El Camino History
Envious of the success that Ford was having with its car/truck Ranchero that debuted in 1957, Chevrolet struck back with its new El Camino model in 1959. Originally based on the Impala, the half car, half truck El Camino survived for only two years, but reappeared in 1964 based on the Chevelle. This new El Camino shared most of its underpinnings and powertrains (including high performance engines) with the Chevelle. SS versions would debut in 1968 and firmly establish the El Camino as a muscle car/truck.
1959 Chevrolet El Camino
Comments: The El Camino debuted in 1959 based on the Impala platform to compete with Ford’s Ranchero. The name meant “The Road” in Spannish, and Chevrolet stressed its car like platform and styling, which was combined with the functionality of a truck bed. The El Camino was based on the Impala, and shared the Impala’s wild styling, including its trademark “cat’s eyes” taillights and wings. The front end was all Impala, as was most of the interior trim.
1960 Chevrolet El Camino
Comments: The El Camino underwent an extensive restyling in its second year, which mirrored the changes to the Impala. The wings and taillights were toned down a bit (though still pretty wild) and the body lines were a bit more angular. Despite the relative success of the El Camino, Chevrolet ceased production after 1960. It would reappear four years later on the new Chevelle platform.
1964 Chevrolet El Camino
Comments: The 1964 El Camino was reborn and was now based on the Chevelle platform. This meant that the El Camino shared its styling (including near flat front end) and most of its options and powertrains with the Chevelle. Unfortunately, true performance was still unavailable as the Chevelle’s top engine options were not available on the El Camino.
Engines: 283 V8 195bp. 283 V8 220bhp. 327 V8 250bhp.
1965 Chevrolet El Camino
Comments: The El Camino got a true boost of performance with the addition of two powerful 327 engine options. For a mere $140 extra, the buyer could trade the 250 bhp 327 for a 300 bhp version. An extra $200 go you the 350 bhp version.
Engines: 283 V8 195bp. 283 V8 220bhp. 327 V8 250bhp. 327 V8 300bhp. L79 327 V8 350bhp.
1966 Chevrolet El Camino
Comments: The 1966 El Camino saw the introduction of the mighty 396 engines, with either a 325 bhp or 350 bhp version available. The 375 bhp version available in the Chevelle was, sadly, unavailable in the El Camino. Standard equipment on all El Camino’s included specially calibrated high rate springs and double acting shocks at each wheel. The interior was all vinyl and bucket seats, and special consoles were available. The Synchro-Mesh three-speed transmission was standard, but a four-speed wide or close ratio transmission or the two-speed Powerglide automatic transmission could be ordered.
1967 Chevrolet El Camino
Comments: The 1967 El Camino received a few changes: a new grille, a new front bumper, and the side trim was moved up the side panels from the lower body molding. The tailgate was now trimmed with an attractive vinyl, wood-grained strip and new taillights. A vinyl roof was now available as an option. Interiors were all vinyl, and the Custom trim had more trim detail and textured vinyl seats. Air-adjustable shock absorbers were introduced on the El Camino; they could be inflated or deflated to provide proper support depending on the load. The performance suspension was required for El Camino’s equipped with the 396 engine.
1968 Chevrolet El Camino SS
Comments: The 1968 El Camino received the same changes as the Chevelle and was now based on the 116 inch wheelbase platform used by the Chevelle sedan and wagon. The SS396 debuted as a new model of the El Camino and, just like in the Chevelle, came only with one of the 396 V8s. The new El Camino featured a longer hood, “vee” rear side windows, a recessed rear window (like the Chevelle) and a rakish front end. The tailgate of the SS models had a narrow band of black which framed the SS396 emblem. The front fenders also sported the new “396” emblem. Simulated twin-domed hood scoops were included with louvered ports located at the rear edge of the hood. The grille was accented in black and featured the 396 emblem. All SS also featured standard six inch wheels with red line tires. The standard engine in the SS396 remained the 325 bhp 396 engine. The 350bhp version was still available and finally the 375bhp was available for the first time.
