Classic Car

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

The 1985 Chevy Caprice Classic represents the last model year of the fourth generation of this iconic full-size sedan. With its boxy yet sleek styling and spacious, comfortable interior, the ’85 Caprice makes an excellent choice for a restoration project. This guide covers everything you need to know, from the model’s history and specifications to maintenance, modifications, and what to look for when buying one of these classics.

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

History of the 1985 Caprice Classic

The Chevy Caprice had been the best-selling full-size car in America throughout the 1970s and early 80s. By 1985 it had stiff competition from Ford and Chrysler, but still offered great value and proven reliability.

Debut of Fourth Generation

  • The 1985 model debuted the fourth generation of Caprice sedans
  • First major redesign since 1977, featuring more aerodynamic styling
  • New length of 214.1 inches made it the largest Caprice ever at the time
  • Range of engine options up to 5.0L V8 with 150 horsepower

Changes for 1985 Model Year

  • Minor exterior revisions including new grille, hood, and rear panel trim
  • Upgraded suspensions and variable-assist power steering
  • New digital dashboard with trip computer in higher trims
  • Most components carried over from popular ’84 model

The 1985 model year would be the swan song for this well-regarded generation before an all-new Caprice arrived in 1986.

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Features and Specifications of the 1985 Caprice Classic

The 1985 Caprice came well-equipped even in base trim, while higher trims offered even more comfort and tech.

Standard Equipment and Trim Levels

  • Base Caprice Sedan
  • Uplevel Caprice Classic Sedan
  • Top-of-the-line Caprice Classic Brougham
  • All models came standard with:
    • 5.0L V8 (305 cid) engine
    • 4-speed automatic transmission
    • Power steering and brakes
    • Air conditioning
    • Analog gauges
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Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Dimensions and Capacities

  • Length: 214.1 inches
  • Wheelbase: 116 inches
  • Width: 75.3 inches
  • Curb weight: ~3,500 lbs
  • Seating for up to 6 passengers
  • 18 gallon fuel tank

Factory Options

Higher trim levels added more features:

  • Power windows, locks, seats
  • 6-way power driver’s seat
  • Illuminated entry system
  • Cruise control
  • Intermittent wipers
  • Digital dashboard
  • Cloth split bench seats
  • Wire wheel covers
  • Vinyl roof
  • And more

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Performance and Handling of the 1985 Caprice Classic

With its torque-rich V8 engine, rear-drive chassis, and smooth-riding comfort, the ’85 Caprice prioritized traditional big sedan virtues over outright speed.

Powertrain

  • 305 cid (5.0L) V8
  • 150 horsepower
  • 245 ft-lbs torque
  • 4-barrel carburetor
  • 4-speed automatic transmission
  • Performance exhaust system available

Suspension and Steering

  • Coil spring front suspension
  • Multi-link coil rear suspension
  • Variable-assist power steering *Optional “touring” suspension with firmer shocks

Braking and Wheels

  • Power-assisted front disc rear drum brakes
  • 15-inch rally wheels
  • Radial tires

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Performance Stats

While not a sports sedan, the ’85 Caprice delivered solid V8 motivation:

  • 0-60 mph in about 10 seconds
  • 1/4 mile in 17 seconds
  • Top speed electronically limited to 107-110 mph
  • EPA estimated 14 mpg city / 20 mpg highway

Maintenance and Repairs for the 1985 Caprice Classic

The Caprice has simple, rugged mechanics, but high mileage examples can suffer typical wear-and-tear issues.

Common Problem Areas

  • Leaking seals and gaskets
  • Worn ball joints and tie rod ends
  • Failing shocks and bushings
  • Vacuum system leaks
  • Blocked catalytic converter
  • Corroded battery tray

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Easy Owner Maintenance

  • Oil changes every 3,000 miles
  • Tune-ups every 12,000 miles
  • Flush replace all fluids
  • Lubricate chassis grease points

Checking Critical Systems

Critical areas to inspect on a potential purchase:

  • Engine compression and leakage
  • Transmission and differential operation
  • Steering and suspension condition
  • Brake pad rotor thickness
  • Belt and hose condition
  • Electrical system operation

Properly maintained, these Caprice sedans can cruise for hundreds of thousands of miles.

Comparing the 1985 Caprice Classic to Other Classic Cars

The 1985 Caprice was among the last holdouts of the traditional full-size family sedan in an era increasingly dominated by front-drive designs. Compared to other popular classics:

Ford LTD Crown Victoria

  • Similar V8 rear-drive competitor
  • Less aerodynamic but very roomy
  • More prone to rust in northern states

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera

  • Popular midsize A-body coupe
  • Available V6 and sedan models
  • Much smaller and lighter
  • Began a shift to front-wheel drive

Pontiac Grand Prix

  • Rakish 2-door personal luxury coupe
  • Available 3.8L V6 or 5.0L V8
  • Handling not as refined as its looks

While the Caprice couldn’t match the styling allure of some competitors, it beat them all for interior space, ride comfort, and cockroach-like longevity.

