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

1 comment:

BoH said...

My friend here in Sweden had a Caprice like, 15 years ago, nice car.