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Bring it back, Bobby

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Bring it back, Bobby.
Making the case for a great awakening.
October 16, 2005
A Tama Editorial

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I DRIVE A TRUCK. I drive a truck because I need a truck. I need the last vestige of rear wheel drive in the Detroit stable. I need to carry stuff. I need to tow stuff. I need to drive where the pavement ends. And I need a vehicle with some balls. By dammit, I need my truck.

I WANT A CAR. I want a car because I need a car. I have a girlfriend. I have a phone bill. I have insurance payments. I have to get to school and to work. And now I cannot afford gas. By dammit, I need a car.

Catering to one need, my occupation in general contracting essentially mandates that I have a vehicle with a six-foot long open-top trunk that is lined with steel and can handle dirt and heavy loads. On the other hand, getting to work itself is ten minutes of that go-o-o, STOP! waaaiiitHURRY THE HELL UP! style of driving that, combined with numerous other errands and go-fer type trips, grants the better part of my meager paycheck every half-month to the local Marathon gasoline pumping facility.

Recently, there has been a flurry of readings on GM’s new Lambda crossover vehicles, and sitting here skimming across them led me to experience an epiphany of sorts…

“Crossovers? Why hell, I have one of those sitting in my garage at this very moment...”

I’m not talking about the car-based SUVs that GM will be dispersing in the coming years. And I’m sure as hell not talking about some high-roof station wagon. I’m talking about something that drives like a car, but works like a truck. I’m talking about something with a heritage like no other vehicle. You’re d*mn straight, I’m talking about the Chevrolet El Camino.

A New Kind of Retro

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Courtesy of Torred

Crossovers may be in the future pipeline for GM and other Detroit manufacturers, but the concept of the crossover vehicle is nothing new. Step into my garage and one will find a well-used yet still tough as nails 1969 Chevrolet El Camino – the General’s original crossover vehicle. Freed for the day of homework and other obligations, I decided to take a few hours and tinker on old reliable. Able to work and ponder without interruption, I repeatedly came across one thought;

“Why doesn’t the General just build these again?”

Indeed, GM would do well to reignite the flame that is the world’s first crossover vehicle*.

*With the above statement, I am indeed implying that the Chevrolet El Camino, introduced in 1959, is the world’s first crossover vehicle, in that it first offered the characteristics of a car and a truck in one unique package. However, some people would argue that the original crossover is the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban. Or that you cannot legitimately contend that the El Camino was the original when the similar Ford Ranchero debuted two years earlier in 1957. Those people are communists. The El Camino was the first crossover.

I wholeheartedly believe that a reincarnation of the legendary El Camino nameplate stands to benefit General Motors and its consumers on more than one level. GM would be reinstating a nameplate that was retired without leaving a sour taste in the collective mouth of the consumer, and that is immediately recognizable to those not fully vested in muscle car history, or the industry in general. Secondly, Chevrolet continues to play the heritage card, something Toyohondassan can never offer. Lastly, a vehicle that can work as hard as it can play is a very enticing concept to buyers (like myself) who wish to delve into the worlds of work and performance at the same time (maybe that’s why they built it in the first place? ah-ha!).

You Can’t Build a Strong House on a Shaky Foundation*
*Actually, you can

These days, General Motors is cash strapped and looking for every possible avenue it can follow to save a buck. However, take a look at the Pontiac Solstice – not only is it the most impressive example of reasonable and identity-preserving parts-sharing in history, it is quickly shaping up to be one of the best cars GM has ever built – and it’s all coming in at under twenty large. With that said, the Bob Lutz Touch might be all the General needs to make the business case for a new El Cam as enticing as the case for the vehicle itself.

Now, one of the defining factors of the El Camino’s legacy is the car-based chassis upon which it is built. GM enjoys the luxury of possessing the largest global parts bin of any automaker upon which to draw its new-model resources. This leaves the door wide open to any of a number of suitable underpinnings. But which to use? Like a football team with too many all-pro running backs to choose as their starter, folks would agree that this is a good problem to have.

