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Late Great Chevy 1977-1985

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Narrowed even more and made taller once again in 1977

After the downsized design of the 1976 Chevrolet Impala premiered, production of the new shorter, narrower and taller car increased, leading to its number one position in sales that year. Narrowed even more and made taller once again in 1977, Impala/Caprice was named Motor Trend’s car of the year. From 1977 to 1979 the Impala coupe would have a double bent tempered rear window, much like the Monte Carlo Aerocoupe.

In 1977 the Chevrolet Impala was shorter and narrower. In fact this new fame was a smaller version of the 1970 frame. Featuring more headroom, more legroom in the back seat and better trunk space, this Impala would boost Chevrolet sales for the year and kick the Impala up to the number one position for sales. The body of the car wasn’t the only thing to shrink, the engine choices did as well. The inline-6 was back but with only 110 horse power. Other optional engines were the 267 cu and the 305 cu V8s. A diesel engine, the 350 cu 5.7-liter V8 was now available. The Chevy Impala was discontinued in 1985.

1977 brought a new smaller, lighter Caprice Classic. While it was smaller, it actually had more headroom and legroom, and even more truck room than it did before. More than $600million was invested in what GM called Project 77 to create the most-changed full-size Chevy ever. The coupe and sedan were shortened by more than 10 inches, the wheelbases were reduced, the width was reduced, the height was increased and truck capacity increased. The 1977 Caprice would now have the same 166-inch wheelbase as the mid-sized Chevelle. The Caprice was now available as either a Sport Coupe or the Landau Coupe, which had a partially covered vinyl roof. The new lighter bodies and smaller engines meant increased fuel economy as well. More than 660,000 full-sized Chevys were produced for 1977, making them the number one selling car in the U.S. More than a million of these smaller Chevys were made by the following year, 1978.

It’s interesting to note that while the last Chevrolet Bel Air 2-door sedan was produced in 1969, the Chevrolet Bel Air was still available in Canada through to 1981. In 1977 the Canadian Bel Air was downsized and offered as a 4-door sedan, 2-door coupe and station wagon. Fuel economy was a big focus for the time, so smaller engines with a 250 ci 6-cylinder were used as standard for the sedans. A first since 1973. Other standards included smaller hubcaps, cloth and vinyl upholstery in the sedans, cigarette lighter, ashtray, dome light on the front doors, all-vinyl interior for the wagons, full carpeting, Astro Ventilation, Delco Freedom battery, power front disc brakes, Turbo Hyrdamatic automatic transmission and variable-ratio power steering.

The Caprice was renamed Caprice Classic in 1973. The Kingswood Estate would be called the Caprice Estate. During this year the convertible was moved from the Impala lineup to the Caprice lineup. For 1973 the Caprice would get a new cross-hatch grill, new square tail lights in the bumper, new EGR valves in the engines and lower horsepower ratings. The 400ci 6.6-Litre Turbo-Fire 2-barrel was now 150hp. In 1974 the Caprice received yet another new grille design and the taillights were above the new rear 5mph bumper. The body styles were basically the same for most models, though the 2-door coupes now had thick B-pillars and fixed rear quarter opera windows. There was a new 4-barrel version of the small block 400ci Turbo Fire V8.

In 1974 the front end of the Chevrolet Impalas got a new look with new grille and headlight bezels, new header panel and new bumper design. The Spirit of America limited edition Impala was introduced in 1974 as an appearance package on sport coupe models and featured white or blue exterior paint, white vinyl top, white upholstery with blue or red trim, color matched seat belts and floor mats, white wheel covers, sport-style dual remote outside rear view mirrors, vinyl body-side molding insert with red pin-striping. White rally wheels were optional.

In 1974 all Bel Air sedans had a 350 2-barrel V8 engine, with a Turbo-Hydramatic transmission as a standard. Station wagons got a 400ci 4-barrel V8 with Turbo-Hydramatic.

In 1978 the Caprice Classic improved its fuel economy with numerically lower axel ratios, even though the engines offered were the same. The new aluminum intake manifold on the 305 V8 dropped the engines weight by 35 pounds. Options added this year were the sliding steel moonroof and a 40-channel CB radio in the AM/FM radio.

It was in 1980 that the Caprice Classic got a new look once again. With the intention of boosting the fuel economy even further, the Caprice got exterior sheet metal, the hood was tapered lower and the trunk was raised. In addition to a new egg crate style grill, the doors and interior were now lighter. Comparing the 1980 models and the 1979 models, there is a 100lb difference between the two years. As a result of the redesign both the coupe and the sedans gained more trunk space.

The 1980 Bel Air was upgraded for better fuel economy and aerodynamics with new exterior sheet metal. It also received a new grill and a new 3.8-Litre 229 ci V6. A new V8 for wagons, and optional on sedans, was a 267 ci small-block with 2-barrel carburetor. The Bel Air was discontinued after the 1981 model year as sales for full-size cars took a downturn.

The 1981 Caprice Classic was barely changed, other than a slight revision to the grille. The front disc brakes were improved for less drag, the cruise control now had a resume function, and the wire wheel covers had locking bolts. The CB radio would not be offered beyond this year. The engines were also upgraded with a new Computer Command Control (CCC) system, and a new 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission with lock-up torque converter was added to the powertrain line-up.

In 1982 the Caprice Landau coupe was dropped, leaving the sport coupe, sedan, 6-passenger wagon and the 8-passenger wagon. A 350 ci Diesel V8 engine was available on all models, and the automatic overdrive transmission was available with both the 305 ci V8 and the 267 ci V8.

The 1983 Chevrolet Caprice Classic was selected one of the Ten Best for 1983 by Car and Driver magazine. In 1983 no 2-door Caprice Classics were produced. The 4.4-Litre 267ci engine was discontinued, but the 305 ci and the automatic overdrive transmission were standard on all station wagons. The 350 ci diesel was available with automatic overdrive transmission.

The Pontiac Parisienne, a clone of the Caprice sold in Canada was introduced in 1983. It had the Pontiac emblems and the same trim of the early Bonneville, but it was a Caprice.

In 1984 the 2-door sport coupe Caprice Classic returned, looking exactly like the 1981 model. There were a few changes, though. The windshield washer controls were now on the turn signal stalk, now called the multi-stalk. In addition, the cruise control, which was optional, now had an acceleration and deceleration feature.

The interior of the 1985 Caprice Classic was upgraded with a simulated silver metallic applique. A new DIN-and-a-half style radio was installed and a new push-button style headlight switch was installed, along with new updated climate control switches, new modern instrument styling, and a horizontal speedometer. There was an optional gauge package that included a round speedometer. While the stylings changes were fairly minor, the engine changes were significant. The 3.8-Litre V6 base engines for the sedans and coupes was now replaced by a 262 ci 4.3-Litre V6 engine with throttle body fuel injection (RPO LB4). This engine was rated at 130 hp and came standard with a 3-speed automatic. It was also available with a 4-speed automatic overdrive transmission.

The Impala was eventually discontinued in 1985, even though it did sell quite well in the 1980’s and was often used in fleets such as taxi service and police.

fun facts:

The Beachboys song “409” is about the 1962 Chevrolet Impala.

The hit TV show Supernatural features a black 1967 Impala Sports Sedan 4-door hardtop.

The Chevy Impala got its name from the African antelope, the Impala.