 250 1-barrel six, if you were really cheap, or really concerned about gas mileage. Given the blue valve covers, I’ll bet this is the original 350.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Looks like it also has a defogger on it.

      That rear window would bring some $$$ — that is, if anyone at that yard knows about how rare or potentially valuable it is.

  • avatar
    kinsha

    I would think the factory rear defrost on this car (and that rear window) would be a very rare option – find anymore.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I’m surprised the rear glass is in place, those were/are very expensive to replace. I love the first round of GM downsizers, GM was so afraid that people would reject this new “world size” that they went to great lengths to make sure they were good cars. That attitude did not last long

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Most junked General Motors cars from the 1970s and 1980s have tattered headliner cloth held in place with thumbtacks.”

    …and 90s and 00s and probably 10s.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Must have been a smoker, some headliner glue degrades rapidly when exposed to tar and nicotine

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Didn’t know that, explains a lot about the issue.

      • 0 avatar
        namesakeone

        They deteriorate regardless of whether the driver smoked. Take it from someone who replaced a headliner in his 1980 Camaro.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          That was one thing that never went on my 1978 Cutlass Salon, despite my aunt’s chain-smoking. IIRC, my brother only had a couple isolated areas where the headliner was falling when he traded the 1994 Sunbird hatch he inherited from me when I bought my first new car.

          OTOH, a buddy of mine had an ‘87 Calais with a headliner held in place with the top of a clothes-drying rack. Did the job, but the head gasket on the Quad-4, IIRC, had other ideas soon after the McGuyver job.

      • 0 avatar

        To add to the discussion: I’ve heard that smoking, at the very least, hastens the issue of the glue degrading. It’s just one of the factors though. My 84 Charger’s headliner started to droop after about 5 years and I don’t smoke. It is what it is, eh?

      • 0 avatar
        gman1023

        Also sunlight. Garaged cars don’t have this problem as often or as rapidly.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Sometimes it’s just age. I used to have an 85 XJ6, according to the forums the glue in just about all of them degrades over a couple decades, regardless of external factors.

    • 0 avatar
      ChiefPontiaxe

      We had to replace the headliner in our 1978 Cutlass by 1982. The glue just didn’t hold up, but they were using this same glue well into the 2000’s

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The Old Man got our mother a fully spec’ed ’77 Caprice Classic within weeks of there being released. In ‘copper’ (burnt orange?), just like in the TV ad.

    We were all suitably impressed. However at that points we started to wonder why someone would purchase one of GM’s more ‘prestigious’ brands when the Chev had the equivalent ‘luxury’ features.

    Agree with the above posters, that GM ‘did this right’.

    Heck, The Old Man even drove it a couple of times and didn’t complain. And he was strictly a Lincoln/Cadillac man.

    I believe that these were also among the first to offer the ‘new’ 305 cid v8 engine developing a whopping 145 hp.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      My dad reluctantly got a ’78 Cadillac Fleetwood, he and I both remember it as being a lot nicer then expected. A family member got a Rolls Royce that same year and we all remember the Cadillac being a much better all around car

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        My memory coincides with yours. And I believe that a number of ‘car magazines’ of the era also agreed. Although I few months ago, there was a poster on this site who vehemently disagreed. I believe that he only commented on that one issue.

        Cadillac/Lincoln in the early mid 70’s generally had larger displacement engines, more horsepower, were quieter (Lincoln in particular), were longer, heavier and had more ‘luxury features’ than a RR of the same era. I would use the analogy regarding the interiors of comparing a Vegas penthouse suite of the era to the reading room of a London ‘gentlemens club’. And the domestics were more dependable. Also from my memory, the steering feel was ‘tighter’.

        Clarkson et al may disagree but then their testing technique was rather flawed.

        As to the downsized GM’s and in particular the Caprice. Reliability on this proves good (for the period), they sold reasonably well and in the opinion of many were actually superior to their successor.

        Having owned a ’75 Caprice Classic coupe (Highway Queen, cream and burgundy)with the large block v8, I was quite pleasantly surprised the first time I drove our mother’s new ’77.

  • avatar

    I think the Caprice Classic has aged better than most other cars from this era (especially mass market ones). The angular lines and blocky look carried it through to the Nineties successfully.

    Name me another Malaise era car which made it through to the early Nineties with almost no changes.

  • avatar
    ajla

    The Chevy 350 that year made [email protected] and [email protected] It looks like 0-60 was between 9.5 and 10.5 depending on trim, gearing and how the carb voodoo was feeling that day.