Now what options have we got here? A lambda derivative offers the characteristic car chassis and can be outfitted with a V-8, but a front-wheel-drive El Camino is just painful to even think about. An imported and re-skinned Holden Ute makes sense considering the modest success of the Monaro-GTO importation. However, old-ish looks and UAW penalties negate any benefits reaped from shipping up the Cammer from down under. GMT-355? Hah, just kidding! Despite the turbulence of its so far on-and-off-and-on-again lifecycle, the Zeta platform, already set to underpin some low-cost rear-drive NA models, would be, ahem, gravy now.

Sittin’ on Santa’s Lap*
*Santa, in this case, refers to Bob Lutz.

My most favoritist part of making up my own hypothetical muscle car is adding a plethora of awe-inspiring features to an automotive wishlist that surely would not make it to production. Now let’s remember; this vehicle, in all likelihood, will not make production. BUT, on the what-a-crazy-shot-in-hell offchance that Robert Lutz is at this very moment reading my article and is so enamored by my literary and automotive prowess that he calls an emergency board meeting to green-light the production of the next El Camino, I say we make it a reasonable and producible proposal.*

*What’s that? You don’t wish to be reasonable? Well, tough titties – I’m writing this article.

Considering the as-of-yet successful launches of GM’s latest round of products, and the increasing quality and bang for your buck that is coming with each of the General’s new vehicles, we can reasonably expect a re-born El Camino to possess the traits essential to the well-receipt of any GM vehicle by the slightly-more-than-biased auto media. So, how about let’s just go over them for chits-n-giggles, shall we?

If the refreshed W-bodies and 900’s are any indication, we can expect a clean, purposeful, and well-built interior. Power, you say? The HF 3.6L V6 makes for a smooth and powerful base engine, while another application of the 5.3L small block sounds good in a vehicle that must retain its muscle car roots. Oh, and there will be an SS, and it will have the 400 hp, 6.0L small block V8.

Are you a hippie? Have a hybrid. The new two-stage hybrid and DOD, available on both V8 engines, will ring in the enviro-conscious as well as the performance-minded. A 6-speed manual/6-speed automatic, standard/available on all trim levels, boosts credibility while lending the media vultures one less thing to crow about.

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An Eye for Utility*
*and an ear for… hearing. I would assume.

The General already offers a low-riding pickup truck in the Colorado/Canyon ZQ8. GM also piloted what is easily the most utility-minded and featureful (it’s a word now) truck in the Avalanche. In order to readily differentiate the Camino from its corporate stablemates, it needs to employ such Avalanche work features that you won’t find on the Colorado – and believe me, there aren’t many not to find.

First, let’s have us a reinforced composite bed box, fully equipped with plentiful tie-down hooks and a cargo rail system. Bed rail storage compartments accessible from the top of the bedrails act doubly as cargo management/beer holder. Hide the wheel wells in the said bedrails to provide a flat-load floor, wide enough to accommodate a 4x8 sheet of plywood. Side access bed doors, such as the ones found on the Cheyenne and H3T concepts, lend efficiency, even though they may be rendered entirely useless by the El Caminos hereditarily-low ride height. Ah hell, slap ‘em on there anyway. As a direct kick-in-metaphorical-face to the ever self-righteous Honda, add an in-bed trunk. Like the Honda, make it accessible from a door built into the floor of the bed. But do them one better – secondary access comes in the form of a slide-out tray that is pulled out from below the tailgate, should your bed already be packed with gear. Make sure to advertise it heavily, mentioning Honda by name and reminding them of their truck-building inadequacy. Also, flip-out bed extender and flush-mount folding tonneau cover round off the El Camino as the most useful car* in the history of mankind.
*Or most useful truck? Hell, we still don’t know. Just take your pick.

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There you have - my proposal for the next generation of El Camino. A vehicle suitable for all types. A vehicle to cater to those who want utility. A vehicle for the performance-minded. A vehicle for the hybrid hippies. A vehicle for those baby-boomers who long for their beloved pavement-rippers of the past. A vehicle to forever erase the stigma of the rusted-out bucket with three $9000 gold spoke rims, shag carpeting inside, a front-end that bounces like there’s a couple of horny young teens under the hood, and a horn that goes “ba-da-da-BAAP-BAAP!”…sorry.

