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El Caminos Club of Bakersfield - Strength In Numbers

The El Caminos Club Of Bakersfield Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts.

Photography by Steve Campbell

While the primary aim of the club is to enjoy the pickups and friendships, mentoring has become a secondary benefit. "Among our group, we have a welder, master mechanics, a paint-and-body man-the gamut," Lopez says. "We want to bring in that kind of talent and nurture it and network with it. That way the young guys can learn from the older ones. That's a hidden aspect of the car club-helping those younger guys. Our club is family oriented. It's not a bunch of boys who sneak away and do their own thing. We bring our [wives/girlfriends] and kids with us."

Among those who help teach others is Rudy Maldenado, who owns a flamed '59. It's equipped with a 502 big-block, which Rudy-a mechanic by profession-installed himself. He's been into early Chevrolets since he was a kid, so he's quite open to sharing his expertise with others. And his hobby is shared with his family.

"The thing is, my wife loves old cars, too," Rudy explains. "I've got a lot of friends who like old cars, but their wives hate 'em. I was telling her the other day that we need to sell one of our cars to make room for a new one. She said, "Well, don't sell the old cars."

Another member, Oscar Jimenez, also involves his family in his project. He bought a '78 El Camino with a 350/350 combination seven years ago for $700. He has now invested about $8,900, including custom paint applied by his brother-in-law and interior work by his brother. He has mounted 20-inch rims and is set up for street performance.

The member cars also include a true SS '68 owned by Betty Paulk and her husband, Roger, who bought it four years ago for $8,500. They wanted a 454 when they acquired it, so Roger visited the local GM Performance outlet and ordered the first 450hp LS7 engine in Bakersfield. It was Betty's idea to hinge the storage compartment door in the bed behind the cab, and that's where they positioned the battery. The opening is actuated with air shocks, with a hidden latch under the framerail.

The club prides itself on working together to achieve common goals, and the members plan to expand the concept throughout the state. They just opened a new chapter in San Jose and are exploring other locations where interested owners are looking for like-minded El Camino fans. Those who fit that criterion may contact Richard Lopez via e-mail at or visit, which is the club's Web site.

The owner of the '72 orange EL Camino with a camper shell is 72-year-old Dean LeMasters. He and his wife bought the 350/350 pickup several years ago at an auction. Last year, a CHP officer pulled Dean over to say that he remembered the vehicle. The previous owner apparently street-raced the El Camino and is currently incarcerated for reckless driving in the L.A. area. Dean is not so cavalier with his driving. Harold Meeks, who happens to be the owner of the local Chevy dealership, 3 Way Chevrolet, had his '70 El Camino restored as a 502ci SS clone. It sports gloss-black paint and a black interior as well as some chrome accessories. The '71 tangerine-orange El Camino belongs to 19-year-old Cody Schneider. It's powered by a 350ci engine backed by a TH350 automatic transmission with a 3,000-rpm-stall torque converter that Cody installed with his dad, Lawrence. Father and son are grateful for The El Caminos Club's hard work and efforts to provide the membership with events and support they can enjoy. Cody is now in college and allows his younger sister Delaney to drive the El Camino to Foothill High School.

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