Home » A Euro Market 1977 Caprice That Could Challenge (And Beat) The “Ronin” Mercedes 450SEL 6.9?

A Euro Market 1977 Caprice That Could Challenge (And Beat) The “Ronin” Mercedes 450SEL 6.9?

Topshot Caprice 2 24 Pv2
ADVERTISEMENT

When lost, the best thing that you can do is get back to a familiar place. Let’s say you’re in Paris or The Magic Kingdom, your phone is dead, and you have no clue where you are. Do you see the Eiffel Tower? Is the top of the Disney castle off in the distance? Just head in that direction, you’ll eventually get back to a point of reference where you can start over. That same solution can work with most projects when they get way off track.

This fact was brought home a little while back when reading the excellent review by Adrian of the often overlooked “downsized” GM B-Body 1977 Chevy Impala and Caprice, a shape inspired by clean Italian coachwork that immediately strayed into the malaise daze of “landau” vinyl roofs, “formal” backlights, and chrome door-edge trims. A shame, considering the basic form was genuinely every bit as good as concurrent European sedans, if not better.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

Amongst the comments for the piece, I stumbled across these from Cerberus, Ranwhenparked, and Mike Smith:

Comments1 2 24Oh, no, that’s me.

Indeed, it would be nice had GM made a more European-styled full-sized Chevy, but I’m not sure that the mid-eighties Caprice and the “Eurosport” route is one I’d want to go. Usually associated with the boxy Celebrity mid-sized sedan, the “Eurosport” trim package added body-colored wheels, ground effects, black trim, and red stripes to this boring sedan. Calling this on-the-cheap version Euro-anything was a bit like telling someone you’re cool: if you have to say you are, it usually means you aren’t. The Eurosport was a 1980s American marketing person’s ill-informed idea of what a German sport sedan looked like, but most definitely did not – that’s it below. A perfect sporting sedan for Frankfurt, but only if we’re talking about Frankfort, Kentucky.

ADVERTISEMENT
Chevrolet Celebrity Europsport Vr 2 23
General Motors

Honestly, I blame AMG for this type of shit. The late, legendary rocker and devil-horn innovator Ronnie James Dio once said that the worst part of the metal genre was the success of musicians who thought they could just grow their hair, hack away loudly on instruments, and call it metal, thus ruining the genre for devotees of the form with actual talent. By the same token, once that Mercedes tuner masked off the glass and lights of a car and blasted it with white or black paint, lesser car makers latched onto the concept as an inexpensive way to simulate the look of a sweet Black Forest cruiser. I’ve always thought that murdering out some dull-ass sedan just makes the car look like an unpainted model kit. It’s customization with a total lack of imagination.

Amg 2 24
AMG

Actually, as commenter Maymar and LTD Scott mentioned, Chevy did if fact make a single high-performance Caprice wagon in the mid-eighties, constructed as a chase vehicle for road testing Corvettes when a stock Caprice was not up to the task

Comments3 2 24

Engineers installed seats and engine from the C4 ‘Vette, and upgraded the suspension. Outside, the chrome trim was blacked out or painted body color in a sort of “Eurosport” look. It’s undeniably cool, in a backyard-customization way.

Corvette Chaser E2 24
Barrett Jackson (car for sale)

Interesting, but not the direction that I want to go with my “Project Euro B Body,” and I don’t want to use the less attractive modified-for-the-eighties Caprice design. Hopefully I’m not going too far from what Cerberus had in mind, but my goal was to capture the pure, unadulterated essence of the Caprice’s initial design intent. More than that, I wanted to make a version of this Caprice that truly could have been sold at a dealership in Stuttgart or Munich back in the day. Even if it hadn’t been able to beat Mercedes at their own game, at the very least it wouldn’t be the equivalent of a dude in a Stetson and cowboy boots walking around Heidelburg, or a “Eurosport” cartoon of what a European car should look like. Let’s get to it.

ADVERTISEMENT

Taking The Icing Off Of The Cake

As I mentioned earlier, when you’re lost you often need to start over, so let’s go back to the beginning of this generation of B-Body. When introduced in its most pure cleanest 1977 form, the Caprice (and all of the B-bodies under the different brands) was closest to the Italian ideal that design head Bill Mitchell reportedly had in mind.

