First glimpses at drop-top C8.
The 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Convertible Was Aqua Blue Persuasion
In 1973, the first convertible version of the Chevrolet Caprice was offered. The Caprice, strictly first-cabin in the full-size Chevrolet line, had initially appeared in 1965, available only as a four-door hardtop. A coupe and station wagon were added in 1966. Though the nameplate would carry on all the way to 1996 (and later still, as a police-only version in the 2010s), the convertibles to which it was attached lasted only three model years, 1973-75. Today, let’s take a quick look at the 1974 version.
For the 1973 model year, 941,104 full-size Chevrolets were built. Of those, 7,339 were Caprice convertibles. The inaugural 1973 Caprice drop top had, like all of its brethren in Chevy showrooms, a large, chrome-plated 5-mph front bumper, freshly added to all full-size faces. In 1974, a matching railroad girder was added to the aft end of all biggie Chevys. Following standard Chevrolet practice, the grille was changed for 1975. Caprices for that year also received fresh turn signals, parking lamps, and taillights, along with some new colors and upholstery styles.
1974 was the year of the dreaded seatbelt interlock safety feature. It required all passengers to have their seatbelts fastened before the car would start. Many Chevrolet customers handled this by buckling the belts, then sitting on them, which significantly reduced the comfort one might expect from a Caprice. The feature was so thoroughly hated by virtually everyone that the law requiring it was repealed, and 1975 U.S. cars were no longer burdened with them.
It’s hard to fathom in 2019 with the increasing fragmentation of car lines and body styles, but full-sized Chevrolets were big business in 1974. The Impala line alone sold 405,286 units. Even the upper-crust Caprice Classic (with a flossier price to match) saw 155,860 built and sold.
Of course, convertible sales had been going down for several years. In 1960, you had a remarkable selection of convertible choices, even among just U.S. cars. But over the following 15 years, demand slacked off, then nosedived. The increasing popularity of air conditioning was probably the single biggest reason for the change, but consider also that the new hardtop body styles looked nearly as sporty as the convertibles, with none of the security concerns or water leaks. As a result, the 1973 Caprice drop-top found just 4670 homes.
Today’s beautiful aqua blue example was in attendance at the annual Geneseo, Ilinois Trains, Planes and Automobiles show, back in September of 2014. It is a very nice show and I attend every year. What really impressed me about this Caprice was its condition. Let’s face it; many of the mid-’70s Caprices and Impalas have been popular with customizers, which make it increasingly rare to see a factory fresh, original example such as this car.
But this ’74 goes even beyond looking like it just came out of a Chevrolet showroom brochure. This car had only 771 miles on the odometer, and was touted as “brand new.” And it most certainly looked it, from its bright, unfaded metallic paint to its pristine white vinyl upholstery and navy carpet, to its white stripe tires and accessory wire wheel covers. It cut quite a figure to your author. Especially in such an attractive color combination. There’s just something about a convertible with a white interior.
1975 was last call for the full-sized Caprice Classic convertible. Demand was not improving, so GM decided to finally end production of the B-body Caprice Classic, Pontiac Grand Ville Brougham, Oldsmobile Delta 88, and Buick LeSabre convertibles. The sole fabric-topped survivor in the GM family for model year 1976 would be the Cadillac Eldorado.
There was a slight bump in 1975 Caprice convertible demand, simply due to the announcement of its impending demise. 8349 ’75 convertibles were sold. A new front end treatment and wraparound taillights were the major changes over 1974. And so ended the Caprice’s short run as a convertible. Once the 1980s dawned, convertibles would come back to Chevrolet dealers, but they would be in Cavalier and Camaro form. After 1975, you’d have to settle for a sedan, coupe, or station wagon if a Caprice was on your must-have list. Can you imagine what a B-body convertible might have looked like after 1977? It would have been a handsome car indeed — but we will have to be satisfied with the fact that its predecessor enjoyed three handsome years roaming the earth in truly fine style.