The concept of Pro Touring usually brings to mind images of nimble Chevelles, Camaros, Novas, and maybe even Tri-Fives. Why? Their size and related agility makes them ideal for such a build. It's tough to imagine, and rarely is it seen, when someone wants to throw something the size of a battleship around an autocross course. Thankfully, we have Bow Tie nuts like Kirk Marshall, who throw conventional wisdom in the trash and give us cars to feature like this.
With a listed curb weight of almost 3,900 lbs (over 4,000 with a big-block), calling a '68 Caprice coupe svelte is akin to saying Harley Earl was a lousy designer of cars. By '68, the fullsize line was shedding its performance heritage in favor of the more comfortable trappings of luxo-barge status. The L72 was gone from the option list, and the SS option was entering its twilight.
After building a '70 Camaro and '67 Chevelle, Kirk, owner of Cars Limited in Pearland, Texas, wanted to build something different, an object that would stand out from the rest. Since fullsize, Pro Touring–themed Chevys aren't seen that often, it was easy to figure out what to pick for a project.
Kirk came by his '68 sport coupe by way of a friend who had gotten mired down in a rebuilding project and needed to move on. Since his grandfather had owned a '68 while he was a kid, this was the perfect vehicle for the build. Years of being a drag car and other neglect had left the Caprice in sorry shape, with only the doors and front fenders not being eaten up by oxidation. But, with a local junkyard loaded with useable parts cars and the Classic Industries catalog to fill in the blanks, Kirk was able to get the body back into rust-free shape. The front sidemarker lights were filled and to smooth out the car's shape the rear window area's factory recess was eliminated by moving the window mounting area out for flush mounting and the factory chrome molding removed.
Since the factory seat location had the driver sitting fairly high, Kirk dropped the floors 2 inches and fabbed up a new trans tunnel to match. This sat the driver and passengers much lower, better fitting the car's Pro Touring look.
For paint, several different colors and schemes were bandied back and forth, but none seemed to fit the theme of the build. Because of the '68's curvy body and robust size, finding the right hue was critical to the final look. Finally, after much consternation and debate, the solution presented itself: black. Of all the colors, the simplest ended up being the best. Kirk's shop, Cars Limited, sprayed the car's obsidian hue over the curvaceous body of the Caprice.
From there it was time to get the mechanicals in order. The stock suspension was rebuilt with all new bushings and parts, then bolstered with RideTech air springs and KYB shocks. Aerospace Components disc brakes replaced the factory binders behind all four Boss Motorsports (18x8 front/20x10 rear) wheels.
For an engine, Kirk originally had a 427 in the Caprice. By the time we met up at the 2011 Houston Super Chevy Show, a 468-inch all-iron Rat was between the fenders. Much more street friendly than the earlier 427, this big-block sports factory oval-port heads, a mild Comp Cams hydraulic cam, and Edelbrock Performer intake with a 750 Holley up top. The combo makes over 500 horsepower and sends it to the rear wheels through a Morrow's Transmission TH400 with 3,500-stall converter.
During the build, anticipation got the best of Kirk, and even though the car's interior wasn't finished, he couldn't resist taking it out to a few small, local shows—taking home a few awards to boot. Finally the time came to finish the last part, and Heath Moore, owner of King Pin Kustomz in East Dickinson, Texas, was recruited to stitch together the leather and carpet trimmings that give the Caprice's interior an appearance that makes you think of the inside of Darth Vader's suit.
In total, it was a build that stretched over five years. Through it all, the support of his wife and three daughters helped keep Kirk on track to finish the car, which his daughters call their "college fund." When we saw the '68 at the Houston show, we instantly knew it was feature-worthy and warranted a spot in our AMSOIL Best of the Best competition. After the votes were tallied, it won the Fullsize class at the event.
Could Pro Touring, fullsize Chevys be the next trend in car building? If it is, we'll have our cameras ready, because every autocross event will resemble a heavyweight title bout, with corner-carving land yachts providing all sorts of tire-shredding entertainment.