SEEKING ONE FOR THE THUMB

Andy Warren Continues To Win Championships With This 1971 Caprice
Words/Photos Rod Short

One of the best stories in all of sportsman drag racing the last few years has been Andy Warren’s remarkable run in racing this 1971 Chevrolet Caprice. Competing in the NMCA’s Nostalgia Muscle class, Warren won his 9th season championship and sixth in a row last season and looks to make it an even 10 in 2021.

"When I first got the car, I was just looking for something different," Andy Warren says. "My dad and I found it in a local newspaper. It was one owner, garage-kept with 95,000 miles, and they were asking $1,500 for it. I wound up getting it for a good price and used it as my daily driver for a few years. My friends thought I was crazy for building something that big, but I felt I was up to the challenge.”

Of course, this wasn't just any street car. One of the biggest Chevy coupes ever built, the Caprice was the top of the line in a family of full-size Chevrolets. Close cousins included the Buick LeSabre, Olds 88, and Pontiac's Bonneville. With a 121.5-inch wheelbase (the station wagon version was a bit longer), this boulevard monster offered Chevrolet buyers a premium ride, space, and luxury that one magazine said was a better value than a Cadillac. Nearly half a million Impala coupes and sedans were built that year, but Caprice production totaled only about a quarter of that. With a starting price of just over $4,000, V-8s were standard. Buyers had the choice of 454 or 402 Turbo Jet big-blocks or the 400 Turbo Fire 2-bbl small-block engine.

Warren raced the car locally for fun before getting involved in the NMCA in 2004-05 when he made a couple of races. He found a home in Nostalgia Muscle, which is an index-style foot brake only class for different 1955 through 1985 body styles and engine combinations.

After winning consecutive season titles from 2009-11, Warren began another run of consecutive championships beginning in 2015 up until last year in 2020. That, along with runner-up championship finishes in 2012-14, has made him the winningest driver in any class in NMCA history.

Warren points to a reliable engine combination and a solid chassis set-up as the keys to his success. Knieriem Racing Engines assembled the 434-cubic inch SBC with Air Flow Research 245cc Race heads topped by a Quick Fuel 1050 carb which is fed by a Fuelab Prodigy 41404 fuel pump system. Backing up that combination is a TH350 transmission built by RPM Transmissions with an Ultimate Converter Concept torque converter.

Racing a big car like this Caprice meant there were no off-the-shelf suspension parts he could use, so Warren sent a number of pieces to TRZ Motorsports who fabricated some custom-made A-arms and rear control arms for him.

Warren has done a number of other mods during the years, such as turning down the spindles so he can use an Aerospace brake set-up, going to a one-piece driveshaft, changing out the stock steering column so he can use a floor-mounted shifter, adding a fuel cell and bolting on a custom-made fiberglass hood and bumper arrangement.

All of that has shaved weight and made the car safer so that he now runs off of a 10-second index with a best-ever pass of 9.85 seconds at 134 mph.

“When I started racing, nobody ran these cars, but now you see a lot more big 71-76 cars like mine running now,” Warren said. “I liked the larger cars and just wanted to be different.”

Of course, being successful in a foot brake class such as Nostalgia Muscle is more than just having a good engine and chassis combo. It takes some ability behind the wheel as well.  Warren proved that last year when he also won the NMCA Stock/Super Stock championship behind the wheel of Scott Libersher’s 2015 COPO Camaro FSS/E Camaro.

Yet, even with that success, Warren says he’s not giving up driving that big, bad Caprice. As the favorite to win an unprecedented 10th championship with that car, it’s easy to understand why.