A vehicle that offers surprisingly good fuel economy and exceptional performance, while plating up heaps of usefulness and utility? It offers everything that a car buyer wants, with everything that a truck buyer needs. It’s the best of both worlds, and its just what General Motors needs right now. It’s true to its heritage, in every aspect of the phrase.

Now, about that Chevelle counterpart…

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Courtesy of Torred
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the underground is part of what led me to write this up. i love the elky we have now, and i would trade my canyon in for a new one in a second. thanks for the kind words, too.
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I would love for the El Camino to return. Not only would it add a vehicle to the shrinking list of Chevies I'd own, it would basically start up this market again. Subaru Baja, you say? Too many doors and seats... Anyways, the agility of a car with the utility of a truck. Awesome! I could haul my ATV! :D
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At this point, they might as well take an SSR, replace the LS2 with an Atlas I6, make the roof fixed, give it cloth upholstery, sell it for $10K less, and call it the El Camino. Edit: Oh, and remove the bed cover. Edited by empowah
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NZR: so true, Just like the Camaro and Caprice.
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Impressive article. Truer words were never spoken.
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If Chrysler can sell the Dodge Magnum, why cant the General sell an El Camino?

[post="30051"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Because Daddy can have his V8 hemi while Mommy pick up groceries and takes the kids to soccer practice. To make the El Camino a seller in today's market, it would need to seat 4. In other words would need a back seat. After figuring that in with a 6 foot bed you practically have something the length of a limo. At that time price get's up to the point where it would just be cost feasible to buy a full size 2WD truck. There is a very small market for 2 seater vehicles in the US. How many non company owned regular cab pick-ups do you see on the road today? Edited by BuddyP
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Why must an El Camino have 4 seats, it is a utility vehicle not a 'SOCCER MOM EXPRESS". The Chevy Tornado is'nt the best loohing but it is serving the intended porpose.If extra room is neded then put a 1/2 door and jump seats . The general could use the maxx platform and front end and the colorado box morphed together.(i will make a chop) B) If someone w/photoshop could clean this up it would be appreciated. my new comp doesnt have it :(


Because Daddy can have his V8 hemi while Mommy pick up groceries and takes the kids to soccer practice. To make the El Camino a seller in today's market, it would need to seat 4. In other words would need a back seat. After figuring that in with a 6 foot bed you practically have something the length of a limo. At that time price get's up to the point where it would just be cost feasible to buy a full size 2WD truck. There is a very small market for 2 seater vehicles in the US. How many non company owned regular cab pick-ups do you see on the road today?

[post="30079"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

Edited by prototype66
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In today's market, 2 seat's does not mean utility (if you know what I'm getting at). Blantently put, the majority of the SUV's today hall family and kids. People are the utility in SUV. Going by the essense of the model, no, the El Camino shouldn't have 4 seats. My only point is a 2 door car with a box bed will not be a big seller in today's US market. You'd be able to buy a extended cab 2WD pickup for no more than this thing would cost and have better hauling and towing capabilities. A new version of a El Camino is simply not practical to most in today's society.

As far as your chop, why not just buy an extended cab Colorado?

Why must an El Camino have 4 seats, it is a utility vehicle not a 'SOCCER MOM EXPRESS". The Chevy Tornado is'nt the best loohing but it is serving the intended porpose.If extra room is neded then put a 1/2 door and jump seats . The general could use the maxx platform and front end and the colorado box morphed together.(i will make a chop) B)

[post="30098"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]

Edited by BuddyP
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In today's market, 2 seat's does not mean utility (if you know what I'm getting at). Blantently put, the majority of the SUV's today hall family and kids. People are the utility in SUV. Going by the essense of the model, no, the El Camino shouldn't have 4 seats. My only point is a 2 door car with a box bed will not be a big seller in today's US market. You'd be able to buy a extended cab 2WD pickup for no more than this thing would cost and have better hauling and towing capabilities. A new version of a El Camino is simply not practical to most in today's society.

As far as your chop, why not just buy an extended cab Colorado?

