Sunday, December 29, 2019

Cars in Yards: Grandma's 1972 Chevy Caprice big block, 4-door hardtop

Grill view of rusty 1972 Caprice

Big Block Grandma Car. Often we dream of coming across that elusive automotive unicorn. You know the one. Seems like every town has an urban legend about an awesome, big block-powered, grandmother car still in the hands of the original family simply because the head matriarch grew too old to drive it. We've heard that one too. Now we have proof that such a car exists! We were passing through a small industrial town on our way home from Tennessee when some locals at a gas station provided a tip (or myth?) that led to such a treasure. Putting on my famous Junkyard Life press hat* we followed the leads. And that rumor proved to be true when discovering this awesome 1972 Chevrolet Caprice four-door hardtop with a 402 engine waiting for us under the hood. Big Block power!

1972 Caprice still owned by original owner's family. Big block, 4-door hardtop.

Two Grannies!
Only a slight twist to this story of a grandmother buying a car and eventually having to relinquish the driving to someone else. This Caprice was owned by BOTH grandmothers of the current owner. That's right! One grandmother, on the mother’s side sold the Caprice to a grandmother on the father’s side somewhere along the way.

We had questions. For starters, who inspired Granny #1 to buy such a well-optioned Chevrolet with the (almost) biggest engine one could have in 1972? Was this Grandmother like the one Jan and Dean told us about? Did she want the 402 big block with dual exhaust or was it optioned on the car when she first saw it? Would the other engines just not do?

Original Dusk Gray paint is a memory. 

Well, the answer was very simple. This was a former Cadillac owner that had very high standards. This Caprice had power windows and a power seat. That alone would not do it. Deluxe cloth interior and a huge engine was what it would take to satisfy a Cadillac customer that would very gladly drive a little further for a luxurious automobile. Chevrolet better pony up if they wanted her business. This Caprice finished in Dusk Gray (code 18) with a vinyl top won the sale and several years later, our hearts. Go, Granny, go!

Deluxe cloth interior, power seat, power locks, A/C.

Low miles
"See the USA in Your Chevrolet" was the Chevy marketing slogan at the time. In this case, not much of the USA was covered by granny. The slogan should have been:
See Church, the Grocery Store, Bridge Club and Menial Errands in Your Chevrolet” **
That would have been a better advertising campaign in this case. The Caprice was very local, which was a good thing with an engine that large. Seeing the USA would cost a fortune at 10-12 MPG. The 48-year-old Caprice has 87k miles. 

Under hood engine decal proclaims "402 CU. IN. 4BBL CARB."

"400" emblem mounted to aluminum trip on Caprice fender.

Show me yours

So it was true. The car was real. The story was great. The family is still in possession of this really interesting car. Now we need to know your legends and want to learn the story behind them. If you think there is an element of truth to the local legends that you've heard about in your town, let us know! Junkyard Life loves to find them and remind each other to cherish them.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

Power window switches signal luxury in 1972.

Power seat in a big block ’72 Caprice.

Caprice Fun Facts:
  • In 1970, Chevrolet offered a color on the Caprice called Shadow Gray. It was Code 17. Previous, there was not a gray hue listed in the vast array of color Chevrolet offered.
  • The 396 big block received a factory overbore in 1970, thus making it into the 402. 
  • They never made a 402 emblem (that we know of) so when you see a Caprice with a 400 emblem on the lower fender…surprise! It could be the small block 400 or the big block 402.
  • The four door hard-top with no dividing post was still considered the lap of luxury by 1972. Despite that, buyers knew that as cool as it was to have all four windows disappear when rolled down, eventually they would be plagued with the famous whistle sound as the car reached highway speeds.
  • The Caprice was offered with a factory dual exhaust system. 
  • The Cadillac owner was the target audience for the Caprice. The Chevrolet had a much better sticker price and some car magazines of the day actually preferred the Caprice. The one compared to the Caddy had a 454. 

Editor’s Notes:
*This is Ron’s last warning about that ridiculous 1940’s newspaper reporter hat. “Press”? Really?

** “See Church, the Grocery Store, Bridge Club and Menial Errands in Your Chevrolet” is why Ron got fired from the automotive ad agency. Chevrolet may still have a restraining order. 

A/C hoses cross the front of big block 402 engine.

Detail of Dusk Gray paint in door jamb.

Toasty fender on bottom edge of driver's side.

Parked for decades in the dirt, the metal under hood has felt the wrath of moisture damage from the ground.

Caprice emblem adorns rusty decklid.

The shape of big Chevys in 1972 rusting in peace.

Thrifty man's Cadillac? - a loaded 1972 Caprice.

Buried up to the hubcap. This Caprice hasn't moved in years.

Deluxe cloth seats with small headrests.

Lighter, fake wood, AM/FM. Perfect.

