The Chevrolet El Camino was a well-known model introduced to the world in 1959 and was continued on and off until 1987. Derived from the name of a famous road called the El Camino Real in California, stretching from San Francisco to San Diego.
“El Camino” means “The way”.
During the 1st generation of it’s production, chevy corvette auto covers created about 36,409 units. Any full-sized Chevy drivetrain was available on the El Camino. In 1959, it was promoted as a pickup built with a steel Even among Chevrolet enthusiasts, 1959 is considered the year that the Bowtie brand’s designers went barking-at-the-moon crazy. Inexplicably, GM’s designers went from rectangular to rocket ship overnight and the new-for-1959 Chevrolet full-size cars were longer, wider and wilder than anything anyone had ever seen. For 1959, El Caminos painted green or blue accented interiors. All other colors came with grey interior. Bench seats and rubber floor mats were standard issue.
The sheetmetal was stretched out to a garage-hogging 17.5 feet–13 inches longer than the 1955-’56 cars. The ’59 Chevrolets were also two inches wider and 150 pounds heavier than the already massive 1958 cars, which seemed wide and heavy enough by most rational standards. With the tailgate lowered the El Camino’s bed was about 8-feet long. Some of that weight could be attributed to all of the glass in the ’59 model’s greenhouse. Between 1958 and ’59, designers added a whopping 7.5 square feet of glass to Chevrolet’s full-size cars. The “Vista Panoramic” windshield alone was nearly 30 inches tall; measured at the base, it was almost 8 feet across. The 235 cu in straight-six was the base engine, but buyers could opt for any one of two 283 V-8s or three 348 V-8s. Up front, there were trendy quad headlamps separated by a grille of horizontal slats, divided by a row of chrome bullets. A pair of massive jet-inspired air intakes crowned the car’s low, wide face and dominated the leading edge of the hood. And then there was that tail. Oh, that unforgettable tail. The El Camino rode on rear coil springs like its passenger car siblings. Chevrolet claimed a carrying capacity ranging between 650 and 1,150 pounds.
A Positraction rear axle was optional.
Restoring an El Camino can be challenge today. Removing dents and creases from the inner bed sides and bed floor of a truck that was used hard is time consuming work. Some trim parts can also be tough to locate. It’s unclear whether the 1959 Chevrolet’s trunklid was inspired by a jet fighter or the deck of an aircraft carrier, but one thing is certain: It was one big piece of sheetmetal, sporting a pair of wings that could make George Barris blush. But the audacity of the car’s wings almost paled in comparison to its cat’s eye taillamps, which also look to have been lifted from the King of Kustomizer’s playbook.
It all added up to a design tour de force that is beloved today for its Jet Age panache, but was polarizing in its day. (It’s worth mentioning, however, that Chevrolet sold about 1.4 million cars in 1959 and even managed to outsell Ford–only its second time doing so since the 1930s.) So who could ever imagine that out of all of this flash and frivolity, a light-duty work truck would emerge? Sharing its styling with the passenger car line and its body and chassis with the sedan delivery, the El Camino sedan pickup kicked off its decades-long reign in flamboyant 1959 fashion. This first-run edition of the El Camino came to an abrupt end in 1960, but the model resumed production in 1964 on the mid-size Chevelle/Malibu A-body chassis, where it would remain until 1987. Ford, not Chevy, probably deserves credit for the El Camino’s introduction, as well as its Spanish-sounding name. For 1957, Dearborn figured out that it could sell a few more station wagons by removing two-thirds of the roof and marketing the result as an open hauler–complete with the dusty Western name of “Ranchero.” The early Ranchero was successful, and became even more so when it was shifted downstream to the penny-pinching Falcon platform in 1960.
Chevrolet’s El Camino sold well in its first year, but its numbers flagged against the smaller Falcon Ranchero. The El Camino and its stablemate, the sedan delivery, were both phased out in 1960; it’s unclear whether it was due to disappointing demand or as part of some larger plan. Because the El Camino was based on the sedan delivery, it incorporated some structural upgrades over the Brookwood station wagon to make the body and chassis more rigid. For instance, additional bracing in the roof was inherited from the sedan delivery, while the rear cab panel included welded-in bracing to help make the body stiffer where the cab and box met. The box sides and tailgate were double walled to protect the outer panels from damage and add strength, while the bed floor was a sturdy bolted-in panel made of 18-gauge corrugated steel. The El Camino rode on Chevrolet’s “Safety Girder” X-frame with coil spring suspension front and rear. For 1959, there were a few chassis improvements made from the previous year to improve stability, and the brakes were increased to 11 x 2 3/4; inches up front and 11 x 2 inches in the rear for better stopping performance. The bed floor was 6 feet long, and could carry cargo as long as 8 feet with the tailgate down. Like many compact trucks, the El Camino offered 46.5 inches of space between the wheelwells–just shy of the 48 inches needed to carry a 4×8 sheet of plywood or drywall, lying flat.