1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic (1) 2 23
Streetside Classics (car for sale)

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Mitchell was quite smitten by the works of Pininfarina, and he held the 1972 Fiat 130 Coupe up as a particularly desirable example. It comes as no surprise that the Chevy bears a rather strong similarity to this Fiat.

Fiat 130 Coupe
Grays (car for sale)

You’ll notice the most striking thing about the trim on the Fiat is the utter lack of it. Sparing use of chrome trim around the windows, bumpers, and lights disproves the knee-jerk idea of having to black out anything shiny to make a car “look like an import”.

The bodyside crease on the Fiat above is a subtle detail that- surprise of surprises- the Caprice has as well. Of course, on the Chevy that crease is typically covered by some “leather-grained” rub strip, and all of the busy detailing takes your eye far from it anyway. That Fiat has a chrome lower rocker trim as well, but it’s a minimalistic strip instead of the wide band on the GM car like below, which was so large you could admire the reflection of your shoes in it.

Stock Caprice 2 19
Mecum Auctions (car for sale)

Our first step then is to grab some razor blades, heat guns, and pry bars and strip off that trim, as well as the chrome wheel arch accents. I still want a lower rocket molding, but much smaller than the original Caprice. Just like on the European cars, it breaks up the visual mass on the side of the car. The big chrome bumpers do look a bit like the roadside Armco barriers that keep out-of-control cars from going too far off into the weeds. You would think that body-colored bumpers would be a nice addition, but in fact they make the car look heavy. The compromise is to add protective rubber stripping across the bumper but leave strips of visible chrome in sections to lighten the look. In 1977, you couldn’t sell a car with composite headlights in America, but a German market car would need to have them, complete with quartz iodide bulbs. Headlamp wiper/washers were mandatory in countries like Sweden back then so best to add some to the equipment list. Built-in bumper-mounted driving lights next to the amber signals tell you this isn’t a Chevy found outside of a Kroger.

ADVERTISEMENT

Euro Caprice 1977 2 24

Needless to say, bigger tires and wheels are part of the program, not to mention dropping the whole car a few inches. GM proposed amber rear signals in some Caprice sketches but didn’t include them on American cars; Germany would require these plus built-in rear fog lights, requiring us to relocate the reversing lights to the bumper. From what I understand, German law prohibited rear side marker lights, requiring us to strip out the bulbs and paint the lenses body color to sell the car there. Really? We won World War II to be treated like that?

Caprice Rear 2 22 2

The changes to make the Caprice a German market car are surprisingly subtle, yet the end result is dramatically different. Honestly, when seen next to what the Caprice’s arch nemesis would be in the Black Forest, the Chevy more than holds its own in terms of styling. Below you can see a black 1977 w116 450SEL Benz for comparison. I love golden-era Benzes of any shape or form, but while Sacco’s 1979-91 W126 Mercedes Benz S Class is a big favorite of mine I’ve never been a huge fan of the somewhat blocky 1973-80 W116 predecessor; the juxtaposition with the taut, tapering lines on Bill Mitchell’s rip-off of the Paulo Martin-designed Pininfarina Fiat shows me why. I know it’s difficult to disassociate yourself from preconceptions a wallpaper car that you equate with filling up church parking lots of your youth, but try to be open-minded and look at it as if you’ve never seen one before.

Euro Caprice 1977 2 24

ADVERTISEMENT
450sel 2 23
Gooding and Company (car for sale)

What about making the rest of the car competitive? That will take a bit more work, but we’ll make it happen.

Ein Autobahn Caprice

Would GM really sell a V8-powered large sedan in Germany? They certainly had done so already for years with the enigmatic Opel Diplomat; it’s almost inconceivable that such an American-looking car was built and marketed to the land of schnitzel and Octoberfest. It’s not that the Diplomat sold particularly well, but considering how dated and Detroitish it looked it’s rather surprising that the car found over 23,500 buyers from 1969 to 1977. Funny side note: there was consideration put into building the Diplomat in the US as a small Cadillac, but it is said GM claimed that they couldn’t hold the German tolerances in American factories.

