Thursday, May 26, 2011

Will the El Camino Make a Comeback?

Very rarely do we comment on possible upcoming new cars here atThe Rodder’s Journal, but we thought some of you might find this of interest. For some time we have heard rumblings that there was a chance that Chevrolet might bring back the El Camino and we recently came across a post on the Hemmings Motor News blogabout its possible return.

We have long been fans of the El Camino, which was originally produced in 1959 and 1960 based on a full-size Chevy platform. After a short hiatus it returned as a Chevelle-based derivative with that model’s introduction in 1964. They were then produced continually in various iterations until the end of the 1987 model year. The El Camino, as well as Ford’s Ranchero, have always been prized by hot rodders and customizers alike. Passenger car styling combined with pickup truck practicality have made them the basis for everything from push car/trucks for front-engined Top Fuelers to mild custom parts haulers and mag-wheeled shop trucks. The El Camino has long been a staple of the hot rodding and customizing scene.

After reading on the Hemmings blog that General Motors has created a Facebook page to gauge public support for a contemporary redesign of the El Camino, we had to dig a little further. It turns out that this idea stemmed from a Twitter conversation held between GM’s new Chief Marketing Officer, Joel Ewanick, and reader, @chevalanche. This came after Jalopnik writer, Ray Wert, urged his followers to tweet to Joel letting him know that they “want a new El Camino. Badly.”

And that’s exactly what they did. After reading the tweets readers expressing the desire for a modern El Camino, Ewanick put the ball back in their court. As it states on the Chevrolet Facebook page, “Ewanick said he’d consider bringing back America’s favorite car/truck if Jalopnik can get 100,000 fans to comment on their post.” And Jalopnik is calling his bluff. So far they have received thousands of comments, but not the amount needed for the ElCo comeback. If you’d like to help make this happen, you can visit the Jalopnik blog here and post your comment…we did. Click the “Start a New Thread” button at the bottom of the post and follow the instructions.

Of course, the possibility of the mighty El Camino’s return, if nothing else has inspired us to include a couple photos of some of our favorite vintage El Caminos and include some of the brochure and promotional material that Chevrolet published when the first generation El Caminos were new more than 50 years ago. One of our all-time favorites has to be that of San Antonio, Texas native, John Chisenhall’s. We shot John’s Gary Howard-painted vibrant green ’59 in front of the Alamo. The ElCo’s spaceship-like body contours, slammed stance, polished five-spoke wheels add to its appeal. John, by the way, is the son of Vintage Air founder Jack Chisenhall.

Recently in TRJ #42 we featured Richie Valles’ equally nice ’59 El Camino. The Burbank cruiser intentionally blurs the line between mild customs and lowriders. The body remains stock with the exception of the shaving of the door handles and emblems while its air bag-assisted stance is radically low. Pearlescent green hues seem to be a popular choice with the first generation of this body style.

Back in TRJ #7 we ran a pictorial on Pat Ganahl’s newly assembled and detailed Cadillac engine. It now powers his Nitti-esque Deuce roadster. Ganahl’s accompanying copy included an interview with early Cadillac V8 guru Tommy Baker and we ran a couple of snapshots of just what might be the ultimate hot rod shop truck, Tommy’s then-new ’59 El Camino with an also brand new Cadillac 390 with a 4-71 blower. Tommy replaced it with a new ’64 El Camino when they came out and it got a 429 Cadillac motor.

Tommy Baker may have had the ultimate El Camino shop truck, but it is surprising just how many rodders with cool El Camino-based haulers come to mind. We remember Lee Pratt had one of the first generation Chevelle haulers about the time he moved from Des Moines to Los Angeles a couple of decades back. Some of our publisher's first-published photos featured Frank Morawski’s ’67 El Camino that were shown in Truckin’ magazine back in the late ’70s. Most now associate Frank with the Fred Carrillo Bonneville roadster which appeared on the cover of TRJ #50 or perhaps the Super Bell Coupe or the Curley Tremayne chopped Merc, but he still has the super low mileage and pristine El Camino in his Maryland garage. And speaking of Super Bell, you may wonder what Pete & Jake’s/Super Bell proprietor Jerry Slover and Magnum Axle’s Fred James have in common in addition to the manufacturing of traditional early Ford-based hot rod suspension and brake components, well you guessed it, they both owned bitchin’ El Caminos. Jerry ordered a 375-horse 396 ’68 model upon his return from Vietnam and Fred had a black and lowered late ’80s example parked in front of his old “Fast Freddy’s” Santa Ana, California store most work days.

The point is that many of us have had a cool El Camino based hauler and it just might be cool to see their revival as a new model. We’re voting for a no frills modern version that pays homage to the original ’59 and ’60 bat-wing styled iteration without being too overtly retro. The original’s highly sculpted sheetmetal just may work well with current styling trends. Would it be too much to ask for a sedan delivery version as well? We sure like the mint green delivery that is shown on the front of the 1960 brochure.

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