Sunday, September 6, 2015

1985 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

"Few automobiles have risen beyond their intended status to offer qualities unsurpassed by the most expensive cars of their time. Yet here is Caprice Classic for 1985. Chevrolet's ultimate expression of first-class travel. Here is everything to make you secure in your choice of a new automobile. Full-size room to sit and stretch, while splendidly isolated from the annoyances of road and weather. Controls that comfortably respond to your every command. The peace of mind that has been secured by more than 5,000 Chevrolet dealers. Here, too are new Caprice qualities at your service. Electronic Fuel Injection, for example, for effortless power from Caprice's standard 4.3 Liter V6 engine. And suspension refinement so remarkable it redefines full-size riding comfort. You could pay more — up to four times more — for the qualities embodied by Caprice Classic. But the question is why?"

The "Acapulco" fuel station in Havana's Nuevo Vedado district is a nice carspotting place: in daytime, the adjoined café and bakery "Pain de Paris" causes a constant coming and going of customers and their cars. After sunset, Havana's youth meets here to start off into the night or to watch the latest flicks at the nearby "Acapulco" cinema. Attention seekers like that place, too: the young driver of this Chevrolet Caprice Classic is a frequent "guest" here. Admittedly, his ride always steals the show: shiny 22-inch wheels are definitely not common in Cuba and the pimped Chevy repeatedly earns admiring comments from bystanders.

When new, the Caprice certainly didn't turn so many heads. In the 1980s, it was considered a cheap and cheerful option for elderly people. Incidentally, the Caprice originates from pretty selfish interests of Chevrolets top management: in 1964, GM demanded that the executives should drive only cars of their own division. What certainly wasn't a problem for Cadillac's top brass, posed to be a threat to the prestige of the management of the cheaper makes. Quite a few Chevrolet managers were probably surprised how everyday travel felt in a plain Chevy. And — voilà! — already in 1965, Chevrolet presented the Caprice as an extra ritzy version of the Impala, with all fancy features available at the time. 

Fast forward twenty years, and the Caprice was still around. In fact, the full sized Chevy now was a survivor of two energy crises and the resulting shift in the automotive landscape of the U.S., when downsizing became the word of the day, if not of the decades to follow. Because Chevrolet's full size lineup had been significantly "downsized" when the pictured generation was presented in 1977, Chevrolet decided to keep it in production, but didn't spare much energy in updates. The occasional facelift, and modernized engines every now and then kept the Caprice Classic alive all the way through 1990. A novelty for 1985 was a new 6-cylinder engine with electronic fuel injection to match the contemporary emission standards. Yet, perhaps the strongest argument for the Chevy's seemingly endless production run was its reasonable price: the tooling costs had been paid off already in the early 1980s, and the fullsize Chevys could be sold pretty cheap.

How our pictured car came to Cuba despite the embargo, though, is up to speculation. The "Landau Equipment Package", which "includes Landau-style vinyl roof cover, bright moldings on roof, belt and front fenders, Sport mirrors", suggests that this wasn't the average low-spec fleet car that enterprises or embassies would use and dump. The young driver gave away that his family got it "from outside", but was short on details. But consider this: the ample Chevrolet, we've learned, is a common sight in Venezuela and other Latin American countries. Many Cuban professionals are sent on a misión to Venezuela, usually spending around two years there as development workers. Cuba in return gets cheap oil and the Cubans, beside a higher than average salary to ease their sacrifices, have the right to import goods upon their return. Most bring DVD-players, TV-sets or fridges, but some can even afford to bring cars. This way, we imagine, the Chevy could have found its way to the island. What do you think?

1 Kommentare:

James said...

Likely X Embassy car of Mexico or Canada. I saw picture of 80s Oldsmobile Toronado running around down there.