Like many of us, Keystone Automotive employee Chris Seavey has a heartfelt passion for cars. But Seavey also likes thinking outside the box. And rather than buying into popular trends, he has focused his efforts on building an especially unique ride. His car of choice? A 1996 Chevy Caprice.
Why Settle for Ordinary?
While most people would not think the words “hot rod” when seeing a Chevy Caprice, the platform is surprisingly well-suited. A model long-loved by law enforcement, the Caprice was known for being quick and nimble, with good fuel economy and a respectable V8 tucked under the hood. Seavey’s ride is a retired police vehicle itself, showing that it has not only stood the test of time but a lifetime of hard-riding abuse as well. And the unexpectedness of Seavey’s choice seems to be part of the appeal. “I’m big into the sleeper look,” he said. “What’s more fun than blowing the doors off a new ‘stang in an old station wagon with rust, or even a grandma car like a Fifth Avenue?”
Seavey’s love affair with cars began early. “I’ve been into cars as long as I could remember. I think it I was maybe four or five when my dad got me a die cast model ‘71 Chevelle that I still have to this day. It just went from there,” he commented. That passion grew and evolved over the years, but a soft spot remained for the flare and styling of full-size Chevy’s. In fact, this ‘96 Chevy Caprice isn’t the first of the bubble bodies that he’s owned. His lineup has also included a 1985 Monte Carlo and a 1979 Malibu. We came to an impasse when trying to the find the right words to describe what it is that really draws Seavey to this style. (A sensation we can all relate to and appreciate.)
Lemonade from Lemons
Although both the Caprice’s styling and platform are a great basis for building, there was one more factor that finally pushed Seavey to begin his pet project. “I blew up the original 350 LT1 one night while racing,” admitted Seavey. And of course, what started as a simple repair became much more, as this man has octane in his brain. “I was just going to have that rebuilt with heads and a cam. Then I started looking into the LS world and saw how easily they can make power while remaining reliable. So, I started thinking of building a 383 or 385 stroker from the LT1. Then I tried to compare that to heads and a cam on an LS. As I got further into comparing the two, it just seemed smarter to go LS,” shared Seavey.
After mulling the idea, Seavey had to get his hands on the right engine. And dwelling within a 2002 Silverado 3500, he found the perfect candidate. So, what is it and what has he done to it? “It’s an LQ4 iron block, bored .010 over. JE pistons, Eagle rods, custom ground cam from COMP with .627 lift, dual valve springs, all ARP hardware, full valve train from COMP Cams, CNC machined LS3 heads that flow 350+ CFM, F.A.S.T. 102mm LSXR intake manifold, and PaceSetter long tube headers,” shared Seavey. He added: “I’ll be happy with 400 RWHP but the engine builder thinks I could possibly be closer to 500.”
A Little Imagination Goes a Long Way
Right now, Seavey’s focus is on getting everything in line to drop the engine in place. “I’m very into trying to keep this build looking as stock as possible under the hood,” he said. “My goal is to pop the hood and have people scratching their heads saying ‘I didn’t know these came with these engines?’”
Apart from the engine swap, Seavey also plans to have the transmission run through by Cahall Performance out of Delaware, as well as having the car repainted and the interior details and gauges upgraded.
As you can see, Seavey and his 1996 Chevy Caprice are proof that good things can come from unexpected places. These cars have style, they ride like a dream, and best of all? They have the right genetic makeup for a hot V8. The engine, fuel injection, overdrive–everything is already there for the taking. So, before making a grab for the icons, why not be like Seavey and think outside the box?