In the Fifties, Ford called itself “America’s Wagon Master” and for good reason, too. It dominated the segment with massive family haulers such as the Country Squire and Ranch Wagon, and couldn’t build them quick enough for their adoring fans. Those being, er, depressed dads wishing they could own a sporty two-seater but with a large family and nagging wife, so one of these would have to do.
Its biggest rival, Chevrolet, didn’t have an answer — until the middle of the Sixties when the Caprice station wagon finally hit its stride. The ’67 model was very attractive; the quad headlights, chrome grille, muscular rear fenders and aggressive rear end sure got dads spending serious time at Chevy dealerships. It was able to match the confident looks with performance, too. With a wide range of engines available, the most common being the 396 cubic inch (6.5-litre) V8 mated to the three-speed turbo hydramatic (the two-speed, as good as it was, finally was put out to pasture), the Caprice could move in a real hurry for a very large car. It had 325 horses but if you wanted more, you could have a 427 cubic inch (7.0-litre) with 425 horsepower — and get this, it could be had with a four-speed manual! These could do 0-100kph in a very respectable 8.2 seconds and although they’re very rare, they are out there. With that gutsy engine, coupled with the rear-drive layout, it allowed it to tow up to 2,267kg.
As for the cabin, it was very well-appointed, boasting dual airbags, power windows, cruise control, a theft-deterrent system, intermittent wipers, power front seats and automatic levelling suspension. It could accommodate six passengers and still have room for luggage, but the factory-equipped AC would have a tough task in trying to cool the large interior and it was advisable to avoid black vinyl seats as they had a tendency to singe your skin when the car was parked out in the sun for any length of time. Just look at the those generous side and rear windows...
When the minivan came along it usurped the station wagon’s birthright, and sales took a hit. Ford bailed out of the big, rear-drive wagon business and General Motors followed suit in the late Nineties with the ’96 model being the last Caprice.
However, many still look for and buy these quiet behemoths not just because they’re comfortable and roomy but because they’ve aged really well and sure stand out in a crowd. Nothing quite serves as a reminder of what was once the American norm. Prices today typically range from Dh10,000 for a beater and up to Dh80,000 for a well-maintained, clean original model.