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A History of The Chevrolet El Camino

(Note: This is a work in progress) Last updated December 12.

The Chevrolet El Camino was introduced for the 1959 model year.  The El Camino was based on Chevrolet's Impala platform, but it received its exterior cues from the Bel Air, and its interior cues came from the Biscayne.

The El Camino was offered in two series for 1959, the 1180, and the 1280.  The difference between the two was the engine choice.  The 1180 was equipped with a straight six, while the 1280 was equipped with a V-8.

It was obvious from the start of the El Camino series what kind of image Chevrolet wanted the El Camino to convey.  Consider the following V-8 engine options that were offered.

Engine

Induction

Horsepower

Engine Name

283

2 bbl

185

Turbo Fire

283

4 bbl

230

Super Turbo Fire

283

Fuel Injection

250

Ramjet Fuel Injection

283

Fuel Injection

290

Special Ramjet

348

4 bbl

250

Turbo Thrust

348

Three 2 bbl

280

Super Turbo Thrust

348

4 bbl

305

Special Super Turbo Thrust

348

Three 2 bbl

315

Special Super Turbo Thrust

348

Three 2 bbl

335

Special Super Turbo Thrust

In 1959, Hot Rod Magazine tested a new El Camino with the 315 horsepower motor.   The Elky ran 90 mph at the end of a standing quarter mile, and ran an 8.7 zero to sixty time.  Considering the car's 3,880 pound bulk, those were impressive figures.

The El Camino remained in production for the 1960 model year, but, as the production information shows, it did not fair quite as well. 

Over the years, many reasons have been proposed for Chevrolet's decision to drop the El Camino after 1960.  One reason may have been that the Ford Ranchero, which was downsized for 1960, sold much better as a result of its lower price.  Consequently, because the midsize Chevrolet, the Corvair, would not be a feasible pickup, the line was dropped.

When the El Camino returned for the 1964 model year, it was based on Chevrolet's new intermediate platform, the Chevelle.  It is interesting to note, however, that at least one concept El Camino was built based on the Chevy II.  Chevrolet decided not to use the car, however, primarily because the engine bay would not accommodate the performance oriented 348 and 409. 

One interesting possiblity, however, would have been if Chevrolet had decided to base the El Camino on the Nova platform for 1968.  Al SS El Camino based on the Nova with a 396 or a 427 in it would have been a very impressive vehicle.

It is also entirely possible that if the Nova based El Camino were successful that it would have forestalled the El Camino's demise in 1987, which was probably due to the success of the S10 series Chevrolet had introduced in the first part of the decade.

 

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Last Updated:

12/12/99 01:13 PM