1972 Caprice hood ornament is a beauty in silver and gold. Silver Fleur de lis on a gold shield.

Got a great car story? We want to know it. Send us details! Send emails to Jody Potter at and Ron Kidd at

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

G-Body Dreams: 1988 Monte Carlo SS

A cautionary tale of a young car enthusiast and lost love. The young car enthusiast was me (Ron Kidd). The year was 1994. The car was a 1988 Monte Carlo Super Sport. It was silver with black stripes and it caught my eye at a dealership in north Alabama. I was working as a parts delivery driver and I spotted the car a few times grazing on a lot of average modes of transportation. The SS was the oldest car there. So one day I stopped. It seemed like it was meant to be. My horoscope* even read, “Sagittarius: Ron Kidd, yes, you. Buy this beautiful silver Super Sport Monte Carlo today!” But at the time, the horoscope was too vague.

The stars aligned! 
  There was something different about this particular car. Was it in great shape? Yes, but that wasn’t the hook. It was a little different from other Super Sport Monte Carlos I had seen on GM's famous G-Body platform offered from 1983-1988. This one had the distinctive front fascia. It had the expected rear spoiler. It had the aluminum alloy wheels that looked perfect on the Monte Carlo. It had the full array of gauges including the tachometer that we love so much. This SS benefited from a prior owner taking excellent care plus it was a low-mile example. 
  This is so happening even without the hook.

The one I fell in love with was CFF3 Maroon.
My famed bench seat and column shifter! This one was in Code CQQ3 Gray. The one I fell in love with was CFF3 Maroon.

What could be so different?
  Silver paint was a common color for the Monte Carlo SS and black stripes were a natural compliment to that exterior. This one had the stripes around the middle of the car BUT it had tiny “SS” decal lettering. They were subtle and not very noticeable from a distance. The letters were incorporated in the stripes making them far less distinguished from the bold Super Sport decals common to most. This sleeper also had they key ingredient that made the SS competitive on the street. Despite only having 305 V8 power, the Super Sport Montes also had a massive 3:73 rear gear that gave it a lot of unsuspected push.

Is that all? We need more.
  Here is the thing I loved most… the car had a power, bench seat and a column shifter! I have since learned that 1988 was the easiest year to find such a combo. The maroon, cloth interior flowed in harmony with the exterior. I know Chevrolet and GM did that a lot with those colors, but this was the first time I had been struck by their beauty. I wanted that car. Yes! I will take it.

My dream Monte Carlo SS had these same wheels. I always thought GM did a great job of picking wheel and tire combinations over the years with very few exceptions. This one is perfect.
The code PD7 aluminum alloy wheels. My Waterloo had these same wheels. I always thought GM did a great job of picking wheel and tire combinations over the years with very few exceptions. This one is perfect.

If you don’t buy your Monte Carlo SS someone else will
  And so they did. I went home to Birmingham and spoke with credit unions and all my other possible financial options. I spoke with my best friend, who had a beautiful black 1986 model. I communicated with everyone necessary to buy this car – except the people actually selling the car. When I went back to buy the Super Sport on a Saturday, yes, it was gone. 

The one that got away
  We all have them. The car we never owned that we would have/should have bought. This is mine. I still look for the bench seat and column shifter combination to this day when I run across one. Recently, Junkyard Life staffer Keith Lively and I were doing a photo shoot when we ran across the one used in the photos with this story. When I saw that it was in my color with a bench seat, the memories came back. 
  “Didn’t you lose one of these?,” said Keith.
  I immediately checked the trunk lid and bumper for the remains of a ‘Kilpatrick Chevrolet - Boaz, Alabama’ emblem. There was not one. It is not professional to end a story with a sad face emoticon. ** If I could I would place one here but my editor won't do it.

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

*Editor’s Note: We should add a disclaimer about using horoscopes for information about buying a car, but I feel like Ron may have made that part up. 

**Editor’s Note: Never before have we mentioned “sad face emoticon” in a Junkyard Life article. Instead of disciplining Ron for unconventional methods of journalism, we are actually impressed that he knows what an emoticon is. He usually lives in technology denial.

The bold and confident lettering you usually find. My lost love had a small “SS” decal incorporated into the stripes and a tiny “SS” on the rear deck lid.

This Monte Carlo SS front end is timeless. Classy and powerful – in the 1980s and now.

Chevy targeted NASCAR fans with "Unwind after the Race" tagline on their advertising.
Chevy targeted NASCAR fans with "Unwind after the Race" tagline on their advertising.

Special thanks to for a wealth of information and enthusiasm about these special cars.

Did you chase a dream car that got away? Send us details!  Send emails to Jody Potter at and Ron Kidd at

Saturday, December 7, 2019

1975 Pontiac Catalina 2-door with a for sale sign

Found for sale in Mulga, Alabama in front of a tire store.

