Home » This Pair From The General Is All About Hot Pursuit And Cool Vibin’: Members’ Rides

This Pair From The General Is All About Hot Pursuit And Cool Vibin’: Members’ Rides

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Today’s Member’s Ride is Rides, plural, with a pair of GM machines that are good examples of the General’s flexibility as an automaker. As we all know, General Motors was prolific with branding and models, and in this Member’s Rides installment we have two biggies – or at least a former biggie (Pontiac, RIP) and a current heavy hitter (Chevrolet). You would no doubt be unsurprised if the Member in question was a fan of a GM platform, say the F-body, and owned both a Firebird and a Camaro. But not here.

No, the Pontiac and Chevy belonging to Member and new pal Nick are about as far from platform mates as two vehicles from one maker can get. From “Pontiac” (the quotes will make sense in a sec) we have the Vibe, GM’s just- slightly-tweaked rebadge riff on the Toyota Matrix. And from Chevy, we have a Caprice, but not just any Caprice. This is not the bloated fourth-gen version last offered in 1996 or any variety of the three gens that proceeded it. No, what we have here is a Caprice Police Patrol Vehicle (PPV), the Australian-built, Holden-based bad-guy-chaser GM offered to law enforcement from 2009 – 2017.

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Welcome to Members’ Rides, where we share the cars and stories of Autopian Members. The potential to be featured here is a perk for Autopian Members of every level, from the ultra-affordable “Cloth” tier all the way up to “Rich Corinthian Leather.” Click that link and join today!

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The Pontiac Vibe has been mentioned on the site many times (seriously, look here, here, here, and here, for starters) and is the twin of the Toyota Matrix, both built at the joint GM-Toyota New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI) plant. The NUMMI plant agreement started in the 80s and would produce many different cars, including the Corolla and its GM clone, the Geo/Chevy Prism, and eventually went on to produce the Vibe/Matrix. As for the Caprice PPV, it’s been largely “decopified” but no doubt still manages to slow down nervous speeders. And fun fact, these cars were both built on the same date, just 10 years apart. Now let’s talk to Nick!

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How did you get into cars?

I think my love of cars is in my blood. There was no identifying point where I fell for them, I just grew up loving them. I wanted to know everything about them, from their makes/models, how they work, why they’re different, etc., and eventually got into the minutiae of the industry and how it works. I try and follow the industry and its trends through various means, such as The Autopian and Autoline Daily.

I came to Michigan from Minnesota (and California) to attend Kettering University – a school I learned about when Mary Barra became CEO of GM – so I could be closer to the auto industry, and because the highest aspirations if I attended a Minnesota school would be in-state. Much like my love of cars, my fate of being an engineer had no start, it was just what I wanted to do before I knew what an ‘engineer’ was.

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The Vibe just out there vibin’.

Let’s start with the Vibe. What have you done to it?

I supercharged it around 100k miles ago with a kit I found on Ann Arbor Craigslist in 2015. My friend and I installed it in a day despite not having done it before. It has the rarer GM Performance sticker on it instead of the TRD one, which I’m happy about. Funnily enough, the piggyback ECU has a GM part number sticker on it, but you flip it over the cover has ‘TRD’ embossed on it! I have been through four sets of suspension; the car is currently on Tein S-Tech springs and Koni orange shocks from a Corolla that I installed over the COVID lockdowns. It has a fully custom exhaust from the DC Sports header, Magnaflow cat, middle muffler, and rear muffler, and piping done by my excellent local Midas.

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What a super supercharger! Note the GM sticker.

It was converted to rear disc brakes from a Celica GT-S, which is the same stuff as the Vibe GT. Wheels are 17×8 Konig Hypergrams with some Continental ExtremeContact DWS 06 tires. Way more tire than I need, but it’s fun and grippy. In the winter she gets silver painted steelies with Beretta center caps and X-Ice tires. Under the hood in addition to the supercharger is a smaller supercharger pulley, dual-core aluminum radiator with a Spal fan, an AFE intake, and a DC Sports strut bar that probably doesn’t do anything but it looks neat, and that’s fun.

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I love how well the roof rack and spoiler blend together.

