Big Block Boat: 1969 Chevrolet Caprice 396

Any classic car enthusiast who is not a zillionaire knows that Hi-Po coupes and convertible models of famous marques when in good condition, are largely out of reach of the Average Jane or John Doe. Enter the sedans, in this case, a 1969 Caprice “Sport Roof” sedan with Big Block oomph, for sale here on craigslist just west of Chester, Pennsylvania with a $5,500 asking.

The 1960s, as American history tells us, was a time of much change in society. All kinds of crazy things were happening, and that wasn’t just world events or Hippies – it was true in the Auto industry too. Words like “Six-Pack” and “Dr. Olds’s W-Machine” and “Rapid Transit System” were no longer just descriptors of physical objects, they were becoming buzzwords and marketing catchphrases for automobiles. The Big Three were allowing people to choose high-performance drivetrains, once unique to sporty models,  in their station wagons and sedans.

Enter this car, which the seller tells us is a 396-ci big-block engine, mated to a TH-400 automatic transmission, sending power through a 12-bolt non-Positraction rear gearset. It looks to be in decent condition for the age, and we’re told that it features air conditioning, tilt-wheel, dual exhaust, power windows, and disc brakes. Some tune-up parts have been fitted, and it runs well. It was allegedly a true “barn find” and we can see dull paint, a bit of typical body rust, as well as a crack in the steering wheel.

I want to say “I liked sedans before they were cool” but that just sounds so, so corny nowadays. I kinda did, though. People chuckled at my enthusiasm (particularly my wife at the time) for my ’72 Cutlass sedan. In my defense, though, it was a $500 20-footer driver that an elderly man had in his garage and didn’t want anymore.  I drove it home on Sears bias-ply tires that were older than me! So, for $5,500, would you consider a muscle car with a few extra doors?


  1. TimS Member

    Yet another that should be crushed, after having the 396 yanked for transplant into an awesome red 4-speed Camaro, of course. End Car Snob description.

    Fix the issues, get the A/C working, and cruise. Same cool lines, plenty of legroom, and nice options. Save your pennies for rust repair and a respray.

    Like 8
    • Tony

      My mom had the exact same car, but I am 90% sure it had hidden headlights. My older brother totalled it on a trip into Brooklyn, I was about 8 years old at the time and I loved that car.

  2. Stevieg Member

    Not a a bad project. I recently professed my love for these & this one would fit the bill…except for it’s general presentation. The side marker lights are all missing & filled in, probably with bondo (if you look at how cheap the paint job is). With that thought in mind, what other holes were mudded over? Rust? Considering where it is located, probably.
    The interior was redone on an even tighter budget than the body. That pleated upholstery is a step above throwing a blanket over the seats. I would actually prefer seeing the seats strewn with blankets myself!
    Is there potential? You bet! And when you consider that a nicely done big block Caprice sedan from this era can bring $20,000-$25,000 this is priced fairly. But for the money, that 1953 Mercury drop-top from a couple days ago would be more appealing to me.

    Like 6
    • Del

      Who concocted the title of Sports Roof ?

      Its a Four Door Hard Top.

      Like 6
      • James

        I think they must have meant Sport Sedan, which was the factory designation. My Mom had a new one with the 300hp 350. A friend of my Dad worked at the local Pontiac dealership. A GM exec had driven the car from Detroit to Florida on vacation, picked up a Pontiac there to drive back. Dad’s friend called and said I have a car you have to get. It was Azure Turquoise blue with black vinyl top and black brocade interior, and every option GM had for it except the hidden headlights and fender skirts. I wish I had that car now, but she traded it on an Olds Delta 88 Royal coupe,before telling me she was in the market for a new car.

      • george gouvas

        in some areas the tops are considered to be sports roof, but i agree that the correct name is a 4 d hardtop.

  3. local_sheriff

    As most coupes even of this generation is getting out of financial reach for many of us, a 4door like this is a GREAT way to get a vintage car. Once you get behind the wheel and keep your eyes where they’re supposed to, you won’t think of those spare doors.
    I’ll be the first to admit that yes; 2doors look better, however with that being said 4doors doesn’t look bad either. Heck, this one is even a hardtop, how cool isn’t that? There’s something wrong if the alternative to owning a 2door car , is NO CAR!
    Given its condition I’d still believe there should be room for haggling here.However it’s a well-designed/optioned road boat that looks even heavier as a 4door; very cool find that should be appreciated!

    Like 11
  4. Tonyf

    Any reason why the a/c compressor is wedged between the power steering pump and inner wheel well? Maybe a makeshift motor mount ? Brackets are missing but still connected to the lines why? I agree dump the bondo body and put it into a ———(insert vehicle name ).i wouldn’t crush it but part it out, does have good parts left.

