The Chevrolet El Camino remains an icon to this day as GM’s only shot at what Australians know and love: the ‘ute. Chevrolet wouldn’t call it that, but it followed a familiar formula Holden had been producing: car up front, pickup bed in the back.
Donut Media recently traced the El Camino’s history and there’s plenty to digest. The vehicle was, in fact, a response to Ford’s Ranchero in 1957. Chevrolet responded with the El Camino in 1959, but sales were, to put it nicely, disappointing. It was quickly discontinued.
In the 1960s, the Ranchero continued to sell well, so Chevrolet tried once more with a new El Camino—this time, it shared quite a bit with the Chevelle. Eventually, it would be a recipe for success. As the muscle car segment exploded, Chevrolet beefed up the Chevelle with a plethora of high-performance options. In turn, the El Camino received many of the upgrades as well.
In 1968, Chevrolet stuffed the 396 cubic inch V8 engine under the El Camino’s hood as an option, but in 1969, the brand finally graced the market with the El Camino SS. The SS boasted a blacked-out grille, disc brakes, power locks and the aforementioned 396 V8. But, that wasn’t the El Camino’s tipping point.
A year later, Chevy added the 454 big-block V8 engine as an option for the El Camino SS, which brought power up to 450 horsepower and 500 pound-feet of torque. This was the El Camino of El Caminos. But, as the oil embargo took hold, Chevrolet dialed back the El Camino.
Sales didn’t die down, though. The El Camino actually had its best sales year in 1973, despite the lack of an SS trim. Chevy instead added more luxurious equipment to compete with rival luxury coupes. But, 1987 saw the end of the El Camino. Chevrolet pulled the truck from the market and it’s been missing in action ever since. Of course, we know General Motors had internal plans to essentially revive the pickup with the stillborn Pontiac G8 ST, but we all know how that ended.
Now, the El Camino is a solid reminder there’s nothing wrong with the automotive equivalent of a mullet: business up front, party in the back.