After I’d received all of this information we arranged a phone conversation. What was intended as a brief follow-up turned into a fascinating discussion that was at least as educational as our initial exchange. Since this part was conducted verbally, there is a more casual tone to the discourse.

1991 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

Additional discussions: on-Caprice-topic (mostly)

This first portion primarily relates to our subject car, the 1991 Caprice.

Autos of Interest: Ford and Chevy have historically challenged each other with arch rival models. How much did Ford’s products, namely the Crown Victoria, influence the 1991 Caprice?

Ruzzin: Not much. Sales management and management were always apprised of all the competition—including Ford, of course—but we didn’t pay any attention to them, at all. On the other hand, they did pay attention to us.

Funny, I was told by one of the Ford designers that they’d modeled a Seville at Ford Design. I asked him, “Well, did you guys like it?” He said, “No. Nobody liked it.” That was really interesting because it showed the difference in the design cultures of the two design houses, how different they were. How we could do this car that, after a lot of hard work, we loved and the public loved, yet they didn’t like it.

It made you see that their culture was to produce something totally different based on their knowledge, history and understanding of what was required. So, when they saw this thing that we had done, they didn’t like it at all. I found that really interesting.


Autos of Interest: This was quite a busy time at Chevrolet, wasn’t it?

Ruzzin: Yeah and we were the studio that did anything that had a quarter of a million volume. When we were told that were going to do the Caprice, it was kind of a shocker because the studio next door had that responsibility. But the reason they gave it to us was we were doing the most dramatic new designs in the building. It was pretty much understood by everyone the things we were doing—in succession, like three or four in succession—at that time. We were definitely on a role and that’s why they brought it to us.


Autos of Interest: Would you say there was any animosity harbored by the other studio for not having received the assignment?

Ruzzin: No, I don’t think so. Nothing was ever said or shown in that regard.


Autos of Interest: You discussed previously that a coupe was not produced due to waning demand. So, apart from the sedan and wagon, other body styles were never conceptualized or even discussed?

Ruzzin: No. The thing about Caprice was the Corporation saw a sales opportunity when the whole big car era was trailing down. You get to the point that it’s not worth investing in a bunch of big cars when within three or four years the demand is gone and then you have all this volume left. But they saw an opportunity in Chevrolet.

A profitable program was to sell 300,000 cars per year and Chevrolet was convinced that they could do it. They figured some of those sales would come from big car buyers from Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Cadillac but then they got into it with Buick and Oldsmobile, and Chevrolet’s sales position was diminished.


Autos of Interest: In the fiberglass model photos, there appear to be minor variations in some of the shots. Was there more than one fiberglass model produced?

Ruzzin: No. Fiberglass models are like a copy. It’s usually after you release the design that you make a fiberglass model.

About the confusion in the pictures [in reference to an email discussion], one of the models we were looking at, a really nice three-quarter front picture, I think that car was really the running car that was built. We had our fiberglass model and then there was this other car that was built by Chevrolet, the running model. I think that picture—that series of pictures—really were of the running car.

That car was built before the design was finally released, maybe three months ahead, so there were some minor changes made. For example, the outside mirror we had on what we’d call the “patch,” they wanted to put it on the body. Then, later, they brought it back up on the patch.

But there was only one fiberglass model.


Continued on page 11.

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