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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.

Photography by ,

In The Beginning
Imagine stripping every last sheetmetal screw out of your car and tossing most of it out. That's how this orphan arrived at our doorstep. Despite our experience with Chevelles, this pile still pitched more curves than a Pamela Anderson foldout. The previous owner had 'glassed in the original gas-filler door and the firewall heater openings for that "custom" treatment that demanded dozens of hours to repair.

We started promptly at 8 a.m., mainly because we knew we couldn't spare even a minute. After an injection of doughnuts and coffee, all took on their assigned assembly duties. Initially, my goal was to spend time under the car to detail the drivetrain and exhaust. Instead, I spent most of the morning searching for parts that had somehow grown legs and hidden in various corners of the shop. Lesson one: You can't be too organized. However, you can be easily frustrated. Over the course of the day, we managed to immobilize two otherwise running Chevelles/El Caminos to scavenge parts for this project. It wasn't pretty. What did work well was the Flowmaster mufflers and tailpipes hooked to a pair of Walker exhaust pipes. The key to our success was not only our friends' efforts but also their generosity in digging up parts. It may take until the year 2015 for us to repay all these altruistic favors.

B-Day Plus 10
OK, so we didn't get the car actually running in one day. We could have, but we chose sleep over wrenching. While we did drive the Camino on the second day, it was nowhere near finished. We had a ton of stuff to do, including installing the carpet, re-covered seat, and door panels; slipping in both the front and rear windows; and mounting the tailgate, grille, and both bumpers with brackets that Jim gave us from his secret stash. If you've ever restored a musclecar, you know the details will make you or break you. Here's where Year One really came through with dozens of little items like new keys and lock cylinders for the doors and the seemingly trivial things like correct-size sheetmetal screws for all the little interior parts. Our final test was to load the Camino onto a trailer and haul it to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get a VIN verification. Luckily, past experience taught us how to avoid the DMV's land mines, and we escaped with new California plates in our hands. Now the fun could legally begin.

Road Trip!
Barely two weeks after resurrecting the Elco from its 15-year coma, Graham Smith slid behind the wheel at 5 a.m. and pointed the car dead east. A staggering number of things had not been completed, including the stereo (thank the lord for iPods) and speedometer to name just a couple. But the essential parts all worked, and we set off for points east. The first failure was minor when the windshield wipers wouldn't turn off thanks to a 40-year-old switch of indeterminate lineage.

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