1995-1996 Chevrolet Caprice

Pickup trucks from domestic automakers are not the only pieces of vehicular Americana cruising the nation’s highways and byways, as evidenced by this beautiful bubble that came to West End Avenue. 


Much as Autofrei is want to identify cars by their neighborhoods and regions (and vice versa), cars do more than just gravitate into local communities. Some cars are built and bought to travel long distances. While the Pinto up the street from me is likely to remain a neighborhood car, a full-size Chevrolet like this seems to be prepared to make the trip up from its native Virginia to the Upper West Side.

And it is indeed a native Virginian. From what I can tell, the state is very much a home to donks. I can’t really claim to understand why huge cars lifted up on massive chrome rims took off, but I can see the sense in how much style they offer for such an available, affordable car.

Full size cars are not particularly space efficient, but they do have plenty of room and show off the owner’s ability to buy into some excess and pay that little bit more on style over substance.

And that’s really all I care about. I don’t pay much mind to the aesthetics themselves, but I can completely appreciate how this Chevy’s owner went that extra mile to put some style on the road. Old car ownership isn’t always about used-car economies; there is usually some sentimentality or plain irrationality behind buying and maintaining a less-than-perfect old car over, say, a sensible but heartless 1990s Altima or 2000s Taurus.

In that sense, there is little separating a custom donk like this 1990s Caprice from a 1970s BMW. Both cars make their impracticality plain to see.

Irregardless of the typical plea for universal car appreciation, this Chevrolet does stand out as a particularly American vehicle, even though it has little to do with amber waves of grain or purple mountain majesties. Just because this Chevrolet is not a pickup for hauling cattle around like those West Texas Chevys seemed ready to do, this Caprice is a US Domestic Market-only vehicle that still drives the long interstate trips associated with the old American vehicular stereotype. That makes it just as goddamn American as anything else you’ll see on this website. America isn’t just about broad horizons and agriculture; lifted, chromed Chevrolets also tell a particularly American story of long-distance travel, attachment to automobiles, and a flavor for small-scale custom manufacturing.

God bless America.

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3 Responses to 1995-1996 Chevrolet Caprice

  1. peter says:

    on the mark, as usual, but i think you might be missing the larger story here: in its almost shocking refinement and subtlety, this caprice actually makes a very strong argument for the entire bubble concept! a car that came from the factory looking — how to put this? — uncomfortably bloated is here transformed into something lithe and almost athletic (!). it’s the most tasteful donk i’ve ever seen!

    (just noticed the address it’s parked out in front of. of course. who else would choose such a stylish and seductive conveyance but the devil himself.)

    • Raphael Orlove says:

      You know what, this is a really well done donk – I didn’t think that chrome wagon wheels would do so much good for the kind of saggy sad eyes and endless plain sheetmetal these cars have when unmodified. Clearly the devils work!

  2. Ben Orlove says:

    Very striking use of the buildings, street space to show off the car itself. That us is most notable in the last photo, where the careful framing of the (probably) unintentional spot between scaffolding and awning emphasizes the size of the car, and the slight downward slope of the street to the left underscores the ways that the car’s lines imply motion even when at rest. But it’s present in other photos as well, giving extra power to the wide-angle image in the second photo and the unconventional angle in the third.

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