1957 Chevrolet Sport Cruiser Renovation

Uh...  The donor is the car is the white Caprice - not the Ferrari :)

Finding the right donor...

Before I purchased the limo, when I had my '57 wagon, I was thinking about fuel injection versus carburetion and whether or not I'd like to make the switch.  I really wanted my wagon to be a trusty daily drive (not really a show car) and it seemed that fuel injection was the way to go.  After a bit of online research and general talking with the other club members, I decided that it was probably just as much to drop in a complete used fuel injected engine as it would to swap the intake of my existing.  At the time, the hottest production SB engine/tranny combination around was the LT-1/4L60E combination found in the 90's Corvettes, Camaros, Impala SS and... Caprice 9c1 cop cars.  Although there are some minor configuration differences among all these cars, they're still basically the same.  The decision on which to hunt for was easy - I'd rather cut up a Caprice than any of the others and after a bit more internet research, it seems plenty of other folks do the same (although they seem to stick with simple mods to convert these cars to the Impala SS style). 

Anyway, the timing of my search was perfect.  The King County auto auction was coming up in a couple weeks and they listed a '95 Caprice (damaged) as one of the cars.  Cool!  My family and I headed down for the preview, messed around with the car a bit to confirm the engine/tranny and that's when I started to get excited!  The day of the auction came and I won the car for a whopping $1200.  Now, if you've ever priced a complete - running - LT-1 then you know this is a pretty decent deal.  Of course, the engine will need a certain amount of work done to it to get it up to snuff, but there's a huge sense of relief knowing that you have a running combination to start.  The only other detail that was a bit concerning was the mileage - 90k - but these cars are rated around 300k so I've decided not to rebuild it just yet.

Now, before I began tearing it apart, I wanted to be sure that it would perform to my satisfaction.  Naturally, the only real way to test a car of this type is to take it out for some high-speed creative driving and since we'd never do something like this on the street, I signed up for some performance driving lessons at our local race track and used the donor car as my race car!


The donor in pole position

It performed flawlessly!  In fact, I think it ran better with the AC on than off - must have been a past life of the car or something (I should have tried it with a box of doughnuts on the front seat).  Driving hard in a car like this adds a sense of confidence that makes it easy to push a little more in each corner.  It's built to last and since I was going to throw away the body anyway, there was no fear in scraping, scratching, etc as I passed all the shiny new cars.  I can't think of a better race car!  Think about how you'd react if you saw a beat-up car on the tail of your $50k BMW or Porsche.  I had a total blast!


Watch out little bemer!  Here I come... again!

You gotta get the basics done first...

Okay, engine and tranny working fine - Check!  Now, I need a proper working space.  No problem - I have a 2 car garage and if we park our daily drives in the driveway, there should be enough room, right?  Wrong.  The Caprice is a bit longer than a Jeep!  By the time I pulled it all the way in, the front bumper was pushing into my work table and there was a couple finger widths between the back end and the garage door.  This was definitely not the optimal engine-pulling/dismantling environment...

I knew that eventually I'd be wanting to extend the garage so that the limo could park in a protected area, but it seemed that that project would come sooner than originally expected.  I had been avoiding this simply because the last time I wanted to do construction to my house, the city blocked me for about 6 months.  No problem, I was motivated and had a nice long holiday away from work, so I decided to "extend" the garage temporarily now and then have a contractor come later to do it properly.  The result - 2 days of work and I had an extra 10 feet of enclosed garage to do my work.


My daughter, me, the donor and some snow in the new "addition"

The pulling party

Everyone loves a good party, right?  What better way to formally kick off the limo renovation than to have a party, an engine pulling party!  I put the word out to everyone that I'd be spending the weekend pulling the engine, tranny, electrical, and everything else I wanted from the Caprice.  The day of the event came, and a bunch of us started dismantling.  Now, I'm not even close to being a a professional mechanic, but over the years I've collected a decent amount of tools.  I'm at the point where I have more than one of most common tools (mostly because I can't find one and end up buying another) but I've only ever worked on older American cars.  How was I supposed to know that these newer cars use metric!  I only have one set of metric sockets and don't even ask about metric wrenches.  Whoops.  After playing pass the #10 for a few hours, the engine assembly was ready to come out.


One LT-1/4L60E coming up... and out!

Over the next couple weeks, I took my time and finished the dismantling of the caprice.  In the end, I pulled the complete engine and body harnesses, all dash items (and I mean everything!), and even the rear axle and housing.  The only thing I forgot to remove was the hood light and it was the one piece I promised to one of the guys.  Oh well, sorry about that.

It seemed only fitting that the remaining shell was hauled off to the wrecking yard on a dark and stormy night.
 

Have a question or comment about my limo renovation?  Please e-mail me at timsell@msn.com