1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Convertible: Last Call
This was the end of a fine line of glorious full-size Chevrolet convertibles. Oh sure, the Big Caprice would carry on with a square-headlight facelift through 1976, but you could no longer get a convertible. While the well-known 1976 Eldorado convertible was the “last convertible” in 1976 (at least until 1983, when a new topless Caddy appeared on the heels of the new K-car Chrysler convertibles of 1982), 1975 was last call for the Caprice convertible and its Olds 88, Pontiac Grand Ville Brougham, and Buick LeSabre Custom siblings.
In 1975, the Caprice was the biggest, most luxurious Chevrolet you could buy. Since 1965, the Caprice had out-Broughamed the Impala, first as a custom luxury trim package in 1965 and then becoming a full-fledged model of its own in 1966, with wagons added to the two-door and four-door hardtop models.
By 1975, you could get your Caprice in two- and four-door pillarless hardtops, a four-door sedan, six- and nine-passenger Caprice Estate Wagons, and the belle of the ball, the Caprice Classic convertible. And today’s featured Caprice looks especially good to me in Antique White with matching white interior with blue dash and carpets. Very nautical. See you on deck, Senator!
As I’ve mentioned in past columns, convertible sales in the U.S. had been slowly but steadily declining since the late ’60s. There were myriad reasons for this, but the biggest was the increasing popularity (and the corresponding decrease in price) of factory air conditioning. Why endure a drafty convertible top and the related ease of breaking into the car when you could get your Caprice two-door hardtop with factory air?
The production figures tell the story. The 1971 Chevrolets were all-new and bigger than ever and, of course, there was an Impala convertible. This continued for 1972, but then in ’73 the Impala droptop was discontinued and replaced with a Caprice convertible. Production figures for 1971–74 were 4576, 6456, 7339 and 4670.
Compare that with a decade earlier, when Impala convertible sales in 1960–63 were 79,903, 64,624, 75,719, and 82,659. Of course, tastes changed a lot from the ’60s into the ’70s, but it still surprises me that the big Chevy convertible couldn’t hit annual production of even 10,000 units in the ’70s (1970 came closest, with 9562).
But I’m getting off track, so let’s get back to the 1975 model. Chevy was a little bit sly about the convertible in its big ’75 brochure: “For those who still favor a convertible, we still offer one, combining the exhilarating effects of a convertible with the elegance of a Caprice.” Nowhere near the “Last chance, so get one now!” seen a year later with the ’76 Eldorado convertibles. Still, it was pretty common knowledge early on that the ’75 Caprice droptop was going to be the last one.
The ’75 Caprice Classic convertible (how’s that for alliteration, ha ha) had a base price of $5113 (about $29,000 today), a not-insignificant sum, as the cheapest new Chevy that year was the two-door Vega sedan at $2786 ($15,800). Curb weight was a majestic 4342 pounds, and a total of 8349 Caprice convertibles were built. Despite all the compact, midsize, and subcompact Chevrolets available in 1975, big Chevys were still popular: just in the top-tier Caprice line, production including the convertible was 103,944. And that was that. Come 1976, the sportiest Caprice Classic you could get was the coupe.
As many of you recall, 2020 and ’21 were bad years for classic car fans, as many shows and cruise nights were canceled due to the pandemic. But as 2022 came along, most (if not all) of them resumed, and I was dedicated to attending as many as I could. I saw this Caprice at the annual car show in Alpha, Illinois, in May 2022. It was the first show of the year that I attended. I’d never been to this particular show before, but it was quite good, with entrants ranging from an early Bronco restored to showroom condition, a 1963 Cadillac convertible, and an early Studebaker Avanti with that amazing factory-correct orange interior. But the one I wanted to cruise home in most of all was this Caprice!