1969 Chevrolet El Camino SS
Comments: After its big changes for 1968, the 1969 El Camino was basically carried over. The big change was that the SS396 was no longer its own model (after just one year), but was now technically an option on the regular El Camino. Exterior changes included a new grille and front bumper and rear back-up lights now located on the tailgate. The SS396 option included the 325 bhp 396 V8, bright engine accents, power front disc brakes, three-speed floor shift transmission, dual exhausts, black painted grille, special hood, specific wheel house moldings, 14×7 inch Sport wheels, and GTO-14 red strip tires. Two body colors, named Monaco Orange and Daytona Yellow were exclusive to the SS models.
1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS
Comments: The 1970 El Camino received the same changes as the Chevelle including a new more blunted Vee front end and a new grille, which was black accented on the SS. The El Camino was still available in either Base or Custom trims, but now the SS option was only available on the Custom trim. The Custom Pickup had bright trim, which ran from the front to rear bumper about a quarter of the way up the side. The wheel wells also sported bright trim. The popular cowl induction hood was also optional on the SS. The SS option included special patern and custom vinyl seat trim, sport mirrors, striping, and badges, 15×7 Rally rims, fat RWL tires, SS emblems, black out grille, and a choice of three of the four high performance 402 cid V8 engines. Interestingly, although the 396 engines now displaced 402 cubic inches, they were either called “396” or “Turbo-Jet.” But the key for performance buyers was the introduction of the new corporate 454 engines, the LS5 rated at 360 bhp and the mighty 450 bhp LS6. The 454 engines came only with the Turbo-Hydramatic or a close-ratio four speed manual transmission.
Engines: 350 V8 300 bhp. L34 402 V8 [email protected], [email protected] 402 V8 [email protected], [email protected] LS5 454 V8 [email protected], [email protected] LS6 454 V8 [email protected], [email protected]
Performance: LS6/454: 1/4 mile in 13.44 seconds @ 108.17 mph.
1971 Chevrolet El Camino SS
Comments: The 1971 was not immune from the general collapse of muscle car performance. In response to GM’s edict that all engines ran on unleaded fuel and to meet ever restrictive emission standards, Chevrolet detuned all its engines which resulted in large drops in engine output. The 402 engine that was previously still known as a 396 was renamed the “Turbo Jet 400” and offered only 300bhp, down from 3500bhp. The 375bhp version was no longer available. The LS6 454 was also killed, but the LS5 454 returned with 365bhp, an increase of 5bhp from 1970. All El Caminos got the new single headlight design from the Monte Carlo and could be optioned with hood stripes and the cowl induction hood. The SS package was again only available on the Custom Pickup and included a special instrumentation panel with a black steering wheel and column and an “SS” hub emblem. It also included 15×7 inch sport wheels, F60x15 white-lettered bias ply tires, a sports-type remote control outside body colored rearview mirror, power disc brakes, and high output battery. Interestingly, only the LS5 carried external engine ID; they carried “SS 454” badges. All others only said “SS.” That was a pretty revealing sign of the times. As part of GM’s brand dilution strategy, GMC offered an identical version of the El Camino that they called the “Sprint” with an “SP” option which mirrored the SS package.
Engines: L65 350 V8 [email protected], [email protected] L48 350 V8 [email protected], [email protected] LS3 402 V8 [email protected], [email protected] LS5 454 V8 [email protected], [email protected]
1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS
Comments: 1972 saw further dilution of the El Camino SS. GM decreed that all engines had to be reported with their net engine ratings, which resulted in several sharp decreases even though engine power was not necessarily changed. The 350 V8 dropped to 175bhp, the 402 to 240bhp, and the 454 to 270bhp. The El Camino was basically unchanged from the year before, with just new turn signal/marker lamp units and the deletion of the Chevy bowtie from the grille. The new grille was black, but the horizontal chrome divider piece was deleted.
Engines: L65 350 V8 [email protected], [email protected] 350 V8 [email protected], [email protected] LS3 402 V8 [email protected], [email protected] LS5 454 V8 [email protected], [email protected]
1973 Chevrolet El Camino SS
Comments: The El Camino shared the new body of the Chevelle Malibu. The 116 inch wheelbase was retained, but overall length increased. A new grille and front end still featured the single-unit headlamps, but the wrap-around parking/turn signal lights were gone and the lights were now inserted into the front and rear bumpers. The boxy look of the tailgate was replaced by a more stylish curved design, at the expense of some cargo space. The SS package featured a black-accented grille with the SS badge.