That paean to the Great American Redneck, the Chevrolet El Camino, just celebrated 56 years since being introduced on October 16, 1958. It has had an on-again/off-again existence, almost returning as the Aussie-inspired Pontiac G8 ST several years ago, but the El Camino is a vehicle that’s warm to a lot of people’s hearts.
The El Camino was Chevrolet’s answer to the Ford Ranchero, which found success in 1957. Interestingly enough, Ford downsized the Ranchero to the Falcon platform in 1960, giving Chevrolet the full-size pickup-sedan market . . . or maybe not, as Chevrolet cancelled the El Camino after 1960 due to less-than-stellar sales. However, with the introduction of the 1964 Chevelle, Chevrolet created a quasi-new segment as the new El Camino was sized between the old one and the Falcon-based Ranchero. Ford decided to meet Chevrolet head-on with the Fairlane-based Ranchero in 1966, and then the direct competition resumed.
The El Camino continued on through 1987, and then was laid to rest when Chevrolet decided to go with FWD. During the El Camino’s tenure, there were several opportunities to create a parts hauler par excellence:
- 1959 with fuel-injected 283
- 1960 with tri-carbed 348
- 1965 with L79 327/350
- 1969 Super Sport with L78 396/375 and L89 aluminum heads
- 1970 Super Sport with LS6 454/450
- 1971 GMC Sprint SP with LS5 454/365
That right − for several years, GMC had their own version of the El Camino called the Sprint, with the SP being akin to Chevy’s SS.
Holden still builds a Ute, but with the impending doom headed down Australia’s way, it remains to be seen what Holden plans for its beloved Ute. Until then, the 56-year-old El Camino’s spirit resides in Australia.