Home » You Can Get An Awesome Full-Size V8-Powered Sedan For Cheap In Government Auctions

You Can Get An Awesome Full-Size V8-Powered Sedan For Cheap In Government Auctions

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The sedan has been on a death march for years, and sedans with big, burly V8 engines are certainly on the endangered species list. If you’re looking for a slick family hauler with a V8 engine, rear-wheel-drive, and a modern body all for pennies on the dollar, you’re largely out of luck.

People still want over $40,000 for a Chevy SS and even a Dodge Charger from the early 2010s can set you back $10,000. But what if you don’t even have that kind of cash? What if you don’t even want to spend $6,000 on a modern V8 sedan? Well, my friend, let’s hop on over to a government auction, where you can score a Chevrolet Caprice PPV, a great big sedan from the land of Australia, for less than the price of a crapbox on Facebook.

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Of course, the Caprice wasn’t the only sedan brute we got from Australia. The Chevrolet SS and the Pontiac G8 were epic sedans that didn’t really get the attention they deserved until it was too late. Pontiac isn’t around anymore and the Chevrolet SS was too expensive for many to stomach. It’s a shame because both are great V8 sedans perfect for an enthusiast.

Unfortunately, both of these cars are still too expensive for cheapskates like me. As I noted in the lede, asking prices for the Chevrolet SS remain insane. Its older sibling, the Pontiac G8, can sometimes be had with a V8 for under $10,000, but you can expect that car to have questionable mods and perhaps thousands in deferred maintenance.

Let’s scrape the bottom of the barrel. The Chevrolet Caprice PPV was not a car most Autopians could buy or even drive. Most drivers of a Caprice PPV in America do so while wearing a police uniform. The “PPV” alludes to it as the name is an abbreviation of “Police Patrol Vehicle.” However, these cars have been leaving police fleets by the dozens, which means you can score them for dirt on sites like GovDeals.

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The Commodore’s Big Brother

2012 Caprice Ppv 01811

The fascinating thing about the Caprice PPV is that while it looks like a Pontiac G8 with a different front and rear, it’s not the same vehicle. Look long enough and you’ll realize that the cop car is about eight inches longer and the differences don’t end there. The Pontiac G8 and the Chevy SS were rebadged Holden Commodores while the Caprice PPV is a full-size sedan based on the Commodore’s platform and badged as the Caprice or Statesman depending on where it was sold. It was also sold as a Buick Park Avenue and a Daewoo, too!

Automotive icon Bob Lutz was responsible for a number of great General Motors models through the 2000s. If you drive a Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, Chevy Cruze, Cadillac CTS-V, Pontiac GTO, or Chevrolet Volt, you can thank Lutz for helping to get those vehicles into production. Lutz was brought into GM to spice up lineups filled with front-wheel-drive, bloated cars and he helped make GM cool again.

One way Lutz figured out how to breathe life into GM’s American lineups was through importing cars from GM’s Holden marque in Australia. While GM’s storied American automakers were selling once legendary nameplates like the Monte Carlo as front-wheel-drive cars, enthusiasts were still cooking their rear tires with V8s in the land down under. Bob Lutz was able to convince GM’s North American Strategy Board that he could bring over the Holden Monaro for cheap, helping out Holden while also giving Pontiac something hot to sell.

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The public’s response to the Pontiac GTO was tepid with 40,808 units getting sold between 2004 and 2006. Still, General Motors liked what it saw and more Aussie action was on the way. As WardsAuto reported, Holden developed a rear-wheel-drive vehicle architecture that could be easily adapted to fit the regulations of various global markets. The origins of the Zeta platform date back to 1999 and by 2004, Holden spent a billion Australian dollars putting it together. The fourth-generation (VE) Holden Commodore got this architecture and the GM North American Strategy Board greenlit a car to ride on the platform as well. This car would become known as the G8, one of the cars that made Pontiac’s “We Build Excitement” slogan accurate again just in time for the brand to die.

Before that happened, things were good. This time, Pontiac would right some wrongs made with the GTO by giving the G8 a more aggressive style. Out of the other end, Pontiac would have a sport sedan and after a year of production, you were able to grab it with a 6.2-liter 415 HP LS3 V8 and paired to a manual transmission. And that wasn’t all, as GM even planned to bring over the Holden Ute as the G8 ST.

