V8, rear-drive, four-door family sedan wanted. Expecting power levels over 300 horsepower, and must be easily modifiable. Expecting handling to be useable, pushing towards impressive, and it must function as a sedan as well…no shrunken four-door masquerading as a family car. Thirty years ago, it was a joke. No manufacturer had the balls to give that a shot, and those that did fell far short of the goals stated. A couple tried, but none came close. Twenty years ago, things were getting there…the Chevrolet Impala SS had just wrapped up with the rest of the GM B-bodies, and while it’s stock 265 horsepower wasn’t bad, it didn’t matter that much because the LT-series engines could be hot-rodded up to perform well above that figure.
Now, however, you are spoiled for choice for a fast four-door with the bite to back up it’s bark. Except for two, which we have learned are finally leaving us. To be fair, the Chevrolet Caprice PPV and the Chevrolet SS were living on borrowed time. They are the last cars to come from Elizabeth, Australia…not just for the United States, but period, as the Aussie auto manufacturing sector fades into history. From the start, there was no chance that these two were getting a reprieve. Along with their respective Holden forms, including the Utility, they will go into history and become niche products, veritable orphans left in a land they weren’t exactly designed for.
I’ve driven an SS. I loved every minute of the short run I got with the car. If I could swing a new car purchase, I’d gladly take one, and there’s still a very solid shot that I’ll go hunting for a manual-trans version if I have to replace the Angry Grandpa Chrysler for any reason whatsoever. It impressed me that much. And the Caprices are starting to hit the auction blocks after their service is up. Chevrolet didn’t want the cars falling into civillian hands, but we’ve seen what can be done with them, and we like what we see.
Sadly, the replacement is the upcoming Opel Insignia generation. That’s a front-drive or all-wheel-drive sedan better known in the States as the Buick Regal. No V8, smaller, and none of the subtly aggressive looks that gave both the Caprice and SS their charms. It went like violence and visually flew under the radar, something most buyers cried about. And like I said when I drove the SS, if that was your biggest issue, go to a Dodge dealership and get the loudest, brashest cop magnet your heart desires. I’d rather take an SS, debadge it, and let people wonder what’s up with my Malibu.
It’s the GM curse: get it right, then promptly kill it off. Raise your glasses…