Words: Kristie Real
Some builds are dreams turned reality, while others are ways to honor or remember. Gordon “Will” Frazier’s is a combination of both. His 1973 Chevrolet Caprice was his and his son Tristen’s dream car. He searched high and low for the old school and eventually found it online in an Autotrader ad back in 1998. It was a rare, one-owner gem, with only 23,000 documented miles. For only $8,500, the Caprice was literally a steal for Will! “I had to have it,” he explains. It traveled all the way from Austin, TX, to Savannah, GA, and was Will’s prized position. He nicknamed her “Nelly,” and went to work making it his own.
“I replaced the vinyl top, battery and four new tires to make it a beautiful daily driver,” he says. “Over the years, I painted it three times and changed out the rims and sound system. But the one that that never changed was the fact that my son Tristen wanted the car, so I was never going to get rid of it.”
When his son was a junior in high school, Will felt it was time to transfer Nelly to her new owner and “Escobar” was born (nicknamed after the infamous drug lord after the two of them watched a documentary on Pablo Escobar). Transplanting an LS3 engine, KL90 transmission and 373 gears more than doubled the power of the Caprice. It was then re-painted with PPG Vibrance Cabernet candy paint to give it that custom look. The stance was enhanced with 22” rims and an AccuAir air ride suspension system was added. The end result was a 16-year-old’s dream come true. It wasn’t until after Tristen graduated high school and moved from Panama City, FL, to Georgia to live with Will did he mention he wanted something more for Escobar. According to Will, he was inspired by all the race cars he’d see at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the various father/son outings they’d do.
“Tristen really enjoyed seeing people race their cars and at that point, we decided to sell everything from the first build and do a big rim race car/ fast ass daily driver build,” Will describes. “We chose a 4L80 transmission this time with a 3,200 stall converter and added an aluminum drive shaft hooked to a Moser 9” rear end, which is packed full with Nitro gears and axles.” A Magnuson supercharger amps up horsepower, which required a powerful big brake kit like Baer’s 6-piston system, with drilled and slotted rotors, to fit the job.
While the third transformation on the Caprice was still underway thanks to some help from Zack Martin, Tristen became homesick and moved back to Florida. It was during this time Will received horrific news that would change his life and the way he looked at the car. “On October 8, 2017, I was told that Tristen had taken his own life. At that moment, my life changed forever. I spoke to my son about everything growing up, but never about suicide. Tristen had a million -dollar smile and hid a lot of pain behind it. So over the next few months, the build slowed down as I was battling depression.”
The Caprice was far from being finished, but Will was determined and to honor Tristen’s memory made sure that it came out like the race car his son wanted. Tristen deserved the best and Will spared no expense making Escobar exactly how they envisioned. Even through the power of social media, the owner of Rucci wheels heard about Tristen’s death and provided a set of one-off 26” wheels with a matching steering wheel with Tristen’s nickname “T Money” on it.
Will debuted the Caprice almost a year after Tristen’s death at Summit Racing in McDonough, GA. “Escobar was the first big rim car or Donk ever to be on display there,” he notes. “The videos posted went viral. The comments were positive and people came from other states to see it in person. I actually couldn’t believe a car could have such an overwhelming impact in the car and Donk culture.” Will never plans on parting ways with the Caprice, using it for car shows, charity events and even drag racing. “I love the car, but not for what I once loved it for. But for all the memories and wonderful times Tristen and I shared in it. This was my first and last build because nothing will ever measure up to it in my eyes.”