Fg9ym82wiae9g6h 2 24
General Motors

The Diplomat was replaced in 1978 by the smaller and much more European-looking-and-feeling Senator, a car that served as the basis for the Bitter SC coupe. A straight six was the largest engine available in this Opel luxury sedan.

Opel Senator A Sedan 1
General Motors

The Caprice might be a niche car for sure in Europe, but sitting a notch above the Opel Senator it might still find some buyers interested in an Opel Diplomat-style big sedan that accelerated and cornered faster than the $40,000 (1977 dollars) Mercedes 450SEL 6.9 flagship, a hopelessly cool brown example of which being one of the stars of the movie Ronin.

Euro Caprice 1977 2 24

ADVERTISEMENT
Ronin 1998 Movie 5 Nw 2 23
screenshot (Ronin 1998)

Uh, just how is Grandma’s Chevy going to do that? One step at a time..

Under The Hood

We all know of the Bill Mitchell who was head of GM’s design department, but fewer know of a different and unrelated Bill Mitchell who ran a Chevy tuning business in New England during the malaise era. This Mitchell worked on the International Race Of Champions (IROC) Camaros for driver Mark Donahue, the spec machines professional drivers raced head-to-head back in the day. One street product of this former Oldsmobile engineer was a Camaro with a turbocharged 350V8 that generated an estimated 330 horsepower in an era where the standard car barely broke 180 horses.

1980 Bill Mitchell C155
Top Classic Cars For Sale

With none of the US-required emissions controls and higher octane German fuel, I have to believe we could reliably get horsepower over 300 horsepower from this mill, even in detuned production-car trim. That would be enough to propel the 4000-pound sedan to sixty in somewhere around 6.5 seconds, easily shaving a second off the best-recorded run of the costly Ronin 6.9 Mercedes (both cars with 3-speed automatic transmission, yes the Mercedes too, so save the comments). If we can believe the period reports of the 6.9 being “the world’s fastest production sedan,” then it looks like our heavily modified version of Aunt Katie’s car would steal that title outright.

Img20240220 20212227 2

Under The Floor

Sure, you say, any muscle car can be tuned to beat European thoroughbreds in a straight line. You realize there’s more to it than that Bishop, right? Uh, after putting over 100,000 miles on a Panther Lincoln and 100,000 on a W126 Benz, I’m very aware of this. First, the boys in Warren, Michigan would steal a stray Corvette C3 rear independent suspension unit from somewhere at Tech Center and bolt it in where they ripped out the Caprice’s live rear axle. Self-leveling air shocks in back would provide the kind of height control that the Benz’s ultra-complex air suspension did, but at a fraction of the cost (and maintenance headache). Bilstein shocks and a sway bar the diameter of your arm would tighten up the front suspension; larger vented disc brakes all around would attempt to reduce high-speed fade, and the steering wheel would no longer spin like a top with a recalibrated box.

ADVERTISEMENT
Caprice Suspension 2 23
General Motors

The Passenger Compartment

We’d need to do some work on the inside of the Chevy, that’s for sure. Yikes:

Caprice Interior 2 23
General Motors

The job isn’t insurmountable, though. Corvette bucket seats up front would be upholstered in Cadillac-quality leather, with the rear bench trimmed the same way (and an added fold-down armrest). A center console would be swiped from the Oldsmobile coupe models for the floor-mounted T-stick automatic shifter (the only transmission available, sorry) and the relocated window switches from the driver’s door (not sure if it’s just me, but I HATED those General Motors four-in-a-row power window controls on the door since they completely defied ergonomic logic).

Additional touches to complete the Euro conversion would include things like a sport steering wheel, rear seat headrests, a full set of instruments in the main cluster, and rear pillar reading lights from the Cadillac parts bin. Fake wood and the coffin-style door pull straps would stay stateside.

Img20240220 20192817

Hard to imagine, but the ultra-austere Mercedes S-Class we’d sort of be competing with lacked much of the basic luxury equipment you don’t even think about that’s in the everyman Chevy; power front seats, illuminated visor vanity mirrors, and variable speed intermittent wipers are nowhere to be found on the 450SEL. Even the top-of-the-heap 6.9 version of the big Benz offered a McDonalds drive-thru-speaker sounding stereo and no way to adjust the passenger’s side mirror from the driver’s seat (on a car that sold for around $220,000 in today’s dollars). At least the 6.9 model had a GM air conditioning compressor (but NO BALL COOLER VENTS).