GM was having enough fun with Holden that it decided to take on the lucrative police vehicle market that, at the time, was captured by Ford with its Crown Victoria Police Interceptor and Dodge with its Charger. Back then, Chevy’s car-based police offering was the Impala PPV, which felt more like a rental car than it did a crimefighting vehicle. I mean, just look at it:

2016 Chevrolet Impala Police

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The Caprice PPV not only brought back a nameplate that had been dead for over a decade, but it was bringing over specs that put Chevy’s offering on top. A Crown Vic made 250 HP from its V8 while a Dodge Charger got 340 HP from its Hemi. The Caprice? Oh, its 6.0-liter V8 put down 355 ponies. As Ray Wert reported back in 2009, GM was targeting a best-in-class 60 mph acceleration time of under 6 seconds and a top speed higher than any other cop car on the block.

The Chevy Caprice PPV is a reconfigured version of the WM and WN Holden Caprice/Statesman, which rides on the GM Zeta platform that birthed the VE and VF Holden Commodores as well as the Pontiac G8 and the 2010 Chevy Camaro.

Holden Statesman 2006 Wallpapers

To create the Caprice PPV, Chevrolet took the Caprice, ripped out all of its luxury features, and added back in changes that made the car better for police work.

This included sculpted front seats designed to sort of “pocket” a worn equipment belt. The idea was that a uniformed officer could hop in and the seat would support them as if they weren’t wearing an equipment belt. Going for the long wheelbase Zeta car also meant a spacious trunk, a larger back seat, and enough space for the front seats to move front and back. Chevrolet looked at the complaints of other police cars on the market and decided to make one that stood above the rest. Reportedly, engineers made several iterations of the Caprice PPV’s front seats, honing in on the right design for high wear, low friction, ease of cleaning, and long-term comfort.

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2012 Chevrolet Caprice Ppv

At launch, there were two versions of the Caprice PPV. The PPV 9C1 was the standard police version and it had a deleted center console. Instead, there was a tray for police equipment to be mounted. Other small changes include a rubberized floor, a relocated shifter, relocated power window switches, and a Pursuit Mode which toggles higher shift points and a more aggressive throttle response. The 9C1s are totally stripped-down plastic fantastic cars where even the infotainment system is locked down to just being able to use the radio.

2015 Chevrolet Caprice Ppv 007

The more desirable Caprice PPV is the 9C3. These were made for detective work and thus have a normal dashboard, a normal center console, and even the side curtain airbags that are deleted on the 9C1 Police models.

Still, these were stripped down to the point of removing the glovebox lock, removing rear seat map pockets, removing chrome trim, and once again, the infotainment system is locked down to just being able to use the radio. The most normal Caprice PPVs are 9C3s with optional wheel covers and an intact interior. The 9C3 was discontinued after 2013 and the 9C1 got a unique column shifter when it moved to be based on the WN Holden Caprice in 2014.

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2011 Caprice Ppv Technical Manual

Of course, some Caprice PPVs were outfitted in different ways. I’ve seen some examples where the rear seat was deleted and in its place was a kennel for a dog. Those ones had modified rear windows, too, so they would be difficult to turn into a normal car.

In addition to the L77 6.0-liter V8 and its 355 ponies, you got a fully independent suspension that was tuned for police pursuits, a 170-amp high-output alternator, a 2.92 axle ratio, a limited-slip differential, coolers for engine, transmission, and power steering fluids, electric cooling fans, and higher-strength hoses. So, the cop version had real upgrades.

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Other goodies included a stealth mode for the vehicle’s lighting, an auxiliary battery, a certified speedometer, and a top speed of 155 mph. If your department cared more about fuel economy, there was a 3.6-liter V6 available with 301 HP.

Good Deals

Of course, most of the cop benefits don’t really matter to you, unless you run around wearing a utility belt. What does matter is the fact that these cars are getting retired from police service and thus are falling into civilian hands.

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2685 4 7
Ansonia Village, OH

A lot of cities auction these cars off on GovDeals when they’re done using them. Sometimes, they go for what some would call “screw it” money. Here’s one V8 model that sold for $2,095.70 in March. Sure, it’s two colors and missing a backseat, but that’s a big V8 sedan with 355 HP for just over two large!

321 99 8
Pensacola, FL

Maybe you’re a fancy pants who wants their Caprice PPV in one color? Ok, I read what you’re laying down. Here’s one that sold recently for $6,050 with a V8 and what appears to be a decent interior. That’s still less than what you’d pay for a decent V8 Pontiac G8. Even the 119,337 miles on the odometer aren’t too bad.

You can find Caprice PPV 9C3s up for grabs out there too. One recently sold for $6,500 and it looks cleaner than most of the G8s I’ve seen out there. Here’s another that had really high mileage, but still sold for $3,000.

