By Jim Downum #21295383, Lake Zurich, IL
When most car people talk about the 1994-1996 full-size Chevy era, most talk centers around the Impala SS model. Having owned both a ’95 and ’96 Impala SS brand new, I can tell you first hand it was the only big Chevy we had on our minds back then. The Caprice models were all but ignored. Over time, that has changed – the Caprices are very much appreciated by the Chevy B Body enthusiasts.
I am a stock big Chevy fan and have owned many over the years. Over time, I developed a real appreciation for these end-of-an-era, rear wheel drive machines – the ’94-’96 Impalas and Caprices. My 1996 Caprice Classic you see here is unique. It’s best known by its GM RPO code, B4U. It’s not a police car (9C1); it’s not an Impala SS (WX3). It rests somewhere in between those two, sharing the 5.7 LT1 drivetrain, but with a heavy-duty sport suspension and towing package. The Caprice Classic LT1/ B4U package included many specific RPO items, like coil springs, shocks, a heavy-duty cooling system with mechanical fan, FE3 sport suspension, and large 235/70/15 rubber (available in white or black side wall).
Production figures show only 9,046 1996 B4U Caprices were built, opposed to 41,941 1996 Impala SS models and approximately 20,000 9C1 police Caprices. So, of the ’94-’96 LT1 Chevys produced, the B4U Caprices are rarer. Of course, as we know in the car hobby, rarity does not always mean more valuable. Like for like, a stock Impala SS brings twice the money a stock B4U Caprice sells for. But as we also know, many of us in the hobby do not own a car based on value alone. We genuinely like cars. Such is the case with my Caprice here. I really enjoy the car for what it is. I also love the Medium Garnet Red Metallic paint color combined with the Ruby Red custom cloth interior. This is the last year Chevy offered a red/red combo on their full size cars.
Our B4U Caprice was ordered and bought new at Celozzi-Ettleson Chevrolet in Elmhurst, IL by a retired lifelong GM employee who spent his career at GM’s Willow Springs metal stamping plant. He also owned a second car, so the Caprice was never a daily driver. By 1999, the owner’s health had failed and he no longer could drive, so the car sat in their garage – his wife did not drive either.
Our big Chevy is rare in that just 250 1996 B4U Caprices were produced with this exterior/interior color combination with black sidewall tires. The vast majority of non-police Caprices had white sidewall tires.
In May of ’02, a good friend told me about this car while we were at his barber – who was the son-in-law of the original owner. I tried to buy it so many times over the next 8-1/2 years!
Finally, in early January of 2011, the daughter and son-in-law told us her mother’s health was failing and she would sell me the car. I was ready and jumped at the chance to get this beautiful and somewhat rare Caprice. Being garaged and having just over 16,000 miles, the car was in very nice original condition. But having sat so long, the gas went bad and I had to go through the entire fuel and fuel injection system front to back to get it running smoothly again. The A.I.R. pump system was bad so we removed it and have it stored away.
After getting the car running right, it received with a thorough bottom up cleaning and detailing, as well as all mechanical maintenance needed to make it road worthy once again. We were also fortunate enough to receive all the original paperwork with the car, including the original GM employee dealer order invoice, window sticker, certificate of origin, etc. We intend to keep our Caprice as original and stock as possible while enjoying it on nice days and club outings. Like the 1996 slogan says, this Caprice Classic is “Genuine Chevrolet!”
Check out The Herd – this is a great website for 1994-1996 Full-size Chevrolet owners!
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