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1972 Chevy El Camino - Mandrel Bent

Jason Abey's Homebuilt '72 El Camino

Photography by Wes AlIison

Jason Abey uses his car to pick up women. We sat across from him at a dive bar on the sketchy side of town, strapped with thousands of dollars worth of camera gear, as he helped imbibe some salty, yellow agave juice. He described his conquests at the top of his lungs, with wild hand gyrations and explicit lyrics, as we watched the family at the adjacent booth begin to take notice and flinch a little. We liked him right away.

Jason can whip together just about anything made of metal in the time it takes to think it up. In fact, he bent, beat, and welded almost every part on his '72 El Camino in ways so subtle that had he not pointed them out, we likely would have missed them entirely. He uses his arms and fingers as living engineering diagrams, twisting them into the shape of headers and exhaust angles in an effort to allow everyone to peer through his mind's eye. Every panel, part, and hue has the same purpose it seems. We mentioned it above.

When he was five years old, Jason was learning to surf in his home country of Sri Lanka, an island nation south of India. His father owned an automotive service shop that allowed young Jason to take apart air compressors and use the parts to make go-carts. When his family moved to the United States in the early '80s, Jason found a home in the San Fernando Valley street-racing culture. "I grew up in the Valley when we'd show up at lunch time and race," he says. "I was the fastest kid at Chatsworth High." The car he raced was his first El Camino. "I've always liked those cars because they are a combination of musclecar and utility." Unfortunately, a freeway tangle with a tractor-trailer turned the car into a convertible.

The next El Camino was a '72 in primer that carried Jason through to his current job at Midas Mufflers in Canyon Country, California. He started as an everyday tech turning wrenches and worked his way up to management. Because of Jason, this Midas does way more than just weld on mufflers. Every piece of custom on the car, aside from the interior, was performed in the shop. Jason and his gang do custom work for a select clientele of local street-machine and boat guys.

With the better job came better money, and Jason looked at the primered driver with some work in mind. "I found another El Camino body sitting behind a fence on some private property. I left a bunch of notes on the car until the guy decided to sell it to me." Jason moved all the good parts from the driver to the faded school-bus-yellow body and decided to get to work.

The first move was to snag a big-block from a '96 Suburban after following a lead from a local paper. He found the engine sitting in the rain on the side of someone's house. This was way before GM released the 502 and the boat guys were hogging all the four-bolt blocks, so finding a short-block in the paper for $200 was lucky. It was a standard bore too.

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