11704 91 1
Duluth Police Department, GA

GovDeals is chock-full of recent sales of Caprice PPVs that went for prices almost too good to pass on. Of course, I have to note that these aren’t going to be cream puffs. These are cars that survived police duty, including idling for thousands of hours, maybe not getting oil changes exactly on schedule, and very likely getting thrown up in by countless drunks. A 9C3 will be your best bet for avoiding the worst abuse. Lots of totally trashed PPVs also show up in auctions.

Still, if you can look past all of that, you can get a great and fast sedan for peanuts. Say you bought that super high-mileage example for $3,000. That’s basically $8.45 per HP! It doesn’t have to end there, either. As reader KITT222 has shown me with his Caprice PPV, there’s so much you can do to “decopify” a Caprice PPV to turn it into the ultimate hoon machine.

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KITT222

KITT222 spent a couple of years turning his Caprice PPV into a car so cool it’s actually the inspiration for this article. He added Bluetooth to the radio, gave the car a backseat for people who aren’t in handcuffs, gave it a normal center console, better door panels, a new steering wheel, and so much more.

So if you’re looking for your next beater, maybe consider a Caprice PPV. Or, maybe you want a nice car that’s a little newer and maybe nicer than those rough G8s and doesn’t cost $40,000, find a 9C3 for sale. The opportunities are endless. Now, if you excuse me, I have some bidding to do.

(Images: GM, unless otherwise noted. Topshot: Cars & Bid Seller/Autopian)

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John Downey
John Downey
20 days ago

When I was a kid (mid-90s) my dad got an auctioned off police car to be our tow vehicle for a pop up camper. Not sure if that would have still been a body on frame sedan vs. this unibody, but if that doesn’t make too much of a difference it seems like this could be a cheap tow vehicle without concern for a trashed interior.

Angrycat Meowmeow
Angrycat Meowmeow
22 days ago

If you drive a Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, Chevy Cruze, Cadillac CTS-V, Pontiac GTO, or Chevrolet Volt, you can thank Lutz for helping to get those vehicles into production. Lutz was brought into GM to spice up lineups filled with front-wheel-drive, bloated cars and he helped make GM cool again.

In typical GM fashion, we’re exceedingly lucky that even one of these cars (kind of) still exists today. Even if they couldn’t leave CTS and V well enough alone after spending years building that brand, and had to move V downmarket and use Blackwing to take its place, and change CTS to CT5.

What an absolute disaster of an organization.

Last edited 22 days ago by Angrycat Meowmeow
Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
22 days ago

A few years back I saw an ad somewhere, I want to say maybe it was Hemmings, where a guy had a handful of 9C3’s that he had ordered new through a dealer. Apparently this dealer had checked and determined there was no reason he couldn’t. But then I guess GM got wind of it and clarified things, and that was the end of that. In any case, this guy supposedly had a few of them for sale that had only ever been in private hands and never entered government service. The unit in the ad was super clean and unmolested so I assume the story was true.

Not sure how many other similar ones there might be out there but happy hunting to anyone interested.

GrandTouringInjection
GrandTouringInjection
22 days ago
PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
22 days ago

Before Holden shuffled off this mortal coil (and before PM Tony Abbot decided he’d rather have a Beemer than a Holden) the Prime Ministerial limo, known as “C1”, was generally a Holden Caprice.

So yeah, our head of state used to ride around in the back of the same car that some police departments in the US would use to haul around people in cuffs!

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
22 days ago

About 8 years ago my captain at the prison I was working at asked me to be on the committee to choose our new prisoner transport cars. The options were the Ferd turdus police interceptor, the awd v6 charger, and this. My vote was for this, simply for the fact that with the prisoner cage in the back these actually had enough space for the polynesian gang members we regularly have to transport to sit. The other two. . . not so much, especially the turdus so three guesses what our dipshit warden ordered. They finally surplussed the last turdus this year so now transportation gets old minivans.

My view on them as transport vehicles is that the people we’re transporting are already having quite easily the worst day of their lives so there’s no reason to make them unnecessarily uncomfortable by mashing their shins into a steel plate and wanging their head on a stupidly low angled rear door opening. Just my two cents, my view that a felon still deserves to be treated like a person and given a chance to better themselves is why I moved on to working with parolees shortly after that committee, I just didn’t see much benefit to warehousing most of the people in there, some yes but not most.

BolognaBurrito
BolognaBurrito
22 days ago
Reply to  Geekycop .