ADVERTISEMENT

I don’t know if a factory moonroof was an option on Caprice sedans in 1977, but if not we’d need to have American Sunroof Corporation add one to the Euro model Chevy. How else would Bobby DeNiro be able to stick his head out of the top with a rocket launcher, right?

Amuricuh! Amuricuh! Maybe?

Even if it had existed, I doubt that many Euro market Caprices would have been offered, so it’s not like we’d ever plan on this thing being a big seller in Bavaria (or any other part of Europe). The question is, would it sell at all overseas in 1977?

These B-Bodies were some of the best quality products that General Motors ever built, but like most cars compared to a late seventies Mercedes they were tubs of shit. Still, even if all of these modifications doubled the price of the base car, the Caprice would likely have come in at less than a third of the Benz 6.9’s sticker price. The Chevy would also be far less costly than the similarly boosted Bentley Mulsanne Turbo from a few years later in 1982.

Imperfect as it might be, the Euro Caprice makes just too much sense to ignore, and I’m glad the commenters asked for me to waste time on this intriguing what-if. Despite being a dyed-in-the-wool German car guy now, I’d buy this example of Bill Mitchell’s thinking (and the other Bill Mitchell’s tuning) in a heartbeat.

Thanks once again for the suggestions! Let’s wrap it up with the specs:

ADVERTISEMENT

1977 Chevrolet Caprice Euro Spec

Engine: 310HP 5.7 liter pushrod V8; four barrel carburetor, single Garrett AirResearch turbo, no emission controls
Transaxle: 3 speed automatic
Front Suspension: unequal length control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension: Trailing arms, transverse leaf spring, anti-roll bar, self-leveling shocks
Brakes: Vented disc front and rear, vacuum assist
Steering: Recirculating ball (power assist)

Performance:
0-60: 6.56 seconds
Top speed: 135 mph
Roadholding: 0.79g
Fuel economy: avg. 13mpg

 

Relatedbar

Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines Corvette Sedan And Wagon In 1978 – The Autopian

ADVERTISEMENT

What If Ford Had Made The Mustang Mach-E A Torino Instead? – The Autopian

Parts-Bin Puzzle, What-If Edition: Our Daydreaming Designer Imagines AMC Export Cars For France – The Autopian

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on whatsapp
WhatsApp
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Subscribe
Notify of
78 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
EricTheViking
EricTheViking
3 months ago

Interesting take on “what-if” and “alternate universe” for the Caprice…

A few things:

The fixed external rear-view mirror housings (like ones affixed to this Caprice) are illegal in Europe. They have the penchant for bruising or busting the thighs if the pedestrians aren’t careful where they walk. If they are broken off the mount, they are broken (you have seen some of them dangling from the adjustment cables). General Motors used the flagpole mirror housing commonly found on 1984–1991 Jeep Wagoneer (SJ).

GM-Holden imported the Canadian-sourced Chevrolet Impala and sold them through the official sales channel for two years (1967–1968). The Impala had the amber turn signal indicators in the middle of the three-part taillamps. Chevrolet chose to delegate the duty of amber turn signal indicators to the outermost part for the Europe-bound 1977–1979 Caprice.

A guy who did the right-hand-drive conversion for his Chevrolet Impala wagon used the headlamps from the Australian-built Datsun/Nissan Bluebird 910 (1979–1983, known in the US as Datsun 810 Maxima/Nissan Maxima). Perfect fit.

As for the powertrain, Andy Granatelli came up with a perfect engine for his 1985 Chevrolet Caprice that broke the speed record for a four-door saloon with four passengers. Unfortunately, the search engines kept coming up with the news of his death and very little else other than this Autoweek issue. So, I couldn’t recall much detail from memory: 600 cid twin-turbocharged big block V8 with larger Holley 950 or 1100 cfm 4BBL carburettor.

EricTheViking
EricTheViking
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

What I am speaking of is the entire housing that doesn’t move as compared to the part of the mirror that moves on the stem.