    Like 7
  5. TimM

    I love sleepers and it doesn’t get any better than this car!!!! Looks like grandma would be coming back from the grocery store!!!

    Like 7

    That would be a crazy A/C belt alignment. I’d think a massive burnout before pulling the drivetrain would be in order.

    Like 1
  7. Troy s

    Neat family hauler from the zany late sixties, or maybe a business car.
    It’s definitely worth fixing up and would make for one nice Sunday cruiser.
    Just because it has a 396 in it doesn’t necessarily make it a muscle car which it is not and that’s just fine with me. Full size Chevy’s could also get the 427, but I don’t think anyone bought these to go terrorizing the streets, at least from the dealership. Big car big engine, great for towing trailers, boats, a mother load of extra weight of anything really. Or for flying down the highway at speed effortlessly.

    Like 3
  8. 68custom

    even though the two barrel is gone 69 is the only year for the 396 with two barrrel carb and 265 hp, looks like the two barrel has been replaced and all full sized car equipped with the 396 were 2 barrel motors. 69 was an odd year for full sized chevies with the most motor options ever, if you wanted a four barrel with your big block it would have to be a 427,

    Like 2
  9. Michael

    I like it and would drive it just the way it is. That pile of miscellaneous bolts sitting on the air cleaner scare me though.

    Like 1
    • Joe Spinelli

      My father bought one of these brand spanking new I was 9 I remember it well VERY very dark hunter green black vinyl top black interior and what caught my attention was a new thing called a windshield washer

      Like 3
    • PatrickM

      Yeah… A lot of unanswered questions. Too many loose ends here. $2,000.00 tops, given the amount of work needed to get this elderly lady back in good shape. I lived through this era and do not remember this paint scheme. Given the interior, it looks like a repaint. And they could have cleaned up the engine bay.

      Like 1
  10. Allen Member

    My dad had a new ’69 Impala four-door hardtop with a 396. Gold with black vinyl top. Great car – he kept it longer than any other car he ever owned. It finally developed a miss the dealer could not solve without taking the engine apart. I took it to a buddy one day who took one glance in the engine bay, promptly cut about an inch off a rubber breather tube to one of the rocker covers, charged me nothing and the problem was GONE!! ‘ Traded it for a ’74 Super Beetle not long after that. Of course I wish I had kept it…

    Like 1
  11. Glenn D. Miller

    My dad bought a white-near twin to this car from Sauder Chevy- Manheim PA in 1980. He had the car fixed up and painted black matching the interior, it was our family car. He checked the engine numbers & determining it was a 427 went right back in and ordered the correct emblems for the front fenders- Definitely a performance family car

    Like 2
  12. karl

    The 69 and 70 full size chevies had a beautiful body style , but on the east coast they were rust prone compared their earlier and later body styles. The wide wheel openings on the front and rear fenders were key areas , and this one shows either rust or Bondo rising from the flat black paint. The fact that all the marker lights are gone makes me believe that the lower quarters and fenders suffered rust out ,and have been repaired and now are rotting out again. Finding front fenders would be hard but not impossible to find , but fixing/replacing the rear quarters could be very expensive – I would really have to get a first hand look at this before I would put a bid on it.

    Like 2

    My first brand new car was a ’69 IMpala Lemans blue with black interior. It was a 327 cu with 3 on the column.I barely had 2 nickels left to rub together but first thing I did was throw away the smog pump, install dual exhaust and bring it down to the speed shop where they squeezed every bit of power they could out of that small block.Of course by today’s standards that was nothing but that Impala would do 100 MPH in 2nd gear at 5.5k RPM. I loved that car but the metal termites ate it up.(should have saved the smog pump. Today they’re like gold)

    Like 2
  14. John Oliveri

    Friend of mines dad, had a 69, coca brown black interior and top, mid 70s had Am/Fm and A/C lean car, got hit in the back middle of the night and totaled, rite in a parking spot,like 1975, it was a 350 car

  15. RNR

    Nice engine upgrade to have, but a 265 HP 396 Impala is no more a muscle car than was my Dad’s 290 HP 383 2bbl ’69 Dodge Polara.

    Like 3
  16. David

    The body rust is horrifying. With a closer inspection, I suspect this car would really let you down though. As for the sports roof. Personally the lesser – more standard sedans with a “post” or “pillar” and window frames made for a stronger more rigid perhaps better handling car. No doubt this one was a beauty when new.

    Like 2
  17. paul Clark

    Take the motor out nd put it in a Vega

  18. Patrick Michael Shanahan

    Sedans are post cars. This is a 4 dr. hdt. I bought a ’69 Impala 427 4 speed new. Lemans blue with black interior. I loved that car but had to park it in ’74 whan we couldn’t get premium gas because of the shortage.

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