Innovation can be a risky flightpath. Just ask Chrysler about the 1935 Airstream, light years…
The “Brougham Whisperer” is back in black
A good friend of mine, Jason Bagge, buys real cars about as often as I buy model cars. Which is to say, a lot. Most of the cars that Jason buys again and again are 1970s land yachts, and one of his favorite impulse purchases is the large-and-in-charge 1971–76 Chevrolet Caprice. He’s owned several over the years, but perhaps the coolest one he ever had is the subject of today’s Klockau Classics: the 1976 Caprice Classic Landau. His was especially fetching in triple black—black paint, black top, and black interior.
Living in Spokane, Washington, Jason is in a great position to find clean old cars that just need a little love to be really nice. It’s uncanny. Every time he finds a new car I think, “Holy cow! I haven’t seen one of those since about 1993, and it was a rust bucket.” And then he sells it, and three months later, he finds another one, oftentimes nicer than the last one. The man has a knack for this stuff, which is why we call him the “Brougham Whisperer.”
In late 2017, he sold this mint pistachio-hued 1974 Impala pillared sedan. It was nice when he got it, but he gave it that extra polish he is known for in the old car hobby, including an NOS grille, new whitewall tires, and myriad other bits. At the time I told him this one should be the “keeper.” It was that nice. So, of course, he sold it. Which is the usual routine.
In March 2017, I also told him he should keep an ice-blue metallic 1976 Caprice Classic Sport Sedan. At the time he was still driving it and enjoying it, but not long after, it was heading off to a new owner in Chicago.
That’s how it goes. He sees a car, performs his magic, enjoys the car a while, someone makes him an offer he can’t refuse, said car is sold, and the search for a new classic is on. I think he enjoys finding them the most… and bringing them back to nice condition.
Which brings us to that Broughamtastic 1976 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Landau. A few years ago, Jason was scouring the online classifieds when he spotted it. The car had been turned into an almost-lowrider (custom wheels and tires, no hydraulics), but it was a genuine factory triple-black Landau.
He had to have it. So he bought it. And immediately began working on it. The interior was a little rough, but the wheels and tires were immediately ditched and sold. Then GM-correct wheels and Caprice wheel covers were sourced, along with brand new whitewalls.
But those standard Caprice Classic wheel covers were just placeholders. You see, the Landau package, available on two-door Caprice Classics and Impalas for 1975–76, came with their very own wheel cover styling. And they were color-keyed to the car’s paint for Maximum Brougham.
So, of course, the “regular” Caprice Classic wheel covers just wouldn’t do long-term. Jason wanted the correct wheel discs, so when he found a set in passable shape, they were painstakingly masked off and painted to match. Fun fact: The 1976 Landau wheel covers were the standard 1975 Caprice Classic wheel discs, but with painted centers and a special Landau center emblem. NOS Landau wheel cover emblems are only slightly less rare than hen’s teeth, so Jason had to make do with the standard Caprice fleur-de-lis emblems.
In no time, the Landau was looking very, very good indeed. All the chrome trim, combined with the whitewalls and black paint, really made for an attractive Caprice.
The biggest talking point on all 1976 Caprice Classics were the new quad rectangular headlamps, giving the Caprices a decidedly Cadillac-like look up front. Of course there was a new grille too. In my opinion, this is the best-looking front end of all the 1971–76 Caprices. Modern, a bit sinister looking, but luxurious at the same time, in keeping with the Caprice’s role as the alpha Chevrolet.
The top of the heap, even among Caprices, was the Caprice Classic Landau, which added an Elk-grained Landau vinyl roof, accent stripes, dual color-keyed sport mirrors, and deluxe bumpers with rubber impact strips front and rear.
Those dual sport mirrors included a remote control for the driver’s side. Rounding out the special features: “Landau” script etched into the quarter window glass plus the aforementioned special wheel covers with color-keyed centers and “Landau” center caps.
The Caprice Classic Landau retailed for $5284 new (that’s about $24K today), and that was before any options were added. But even the base price was a healthy bump over the standard Caprice Classic two-door coupe, which had an MSRP of $5043.
By the end of the model year, the regular Caprice Classic was the winner sales-wise, but the Landau’s numbers weren’t too shabby either; 28,161 regular Caprice Classic coupes were sold, while Caprice Classic Landau production was 21,926.
Today any stock Caprice Classic from 1971–76 is rare, as these automobiles have become remarkably popular with customizers. And that demand has bumped the price of these “Whopper” Caprices. They are certainly no longer the old, worn-out $900 beaters they were circa 1991. Jason can attest to that.
After getting his triple-black Landau mechanically solid and its exterior spruced up, he was in the process of sourcing upholstery for the somewhat-worn interior when someone offered him a ton of money for the car. So with some regret, it moved on. Too bad. I loved this one. I messaged Jason at least a couple of times before it was officially sold, urging him to ‘Keep this car!’ But money talks and…well, you know the rest.
But wait, there’s more. As I write this, a new car has already been acquired—the third 1976 Landau that Jason has owned. In between the ’76 triple-black Landau and the white-over-blue Sport Sedan, he had a triple-burgundy Landau.
The second Landau ran and drove very well, but it needed a new vinyl roof and possibly a paint job, so it was sold when another interesting 1970s land cruiser appeared for sale. I can’t remember which car it was. Just another day in the life of the Brougham Whisperer.
The new arrival was acquired in the Midwest and trailered to Spokane, where Jason immediately started working on it. It already looks very, very good. I’ll likely write about it in more detail at some point, but you never know—it could move on to some new owner before the end of the week, and I’ll just have to write about the next one. Thankfully there’s someone like Jason out there who enjoys saving these old 1970s Nimitz-class American cars and is willing to provide plenty of photos.
Until next time…