The El Camino
Jalopnik recently featured a clapped out ’72 El Camino. It was yellow, a 2 bbl 350.
Mine was a ’71. It, too, had the 350, with a two barrel. Mine had a 2.56 rear, the economy axle. It was perfect when I saw it on the lot.
In the day, I worked for the local Chevy dealer. Today, my position is called a “lot attendant.” But, I was the “lot boy.” But I worked for the dealer, which meant that I got to buy anything on the lot, other than a Corvette, for fifty bucks over the dealer’s cost.
And I had a mother willing to front money in a good cause.
Which is how I ended up owning the most beautiful ’71 El Camino ever created.
Sandalwood was the paint color. It came with a brown vinyl roof and matching cover over the bed, courtesy of the Oscar Mayer worker who traded her – I named her “Camille” – for a Camaro.
If I could have her back – well, you can never really go back, but that was the finest that I’ve ever owned. She was so beautiful that I named my daughter Camille in the hope that she would be as wonderful. (It still kinda bugs her that she was named after a truck, but I think of it as being something to which she should aspire. If she can be as good a person as that was a car (and truck), she’ll be a winner, too.)
Let’s talk El Caminos.
We will tell you the real story. Stay with us, for we are the source of the truth.
The original “El Camino” was a Cadillac. It was a show car, made for the Motorama, which in its day was the way GM advertised its brands and promoted its next generation of cars.
But, the name was lost after the show was over.
Until Chevy came up with this fancy pick-up truck that they called the Cameo Courier.
At the time, most pick up trucks were designed to do farm work. So, they had rear fenders that you could step on – running boards on the truck’s side. The Cameo Courier was the first truck designed for the suburbanite. It had clean fenders, fenders that swept back from the front to the tailgate. And it had a wrap-around rear window, just like the tailgate windows on the Chevy and Ford wagons of the day.
It was a brilliant idea.
And a marketing failure.
It was ahead of its time. Suburbanites were not then into trucks. Until the federal government made them almost illegal, most folks preferred a “station wagon.”
So, cChevy didn’t sell all that many of the Cameo Courrier.
But they scared the s—t out of Ford.
At the time, Ford was always aspirational. GM dictated the market. Ford copied.
Ford copied the Corvette with the Thunderbird. That it sold about twenty times more Birds than Chevy sold Vettes somehow didn’t make an impression on Ford management. They kept copying GM.
But they couldn’t retool to do a Cameo.
So, they decided to put a pick up truck on the station wagon platform and call it the Ranchero.
Score one for Ford.
They did it in 1957.
Chevy didn’t get an El Camino on the market until 1959.
But, as usual in those days, Chevy won in the end.
Ford demoted the Ranchero to the wimpy Falcon platform.
Chevy put the El Camino on the intermediate Chevelle platform, and they let you have anything that you could order on a Chevelle, provided you were willing to pay.
SS 454 with a four speed. Just check the order blank and write the check.
Ford never caught up. By the time they put the Ranchero on a Torino platform, it was too late. The Torino was a dog and everyone knew it.
The last El Camino was the 1978 model, a palid version of the original because the Chevelle had, by then, been choked by federal regulations of the day and the limited expertise of GM’s engineering staff in surmounting them.
The best were the ’71 and ’72.
They’re tough to find and expensive to restore.
In the day, they were ridden hard and put away wet, as the horse fanatics would say.
But, there remains hope.
They still make El Caminos in Australia, where the call them “ute”s.
They build them on the platform that will be the predicate for most of GM’s hopes in the upcoming decade.
So, there might be a chance that we will have another chance at the El Camino.
I don’t think it is a practical vehicle, nor do I think it is –particularly sporty. A family can’t have one, because it won’t hold the kids and a suburbanite can’t use one, because it doesn’t have the weight capacity. And it won’t really tow any serious trailer, not even one that holds a Donzi.
But I want one.
Painted that lovely beige called “sandalwood,” with a dark brown leather interior, and more motor than I had the last time. Maybe an LS7.
Did I mention that this was a follow-up to the earlier fantasy post?
Well, that’s my fantasy.
Have I explained the concept?
Tell me yours.