Remember the El Camino

I’ve long promised to start talking about cars on this blog, but since I’m feeling good (nice weather, easy work day, etc.), I’m going to go ahead and talk about the first car (or truck) I literally tried to build a go-kart from in my backyard as a pre-teen – the Chevrolet El Camino.

The El Camino (spanish for “The Road”) has long been an interesting vehicle in American history. Its early life as a car-pickup hybrid didn’t last very long, but with help from a intermediate beast was resurrected and was a regular member of the Chevrolet family for over 20 years. Utilitarian in birth but sporty in life, the El Camino has long been thought of as the “mullet of autombiles – business in the front, party in the back.”

First introduced in 1959 (and based off of the full-size Chevy car line), the first El Camino wasn’t received very well and was discontinued when General Motors’ full-size cars were redesigned for the 1961 model year.

Three years later, Chevy introduced a car that was a kid brother to the Buick-Olds-Pontiac intermediate cars, but would eventually surpass them all in popularity – the Chevelle. The El Camino was reborn on the Chevelle’s shorter chassis and with a Chevelle cab and a smaller trunk, the reborn Camino was a much bigger hit this time around.

The Camino would also earn Super Sport designation for the first time in 1970 (while long having the option package at a buyer’s disposal) and shared the fire-breathing 396 and 454-cubic inch engines that turned the easy-going Camino into a highway bully.

When Chevelles were tamed in the low-performance mid-70s, the El Camino was the only Chevrolet to carry on the Super Sport name until the Monte Carlo resurrected the classic letters in 1983. In 1978, the Camino was redesigned for what turned out to be its final generation, based on the shrunken mid-size Malibu. The El Camino would carry on with this body style until 1987 when it was retired, and rumors about un-retiring the name and car-pickup genre have ran rampant ever since.

The El Camino has long been a favorite of mine because it was such an unsual thing to see at a young age. It always looked like a long-ass coupe until I saw the pick-up bed. Once I found out what it was (young Chris had an uncanny knack for naming every car that passed down his street growing up), I became fascinated with it and tried to build an El Camino with bicycle running gear when I was 11 or 12. I didn’t get very far but I still hope to own the real thing some day. And with no real responsibilties, I can see it happening sooner rather than later.


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