A Brief History of the Chevrolet El Camino: 1959-1987
Chevrolet designed the Chevy El Camino by capitalizing on the concepts of the Cameo Carrier and GMC Suburban Carrier in 1955. This was in order to compete directly with the then-popular Ford Ranchero. The result: a fully-fledged coupe utility pickup. It debuted in 1959 and ran until 1960 initially, returning once more in 1964 to run until its discontinuation in 1987.
Early on, the car was built on a modified Brookwood station wagon platform. Engine options were three, ranging from a 3.9-liter, in-line, six-cylinder and a 4.6-liter V8 to a 5.7-liter V8. Each mated to one of three transmissions: a three-speed manual, a four-speed manual, or a two-speed Powerglide automatic. Apart from the Biscayne-derived interior, standout features included a Safety-Girder X-frame, a full-coil suspension (with a Level Air suspension optional), a steel bed floor, and a capacity of nearly 33 cubic feet. The car also offered a bright-metal "jet" applique and narrow trailing molding.
Upon the model's departure from production, the Chevrolet Greenbrier, a car based on the Chevy Corvair platform, replaced it until its reappearance for a second generation.
This El Camino model was based on the mid-size Chevrolet Chevelle, and it featured six engine options (I6 to small- and big-block V8) paired with several transmission options (a three- or four-speed manual, or a two-speed Powerglide auto). Distinctive features during this era were a new grille, front bumper, and trim, the car's dual exhausts, its air shocks, the fully boxed frame, and an available higher-performance L79 engine. You could also get an instrument panel with a horizontal sweep speedometer, plus either cloth-and-vinyl or fully vinyl bench seats paired with deep twist carpeting. Strato swivel bucket seats with a console were an option, as were disc brakes.
Premiering in 1968, this longer variant, based on the wheelbase prevalent on the Chevy Chevelle station wagon and four-door sedan , offered two I6 and a whopping five V8 engine options, and a three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic auto transmission had become available. There was also a new, high-performance Super Sport SS396 variant offered, and notable features were many. They ranged from quad headlights, round instrument pods, and power windows and locks to a reworked grille and bumper, built-in park, signal, and marker lights, and a smog pump, which had been added as a form of emissions control.
This redesigned iteration appeared in 1973, and it was the largest generation to date, size-wise. SS and Estate options packages were available, as were similar I6 and V8 engine and manual and auto gearbox options. Key features included an all-new chassis, standard front disc brakes, an acoustic-dampening double-panel roof, and a flow-through power ventilation system. You could also get a hood release activated from inside the car, along with a Delcotron alternator and flush-and-dry rocker panels. There were swivel bucket seats with a console offered, plus Turbine I urethane wheels with steel reinforcements, crossflow radiators and coolant reservoirs, and an Econominder instrument package with a vacuum gauge to indicate optimum fuel economy.
Fifth and Final Generation
The El Camino that debuted in 1978 had slimmer styling evocative of the Chevy Malibu. It incorporated one of eight engines and four transmissions -- either a Chevy or Buick V6, a small-block V8, or a diesel V8, and either a three- or four-speed manual or a three- or four-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic. Noteworthy features: a Computer Command Control (CCC) emission system, for one, not to mention a lock-up torque converter, a crosshatch grille, side exhaust skirts, and aluminum wheels. You could also get SS decals on the outer body.
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