When it comes to selecting a project car, there’s plenty to consider. The various items at the top of the list to think about include which vehicle to use, the intended use of the car, brand loyalty, as well as any personal preferences that you’d like to incorporate into the project. That being said, you might be wondering what we were thinking when we picked up this gem – a 1982 Chevy Caprice Classic Station Wagon. I mean, who in their right mind would want this?
Before you assume that we are just going to freshen up the small block in this car, cut the springs, and slam it down on the ground with lots of cool paint, listen up. The plans for this car might just surprise you. In fact, they may even anger you. You need to know that this project is going to be much different than anything we have ever built before, and it’s going to be much bigger as well!
Our Goal With The Wagon
The goal of the wagon will be to take the ultimate unsuspecting car, a Caprice Classic Station Wagon, and turn it into a multi-use vehicle that is capable of doing almost anything. I believe that being an automatic, having 600+ horsepower, and boasting pump gas are all things that Grandpa would want! So, we are going to stick with this guideline to conjure up some basic rules. We want to take it to the strip and run 11s and be able to crank it around an autocross track, but Grandpa must also be able to live on the street.
Does Grandpa Have What It Takes To Fit These Requirements?
If you had the same guidelines of looking for something GM, was capable of holding a big block, and was a little off the beaten path, then you, too, might consider this car just like I did. Don’t let its looks intimidate you. In fact, I will admit that the first time I saw this car there was a little voice in my head SCREAMING at me, “What are you thinking?!?”
I popped the hood and saw the poor little 305 small block that Chevy enslaved to power this boat. I noticed that the engine compartment was very similar to the G-bodies of the same years. I also knew that the BBC conversion was possible with those. As far as meeting the requirements space wise, it fit the build.
Looking at the rear suspension, I was surprised to see a true four-link hooked up to the stock 10-bolt rear end, and I realized it could have been worse. A quick search on the web about the B-body revealed that companies do indeed still make suspension for these cars. This was another positive in Grandpa’s favor.
Then it was time to think about the wagon. While many may have seen just another sedan that “could have been”, I saw the perfect way to multi-use a car. After all, how many other cars do you know of that could whip around the autocross track, pull a set of drag radials and skinnies out of the trunk and make a pass, plus do it all with room for an 8 man crew? Can you think of any? I didn’t think so.
It was settled! The newest addition to the Street Legal TV team would be this light blue station wagon that appeared to be in good shape. As we all know, it’s only when you really begin to tear into a car that you can truly find out what it’s made of. But, based on what I’d seen of Grandpa so far, I felt we’d be starting with a car that was in pretty good shape for its age.
Our Build Plan For Grandpa
This boat needs some serious power. We’re talking at least 650 hp at the flywheel if we hope to see mid-elevens. Dart Heads jumped on board with the wagon and has plans to build a 500+ cubic inch big block monster that will produce all the power this thing can handle while being fed good old California 91 octane. Something around 600 hp or more.
We needed something that could withstand the power but also provide the strength necessary to be punished on the autocross track. Along with this, it needed to still be relativity easy to drive on the street. We’ve decided to use TCI’s 4L80E transmission. This will give us a gearbox that will be able to meet all the demands of this build.
While we did consider a GM 12 bolt for this car, it was hard not to go with the Ford 9 inch. Currie and Eatonare teaming up to build a rear end that can handle the weight and power of this wagon.
Getting Grandpa’s Suspension Dialed In
The suspension on this car is going to need a lot of work. Not only are we adding more weight with a big block, but we are going to demand more than what this suspension was designed to do. Sure it rides like a cloud now, but that won’t help out on the track. Spohn Suspension is one of the few out there making suspension parts for these cars, and we really liked the fact that they offered steering components as well. This will be our starting point for the build.
With control arms and steering out of the way, that leaves springs and shocks. We told you this one would be different, and this is the icing on the cake. We will be using Ridetech’s air suspension on all four corners. This will be the ultimate test of air suspension considering the weight of the vehicle and its intended use. I have no doubt that Ridetech’s system will out perform our expectations and provide us the advantage to adjust the suspension accordingly for the different uses we plan to get out of the wagon.
To give you an idea of just how much room is in this car, I was able to fit the subframe from a ’74 Nova in here with no problem.
Making The Wagon Look Good
The paint on the wagon now is horrible, but it does oddly seem to grow on me more and more everyday. I’ve been wanting to write a story about how to paint a car on the cheap for a while now, so maybe this is the time to break it out.
The interior, on the other hand, is almost a total loss. Although the seats are decent, the headliner is held on with nothing but staples. The only work we will do in here is probably just adding some better seats to the front and installing a roll cage for safety reasons.
Keeping Him Fed, Cool, and Rolling Like He Should
Anytime you change engines like this, you have to revisit all the original components that deal with the engine to make sure they will be able to perform well enough with the new components. Sadly, there is very little of this car’s existing fuel and cooling system that will translate over to the new set up, but there are plenty of great companies that make parts that will give this car the capacity to perform what we are looking for.
Because this car will see many different environments in both its daily life as well as out on the track, we are going to look into a few tire combos. We are thinking about having one set for autocross and street use, and we’d like a pair of Mickey Thompson drag radials for the rear during drag use. Wheels are going to have to be light since this car has enough weight already on its own.
All in all, I’m excited for this build! Look for us to be rolling out even more content for the wagon very soon as we continue to dive into this rebuild. And – don’t forget – Grandma is pretty frisky, so the wagon better get moving, and quick, or she might leave him.
That means one thing – we better get our asses in gear and hands dirty.