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Collectibility and Value of the 1985 Caprice Classic

Values for 1980s Caprices remain quite affordable, although mint examples are appreciating as collector cars:

Surviving Numbers

  • Over 300,000 Caprice Classics sold in 1985
  • Estimated ~20,000 still registered today
  • Low survival rate but parts cars still plentiful

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Current Values

  • Typical selling price around $2,000 – $5,000
  • Mint low-mileage examples up to $15,000
  • Heavily modified or perfect originals worth more

Future Prospects

As supplies dwindle, the ’85 Caprice’s handsome styling, ample room, and easy modifications make it ripe for collector interest.

Driving Experience of the 1985 Caprice Classic

With its soft suspension, loose steering, and languid V8 torque, piloting the ’85 Caprice is a throwback to an earlier automotive era.

Acceleration and Handling

Despite slow steering, these 4,000 lb sedans can build impressive speed once the V8 hits its stride. Just don’t expect much grip around corners with standard suspension. Upgrades like wider tires, stiffer shocks and added sway bars greatly improve handling response.

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Braking Performance

The power-assisted brakes provide adequate stopping power from city speeds. But the large sedan’s weight is always felt when braking hard from highway speeds. Upgrading to cross-drilled rotors and performance pads is advised for any collectors who enjoy driving their Caprice more energetically.

Interior Comfort and Ergonomics

Row after row of bench seating means the Caprice can comfortably seat six adults, even if the back is a bit cramped. Front accommodations are sofa-like, with excellent outward vision lending a commanding view of the road. Controls and gauges are large and easy to operate in typical 1980s GM fashion.

Overall, the 1985 Caprice offers a supremely relaxed driving experience focused on comfort over aggression. Handling limits can be addressed by upgrades, but refinement was never this chassis’ priority.

Modifications and Upgrades for the 1985 Caprice Classic

There are ample options to customize or upgrade the performance and styling of a 1985 Caprice. Popular modifications include:

Engine Tuning

  • Cold air intakes and free-flow exhaust for more power
  • Camshaft upgrades for torque and better throttle response
  • Engine swaps to GM LT-series V8s for major horsepower gains

Suspension and Brakes

  • Lowering springs and performance shocks
  • Sway bar kits to reduce body roll
  • Upgraded brake pads, cross-drilled rotors

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Exterior Styling

  • Two-tone paint schemes
  • Custom airbrush work
  • Aftermarket wheels and ground effects kits

Interior Refreshes

  • Custom upholstery like cloth inserts or leather
  • Updated touchscreen stereos
  • Bucket seat swaps

Restomod Builds

Some owners go all-out, heavily modifying Caprices with modern LS-series drivetrains for the ultimate restomods blending classic style with modern performance. The possibilities are endless for enterprising owners.

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Buying Guide for a 1985 Caprice Classic

For the best 1985 Caprice purchase experience:

  • Set realistic expectations on price and condition
  • Thoroughly inspect any car before buying
  • Look for complete service records
  • Consider minor rust and wear acceptable, but walk away from major mechanical or accident issues

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Where to Find Them

  • Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace
  • Specialty car dealers
  • Used car classified ads
  • Estate sales

What to Pay

  • $2-5k for decent drivers
  • $5-10k for nice original examples
  • Up to $15k for perfect low-mileage museum pieces

Inspection Tips

  • Look for clean, dry oil and no dripping fluids
  • Ensure no steering wander, odd tire wear
  • Verify no smoke from tailpipe at start-up
  • Road test for smooth transmission shifting

Although common, finding a solid 1985 Caprice is getting harder. Be picky in your selection and ready to buy when you find one that checks all boxes.

Future Prospects for the 1985 Caprice Classic

The 1985 model holds an interesting place as the swan song for the Caprice’s fourth and some say best generation. What does the future hold for these classics?

Survivors Will Be Sought After

With so few remaining in good condition, every year the surviving pool of Caprices shrinks. Excellent original examples will become harder to find and command higher premiums.

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

Custom Culture Icon

Lowriders in particular have embraced the 1977-90 Caprices. The last of this breed will continue having their suspensions pancaked and exteriors wild-styled well into the future.

Restomodders Dream Car

The basic rear-drive layout with expansive engine bay makes these Caprices fantastic restomod candidates. Hundreds of enthusiasts are already swapping modern LS-series engines into them.

Solid Investments

Unlike some other 1980s cars, Caprices have hit their value floor and are primed for appreciation. As supplies tighten, they are smart investments that can still be driven and enjoyed.

Thirty-five years later, the 1985 Caprice’s handsome styling and endearing character ensure its place among the most beloved American automotive classics that will only become more cherished as time

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

 passes.

Conclusion

The 1985 Chevy Caprice Classic stands out as an icon of Detroit steel among more modern designs emerging at the time. Its simplicity, ruggedness, style, and ample proportions cement its place as one of the last great traditional full-size sedans. For collectors seeking a usable classic as rock-solid as the bank vault grille that adorns it, the ’85 Caprice deserves special recognition in the pantheon of American automotive classics.

Restoring a 1985 Caprice Classic

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