A reliable workhorse and a budget dream car!
Engine temp sensor broke off during air filter change - mechanic fixed it with a plastic wire, $0 :). This was the ONLY problem in 2.5 years that prevented the car from running.
Water pump started to leak around 120 000 miles; replaced for $100.
Rear window cogwheel got stuck; window only moved down 1-2 inches.
ABS never worked.
Half-dead factory Bose stereo replaced with base-model GM radio, $50.
Front suspension was badly worn after 18 years. The car was still running, however it was floating around and made scary noises in sharper turns. Obviously nobody took care of its suspension for decades. New springs, stabilizers, mounts, tyres and alignment were necessary. $1000 for parts + labour in total.
A/C compressor failed around 122 K miles, also due to bad maintenance - no oil was refilled for years! Replaced for $270.
Occasionally small oil drops under the engine; nothing serious though (I guess it's OK for a 20 year old car).
Paint peeling off on the hood and trunk; minor rust appearing here and there. Nothing serious though, considering that it was kept on the street for years and wasn't really garaged.
I've always loved those big, traditional full-size American cruisers with V8 engine, body-on-frame construction, rear-wheel-drive, and lots of space and comfort. In 2009 I got the chance to get myself one: I traded in a terribly unreliable '94 Chrysler LHS for this car (that review is also on this site).
And in terms of reliability, the Caprice was an absolute winner: it only let me down once, because I didn't notice that I damaged the temp sensor when I installed the new air filter.
When I got this car, I knew that it wasn't immaculate, however it soon turned out that - despite its "Caprice-fan" owners - it had been neglected. The paint was peeling off ever since I knew the car, and also the front leather seats were badly worn. Front suspension was in ruins, literally.
Despite these facts, I really liked this car. Driving it was totally FUN and relaxing, especially once the stereo was working again.
The base 5.0L (305 cui) V-8 TBI is not a beast, you won't be using that for racing. Still, it moves the 2-ton Caprice at a good pace if asked to. Good torque at lower RPMs, great for this classic cruiser.
Transmission is the TH700R4 4-speed overdrive model. Too bad it didn't come with a transmission oil cooler, so this is the weakest part of this car. And also the most expensive to repair. Never let me down though, however some noises and vibrations showed that my transmission was aging and should be used gently if possible. Upon replacing the trans oil and filter right after I bought the car, my mechanic found signs of considerable wear and tear inside the oil pan. But the bottom line is that it was still working fine!
Mine has the longer, 2.56 final axle ratio, so at highway speeds (80-90 mph or 130-140 km/h) the engine was still revving around 1800 in OD. The only noise you could hear - apart from the purring of the V8 - was the wind noise around the doors.
Mileage was OK; around 20-21 mpg (11-12 l/100km) on the highway, and 14-15 mpg (15-17 l/100km) in the city. The latter one is a bit higher than I hoped; probably it's down to the aging transmission.
As it mostly uses standard GM parts, maintenance is relatively cheap, parts are easy to find and are interchangeable between GM models. Easy to work on, doesn't require special tooling, no complicated electronics (only a TBI injector).
Last week I had to trade the car after 5000 miles of usage; unfortunately can't afford this beast right now.
All in all, I really appreciated the Chevy. It was big, strong, safe, comfortable, extremely spacious, good looking, and very reliable, even after 20 years! It's so tough and durable, you deliberately have to abuse and damage this car to break it down. It will do its best to keep running, and won't ask for much.
I used the Caprice as a 2nd car, not primarily as a daily driver - although it was up to the job for sure. If gas prices were down by half (or more), I'd probably be using this old cockroach for years to come!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 7th October, 2011