June 29, 2013

A patriotic trio of El Caminos

It’s not often you spot three 1967 El Caminos in one place. When you see ’67 El Caminos in red, white and blue together, you have a natural Fourth of July celebration on wheels.

It’s not often you spot three 1967 El Caminos in one place. When you see ’67 El Caminos in red, white and blue together, you have a natural Fourth of July celebration on wheels.

At least that’s what Nick Jones, whose wife, Judy owns a white ’67 El Camino, figured after attending a Red Robin cruise-in recently.

“Once I saw the red and blue one, I thought it would be too cool for all of us to drive around together,” he said.

The El Camino has always had a dedicated core following among those who like having the utility of a light pickup along with the styling and handling of a car. Their popularity now seems to be growing among car collectors.

Chevrolet produced five distinct generations of the El Camino, ranging from the big-finned ’59-60 models to the decidedly more modern styling of the ’78-87 models, with a four-year timeout from production in the early 1960s. The three 1967 models represent the final year of the basic second-generation style of what is sometimes called Chevy’s “coupe utility.”

Taking them in red, white and blue order, we start with Ginger Hoffman’s bright red El Camino, which carries a load of memories. She inherited it from her brother, George Crawford of Tucson.

“He had a building full of cars. Ever since I can remember, he was underneath a car working on it,” she said.

Her brother had restored every single collector car in his shed from the ground up, Hoffman said — except for the red El Camino. He had planned to strip it down and rebuild it, too, but was diagnosed with cancer and never got the chance to do that project, she said.

Her El Camino originally was equipped with a 327 V-8, but that engine has been pulled out and temporarily replaced by a 307 V-8 while the factory numbers-matching engine is being rebuilt. The ’67 El Camino came standard with 14-inch wheels, but Hoffman’s rolls on its original optional 15-inch Rally Sport wheels. She and Les Foley enjoy taking the red hauler out and riding around town on Sundays, he said. It shows 122,000 miles on its odometer.

The white ’67 El Camino is piloted by Judy Jones and maintained by her husband, Nick, a mechanic by trade. A close friend, Ed Templin, had restored the El Camino about eight years ago and approached them about possibly buying it about six months ago.

Judy was all for it, especially the factory air conditioning, which makes for more pleasant jaunts to local cruise-ins and car shows. The white El Camino has a set of 5-spoke mag wheels (of undetermined manufacture), mounting big Michelin 16-inch radials on the back and somewhat smaller 15-inch Coopers up front.

The original 283 cubic inch V-8, with about 100,000 miles on it, is still used for power, but the factory-installed 2-speed Powerglide has been replaced by a livelier 3-speed 350TH automatic.

Finally, there’s the Bahama Blue ’67 El Camino with Glenda Downey’s name on the title. She and her husband Chuck were at a car show when one of his co-workers approached them.

“He asked if we would be interested in his dad’s old truck,” Glenda said.

When they went to check it out, it turned out to be an El Camino, buried under cardboard boxes and covered with dust, a restoration project never quite completed.

“She made the deal on it,” Chuck Downey recalls.

“Yeah, and then it caught fire on the way home,” Glenda said. A faulty battery cable sparked the underhood blaze, but she said, “I knew if we could get it home, he could fix it.”

Chaotic Customs in Mulvane buffed out the paint to a brilliant shine and the Downeys added a new set of wide, chrome Rally Sport wheels fitted with BF Goodrich TA radial white-letter tires.

The blue El Camino is unusual in that it packs a 275 horsepower 327 V-8 mated to a 3-speed, column-shifted manual transmission, all numbers-matching. The no-frills order sheet left off both power brakes and power steering, but did include factory air conditioning. The project consumed about a year and a half of their time.

Glenda displays her El Camino with a set of Indian nation/American flags she found at an estate sale, showing off her Cherokee heritage. The Downeys plan to do their part in continuing the car hobby by handing down the El Camino and their other collector cars to their grandkids.

In the meantime, these three couples plan to show their patriotic pride by driving and showing their red, white and blue El Caminos every chance they get.

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