No, the reverse lamps have smaller reflectors so the light shines through the clear lens only. The lamps for brake, night, and turn signal indicators have larger reflectors as to fill the entire red lens. See this US version that shines fully through the entire red lenses. So, the Australian version has reverse lamps moving to the inner part of the taillamps while the middle part moving from the inner part is fully amber-coloured and configured as turn signal indicators only.

Australia allowed the amber-coloured turn signal indicators to double as reverse lamps until 1989 when the third edition of Australian Design Rules was published. The conversion specialists in Australia took advantage of this feature for years when modifying the North American-built vehicles.

The taillamps for Holden Caprice (WN II) and Chevrolet Caprice PPV are the same. The difference is the wiring diagram for delegating the electricity to the appropriate bulbs. The Holden version has one amber-coloured bulb for turn signal indicators and one white bulb for reverse lamps while the Chevrolet version has two white bulbs for reverse lamps and uses the red brake lamps as turn signal indicators when needed (this idiot forgot to switch on the reverse lamps in the comparison video).

Last edited 3 months ago by EricTheViking
Martin Ibert
Martin Ibert
3 months ago

Der Caprice, not das Caprice.

David Escargot
David Escargot
3 months ago

Sign me up

Paul E
Paul E
3 months ago

Funny thing is, it wouldn’t have taken all *that* much, as the F41 suspension and even better, the 9C1 police package really was a major breakthrough for handling for big American cars. The ‘full’ gauge cluster was available (hey, a temp and vacuum gauge!), and could have easily had more gauges added to it. I bet someone could mix and match bits from the GM parts bin even now to come close to making their own.

Clupea Hangoverus
Clupea Hangoverus
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul E

While the market was small, American cars were imported to European countries. The importers could spec the cars they ordered, and while the combinations could be weird to American eyes, the tighter suspension was typical. Handling yes, but also durability on shitty roads.

Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
3 months ago

Call it the Chevrolet Eland – a species of antelope larger and more regal than an Impala, and a play on “elan”.

Martin Dollinger
Martin Dollinger
3 months ago
Reply to  Tim Cougar

Believe me, it would have become the „Chevrolet Elend“ (Elend = misery) 🙂

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
3 months ago

“I’ve always thought that murdering out some dull-ass sedan just makes the car look like an unpainted model kit. It’s customization with a total lack of imagination.”

So you’re not big on the 2003 Mercury Marauder, then?

Bracq P
Bracq P
3 months ago

Look how the trim line between the wheel arches does not line up with the bumper overriders on the W116. Do you happen to know of other design with this unusual detail?

Bill Amick
Bill Amick
3 months ago

Beautiful. I’d love to Red Pig a ‘78 Buick LeSabre (my first car), and this gives me loads of ideas.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
3 months ago

I always blame the 1974 Porsche Carrera 911 for starting the black trim craze.

I thought it looked ugly on the 911 at the time, and at best on other cars, just sort of hides poorly designed trim.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago

That’s quite striking without being brash. Removing the chrome frippery de-emphasizes the (to my eye) over-large rear wheel arch and also seems to give it muscular haunches without going too far. Not quite velvet glove/iron fist, but a rather gentlemanly elegance with steel resolve: well done, that.

James Davidson
James Davidson
3 months ago

I love the modified Caprice and it looks better to my eye than the contemporary MB sedan. The little touches, like getting ride of the horrible rub-strip molding make a huge difference in the look of the car.

Completely unrelated, when I was in high school I almost got my parents to buy a used 300 SEL 6.3. That thing went like bat out of hell as we test drove it around the Upper East Side in NYC. We took it to the Autobahn Service Center, also on the UES, for a PPI and Fritz ( not kidding) told my father that he “would not take the car as a gift”. What a disappointment! Fritz said the it would need all new air suspension… sooner rather than later and that would cost more than the car was worth.

So what did we buy instead? A 1974 Land Rover Series III 88 from the last batch that came into the country. It did not make it home from Long Island to the UES before Lucas (Lord of Darkness) got his teeth into us. The headlights got dimmer and dimmer and then it stopped running. We bought a new battery, made it home and then had to have a new alternator put in our nearly new Land Rover. Surprise ending to our first couple of days of owning a Land Rover!