Goose chase.
Not all wild goose chases result in disappointment. Sometimes they go rather well. When JYL got the call that there was a garage find we might like. It was for sure a mid-1970’s Pontiac. The tipster indicated it may be a Grand Prix. We might be borderline obsessed with Pontiac Grand Prixs. It might be 45 minutes away. Do we chance it? Heck yes, we do!

A tan colored half vinyl top on the 1975 Catalina.
1975 Pontiac Catalina's clean lines and huge quarter panels wrap around to the squared off tail lights.

Holy Mother Goose 
  Armed with some vague directions and a few landmarks, this tip turned out to be very true. It was a 1975 Pontiac Catalina! Oh, what a Catalina it was too. It was a beautiful car that was well taken care of since new. The original owner’s wife decided it was time to go to other hands.

New Goose 
  During the fall of 1974, the new 1975 full-size line-up was proudly displayed at Brownell Pontiac in Birmingham, Alabama. In that row of Bonnevilles, Safaris, Grand Ams and Grand Prixs sat Emma Goose – this beautiful Catalina.

The saddle interior looks new. No cracks, splits, tears. Signs of a low-mile garage queen.

Emma Goose
  So what is Emma Goose exactly? She is a 1975 Pontiac Catalina in Oxford Brown with Saddle interior. She is propelled by an appropriate Pontiac 350 and the expected automatic transmission. Emma Goose was moderately optioned, saving money on certain features and a little spendy on others. A bench seat covered in the previously mentioned code 63V Saddle interior-one of the most beautiful colors they could have matched with the regal Oxford Brown (Code 59) exterior. A trivial fun fact is that Oxford Brown was not shown on most factory sales literature. Why? Because in 1975 it was ONLY on the Catalina! Making Emma a rare goose indeed.

Radial Tuned Suspension emblem is mounted above the radio.
AM/FM 8-track stereo serves up the tunes in the 1975 Pontiac Catalina. Note the Radial Tuned Suspension emblem mounted above the radio.

Counting on Emma

  How many options can you spot? We spotted the Cordova vinyl top and the Rally II wheels – those were not free. We also noticed the air conditioning. Don’t think for a second that we missed the AM/FM stereo with the optional 8-track tape player! Emma rocks! She even had the famous RTS badge (Radial Tuned Suspension) on the dash.
  This Catalina presented itself so well that we really didn’t miss the options not checked. Not present were power windows, cruise control, power seats, extra-cost material called Morrokide or even a 4-barrel carburetor. We didn’t care. We loved this car.

  So Catalina fans, what did we miss? A low-mile, garage find, straight from the original owner in preserved condition. This car was amazing enough. Our goose was cooked! We were feeling lucky just to be near it. Junkyard Life sincerely hopes this incredible Pontiac finds a great new home to keep up the preservation and the life it deserves. How great is it to be reassured that these treasures are still out there? We would say…very!

Ron Kidd
— Junkyard Life: The Story Beneath the Rust

A grandma-fresh garage find.
$7,000 on the sign in window. This pristine brown beauty was found in Mulga, Alabama in front of a tire store.

Catalina Disclaimers and Fun Facts

  • The name “Catalina” first appeared on Pontiac’s top of the line Chieftain series in 1950. The most expensive in the 1950 Pontiac line was a Catalina.
  • By 1959 property values went down considerably and the name remained on the entry level, lower optioned, lower price cars. A demotion that never affected Pontiac loyalty. Buyers loved the name Catalina, despite the fact it was now the least expensive in that line of Pontiacs.
  • Some sources say Catalina is Spanish for the name Catherine.
  • Other sources claim the word “catalina” is a Greek word meaning pure. This makes sense for the base model association.
  • Some indicate “catalina” is a type of balance wheel, named for St. Catherine whom had a dire experience with such a wheel.
  • Junkyard Life writer Ron Kidd was sure a Catalina was a commercial fishing boat. He will still try to tell you that it is. Other staff members thought it was named after Catalina Island. (Discalimer: We don’t really know.)

This Pontiac Catalina is one-of-40,657 2-door hardtops built for ’75 model year. 

Brownell Pontiac dealer emblem on trunk lid.

100 mph speedometer in the round gauge that sits next to clock on dash.

66,359 miles on odometer of ’75 Pontiac Catalina.

Six distinct grille elements mimic the six outline shapes on the tail lights. Design details that add bonus points for the discriminating collector.

Style, class and determination. The face on this Pontiac Catalina captivates.

Rallys II wheels and white wall tires on the 1975 Pontiac Catalina. Radials beacame standard equipment in 1975.

Large quarter windows keep blind spots away when merging in the big Poncho.

Under hood shot of the all original engine.
A Pontiac 350 engine powers the 1975 Catalina.

Manual window cranks for the passenger in the ’75 Catalina.

The Catalina could fool people into thinking this was a time machine. One loaded with options like air, AM/FM stereo with 8-track.

Got a classic car in your driveway? Send us details!  Send emails to Jody Potter at and Ron Kidd at