1970 Chevrolet Caprice Sport Sedan: Aqua Dreamboat
Do you ever feel old? I don’t terribly often, but I do more so when I see a great old car. Today’s case in point: This magnificent 1970 Chevrolet Caprice. It’s almost 54 years old, but to me, it’s still only 20 years old—25 max!
I remember these due to a brief but vivid childhood memory. An old friend of my dad’s, Donnie Moore, always drove cheap used cars. He was hard on them, so they were replaced with rather frequent regularity. He nicknamed many of them: a Chevrolet Vega was “Darth Vega” and a Thunderbird of indeterminate age was dubbed the “Thunderchicken.” I also remember, at various points, a blue, circa-1975 Dodge Colt coupe, an ’84 or ’85 Buick LeSabre, and a Grand Marquis.
Whenever he got a “new” set of wheels, he would frequently stop by my parents’ house to show the car to my dad. And one day, probably around 1989–91, he stopped by with a full-sized 1970 Chevrolet.
I am not 100 percent certain if it was a Bel Air, Biscayne, or Impala, but it was a four-door pillared sedan in metallic gunmetal gray, with a black interior. I think it was a Bel Air, but honestly can’t remember.
It was in slightly weathered, but intact, shape—right down to the factory wheel covers. I think I was interested because it was the first 1970 big Chevy I’d seen up close. I was familiar with the 1971-up Caprices, because a neighbor down the block had a ’71 four-door hardtop in that light lime green metallic that was so popular back then.
Anyway, he stopped, parked in the driveway, and then he and my dad commenced chatting. I was approximately 10 years old at the time, and I proceeded to gawk and circle the Chevy with avid interest.
The ’70 Chevrolets were a facelifted version of the all-new 1969 versions, but there were several noticeable cosmetic changes. The biggest one was that the “loop” bumper/grille, encircling the grille and headlights on 1969 versions, was replaced with a conventional chrome bumper below the quad headlights and all-new grille. Out back, the elongated horizontal taillights were replaced with thin, vertical versions.
In 1970, Chevrolet still offered a dazzling variety of models, instead of the all-truck, all-crossover line today (except for the Corvette and Malibu). But never mind, we’re talking about the first year of the Me Decade, not 2023. You had trucks, Suburbans, Vegas, Chevelles, Novas. And full-size Chevys. Glorious, full-size, classy, attractive full-size Chevys.
Coupes. Sedans. Hardtops. Convertibles. In trim levels from plain to totally fancy. And there was no fancier Chevrolet in 1970 than the Caprice, unless we want to engage in a discussion about the Monte Carlo. But that’s a conversation for another day.
In 1970, Caprice meant luxury from GM’s contribution of Detroit’s Low Priced Three, which back then consisted of Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth. Ford was making hay with its similarly luxurious LTD. Plymouth, meanwhile, had recently canned the top-trim VIP nameplate and its best model was the somewhat contradictorily-named Sport Fury Brougham.
But in 1970 GM was still a near-impenetrable juggernaut, the 800-pound gorilla of U.S. motordom, and so the Caprice and Impala were extremely popular.
First appearing in 1965 as a four-door hardtop only, as a super-deluxe appendix to the popular Impala line, the Caprice became its own model in 1966, adding station wagons to the mix. By 1970, it was an integral part in the full-size Chevrolet line, available as two-door and four-door hardtops, as well as the wood-sided Kingswood Estate station wagon, available in two- and three-seat models.
The 1970 Caprice Sport Sedan retailed at $3527 ($27,912 today) before options. Curb weight was 3905 pounds. At the time, Chevrolet didn’t break out models by trim level and body style, but from what I could glean from my automotive library, 92,000 Caprice V-8s were built for 1970, in all body styles.
Most expensive Caprice that year was the three-seat Kingswood Estate, at $3866 ($30,594). There was no convertible that year; if you wanted to go topless in 1970 you had to settle for an Impala. A Caprice convertible would appear for 1973.
This Caprice, absolutely gorgeous in Misty Turquoise with matching turquoise brocade interior, was spied at the annual car show in Bishop Hill, Illinois, a tiny enclave with Swedish roots in Henry County, Illinois. I attend every year, and it never disappoints. Today’s subject was my favorite car at the show this year.
If you’ve read enough of my columns, you know that I love Detroit land yachts and I love turquoise. I was about three-quarters through my walkthrough of the show and had just taken pictures of a gorgeous 1971 Oldsmobile 442 convertible when I spied this off to my left. Zounds! After stopping for approximately 12 seconds to photograph the 1979 Seville parked next to it, I commenced drooling over this Caprice.
My favorite body style and my favorite model. So sharp. And although I would have preferred the color-keyed factory wheel discs and fender skirts, this remarkably well-preserved example was just as pretty with its Chevy Rally Wheels and whitewalls.
It also had the optional 265-horsepower Turbo-Fire 400-cubic-inch V-8, a step up from the base 250-hp, 350-cu-in V-8. All the better to motivate you while riding in turquoise brocade, cushioned comfort.
As the 1970 brochure stated, “Some people have professional interior consultants design their living area. Some people. You. All you need to do is choose the Caprice interior that strikes your fancy … everything is color and design coordinated. Seat shape and material, carpeting, wall and ceiling fabric, instrument panel form and function. Everything. Beautiful.”
Such a comfy car, in such beautiful colors! I loved it. Every bit of it. And I walked away feeling just a little bit sad that you can no longer get American cars like this. Caprices, LeSabres, Bonnevilles. They were such great cars: Chevrolet built 162,800 full-size cars in 1970. Today? Zero. But some still live on, even in this day and age. I salute them.