James Davidson
James Davidson
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Not getting the 300 SEL 6.3 was quite a disappointment, although a girlfriend’s father in high school had a 600 SEL 6.3 SWB that was quite the ride. That thing was almost silent and very, very fast!

I really enjoyed driving the Land Rover all over New England and ended up buying two more series LRs on my own. It’s funny how, as an owner of a series Land Rover, you end up carrying rear axle half shafts with you as part of your normal kit because they would break with some regularity. And fuses, lots of fuses… and light bulbs…

Last edited 3 months ago by James Davidson
OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
3 months ago

Oh man, my dream malaise-era build has been an ’81 Imperial with a Viper motor, but your proposal is so darned attractive that doing the more “boring” thing and rolling with an LS and making the cosmetic mods you propose is an alluring prospect. I’ve always liked the styling of the B-bodies from that era but this is just next level.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

> (just like the Seville of the same era)

Since you mentioned it: an article about the bustleback Seville on “the old German lighting site” gave me an idea that inspired me to do some quick research, which taught me one of the most evil-grin-inducing automotive facts I’ve ever learned: the wheelbase and track are only a half inch off each direction from that of a CTS.

Someone with the skill, and more money than sense, should do the world’s most hilarious body swap with a totaled CTS-V.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joe The Drummer
Martin Dollinger
Martin Dollinger
3 months ago

It looks like something Monteverdi in Switzerland could have pulled off during that time. Some kind of „big brother“ to the Monteverdi Sierra – itself a „Europeanized“ Aspen/Volare:
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monteverdi_Sierra

Martin Dollinger
Martin Dollinger
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Quite an achievement, indeed 🙂

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
3 months ago

This is a fun exercise, and one I’d idly thought of before, too. Unlike the Bishop, I never acted on it. I somehow entirely missed the earlier article on these cars, though I’m familiar with the history. I think GM’s designs of the Mitchell era so often show a really excellent sense of proportion, attention to detail and refinement of forms and surfacing. The 77 Caprice and the 78 Malibu are two excellent examples of it.

I’m a little surprised not to see Pininfarina’s 1973 Jaguar XJ12 study (https://www.carrozzieri-italiani.com/listing/jaguar-xj12-pf/) – I always thought this was more the direct influence on GM design staff than the ItalDesign model. There are photos of an Impala clay model with a six-window greenhouse that is markedly similar. As well-done as the slightly more formal four-light greenhouse that made production is, I think the other one would have been even better for a Chevrolet. I can imagine that one reason it didn’t make the cut is that it would not have been suitable for Buick/Oldsmobile/Cadillac and it would have been far too expensive to have entirely separate roof stampings for Chevrolet.

I think this exercise might have been even a bit better done on the downsized A-body Malibu – the pre-facelift 78-79, for the same reason that it looks better than the later update with the formal roof. And, unlike the Caprice, it *did* get a lighter six-light greenhouse. It was more right-sized for Europe, still being a big car by European standards but not overly huge, and could have been made available with the same V8 powertrains in a lighter body. And much of the suspension tuning could have been done with off-the-shelf parts developed for the 9C1 police package.

Caprice or Malibu, I do think a naturally-aspirated 350 with higher compression and better breathing would have given all the power needed to be competitive, without the expense required to turbocharge it. A carbed turbo was not exactly state of the art at the time, though perhaps the FI from the Seville could have been adapted.

Also, I’m being a bit of an anorak here, and I’m going to do something deeply odd in standing up for the Celebrity Eurosport. I’m almost certain that the Celebrity Eurosport was not the brainchild of marketing or product-planning people, but the idea of Dick Ruzzin, who was head of the Chevrolet #1 studio by that time. The idea was to do something lightly “sporty” for as little money as possible using as many existing parts as possible. Some chassis tuning changes came from police parts, and I think the total added cost per vehicle was something like $125. I do not know where I recall this from. I was acquainted with him many years ago – perhaps I heard it from him, or perhaps I read it somewhere in his words.

I love love love car design and design history in particular, so I appreciate posts like this.

