A Bracket Bomber From The Day They Bought It, This 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Coupe Is On The Number No Matter What!

A Bracket Bomber From The Day They Bought It, This 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Coupe Is On The Number No Matter What!
I walked through the staging lanes of Beech Bend, looking over the cars that were waiting to head out for their tuning passes, when I saw a shape that is etched into my memory: a “glasshouse” Chevy. The 1977-79 Chevrolet Caprice and Impala two-door coupes, downsized and leaner than ever, looked just like their sedan and wagon siblings right up until you got a look at the rear glass. Bent using a “hot wire” method, the shape is familiar to anyone who has seen an Aeroback G-body Monte Carlo…it’s one piece of glass, but it has three sides: the flat main panel and two corner pieces that wrap around. Finished in black, sitting in the staging lanes, looking sedate by comparison to the cars around it, the black 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Classic beckoned me. I’ve owned two of these cars, and it was my Caprice that was my first honest-to-God project car that I got to bring to life and drive. Of course I was going to chase down the owners.
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Kevin and Brenda Blair have owned this beauty since 1987. They bought the car explicitly for Brenda to race…Kevin has been racing since the late 1970s with a 1970 Chevelle and Brenda had been going with him. One night, after her mother-in-law coerced her into giving it a try, they cut her loose in the 1978 Chevrolet tow rig and sent her into the brackets. A couple of races later, Brenda was hooked and wanted her own ride, either a 1967 Chevelle or a 1978 Malibu. Unfortunately, when you’re raising a young family, things don’t tend to work out the way you’d like, but sometimes everything works out better. In this case, Kevin knew a guy at work who was preparing to sell his 1977 Chevrolet. He was obsessive about the black beast, washing it to the point of actually washing off the paint. It was a 350-powered car, dead-stock, loved, with not one scratch or dent on it, and going up for sale for $1,300. After Kevin convinced Brenda that it wasn’t that much bigger than a Malibu, they purchased the Caprice and she immediately went racing with it, running it in stock form for $100 here and there in street classes from the local tracks throughout 1987 and 1988. The Caprice held up well, with a water pump and a rocker arm being the only casualties of war during those years as it ran the 1/8th mile in 11 seconds with the stock wire hubcaps on.
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In 1989 the Caprice started to reap the rewards of winning. First to go were the stock wheels and wire hubcaps for a set of Street Star wheels and better tires, and a 2.5″ Flowmaster exhaust. The car dropped a second in the eighth, and was competitive in the Street classes. After getting third in points and finishing second at the 1989 NHRA Division II Bracket finals, the Caprice finally got the division win in 1990, and was still being driven to and from the tracks. The next move was to the Heavy class, which required the Chevy to be in the 8.50-9.99 second in the 1/8th. After messing with a few things here and there, and trying out a 400 small block with unsatisfactory results, the blue bottle of happiness was installed, spraying a 125hp shot into the re-installed 350. With the Caprice tuned to hang in the lower end of the e.t. scale to save on parts, they dialed in the combination and in 1992 won the Heavy class at Beech Bend Raceway and got runner-up at the Chevy High Performance Thunder Cruise that same year, and runner-up and Indianapolis in the NHRA Division III Bracket finals.
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Around 1997, with family issues putting racing activities on the back burner, it was decided that the Caprice would undergo another transformation. “During that year, we didn’t race hardly any, so we concentrated on building our first 383 for the car. Kind of a mind release of sorts from the real world that was going on around us. We did a lot of thermal barrier coatings on the combustion chambers and piston tops. We dry lube coated the valve stems, piston skirts and bearings. We did all this to help keep optimum cooling temperature on the road, as well as the strip. We put in our first hydraulic roller cam by Comp Cam. We used Patriot Performance aluminum heads, and Scorpion rocker arms (purple, which I chose) that I won at the PRI Show that year. We changed to 2.02 and 1.60 valves. We put on a set of Hedman headers, kept the Flowmaster exhaust, and changed the rear end gear from 3.08 to a 3.73. Kevin let me do the assembly of this engine all by myself with his supervision. I was so proud. It was a lot of hard work, but I learned so much about how all these parts work together as a team. With this engine, we were able to run a best of 8.20 on 1/8 mi.and 13.08 on 1/4 mi. Still driving to the tracks.” About this same time her youngest son, who had just turned 16, stepped up to racing her father-in-law’s 1972 Chevelle with her at the tracks.