I have also done three projector retrofits in the headlights and am currently on some MLED projectors with the halos wired as daytime running lights. It was a big wiring project to get them to function on a switch with OFF-ON-AUTO as the positions with minimal wiring through the firewall. Add in the Diode Dynamics SS6 driving lights in the front bumper which were wired to be ON-OFF and then go on with the high beams, and I had a huge project on my hand. Very satisfied with how it came out. Oh yeah, and I’ve replaced the driver’s seat with a Recaro one because the factory seat was VERY uncomfortable on long road trips. The side bolsters are a very nice bonus.

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Recaros always look so inviting.

We’re closing in on 250k miles (248k now) and she’s running great. Otherwise, I can’t really complain. I’ve done my best to maintain the car well and not beat on her. Good compression, new brake soft lines, fluids looking good … I could drive it California and back without worry. You get in and she goes!

The odometer will indeed stop counting at 299,999, but there’s a guy in Canada who can connect them, zero the display, and you can restart from zero. If I recall correctly, it’s a coding error.

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I’m sure those donut tire tracks were there before Nick arrived …

How did you come by the PPV?

The Caprice PPV was on my radar from new, and when they started getting sold from police auctions, I would take a cursory look at Craigslist to see what was out there and found some attractive prices, if some rough cars. It came to a head in September of 2021 when Tony Angelo had one on Hot Rod Garage. Smaller shout out to Arne Toman’s Vinwiki story about the Caprice. That’s when I went on Craigslist, saw a car, checked my savings account, and realized this could be done easily. I had been serriously looking for a second vehicle for half a year, and wanted a 2018 or newer Buick Regal – decent size, good power, AWD – or a Chevy Volt, to have a hybrid for my commute. But I talked myself into the Caprice for the price and the project aspect. And I was teleworking, so I didn’t need to look at a car with 20+mpg city. Add in that I wanted a V8 RWD car and I love the Chevy SS, and I was pretty convinced. I made a post on Oppo about it (here), and again when I bought one (here).

Decopification

The car has been an ongoing project called Decopification on Opposite-Lock, documenting my journey to make it less of a cop car and more of, well … a really nice car. Even down to the details, such as trunk grab handles and silver-rimmed speaker grilles. But to summarize, the interior was a vinyl rear seat that wasn’t even bolted in. The car had a plastic rear seat when in use as a Washington State Patrol car. The lower brackets are still there. Now it’s been swapped to a G8 leather rear seat for extra niceness and a trunk passthrough. The cupholder situation in the rear is sub-optimal, but I’m working on it …

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Up front, it came with G8 front seats from the guy I bought it from and a partial console swap. I finished the console swap, added Bluetooth, USB, and AUX to the car, flocked some dash trim pieces, swapped the rear door panels, and have done my best to remove unused police wiring and replace trim parts that have holes in them for police use. I’m down to the silver dash trim on my side, which has holes for a handset mount – which may get reused as a phone mount – some tape marks on the center dash piece, and a damaged driver-side dash cowl, which I have a replacement for. I’ve also filled the spotlight hole in the A-pillar plastic and flocked the pillars as well.

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Don’t mistake the parking brake for a type 4 handle!

Outside, she needs some holes filled here and there, and I have moved the daytime running lights from the low beams to the LEDs installed in the bumper. I wanted to make it look like a contemporary Chevy sedan, a la Cruze, Impala, Malibu. The stripes under the doors made a big difference, with the CAPRICE script cut from my vinyl cutter along with the blue Chevy bowtie overlays. I have changed to projector LEDs in the Caprice’s headlights, too! They’re NHK LED projectors that have a really good high beam, which makes up for the lack of driving lights like in the Vibe. I like really good lights that ideally won’t blind other drivers. My family is in northeast Iowa and I end up on dark, rural Iowan roads regularly, so bright lighting is a good thing.

Beyond that, G8 wheels from a Marketplace seller for the cooler months and SS wheels for the warm ones. My brother-in-law welded me up a super beefy trailer hitch, which I used almost immediately. Under the hood, it came with the cylinder deactivation deleted and an intake that I intend on replacing. It too has a fully custom exhaust with headers, Magnaflow cats, DynoMax Race Series bullet mufflers in the middle, Badlanz HPE exhaust cutouts – handmade in Des Moines, really good – before the factory rear mufflers, and quad tips. All piped again by my Midas. It’s super quiet with the cutouts closed, and when open it’s quite loud. Great for road trips, and also opening them up for some fun. And of course, I cannot forget that I added amber rear turn signals to the car. I’m quite proud of that.

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Caprice sitting pretty. That stripe really does change the look a lot.