    I mean, that’s not *good* or anything, but I’m not sure it is cover-your-eyes bad either. Especially considering:
    – The Caprice wasn’t a performance car.
    – It was 41 years ago.
    – Some economy cars available right now have about the same acceleration and I’m repeatedly told that it’s totally fine.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      “It looks like 0-60 was between 9.5 and 10.5 depending on trim, gearing and how the carb voodoo was feeling that day… Some economy cars available right now have about the same acceleration and I’m repeatedly told that it’s totally fine.”

      Yep, that’s because it *is* fine, it only requires the driver to just barely pay attention to the road rather than not paying any attention at all, as too many drivers do- to not accelerate like a timid wuss down an onramp and then be surprised that there is traffic on the freeway (we’ve all witnessed that type of driver, makes you want to yell out the window “go faster! what the F did you expect?”), this is really not complicated stuff…

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Just be glad you aren’t on the wrong side of the pond: http://www.flickriver.com/photos/triggerscarstuff/sets/72157628606450259/

      It’s almost like they’re centuries more ‘advanced’ than us when it comes to the uncomfortable aspects of civilization’s decline. They had auto journos over forty year ago championing the horribly inferior cars that were now within the upper-middle-class’ reach thanks to the combination of a government drunk on fuel taxes and a staged fuel shortage. Did you know what you often had to back off in your 0-60 in 36.2 second Citroen because you’d be stuck behind drivers of 3 liter sedans that weren’t quick enough? That’s what the writer of a 1975 comparison test wrote in the UK.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      @ajla:
      No, it wasn’t bad, and because everything else sucked too, it didn’t suffer by comparison all that much.

      Most economy cars will do 60 in seven or eight seconds. My comparison, the BMW 320 – the High Priest of Malaise Sport Sedans – did it in about 12 seconds. And it was agricultural as all f**k getting there. It was the handling dynamics that set it apart.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      One other thing, this was during the Drive 55 stay alive era so ramp sprints to 60 or 70 MPH would be errr…illegal.

      A lot of cars in this era had their next shift somewhere around 50 MPH (mags use to do 0 to 50, not 60) so you’re looking at another 1 to 1-1/2 seconds being added to the “real” time you needed to get to highway speed of the era.

  • avatar
    seppi

    Most likely NOT the ‘third or fourth engine’. Small block Chevys run FOREVER.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    College buddy of mine had one of these. He nuked it out jousting snow piles in a mall parking lot one night. Turns out one of the snowpiles had a concrete anchor for a light pole with no light pole.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAA!!

      I used to like driving fast through leaf piles in the street gutter. I realize that makes people mad… and when they’re standing right there in the yard and holding the rake it makes them *really* mad. I quit doing it when one of my friends pointed out/asked what’s to stop me from hitting a big pothole.

  • avatar
    relton

    I had a number of these cars, all 2 doors with the bent window.

    I put a Cadillac engine, stroked to 540 cid, in one of these. It was only a little heavier than a small block, and really made the car go. Cop car suspension parts made it a pretty good handler, too. Eventually I added ABS, from a 91 Caprice.

    When I worked at GM, about 1985, we had a big comparison test of luxury cars, Cadillac Fleetwood, Lincoln, Mercedes, BMW 7 series, and a few others. For a ringer, I put in a Caprice cop car. The Caprice not only beat all of the others on every measurable criteria, including 0-60, and skidpad, it was also measurably quieter. As a result, GM started removing sound insulation from the Chevy, reasoning that a Chevy shouldn’t be quieter than a Cadillac.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Here’s a comparison from Wikipedia of the barge like 71-76 and the new downsized 77.
    1976–1977 Comparison[28][29]
    1976 Impala 1977 Impala
    Wheelbase 121.5 in (3,086 mm) 116.0 in (2,946 mm)
    Overall Length 222.9 in (5,662 mm) 212.1 in (5,387 mm)
    Width 79.5 in (2,019 mm) 75.5 in (1,918 mm)
    Height 53.7 in (1,364 mm) 55.3 in

    As a comparison the 1963 Chevrolet Impala Series measures 79.50 inches in width, 210.40 inches in length, and has a wheelbase of 119.00 inches.
    So even though I were downsized they were still roughly the size of the very popular 63-64 full sized cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      There was a huge weight reduction which was the main goal. The thing GM pushed the most was that although there was a reduction in length/width/weight the new smaller GMs were able to maintain almost identical inside dimensions which was quite an accomplishment. Prior to 1977 cars NEVER got smaller, only larger, so a really big deal in 1977

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    My mother had a ’77 Caprice Classic sedan with almost every option box checked off. 350 V8, the handling and suspension package, upgraded everything for the era. I remember that car floated (in a good way) on the highway.

