1989 Chevrolet Caprice - Unexpected
This Truck Is Not What It Appears
Have you been wracking your brain to make your S-10 or Ranger look different from the thousands of others? Are you wondering what you can do to your Isuzu or Toyota to make a passionate automotive statement, and maybe wind up on the pages of your favorite magazine? Since personalizing your ride is every customizer's mission, and uniqueness is the goal, we have a suggestion. Start with a clean sheet of white paper, sketch a fresh concept, give it the looks of something you've never seen before (such as a Corvette pickup), then find an easy way to build it. And oh yeah, make it affordable.
Combining goals of cutting-edge style, simplified construction, and a budget-sensitive approach is no easy task, but it can be done. The Super Stepside is a good example, thanks to some real automotive artistry and careful engineering. This truck's success begins with the unlikely fact that it's not a truck at all. Just as the El Camino was based on Chevy's Brookwood Wagon, and as the Ranchero used the Ford Ranch Wagon platform, the Super Stepside upgrade transforms '80-'90 General Motors four-door sedans or wagons into Corvette-style pickups. Donor cars are easy to find, loaded with options, and bargain-priced. Since the four-piece fiberglass body only re-skins the outside, the original GM engineering remains in place, and you can be off to a great start with your new ride in a single weekend. Add paint and wheels to your (now) two-seater, then watch the spectators scratch their heads, trying to guess its origins.
The truck in the photographs began as a single owner's '89 Caprice four-door sedan. With the help of kit designer Don Fuselier, disassembly began on a Saturday morning by removing the hood and front fenders, cutting the roof and floor behind the driver seat, and preparing the chassis for its new body. On Sunday morning, the one-piece fiberglass rear clip was joined to the metal cab, and the tilt forward front clip was mounted onto the front end, using the original Caprice bumper bolts. A pair of rocker panels joined the front and rear clips and by 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon, we were driving the truck around the industrial area. For a detailed look, see superstepside.com. Of course, it took a while to add all the finishing touches to this particular truck (and it's not done yet), but many builders use the stock GM interior, add a quick paintjob, custom wheels, and enjoy taking their (almost) one-of-a-kind pickup to the streets within a week.
Out of the mold, the Super Stepside body is already fairly radical, but this one goes a step further. Built in 2003, these are the first photos of the truck after its latest customizing phase. During the makeover, the bedrails were raised 3 inches at the rear to emphasize the truck's wide hips and 24-inch rear wheels. Wings were created on either side of the cab, which flow from the rear window downward into the bedrails, then end with the aerodynamic Turbo Tail wing that's attached to the retractable tonneau cover from Pace-Edwards. At the touch of a button, the BedLocker tonneau rolls into its canister, taking the wing with it. Malibu headlights up front and the original Caprice taillight buckets, which were fitted behind the Corvette-style holes designed into the kit, illuminate both ends.
While hauling was a primary consideration, modern pickups are now as much of a fashion statement and entertainment center as they are transportation. Inside the Super Stepside, the new two-seat interior boasts a long list of entertainment options, beginning with the combination Blaupunkt/Metra audio-visual system, thanks to the talents of electronics Guru, Mike Ohren in Jacksonville, Florida. Mike began the system with the new center console that holds the Blaupunkt Chicago flip face CD/DVD player, Travel Pilot Navigation, multiple lighting switches, and relocated heating and air-conditioning controls. A little further down, you'll see the button for the air horn, StreetGlow neon controls, and Metra 2-Farad capacitor. The screen for the Sirius satellite radio is in the center armrest, along with the controls for the power windows, ZEX lighted purge valves, and flame throwers. Lots of music options are available, thanks to the 10-CD player in the glovebox. The system is powered by the twin Blaupunkt amplifiers, located behind the black leather and tweed Honda bucket seats. The amps energize 14 speakers, positioned throughout the cab with 10-inch subs in the doors and behind the seats; separated component sets in the doors and door pillars, and separate tweets in fiberglass enclosures on the dash. Overhead, 7-1/2-inch Blaupunkt monitors in the sun visors play DVDs or connect to the Accele rearview camera that also automatically activates when the transmission is in Reverse. StreetGlow lighting, in shades of orange and blue, outlines the components and shines brightly at night. Also in blue, the Dakota Digital dash keeps track of under-hood activity, while the Dakota Digital automatic ride control, above the rear view mirror, monitors the air suspension.
The truck gets its adjustable altitude from a combination of 2600-pound Firestone 'bags in front and 2500s in the rear, two Viair 450C air compressors, and 3/8-inch SMC valves connected to a pair of 3-1/2-gallon reserve tanks. Frank Carralero and the experts at Reds Hydraulics in Miami installed the system. They also performed wiring in the Dakota Digital automatic ride control, which monitors the system and brings the truck to proper ride height whenever the ignition key is turned on.
Moving from the interior to the bed, all highway essentials are in place. Since the truck is driven about 4,000 miles a year, the bed holds a 20-inch KMC/Toyo spare that has been inset 8 inches into the oak floor. The floor jack and jackstands occupy the forward storage compartment, sharing space with the pair of Optima YellowTop batteries and the second Metra 2-Farad capacitor for the stereo. Twin ZEX nitrous bottles, color-coordinated with the 'SS' logo, flank the spare.
Under the hood, the 5.0L V-8 may not strike fear into the local Corvette community, but it is quick enough to outrun the cares of the day. Equipped with a K&N filter, Hooker headers, and Flowmaster mufflers, the engine has a throaty rumble- strong enough to tempt you to run with windows down and stereo off. Arm the ZEX 50-shot nitrous system and touch the dash-mounted control to open the Quick Time Performance electric cutouts, and you'll get a little sense of NASCAR flavor, as you blast into the local 7-11.
Wrapping up the changes, the exterior is covered in DuPont's Hot Hues Copper Pearl Metallic and Black, sprayed by Art by Solo in Clermont, Florida. Prior to paint, Solo and his crew added the multiple body modifications, making this Super Stepside distinctive from the other S/S kits in the world. The wide hips on the truck were accented with subtle graphics that call attention to the flowing curves. Realistic flames (one of Solo's trademarks), highlight the area between the taillights, the sport side mirrors, hoodscoop, and nitrous bottles. The truck runs KMC SS wheels, 20s up front and the spare, with 24s in the rear. Meanwhile, Toyo Proxes rubber, 255/40R20 and 295/30R24, add style and traction.
While the truck looks good in daylight, during nighttime shows it takes on a new personality. StreetGlow lighting is everywhere, with a multiple-colored underbody neon kit, wheel lights, side lights, and rear brake light. The interior and bed use a combination of EL Wires and LED lighting strips in blue and orange. A six-light strobe kit is the final eye-catcher. One word of warning: the completed truck has been great fun, but should not be considered by anyone in the witness protection program. It always draws a crowd!