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Yes, I’ve got the same grudge. I know why they did it (hip room), but it is the same kind of cheap move that GM made for years, like lowering and shortening the rear seat cushion to give more headroom at the expense of sitting too low, and the mere appearance of more legroom. We had two such Malibus in my childhood – a 79 sedan in Venezuela and an 82 wagon in the US – so I do have a bit of nostalgia for them and could find a way to live with that flaw. I don’t sit in the back seat anyway. 🙂

That gentle crease on the lower body side is something that GM had been doing since maybe the mid-60s that had the effect of sort of lightening the body a bit – not just breaking up the body side as a feature line but sort of like the lower is lightly supporting the rest of the body. It can live fine without any molding down there but I agree with you that it does best with a smaller one, rather than the thick one you tended to see. I think your Euro-Caprice would do well with a bumper treatment like that of the 78-80 Monte Carlo, with a body-colored plastic molding over the steel structure and two thin bars – the upper one would end in the conventional location just around the corner of the bumper, and the lower one would tie directly into your lower body molding. A treatment like the Pininfarina XJ12 (or the two-door Impala clay you show) would also look good but also a bit older.

While the facelift did improve aero a bit and cut a little bit of weight, they did lose a bit of the beauty, particularly in lowerin the profile of the front end. The early Caprice has a beautiful profile to that upper feature line of the fender in the way it starts with tension at the front of the car, peaks behind the front wheel opening and then sort of gently unfurls in an increasing radius as it goes to the back of the car.

Last edited 3 months ago by Theotherotter
FleetwoodBro
FleetwoodBro
3 months ago

Really beautiful job on the Impala/Caprice! If Singer-type outfit or Jonathan Ward built this there would be a line around the block.

LarsVargas
LarsVargas
3 months ago
Reply to  FleetwoodBro

I’ll bet if you wave enough dollars at ICON, they’d make one. They’ve done it a turtle Caprice: https://www.icon4x4.com/reformer/pastprojects/27

MK801
MK801
3 months ago

If we’re taking off shiny bits, does that mean we’re un-polishing a turd?

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago

We won World War II to be treated like that?

What do you mean “we”?

-Joseph Stalin

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
3 months ago

Those wheels are not period correct 😛

LOL how GM dissed themselves about the tolerances

Last edited 3 months ago by Dogisbadob
Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago

Yeah, that’s a lot more extensive than I was thinking, but I like it. Makes sense though, because you’re looking at it from a genuine European sales perspective rather than the kind of lazy domestic trim change GM actually performed to mixed success (really, just the Impala SS, IMO, though as I understand the mythology, they took the design changes from a local pimp’s car). The rub strip and lower chrome rockers were the main things I thought needed to go or be reduced even as a kid (my grandfather had a black sedan like the one pictured, but an ’85). While I don’t know for a fact (or just don’t remember), going by most cars of the time (I really hated rub strips*, so I noticed these things in junk yards or from damaged street cars), those rub strips were very likely secured with rivets/clips/something else that required holes drilled in the sides, so it wasn’t as simple as peeling them off. What I would not change, though, is the cloth seats and Port Royal buccaneer bordello red interior of my grandfather’s Caprice!

I wonder if something like wouldn’t have done respectably well, I mean, dealer and service network aside. Sure, there was no comparison in quality to a MB of that era, but with that value per mark?

*Worst travesty was that my 260Z had those damn rub strips! According to the original owner I bought it from, the dealer loaded that poor car with stupid add-ons: rub strips, fancy bumper overriders (slim bumper car), vinyl f’n roof, and rocker stripes (OK, I didn’t hate those, but I could have done without), plus a couple good ones like the rear window louvers and ducktail spoiler (could have used an airdam and headlight covers, too—aero was truly terrible on that car).

Cerberus
Cerberus
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

You, know, I changed out several head lamps and I can’t recall, either. I don’t remember taking the wheel off, but it’s entirely possible. I got rid of my old manuals as I don’t see them on my shelves. Have the full set of factory manuals for the unfortunately long departed mk1 Legacy, though. Just in case, I guess.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago

That Opel Diplomat looks a hell of lot nicer than my old Dodge Diplomat.
But does the Opel have advanced Lean Burn (R) technology?

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
2 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Yeah it was crap. Did you have the fender indicator that glowed when you stood on it?

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago

Glorious. Fantastic work, Bishop! As someone who grew up with an early 80s B-body (mom’s car) and a mid-70s W116 (dad’s car), this is absolutely glorious and brings in floods of nostalgic sentiment. Well done!

