Even here in the centrifugally blown, turbocharged new millennium, the sights and sounds of a big Roots blower intrigue and amaze on demand. Having a huge, jittering apparatus jutting though the hood with a big, fat, unshielded cog belt whipping around making noise is just plain alarming, particularly to the uninitiated. To those in the know, it's still a thrill. Even jaded magazine guys can get caught up in the commotion, like we did when Ron Takabayashi happened to casually pass us headed in the opposite direction on a south-central L.A. boulevard. We'd initially dismissed the approaching chrome and bright paint as a low-rider until that blower came into focus just as the Gilmer belt whined its tune in full Doppler effect as Ron went by.
We whipped around and gave chase, providing Ron with a brief thrill of his own as his rearview was filled with a white Caprice mounted with pushbars and spotlights. The El Camino proved the perfect eye candy; the big polished 6-71, the electric Candy Blue paint, the huge chrome Americans-it looked like a '60s Hot Wheels car come to life . . . and that's just what we needed.
Ron beamed as he gave us the tour, then reached inside, flipped a switch, and dropped the Camino to the pavement, admitting somewhat sheepishly, "I know you guys probably aren't into this, but I wanted it to be low." We can dig the bags-the desire to lay frame has occurred to a few of us before. But we usually wind up spending all our cash on go-fast stuff.
Turns out, Ron is an old speed freak himself, having spent his youth hot-rodding around L.A. starting in the early '70s. His war stories include cruising Van Nuys, running the canyon roads of Mulholland, and even making passes at legendary Lions Dragstrip during its last days. "My first car was a '64 Falcon with a 260/automatic that I converted to a 289 with way too much cam and a four-speed. I thought it was the fastest thing on the road until I ran it at the track and it turned 14s. I was so embarrassed."
He later made up for that episode by campaigning a 9-second '67 big-block Chevelle in Pro Gas during the '90s. But after several years with the tube-chassis car, he realized that competitive track-dedicated rides are costly to maintain and seldom enjoyed. That's when plans for the street machine started forming. "The first thing I bought was the blower before I even knew exactly what I wanted to do," Ron recounted, indicating his priorities for the yet undetermined project car. "I always wanted a blower car for the street."
Not long after, Ron started eyeballing the '65 El Camino parts chaser his brother bought way back in 1980 as a stone-stock daily driver. Ron acquired it in the mid-'80s and gradually made upgrades while using it to run around to swap meets and such. Then, trouble began: "I started getting all these crazy ideas. . . ." The result of those brainstorms lies before you. So Ron gets his blown street machine, but he actually did have other criteria, like requiring the final product to be truly functional and visually stunning without looking like something left over from the '80s. We'd say he pulled it off.
Tech NotesWhat: '65 Chevrolet El CaminoOwner: Ron TakabayashiHometown: Gardena, California, mere blocks from the Car Craft shop
Engine: The four-bolt 454 block came straight out of Compton from someone's backyard. Mike LeFever of MiTech Racing in Fullerton, California, took the mid-'70s casting and created a 496 stroker using an Eagle rotating assembly. MiTech handled both the machining and assembly. The finished long-block makes 9.5:1 with the aluminum Edelbrock heads.
Induction: The engine was built to slide underneath the BDS 8-71 blower, which is underdriven by 5 percent. A pair of Holley 750-cfm double-pumpers sits on top, fed by a BG Fuel Systems mechanical pump.
Valvetrain: Mike LeFever picked the flat-tappet hydraulic Crane cam with 282/288 advertised duration and 0.625-inch lift on a 112-degree LSA with Crane roller rockers.
Exhaust: Hooker headers with fat 211/48-inch tubes feed a 211/42-inch custom exhaust system utilizing Flowmaster three-chamber mufflers and exiting in the stock location behind the rear wheels. The tone is hairy without being absolutely obnoxious.
Power: 768 hp, 830 lb-ft at the flywheel
Transmission: A Muncie M20 wide-ratio 'box that has been with the El Cam since the '80s backs up the blown big-block and acts as a governor of sorts since Ron knows it will grenade if he gets nuts. The clutch-pedal set and factory four-speed console were taken from a junk '65 20 years ago.
Rearend: The Currie-built 9-inch rear was scored from a friend of a friend who'd ordered it and then bailed on his Chevelle project. It runs Currie's Torque Sensing Differential (TSD) and 3.50:1 gears with 31-spline axles. Part of the score included a set of Corvette-style rear disc brakes.
Suspension: To get the down-and-dirty look Ron wanted, he opted to use an Air Ride Technologies air-spring system in place of conventional coils. Global West tubular control arms replace stamped stockers up front, while Edelbrock rear control arms mount the axle. Shocks are from Deutsch Tech to suit the airbags.
Brakes: A set of single-piston discs from a later Chevelle are used up front. The aforementioned Corvette-style aluminum PBR rear discs mount the rear axle.
Body: The '65 still wears most of its original sheetmetal, though it's been hammered and sanded straight by Ricky Tomin at Ricky's Auto Body in Gardena. Ricky also created the raised box section in the bed floor that clears the differential, allowing the Camino to lay its frame on the ground when the bags are dumped. Paco Lopez of A Universal Auto Body, also in Gardena, laid down the PPG Candy Blue, and it looks as glassy in person as it does in the photos.
Interior: Stock '65 Chevy bucket seats that Ron scored way back in the '80s were re-covered years ago and still look fresh. The four-speed console is another '80s find-Ron's had it for so long he's rechromed the top plate twice. The instrument panel is from Convan's Classic, filled with Auto Meter gauges. Even Ron hadn't located an original tilt column in his years of parts hoarding, so an ididit unit takes over and mounts a Billet Specialties wheel.
Wheels/Tires: Dubs, baby. Classically styled American Racing Torq-Thrust II wheels in 20x8 and 20x10 wrapped with Nitto 225/35-20 and 275/35-20 tires to "make it look low even when it's aired up."
Thanks To: Wife Kim, Paul Alabab, and Wayne Watanabe