I made a public records request from the Washington State Patrol and have the contact info for the officers who used my car, plus stacks of paperwork for maintenance for everything from wiper blades to replacing the AC system. The car just turned over 169k miles (nice) and will continue to rack them up, as it’s my primary road trip car these days. Blackstone Labs tells me all looks great and to shoot for a 9,000-mile oil change this round.

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Amber turn signals! Torch is so proud! Also, I like these wheels better than the summer set.

What would you park in your dream garage?

A C8 Corvette, ’94 Impala SS, and a ’69 Camaro.

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I am sensing a theme with the Impala and Caprice, you quite like the large police style cruisers, no?

The Impala SS – Caprice thing is funny, as is my wanting for a Regal Sportback and buying a Caprice. I wanted a ’94 Impala SS as my first car since I was little. I thought it was super cool. Looked great, big power, RWD, etc. It was only after I bought the Caprice that I realized I had bought essentially a spiritual successor. I really dislike the idea of driving around an old cop car and making people think you’re a cop. I understand it, but I don’t like it.

Long ago, I was in a Facebook group with some Crown Victoria/Panther platform people, and what I saw shocked me. Such as, dressing up a Grand Marquis with lights, push bar, stickers, etc., and trying to become a “private enforcement officer.” I bought an old cop car because affordable V8 RWD sedan. Hence, Decopification! The Regal is funny because the Caprice is a longer Commodore, and the Regal became the Commodore in Australia. So, in a way I did get what I was looking for, just older and longer. But also, not at all.

What’s next? Any plans to add to the fleet or switch things up in the near future?

I have no plans to shake up the fleet. The Vibe is my first car and I’ve heard too many people say to not get rid of your first car. I’m also an absolute softie who loves the car and has plans to restore it, convert it to a manual, and other fun plans. The Caprice also has a long-term home. For one, I love the thing and will never be able to get another car like it for the money. But since learning it shares a birthday/build day with the Vibe (as verified by someone at GM running the VINs on their internal system), I kind of can’t separate them.

Eventually the stable will grow. I just need more space to put them first, as my apartment has a two-car limit. A thing I frequently say in the Autopian Discord (which I help admin) is “if I had the space.” I’d probably end up with a collection of odd shitboxes that get rotated in and out, along with an EV for putting around. But as of now, no plans to change or add.

Thanks, Nick!

If you’re a member and would like to have one (or a few) of your cars, bikes, trucks or anything else interesting in your fleet considered for Members’ Rides, just click over to the Member Survey link in the welcome email you received when you became a Member. And if you’re not a Member – what are you waiting for? Join today!

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KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy aka Nick
KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy aka Nick
12 days ago

Thanks for choosing my pair of not-quite-what-they-say-they-are vehicles! As we speak I’m prepping both for summer road trips, and planning what to do next with them.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
12 days ago

Is the Chevrolet script over the blue bowties a retro Chevy touch, or something you conceived yourself? Either way, it’s a terrific look.

And as a guy who owns a Mustang with rocker panel stripes, they’re my favorite low-key sporting touch. But too subtle for many people (even Ford at this point, it seems) I guess.

Last edited 12 days ago by Jack Trade
KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy aka Nick
KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy aka Nick
12 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

The badges in general were inspired by the Chevy 100th Anniversary Trucks badges, which themselves were throwbacks to the 1914-1934 Chevy bowtie. They were just an idea to try out on the vinyl cutter, hence you can still see the yellow around them. But myself and everyone are VERY happy with them, so I’ll redo them possibly this summer.

And thanks!

KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy aka Nick
KITT222 aka The Vibe Guy aka Nick
12 days ago
Reply to  Brandon Forbes

Caprice is going to Finger Lakes area in New York for the Oppo Rally, and the Vibe is going to Duluth, MN for a friend’s wedding. Both should be fun trips.

3WiperB
3WiperB
12 days ago

Yeah, Nick! Nicely done Brandon!

V10omous
V10omous
12 days ago

Shout out to a fellow Holden owner!

davesaddiction - Long Live OPPO!
davesaddiction - Long Live OPPO!
12 days ago
Reply to  V10omous

[pours one out]

Myk El
Myk El
12 days ago
Reply to  V10omous

Indeed.

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
12 days ago

Great read on a pair of cars I’m already a little familiar with. (I think most of us are by now.)

The Caprice does look fantastic and I promise Nick, if I find a Grange bumper lying in the gutter, I’ll ship it to you!

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