EAST GRANBY, CT – Ask Tom O’Brien of Windsor Locks, CT how many miles are on his sparkling burnt orange and silver 1966 Chevrolet Caprice Custom coupe and he’ll give an answer that’s misleading, spot-on and totally surprising.
“Just under 200,” O’Brien said Tuesday night as he stood beside the Caprice that was parked in a lot at Brignole Vineyards. He paused, then explained how that astonishingly low figure came to be.
“When I restored it, I’m sitting in it and I’m looking around to see what I can do next. I looked at the odometer and it said straight zeros all the way across, so I knew it flipped from a hundred thousand. But I restored the whole entire car, so I think I’m entitled to say that it has 200 miles on it.”
When he says restored, he means he put it back into like-new condition, but with a bit of flair.
“There’s never been a panel replaced on this car. There’s never been a floor welded in it. It’s all original – 150 percent,” he said, engaging in a bit more hyperbole.
“I built this car all myself … from the engine to the rear end. Everything is all matching numbers. The paint I came up with. The (two-tone color) combination I came up with. My brother and I owned the car for 21 years. He died about 16 years ago. The last five years is when I really put my heart and soul into it,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien is the third owner of the Caprice. It was purchased from a guy in Massachusetts after O’Brien was tipped of its availability by a co-worker. His brother Don joined him in investigating and all it took was one look.
“I said, ‘Donald, this is a buyer.’ I said, ‘We can make a beautiful car out of this.’ And he say, “Okay.’ We bought it for $4,000, which is pretty cheap.”
During the conversation, O’Brien repeatedly noted that the car is all original with matching numbers.
“Believe it or not, this car has got the original radiator, the original gas tank, engine, tranny, rear end. Everything is original. All matching numbers. I dare anybody to question that,” he said.
What O’Brien didn’t mention (and I neglected to inquire about) was the Caprice’s original color. Its current look with a silver top over the orange body was his idea.
“I found this color on a Dodge truck but then I added pearls to it and a little more metallic and this is what you get. I’m calling it ‘Go, Man, Go, Tom O’Brien.’”
Before he locked in the color scheme, though, he sought the approval of his brother, who was then terminally ill with cancer. “I painted one of the tail pieces the color that I thought the car should be and I brought it to him, he was in bed, and I said, ‘What do you think, Don?’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, that’s a nice color.’”
It certainly gets attention, including the black interior with bucket seats. It has a color-matching console, dashboard and door panel accents.
“I’ve been painting cars and doing body work for 46 years and I guess I just have a knack for colors to go together,” he said. “I was going to do the roof black and I said, ‘Everybody’s got a black roof’ and it’s gong to make the car hotter when you drive it.”
The Caprice came with a 396-cubic-inch V8 engine with automatic transmission. It has been punched out to 408 cubic inches.
O’Brien said he drives the Caprice “as much I can.” He’s never alone even when he takes it out by himself. “I love this car because it was my brother’s and mine, and until I die, I will always have him riding in the passenger seat.”
Check out the 1966 Chevrolet Caprice Custom in this RIDE-CT video…