[post="30114"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


ILL GIVE YOU THAT. THERE ISN'T A MARKET FOR A 2 SEATER. AND YES MY CHOP SUCKS BIGTIME. BUT THE ELCAMINO WAS A COOL CAR. MAYBE PARTS DELIVERIES,CONSTRUCTION FOREMAN AND PEOPLE WANTING SOME(NOT ALL) PAYLOAD WITH SAY A 26/32 MPG RATING WOULD BE INTERESTED. BUT IT WOULD BE A VERY SMALL SEGMENT OF THE INDUSTRY AND NOT VERY FINANCIALLY FEESABLE TO PRODUCE. BUT THEN AGAIN,YA GOTTA LOVE AN "UGLYTRUCK"! :P p.s

CHEVY TORNADOPosted Image Edited by prototype66
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well, its never really intended to be a high volume seller. like the el caminos of old, build it as a counterpart to the camaro and/or chevelle, but add the features listed to make it a viable against the zq8.
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GM's Holden brand already has an Elky.... called the Ute. Would be easier to make LHD than making a new car from a newer platform.

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GM's Holden brand already has an Elky.... called the Ute.  Would be easier to make LHD than making a new car from a newer platform.

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[post="30250"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


And there is a 4 Door version as well B)

Need for seating for more than 2 solved :)
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Brandon, nice '68 in your sig... how far are you on your project? I have mine completely tore down and just got my front subframe and suspension componants powdercoated.
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I saw a 2006 Holden Maloo R8 297 with LS2 6.0 Litre tags yesterday. It was dark purple, had same exhaust tips as a GTO in back, 4whl discs, 245/75/ZR19s. Unlike the other Maloos I've seen around the Tech Center in Warren, this one was LH drive! I've seen many kick ass El Caminos, but looking at this thing made me feel weak and dizzy. Oh yeah, it had a decal on the rear window, that said: " HSV ~ I just want one" no joke. This Maloo had the new Commodore fascia, a hard bed cover and a small wing spoiler. Looks nothing like the Ute, other than configuration. The LH drive makes me think something good is gonna happen soon.
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Brandon, nice '68 in your sig... how far are you on your project? I have mine completely tore down and just got my front subframe and suspension componants powdercoated.

[post="30498"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]



Unfortunately I havn't really done anything with mine yet. I just got it earlier this year but I've been so busy with work I havn't had a chance to throw down on it yet. So far I'll ive done is strip the paint from the front fenders and primered them and the trunk lid so far. I need to get some patch panels for the floor for like 3 spots though. Got lucky the car spent most of its life in here in Louisiana so there isn't a lot of rust.

Hopefully when its all said and done it'll look something like that car in my pic except with Torque thrust D wheels on it. Those are the ones with the dark powder coated center and polished lip. I'm thinking of going digital too on the gauge cluster in the car. I've got a Dakota Digital catalog at home that I keep looking at and I think it would be neat to have that.
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Unfortunately I havn't really done anything with mine yet. I just got it earlier this year but I've been so busy with work I havn't had a chance to throw down on it yet. So far I'll ive done is strip the paint from the front fenders and primered them and the trunk lid so far. I need to get some patch panels for the floor for like 3 spots though. Got lucky the car spent most of its life in here in Louisiana so there isn't a lot of rust.

Hopefully when its all said and done it'll look something like that car in my pic except with Torque thrust D wheels on it. Those are the ones with the dark powder coated center and polished lip. I'm thinking of going digital too on the gauge cluster in the car. I've got a Dakota Digital catalog at home that I keep looking at and I think it would be neat to have that.

[post="31018"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Sounds good! You may want to check out www.pro-touring.com (I spend a decent amount of time over there) and lateral-g.net. These sites get more into suspension and brakes setup. It might interest you in your project.
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Sounds good! You may want to check out www.pro-touring.com (I spend a decent amount of time over there) and lateral-g.net. These sites get more into suspension and brakes setup. It might interest you in your project.

[post="31145"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Oh Suspension and Brakes will be one of the focuses of my project. I wanna tune it for the road and take it to the occasional open days at No Problem Raceway, a road course about 2 hours south of me. http://www.cheersandgears.com/public/style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/AH-HA_wink.gif
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Ha ha. I have a Holden S Ute as a drive car. It is 'only' a V6 (175kw) but I love it. It is great to drive, has an easy to use soft tonneau cover, goes reasonably well (but not as good as the V8 - 250kw yeah baby) and looks great. ....and if we need more than 2 seats we take the other car! :CG_all:
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