1960 El Camino
1960-el-caminoAfter the relative success of the Elky in 1959, it had a rough time in 1960. After once again seeing the success of the Ranchero– newly redesigned on the Falcon platform– Chevy decided to close the books on the El Camino.
1964 El Camino
Even though the El Camino originated on the Impala line, it turned out to be a hit based on the ChevelleThis would have to wait though, because the most powerful 1964 Elky models only came with a 300 hp, 327 cubic-inch V8.
1965 El Camino
1965-el-camino1965 saw a redesign for the Chevelle and El Camino, and because of the peak in the center of the grille, overall length was increase by 2.5 inches..
1966 El Camino
The truck also received several new features, including a new instrument panel and shoulder seat belts, but these were overshadowed by the might of the 396 cube big-block V8, finally made available this year. This engine could be had in 325 hp or 360 hp versions, producing 410 lbs-ft and 415 lbs-ft of torque respectively.
1967 El Camino
Air-adjustable shocks were available and were installed on the El Camino for the first time this year.
1969 El Camino
1969-el-caminoFor the first time since its introduction in 1959, the El Camino kept the sheet metal from the previous year, with only minor exterior changes like the new front bumper and the back-up lights, which were relocated to the tailgate.
1971 El Camino
Most engine options were detuned in 1971 and the LS6 454 disappeared completely. For those looking for high performance kicks, the LS5 454, no slouch in its own right, carried over from the previous year sporting 365 hp and 465 lbs-ft of torque.
1972 El Camino
The Super Sport option became a trim package only this year, becoming available on all V8 El Caminos, even the paltry 130 hp/230 lbs-ft 307 ci V8!
1973 El Camino
Front disc brakes also became standard. There was an option for swivel front bucket seats and the gauge cluster was new, both of these being borrowed from the Monte Carlo. Even though performance was lacking (the 115 hp 307 V8 was the base engine), the public loved this El Camino and Chevy sold 64,987 units–making the 1973 El Camino the best selling ever.
1974 El Camino
There were minor changes like the front bumpers and a wide, Mercedes-inspired grille, but for the most part, appearances didn’t change.
1975 El Camino
1975-el-caminoA new grille and a new base engine came about in ’75. The base engine became a 105 hp/250 ci inline 6 cylinder.
1976 El Camino
1The base six cylinder engine carried over from 1975, and a 140 horsepower 305 ci V8 was added to the line up. This gave the El Camino five engine options, including a 350 cube V8 with either a 2-bbl or 4-bbl carb.
1977 El Camino
By this time, all V8 El Caminos were equipped with Turbo Hydra-Matic transmissions making the 250 ci I6 the only engine coupled to a stick shift.
1978 El Camino
The base engine became a 3.3 liter V6, and two engines sat above that– the 145 hp 305 and the 170 hp 350.
1979 El Camino
This engine sat between the 3.3 liter six banger and the 305 V8. The Black Knight trim package was given the name Royal Knight in 1979, but otherwise stayed pretty much the same as the previous trim package. This package would stick around until being axed by Chevy in ’84.
1980 El Camino
The base engine jumped from 3.3 liters to 3.8L for the V6. The 267 V8 stuck around this year, but the 170 hp 350ci was let go. Nearly all El Caminos this year came with a three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission.
1982 El Camino
1982-el-caminoIn 1982, GM decided they were moving the A-body platform to an all-new front-wheel drive configuration, necessitating a move for the El Camino to another platform. Along with the Malibu, the El Camino found a home on the G-body platform with the likes of the Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Pontiac Grand Prix. T
1984 El Camino
1984-el-caminoBeginning this year, the El Camino SS was offer through a joint venture with a Chattanooga, TN based company called Choo Choo Customs. These models feature the same front clip as the Monte Carlo SS, but did not receive the higher performance engine. Instead, the Choo Choo El Camino was stuck with a 305 ci V8 that put out just 190 hp.
1985 El Camino
1985-el-caminoProduction of the 1985 model El Camino began in Mexico and it would continue to be produced there until the end of the Elky in ’87. This year also saw the introduction of the 4.3L V6, a legend in its own right, as the base engine.
1986 El Camino
1986-el-caminoEverything stayed the same for the ’86 model year, being a carryover from 1985.