For transporting prisoners (heck, for most police work) it seems like minivans would be the best choice. Large rear doors, low floors, lots of space for officers/guards wearing vests or big belts.

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
20 days ago
Reply to  BolognaBurrito

The only problem with the minivans for our needs is that options are severely limited, so when I say old minivans I mean the newest one is 7 years old because the caravan is out of production and no state is going to spend the coin for a toyota sienna or honda odyssey to transport prisoners.

KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy
KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy
22 days ago

Huge shoutout! Yay, thanks Mercedes! Especially for pointing right at the Oppo tag. It’s been a lot of work so far, and I have much left to go. I was even working on it today, planning further upgrades and how to fill some of the holes from police equipment. But until then it’s taking me on many a road trip this summer!

Ariel E Jones
Ariel E Jones
22 days ago

Interesting article. I had always made the assumption that these were just decontented Chevy SSs for police use. I never realized that they were a pretty distinct model.
The article makes these sound tempting but as the comments are saying, I’m thinking these are likely to be pretty clapped out by the time they make it to civilian hands.

Aron9000
Aron9000
22 days ago

My thing about these is parts availability. They didnt sell that many(unlike the Crown Vic or Charger), they were built in Australia. So the parts supply is all 20,000 miles away and upside down. And good luck getting a Chevy dealer to help you track down parts.

There isnt that huge industry built around keeping these on the road like the Crown Vic and Charger have. And low production, so good luck finding them in your junkyard that has 7 Crown Vics and 10 Chargers in it right now.

Plus cop cars are just SO RAGGED OUT by the time they are retired. I could deal with crap cosmetics. But Im not about to put thousands into an ugly turd with stuff like a new engine, trans, etc. And these all had GM’s awful displacement on demand, so its not like they were bullet proof like those old 6.0 van engines or that 5.3 in your 2001 Suburban.

Car Guy - RHM
Car Guy - RHM
22 days ago

I was all geeked up about getting the G8 ST (Ute) in 2008, then they dropped the plans for importing them. Seen a number of them around the GM Tech Center at the time.

Matt Sexton
Matt Sexton
22 days ago
Reply to  Car Guy - RHM

My Dad went to our local Pontiac dealer, a guy we know, to ask about ordering a G8 ute around that time, and his reply was, “How do you know about that?” 😀

Too bad about that, those would have sold… well, terribly to be honest but it would be damn cool to have one now.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
22 days ago

GM was soooooooooooooooooooooo stupid and jealous when these were new. They even got ANGRY at a dealer who DARED sell one to a retail customer. Oh the NERVE!

https://jalopnik.com/chevy-dealer-will-sell-you-a-new-caprice-police-car-5815228

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
22 days ago

“It’s got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it’s got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas.”

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
22 days ago
Reply to  MAX FRESH OFF

Obligatory Blues Brothers reference appreciated and loved.

Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
22 days ago
Reply to  MAX FRESH OFF

Fix the cigarette lighter.

Toecutter
Toecutter
22 days ago

These are among the best bang-for-buck performance options available. The aftermarket go-fast parts inexpensively and widely available are just delicious icing on the cake. A few thousand dollars could have you getting 500+ brake horsepower out of the engine, without giving up reliability, for at least some of the above entries. They were generally stoutly built.

Last edited 22 days ago by Toecutter
Patches O' Houlihan
Patches O' Houlihan
22 days ago

Normally you’d have to pay Carl Weathers for this sort of information.

Curtis Loew
Curtis Loew
22 days ago

Yeah I looked into getting one of these. I went and looked at a few even. They are almost all beat down. The high idle hours causes the DOD to fail and takes out the cam. This happens to almost all of them. The AC not working is also very common. Most come with no back seat. Then there are the random holes everywhere in the body and interior. That is the ones straight out of police service. Once these get into private hands it gets worse as far as abuse and questionable modifications. Nice clean detective cars are 2 to 3 times what a beat down patrol car costs. Expect to spend 15 to 20k for a good detective or chief car. In the end I decided against getting one. Too many other people’s problems with these.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
22 days ago
Reply to  Curtis Loew

I remember back at the end of the ’00s when Ford ended Crown Victoria commercial sales, there was a ton of internet interest in figuring out how to somehow convince Ford that you operated a fleet and needed to acquire a new CV. I always wonder if anyone actually figured it out/got away with it.

Sklooner
Sklooner
21 days ago
Reply to  Curtis Loew

My brother works in a police department in the vehicle departments, he said you never want an old cop car, the messes in the back, the sketchy wiring from adding and deleting things, weird holes drilled randomly and the long idle times wreak havoc on them

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