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Continuing on, “From ’98 thru 2011, we just ran bracket racing with the car, always running footbrake classes. But, at some point during that time period, the tracks started going to the no-box or bottom bulb racing, which lets you use a transbrake and adjustable buttons, making it harder for a footbraker in a 4,000 lb. car that runs in the 8 sec. range to win. Footbraking is harder to keep consistent good lights when leaving….or for me it is, anyways. There was no place for a footbraker to run a true footbrake class.” At the end of 2011 Kevin suggested that they look to NMCA for races…he felt that the Caprice would do better than it was doing in NHRA. Brenda ran six out of seven events that year, but was struggling to get the combination right: the Caprice, by this time, was a 13-second car in perfect weather, but in order to be competitive, the car would have to slow down to a 13.5, and the Caprice wasn’t happy with the new plan. the next plan was to get the car to be a consistent 13.0 runner…which backfired when a rocker arm stud broke and a push rod got bent during qualifying at Beech Bend in 2013. Realizing that the 350 was well-worn and something needed to be done, the Chevy underwent another transformation during the winter of 2013-14.
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The new setup, which is the current one, utilizes a .040 over 4 bolt main 350 block with Eagle crankshft and I-Beam rods, flat top Speed Pro pistons, Milodon oil pump, Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam, AFR 195 heads, Edelbrock Performer intake, a custom built 750cfm vacuum secondary Quick Fuel E-85 carburetor (with help from Scott Perkins), and an Air Raid race day filter. The Caprice sits on Energy Suspension motor and transmission mounts with a custom made 10″ torque converter by ACC Converters in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Three-inch Flowmaster race mufflers keep the noise level right on the line between street-loud and race-quiet…it’s a beautiful tone in person. A TH350 turbo transmission built by Craighead Racing Transmissions in Horse Caves, Kentucky moves the power out to a stock 10 bolt rear end with a 3.73 gear. With Mickey Thompson front runners and 9x28x15 Pro Bracket Radials for rubber, the Caprice has since run a best of 11.70@113 MPH in the quarter and 7.33@93 MPH in the eighth-mile. It took some tuning, some tire testing, carburetors, and torque converters, but the setup we saw them run at Beech Bend has been good to them and they are pleased with the Caprice’s performance.
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Lately the Blairs have been focusing on catching up with the Caprice’s appearance. A bit of rust needs to be attended to, and Brenda is looking at possibly switching up the color to a black cherry color. The front windshield was replaced and the interior was recovered in 2014, and the big Chevy’s mannerisms make you think that a quick tire swap would take it from bracket bomber to Saturday Night Special in one swift motion. The car ran hard in the bracket class, only just getting clipped by a late-model Dodge truck that played the game to a T, and took sixth in the Nostalgia Muscle Car class against some strong competition. According to Brenda, “Little did I know how much I would come to love this car and how much it would mean to me. And love it, I did.”
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5 thoughts on “A Bracket Bomber From The Day They Bought It, This 1977 Chevrolet Caprice Coupe Is On The Number No Matter What!

  1. jerry z

    Sweet looking ride for sure! It’s amazing what people want for these 2 door coupes. Supply and demand I guess.

  2. Herb

    Like the car a lot. I can relate to trying to run no box with a mid 8 street driven car. Tough but fun.

  3. floating doc

    One of my many station wagons was a 77 Caprice. A much better design than the one that replaced it. This is a very nice one.

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