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1965 Chevrolet El Camino - Take The Ultimate Road Trip

Build A Musclecar In One Day (OK, Maybe A Little Longer) And Drive It 2,000 Miles-All Without The Help Of A TV Production Company.

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'It sounded like a great idea at the time. Take one gutted musclecar and a big pile of pieces, turn this cast-off '65 El Camino into a running car in one day, then take it on a road trip. It didn't work out exactly that way, but it wasn't from lack of trying or lack of sweat. It all started when we scored the Elco through our pal Jim Peterson for the righteous price of $1,800. The reason it was so cheap was because it was a stripper-we're talkin' not even so much as a steering column. This also meant it was without all those essential little parts that are the furthest from your mind when you're staring down the relatively straight quarter-panels of a virtually rust-free car.

That's when someone suggested we invite all our car buddies over for the Car Craft version of an old-fashioned barn raising. In rural America, when you want to build a new barn, you invite all your friends and neighbors over to swing hammers. Just to add a little pressure to the plan, we scheduled our Southern California build date for July 15 and planned to drive the thing to Iowa for a football scrimmage on August 7. The no-excuses part of this effort meant that, unlike those Hollywood TV shows, the car had to be 100 percent functional for its 1,900-mile shakedown.

There are probably thousands of dudes who could build a car completely by themselves in a couple of weeks. But we're social guys, and the barn-raising idea was appealing. We thought it would be great fun to invite some friends, feed them meat and soda, and ply them with promises of stardom in the pages of Car Craft. The Car Craft version of the barn raising would happen very quickly. It was the classic Tom Sawyer routine, and somehow it worked. And most of them still speak to us now that it's over.

If you haven't figured it out by now, we didn't really build this car in one day. It took closer to a hundred man-hours of prep work to get it ready for Build Day (B-Day) and then easily that effort again in post-build detailing. Then we hit the road and drove it almost exactly 1,900 miles from Los Angeles to the sleepy little hamlet of Jefferson, Iowa, where the El Camino now resides. The trip was a blast, marred with only the most minor of ego-scuffing faults. After a whole first day of constant nail-biting over what was going to fall off first, the trip became what it was supposed to be: fun. Yes, it was a ton of work to get this early A-body rolling, but it was more than worth the effort and is worthy of retelling for the next decade. In fact, now that our knuckles have healed and the effects of sleep deprivation have subsided, we're ready to do it again-as long as it's somebody else's car this time.

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