The biggest Chevy (non-truck) of all

Long-time readers know my fondness for big, big cars of old, including my former 1975 Chevrolet Caprice, all 18 feet, 4,300 pounds and 11 mpg of it.

Well, I’m not the only one. Riverside Green writes:

A good friend of mine is the “Brougham Whisperer,” Jason Bagge, also known as Mr. Caprice, ha ha! He buys real cars about as often as I buy model cars. Which is to say, a lot. Most of those cars are 1970s land yachts, though not exclusively so. But one of his favorites are the Nimitz-class 1971-1976 Chevrolet Caprice. He’s owned several over the years, but perhaps the coolest one he had is the subject of today’s Klockau Classic. The 1976 Caprice Classic Landau. In triple black, no less!

Living in the Pacific Northwest, he is in a great position to find clean old cars that just need a little love to be really nice. In fact, it’s uncanny. Every time he finds a new car I think, “Holy crap! I haven’t seen one of those since about 1993!” And then he sells it. And then, three months later, he finds ANOTHER one, often times nicer than the last one. The man has a knack for this stuff!

Late last year, he sold this mint pistachio-hued 1974 Chevrolet Impala. It was nice when he got it. But he gave it that extra polish he is well known for in the old car hobby, including an NOS grille, new whitewalls, and myriad other things. At the time I told him this one should be the “keeper.” It was that nice. So of course he sold it. Ha ha!

And almost exactly a year ago, I told him to keep this one, an ice blue metallic 1976 Caprice Classic Sport Sedan. I wrote it up right here at RG, and at the time he still had it. But not long after it was heading to the Midwest, to its new owner in Chicagoland!

But that’s how it goes. He sees a car, performs his magic, enjoys the car a while, someone makes him an offer he can’t refuse, and the car is away and the search for a new classic is on!

Which brings us to the elusive, Broughamtastic 1976 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Landau.

A couple of years ago Jason was scouring the online classifieds when he spotted this. It had been turned into a half-assed lowrider (little wheels but no hydraulics, heh!) but it was a genuine factory triple black Landau (meaning black paint, interior and top, for those of you born before the Brougham Age).

He had to have it. And he got it! And immediately began working on it. The interior was a little rough, but the doofy little wheels were almost immediately ditched, sold, and factory wheels and Caprice wheel covers were sourced. Along with brand new whitewall tires. Naturally.

But those standard Caprice Classic wheelcovers were just placeholders. You see, the Landau package, available on two-door Caprice Classics and Impalas, came with their very own wheel cover style. And were color-keyed to the car’s paint for Maximum Broughaminess.

So of course the “regular” Caprice Classic wheel covers just wouldn’t do long-term. Jason was able to acquire the correct ones, and painstakingly masked them off and painted them to match. Fun fact: The 1976 Landau wheel covers were the standard 1975 Caprice Classic wheel discs, but with painted centers. Ebay is your friend!

In no time the Landau was looking damn fine! As it should be.

The biggest talking point on all 1976 Caprice Classics were quad rectangular headlamps, giving the Caprices a decidedly Cadillac-like look up front. Of course there was a new grille too.

The top of the heap was the Classic Landau, which added an Elk-grained Landau vinyl roof, accent stripes, dual color-keyed sport mirrors, and deluxe bumpers with rubber impact strips front and rear.

Said dual sport mirrors included a remote control for the driver’s side. Rounding out the special features were “Landau” script etched into the quarter window glass and the aforementioned special wheel covers with color-keyed centers and “Landau” center caps.

The Caprice Classic Landau retailed for $5,284 new, and that was before any options were added. But even that base price was a healthy bump over the standard Classic two-door coupe, whose MSRP was $5,043.

At the end of the model year the regular Caprice Classic was the winner sales-wise, but Landau sales were not too shabby either. 28,161 regular Caprice Classic coupes were sold, while Caprice Classic Landau production was 21,926.

Today any stock Caprice Classic from The Year Of Our Lord 1976 is rare, as these automobiles have fallen prey to myriad custom-car aficionados. And said demand has bumped the price of these “Whopper” Caprices in the market. They are certainly no longer the old, worn-out $900 beaters they were circa 1991. Jason will tell you!

When he got done with the car, it looked terrific! He was hoping to source upholstery for the somewhat worn interior when someone offered him a ton of money for it. So with some regret, the car moved on. Too bad. I loved this one. I messaged Jason at least a couple of times, saying ‘keep this car!’ But money talks and…well, you know.

But wait! There’s even more. As we speak a new car has been acquired and is on the way to Jason’s driveway, so stay tuned. You will hear all about it, later this year! Until then, keep calm and Brougham on!

What’s interesting to me is that, other than the “pistachio-hued” Impala, every Caprice here is a ’76. These represent a few of what’s left of the 152,806 Caprices built (many in the late Janesville plant) and sold in the 1976 model year. There were 21,929 Landau coupes, as opposed to 28,161 non-Landau coupes. (We had a non-Landau coupe; I can find no breakdowns of 1975 production by body style.) The four-door Caprice pictured here is a Sport Sedan (as if the term “sport” applies to an 18-foot-long car), notable by the window in the C-pillar and the nonexistent B-pillar, of which 55,308 were built, as opposed to the 47,411 non-Sport Sedan sedans.

Interestingly, perhaps, those 152,806 Caprices represented a huge sales jump from 1975, when 103,944 (including the last 8,349 convertibles) were sold. I don’t know how widely it was known (except perhaps among car buffs) that GM was downsizing its full-size cars for 1977. Perhaps that had something to do with the 47-percent jump in sales. The sales jump is unlikely to have been because of the few changes from ’75 to ’76, including the rectangular headlights and replacement of the instrument-panel-knob pictograms with woodgrain. (Really.)

Bagge has two videos of the black ’76, which includes what is known derisively as the “Mark of Excellence” — a cracked dashboard. This has a 400 V-8, the biggest small-block V-8 Chevy ever made. It doesn’t have the ironic option of the temperature gauge (only because some car buffs looked askance at the 400 for its cylinder head design that was claimed to be prone to overheating) and Econominder, a fuel economy (actually engine vacuum) gauge.

Bagge’s Caprices represent cars no one will ever make anymore. Technologically cars today are much more capable, but most of them are destined to be remembered as much as your previous refrigerator. My Caprice represented my first taste of transportation freedom. Perhaps any car I was able to drive with my new driver’s license might have, but that car did.

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