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I’m right there with you. It’s fun to watch your thought process with these, so keep them coming!

Manual Control
Manual Control
3 months ago

The White Whale wagon with a T56 is my dream car…

“Wagons are built to haul things. This Wagon was built to haul ass!!!”

http://stuart5.com/images/corvettechaser1.jpg
http://stuart5.com/images/corvettechaser2.jpg

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
2 months ago
Reply to  Manual Control

I thought hauling ass is why supersized Americans now buy SUVs instead of wagons…

Clear_prop
Clear_prop
3 months ago

Europe doesn’t have higher octane fuel, they just use a different measurement. Europe uses RON, US is (RON+MON)/2. The actual fuels are basically the same.

Clear_prop
Clear_prop
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

Yeah, no idea what things were like back then.

Widgetsltd
Widgetsltd
3 months ago
Reply to  Clear_prop

Not quite. 100 RON is easily available in Germany, and that’s unquestionably a higher octane than the 91 AKI (R+M / 2) which is the top octane available in the southwestern states. We do have street legal 100 AKI in California, but it’s hard to find and extremely expensive.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
3 months ago

I have to admit your massaged Caprice is far more attractive than the actual domestic car, even without the performance upgrades. However, as with those pampered, beer-fed, and massaged cattle that produce Kobe beef, in the end, you’re still left with just a cow. As to the Caprice resembling the Pininfarina Fiat 130 Coupe, it does, if the Fiat had spent 20 years bellying up to the buffet at a Sizzler.(Sticking to that beef theme.) I will say, Caprice is the perfect name for a project like this. To me, a Caprice will always be a pale yellow, two-door coupe with a trunk full of stale candy, owned by an octogenarian vending machine guy named Frankie wearing a battered grey fedora and rumpled three-piece suit that reeks of camphor. Some memories are hard to shake.

V10omous
V10omous
3 months ago

Cadillac sold the 500 ci until 1976; a special edition like this might as well go all out and use that block to make real power.

V10omous
V10omous
3 months ago
Reply to  The Bishop

I’d be curious the weight difference between the turbo/extra cooling & accessories and the big block. Often it’s not as much as it seems, although I doubt Cadillac’s engineers were concerned with efficiency or weight savings when designing the 500.

AlterId
AlterId
3 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

I think the 425 in the downsized C-body Cadillac (the injected version had 195 HP and 320 lb/ft of torque at 2,400 RPM, which must have felt super luxe even with smog controls) or even the Olds 403 would have been an easier fit. That kind of low-rev torque would have been almost unknown in ’70s Europe apart from some very expensive and limited-production models like the 6.9 and Rolls-Royces and the occasional Sherman Tank left over from the war.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

That Caddy block was designed to go all the way up to 600 cubic inches. Yikes!

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
3 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

Or maybe – now stay with me here, I’ve known full well for a half-century that the General gonna General – Chevy Europe swipes a few of the last hoard of Pontiac W72 400s for this rig. In my fanfic, the car is an explosive success in Europe, and GM is forced to make (allow?) Pontiac to put it back in production.

No way in a frozen hell that happens within the United states, not even in fantasy format, but since this entire article is a dream, let this man dream as well. This was, after all, the powerplant that motivated the 1979 WS6 T/A to best the 1978 Corvette in every single performance metric, the one and only production year that the Corvette hasn’t been the fastest/quickest/best handling car GM makes.

Last edited 3 months ago by Joe The Drummer
Dennis Birtcher
Dennis Birtcher
3 months ago

General gonna General is right… which is I’d expect this to come with the 454, which was still available in Chevy trucks at the time. Sure, a big block isn’t conducive to handling, but 7.4 liters is more than 6.9, therefore it’s better.

Now, I know The Bishop designed this as a Mercedes competitor, but I’m picking up some mid-80’s XJ vibes. Either way, I like it.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
3 months ago
Reply to  V10omous

Especially when you do as Hot Rod Magazine did way back when I was in high school, and follow the Lotus maxim to “add lightness and simplify” – though perhaps not quite as light and simple as they went.

https://www.motortrend.com/features/caddy-hack-february-1987-982-1348-26-1/amp/

78
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x