    My father had a ’77 Caprice Classic wagon – dark brown with faux wood and a tan vinyl interior (dad like his hose out interiors). His had the smaller 350 V8 also but was more lightly optioned. Didn’t have the 8 passenger seating option I remember that was an empty storage area in the cargo area.

    Both of the cars were reliable as the sunrise sans the AC on mom’s 77 sedan. Once a year it would need to be recharged and serviced.

    Mom totalled the ’77 in ’81 in a horrific accident. She was run off the road and crashed into a New England stone wall. Metal pieces from the front fender shattered off the car from the impact vs bending. She was unbelted but didn’t break anything, just massive bruised and a severely sprained wrist. Replaced with an ’81 Caprice with the God awful V6 under the hood. That car was a bag of trash. Lived at the dealer. Dad’s ’77 chugged along until ’84 when he traded it in on a Dodge Caravan. The Caravan dropped its transmission at 287 miles (not a typo).

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    I tip my hat to the inclusion of the bent window, it’s a nice touch at a time when cars were quickly consolidating toward boring.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    My FIL had a brown 1981 4 door Caprice bought new. I rode in it more than a few times and used it to transport my MIL who had MS after he died in 1985. IIRC, these were good cars given the standards of the time. Great visibility and room along with a very spacious trunk that swallowed up a wheel chair with ease. Also very reliable, the most memorable problem was the decomposition of the cat in 12 months which was replaced under warranty with no further issues.
    My only issue was that the General should have had sequential fuel injection as standard equipment instead of carbs that would have yielded lower emissions and better power for a minor bump in cost.

    • 0 avatar
      96redse5sp

      I knew a scientist up in Schenectady named Felix Hoenikker, but I thought he died. You any relation?

      There was a funny story about his car, but I can’t remember it exactly.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Most of the HP complaints on cars of this time frame were due to changes made to meet the exhaust emission regs. Typical was lowered compression ratio, less ignition advance, and camshafts with less lift and more overlap.
    I knew several people that owned Big 3 V8 cars and trucks and were not happy with the HP. Some replaced the camshaft as this did not cost that much more if the water pump needed to be replaced. Rumors at the time had it that for the Ford 460 the “police” cam was the best. Supposedly getting a 40-50% HP increase. Along with advancing the ignition timing.
    I did not do any of those myself hence all the qualifiers.
    I probably don’t have to tell anyone here that a 5.7 engine with later fuel injection and ignition (and redesigned cyl heads) would make at least 350-400 HP.
    Also IIRC GM was still installing the catalytic convertors that had the “pebble bed” design. The cannister was filled with pea sized ceramic balls coated with the platinum/rhodium catalyst. They had a high failure rate.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      PWR,
      Your comments are spot on about the early “pebble bed” catalytic converters were not mechanically stable and tended to dust and produce high back pressures. Also, they were simple oxidative cats that did not lower NOx emissions. It wasn’t until the late 80s that the holy tiro of relatively cheap engine computers coupled with oxygen sensors and three way catalytic converters patented by the Engelhard Corp allowed HP levels to be raised while keeping low CO and NOx levels.
      In the early 2000s, the EPA awarded the Corning Corp and Engelhard their highest award for the estimated 1 x 10^9 tons of pollutants that were not emitted due to the technologies listed above.
      I was proud to be a small part of that massive accomplishment.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Imagine if the Big Four had gotten over their stubbornness and just licensed the systems developed by Bosch, ten years earlier (model year 1977 for some California market Volvos and Saabs). Not cheap in the late 1970s, but nonetheless oxygen sensors, three way catalytic converters (not just cheapo oxidation-only), and electronic control. But alas, “not invented here.”

  • avatar
    geo

    My dad bought a rusty brown ’79 Impala coupe in 1992 when I first got my license. I had driven my boss’s powerful V8 Caprice previously and I remember wondering why there was such little power for such a large car — I assumed someone removed the V8 and replaced it with a 4 cylinder. In fact, my dad’s other vehicle – an 82 Rabbit diesel – seemed to have far more pep!

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I love these big Caprice coupes. As I recall, the 77-78 had an elegant grille with vertical bars and the taillight wrapped around to the side with an angled shape. For 79-80 they put in a cheap looking egg-crate grille and squared off the taillight. Minor details but made a big difference. Overall the shape the ‘beveled’ edges, the wheel-openings and proportions were fantastic – a better looking car than the similarly themed Rolls Camargue and Aston Lagonda of the time. I drove a number of these and the F41 suspension option really made these fun to drive.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    BTW the $ value of that bent rear window has much to do with someone knowing how to remove it without breaking the glass.


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