1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Landau: The NEW Chevrolet
1977 was a big year for GM. Its full-size cars, its moneymakers, its bread and butter, were completely revitalized. Ads touted,”The New Chevrolet,” and the claim wasn’t just marketing bluster and bravado this year! Downsizing had arrived to the General’s large cars, but the revamped cars weren’t simply shrunken version of their prior selves: each represented the revitalized, reimagined, modern American full-size car. All the weight added since the mid- to late-’50s—all in pursuit of longer, lower and wider style—came to a full stop. Yet the 1977 B- and C-body GM cars were attractive in their own right. Form truly followed function. They were smaller, lighter, and more efficient but, at the same time, boasted better interior room and more trunk space. Not a bad deal.
Of course, the lion’s share of these new cars came from Chevrolet. New car shoppers who possessed Cadillac tastes but more modest budgets couldn’t go wrong with a Caprice Classic when the car arrived in the autumn of 1976.
The 1977 B-body’s development and history are well-known and worth a post of their own. Someday I will do a much longer article, but for now, let’s just focus on the two-door version of the New Chevrolet. Following in the steps of its predecessors, the 1977 full-size Chevy coupe was initially available as a Caprice Classic or as an Impala. The two cheaper, bigger Chevrolets—the Biscayne and the Bel Air—had both disappeared by the end of the 1975 model year. The coupe and the sedan shared a 116-inch wheelbase, a fact touted in ads like the one above. Stretch-out room for rear seat passengers was not a problem if you opted for the two-door Caprice—a definite improvement over some of the personal-luxury coupes of just a couple years earlier.
All in all, the ’77 Caprice coupe was a fresh breath of air, especially when compared to the gunboat 1976 model. Sure, the ’71–76 Chevys have their charms—I love them, myself—but they were awfully big. As of ’77, the Nimitz-class Caprices were consigned to the history books.
In 1977, the future was now for Chevy buyers. The 1977 Caprice Classics were just as cushy and roomy as the outgoing ’76 models but much more tidily designed and maneuverable. Anyone who ever had to parallel-park a 1971–76 Caprice Classic would have found the 1977 model a revelation. It had more get-up-and-go, too, since it had shed an impressive amount of road hugging weight: 611 pounds for coupes and 637 pounds for sedans, plus an impressive 871-pound loss for the Chevy station wagons. It didn’t hurt that the new Caprice Classics looked good, too! Bill Mitchell’s “sheer look”—so named for the severe right angles of the design, and first introduced on the 1976 Cadillac Seville—translated to the new B-body very well.
The coolest feature of the two-door full-size Chevrolets, in your author’s opinion, was an attractive wraparound bent-glass rear backlight. This rather space-age feature was comprised of single sheet of glass bent via a hot-wire method (think 1977–78 Oldsmobile Toronado XS).
Your Caprice (or Impala) coupe would have come standard with a single-barrel, 250-cubic-inch six-cylinder producing 110 hp. If that wasn’t stout enough for you (i.e., if you were not a little old lady, a tightwad, or a taxi company owner), a two-barrel, 145-hp 305 V-8 (standard in wagons) and four-barrel, 170-hp 350 V-8 were available—and they proved quite popular.
Midway through the model year, a Landau coupe model joined the Caprice roster. Primary features were the canopy vinyl roof (so named because it only covered the front two-thirds of the roof), wire wheel discs with “Landau” center caps, and Landau emblems at the base of the C-pillar. Sport mirrors and special pinstriping were also included. Finding one these days is a little more daunting than turning up a regular ’77 Caprice Classic coupe, as only 9607 Landaus were built for the year compared to 62,366 standard Caprice coupes.
As a kid growing up in the Midwest in the mid-1980s, I saw lots and lots of 1977–79 Caprices. Just across the street, for instance, two different neighbors had 1977 Caprice Estate Wagons, one in metallic tobacco brown and one in cream. I can’t recall a single coupe, though.
In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing a Landau (or, indeed, any coupes at all) back then. That red interior looks quite inviting too, with its 50/50 divided front seats with individual armrests and passenger recliner. Our featured car was equipped with power windows and power door locks as well.
This car, spotted at the annual car show in downtown Geneseo, Illinois, back in September of 2012, appeared to be an original, babied example, right down to its wider-band whitewall tires. I know they were quite popular during the mid-’70s to early ’80s. I have never seen another Caprice in this color, either. It appears to be Light Red, a 1977 factory color.
I would rather have the standard Caprice wheel covers, though—always liked that design, as seen on this coupe and wagon from the 1977 brochure. Maybe that preference traces back to riding my Knight Rider Big Wheel (I had a Knight Rider pedal car, too—loved that thing) past the neighbors’ ’77 Caprice wagons dozens, if not hundreds, of times. Both of the Caprice Estates on our block had these wheel discs.
The Landau returned for model years 1978 and 1979. 1978 Landaus were much more numerous, with 22,771 sold along with 37,301 standard Classic coupes—most likely because the ’77 Landau had a mid-year introduction, so ’78 was the first full year of availability.
An Impala Landau was introduced at the same time as the Caprice Landau and featured the same extras, right down to the pinstripes and wire wheel covers (standard Impala coupe shown above). Even more scarce than the Caprice version, the 1977–79 Impala Landau coupe totaled 2749 units produced in ’77, 4652 in ’78, and 3247 in its swan-song year of 1979.
As in 1978, the 1979 full-size Chevys got minor trim tweaks, primarily in a new grille and taillamps. The Landau coupe remained in the lineup as both a Caprice Classic and an Impala, though the Impala was never actually shown in the brochure. Sadly, ’79 would be the last year for the cool two-door roofline with the bent-glass backlight. In total, 21,824 Landaus came off the assembly lines. A coupe–including a Landau version–would return for 1980, but would receive a blockier, Cadillac-like formal roofline with a wide C-pillar and conventional backlight.
The full-size Caprice coupe remained available through the 1987 model year, as did the Landau package, though demand dipped significantly toward the end of its tenure. Handsome cars, all, but there was just something about those ’77–79 coupes!