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.
Jason had a mid-30s crisis in 2005 and decided to put some serious money into the car. "Before I get married or something," he says. What followed was a flurry of tubular control arms and expensive custom tidbits.
"Working at the shop, I was able to find parts from other cars to use on the El Camino," he says. The mirrors are from a Buick and the adjustment switch was from a Toyota Camry. The rearview mirror is from a '96-'98 Chevy Tahoe that Jason bought from a dealer after he saw it on a car.
"I didn't want to cut corners with stamped-steel control arms," Jason says. "I wanted all tubular stuff and nothing but the best."
After a year of building, Jason is also poised to buy the Midas that he's worked at for the last nine years. He plans to use the first payday to add a supercharger and maybe meet some girls.
What: A big-block '72 El Camino.
Owner: Jason Abey, who we mistakenly referred to as just "Abey" until he asked what the hell was wrong with us.
Hometown: San Fernando Valley, California, also known as The Valley.
Body mods: Jason likes things looking clean so he shaved and filled everything but the bumpers and the window moldings. He also filled the gaps where the front fender meets the turn-signal housing and removed and filled the bedrail moldings and shaved a 11/44 inch off the bumper brackets so it would slide in toward the body. The hood is a 6-inch cowl from U.S. Body Source. Since the Sri Lanka flag has a lot of yellow in it, Jason painted the entire car Lexus-yellow chrome.
Engine: He bought the short-block after finding it in the classified ads for $200. Since he eventually wanted to add a supercharger, Jason used a set of oval-port heads and forged pistons from P.A.W. The static compression ratio is 8.5:1. "I don't like to wait for parts; I want to see the part and buy it the same day," he says. Valencia Auto Parts did the machining, and Jason assembled the parts at Midas.
Exhaust: One of the techs at the Midas is Tony Tooma. He is an exhaust guy who started tinkering and bending some pipes with an artist's eye. He became the go-to fabricator at the shop and made some "symmetrical" bends on the 211/42-inch tubes running to the Flowmaster mufflers.
Fuel: Jason had always been a Holley guy, but when the Barry Grant 750 Demon came out, he had to have one. "The Demon was just cool looking." He also added an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake; it's his favorite.
Heads: Why not a set of aluminum heads? "Rectangular ports were more popular, but I had a set of iron big-block oval-port heads from a boat that were ready so I used them." Jason also added some 1.7:1 Lunati roller rockers and Crane springs to match the Comp Cams hydraulic flat-tappet cam with 230 degrees at 0.050 and 0.520 lift.
Ignition: It has an MSD HEI with 8mm wires and ACDelco Rapid Fire plugs.
Interior: Remember the flag theme? The yellow is inset into the doors so the interior isn't just all grey. High Quality Upholstery in Santa Clarita, California, works on Ferraris and also Jason's interior. The seats are from a 3 Series BMW that a drifter kid who delivers parts to the shop gave up in favor of a set of Recaros. Jason scooped them up and dropped them in. The dashboard is custom with a rack of Auto Meter gauges, and the mirror switch is from a Toyota. All ideas he picked up from servicing other cars.
Pulleys: Since he had a '96 block, he called the local Chevy dealer and bought the entire serpentine system.
Rearend: He had 4.56 gears but decided 4.11 gears and an Auburn limited-slip unit were much more streetable.
Suspension: He used a spindle from a late-model Caprice and Global West tubular upper and lower control arms for a 1-inch drop in the front and an EMB adjustable tubular four-link with Hotchkis lowering springs for 3 down in the rear. After that, he measured the offset and had American Racing build a set of wheels that would clear.
Transmission: After he put the big-block in he began eating TH350s, so again he went to the classifieds and found a rebuilt TH400. He shortened the driveshaft and added a B&M Holeshot converter, Mega Shifter, and a Shift Improver Kit.
Wheels/Tires: Yes, that is a 20x10 wheel with 511/42-inch backspacing, but it tucks up nicely so he can get away with it. To turn, he uses an 18x8 wheel. Both are Torq-Thrust IIs from American Racing with 275/50R-18 and 20 tires.