Rodrigo Conrado’s beautiful 1968 Caprice is based out of São Paulo, Brazil. I love reaching out to hot rodders outside of the U.S. and learning more about our sport internationally. In addition to telling me about his Chevy, Rodrigo also gave GHR a look at Brazilian hot rodding.
“Although hot rodding has existed for decades in Brazil,” he told me, “the admiration for this style of car modification has only gained momentum in recent years, with the ease of importing components for customization projects. In the past, Chevrolet Opal and Ford Maverick engines (Brazilian national cars) were used, as that was what was at hand. Today, if you have money, it’s easy to make an American hot rod.
“With the dissemination of the culture, companies specializing in supplying imported parts for this segment, such as engines, suspensions and high-performance gearboxes, emerged. A new market niche has opened up. Now, the practice has several followers in the country and the sky is the limit for the expenses that can be incurred in transforming a classic into a legitimate Hot Rod model.”
The sky’s the limit for hot rod expenses? Sounds a lot like the sport in the U.S.
Rodrigo had seen the Caprice before he owned it. The car appeared to be in good condition. The bright yellow paint showed little obvious rust. He also knew it had a new engine and the transmission had been rebuilt. But at that time he was not expecting to own it one day, so he didn’t know many details.
When the Chevy went up for sale, Rodrigo purchased it. “When the car arrived in São Paulo,” he told me, “surprise… The car had a lot of problems.”
Upon further inspection, Rodrigo found rust in the bodywork, a broken radiator, and a broken engine, among other things. Undeterred, he set out fixing and improving the Caprice.
The car came from Chevrolet with a 327 engine. The previous owner had swapped that out for a 350. Rodrigo has gone one step further and has installed a 383.
Rodrigo’s 383 has a SCAT crankshaft, forged pistons and connecting rods, chrome push rods, and an aluminum Edelbrock manifold with FiTech EFI that’s good for up to 800 horsepower. The intake system sits on aluminum heads with roller rocker arms activating stainless steel valves. Headers feed dual exhausts with an X pipe and stainless steel tips.
A Turbo Hydramatic 3-speed automatic, rebuilt by the previous owner, drives the factory 10-bolt rear end with 3,73 gears. (No, that’s not a typo. In many countries outside the U.S., including Brazil, a comma is used for the decimal point. Rodrigo has a Brazilian car. I’ll use a Brazilian decimal point.)
The suspension has been upgraded with shorter springs, competition shock absorbers, and stabilizer bars that make the Caprice lower and stiffer. There are ventilated Corvette disc brakes on all four wheels. Rodrigo has 18” split-spoke aluminum wheels up front, fitted with 245/40 Pirelli P0 tires. There are 20” split-spokes with 285/35 Pirellis in the rear.
The interior has had several upgrades over what Chevrolet installed in 1968, but Rodrigo has tried to keep an original look. The dashboard has been upgraded with a more modern one that includes a tachometer, lighting, digital odometer and on-board computer, while keeping the same lines as the original.
The bench seat is still in use, but is now covered with leather. The original carpet was replaced by a new one of the same color, and floor mats with Chevrolet’s famous SS symbol have been added. The radio is now a Bluetooth capable digital unit, but again with a period-correct look. A new, retro steering wheel and new pedals complete the cockpit.
That beautiful color is ‘café agata da akzonobel’. The name is as beautiful as the paint. Rodrigo installed a custom matte black grille and headlight trim rings he had made. There’s LED lighting front and rear.
I asked Rodrigo several questions about hot rodding in Brazil. He told me the sport includes both American and Brazilian cars.
“The most common ones are Mustangs, Camaros, Corvettes, Mavericks, and Dodges,” he said, “in general the old American cars are becoming more popular in Brazil. American cars have always existed in Brazil, but before, they were few and considered expensive and difficult to import and maintain. Nowadays American culture comes through films, magazines, and programs, showing the beauty of the lines, robustness and power of the old American cars.”
He also told me about some of the Brazilian cars that are hot rodding favorites: “The most popular models for hot rods are from the 70s or 80s,” he said, “such as the Chevrolet Opala SS, Chevrolet Caravan SS, Ford Maverick V8, Dodge Dart, Dodge Charger RT, Ford F100, and Chevrolet C10.” (Mavericks were manufactured in Brazil from 1973 to 1979.)
Getting parts can be easy – but sometimes can be expensive. Rodrigo says Brazilian hot rodders can find some parts in local stores, while others have to be bought from the United States. Obviously that complicates logistics and Rodrigo says costs can triple.
At GHR we love hot rods that are driven, and Rodrigo drives his Caprice frequently when he’s in São Paulo. “Whenever I am in Brazil, I drive it three times a week. I love vintage car meetings,” he told me.
Due to work, however, Rodrigo is not in São Paulo very often. His job as a mechanical and environmental engineer has him spending most of the year in Luanda, Angola, in western Africa, providing offshore and onshore maintenance services.
Rodrigo’s enthusiasm for his Caprice and the hot rod community he’s a part of in Brazil came through loud and clear in his emails. He is a great representative of the sport in South America.
And his Caprice is a great hot rod.
Photos courtesy of Rodrigo Conrado.
Click here to see more photos of his Caprice.
You can follow Rodrigo on Instagram at @conrado_39.