'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.
Take one basket case '65 El Camino, add a pile of parts, and stir in eight guys with wrenc
This is how the El Camino came to rest in the driveway. Note the large tin slab covering t
Ed Taylor found a well-used 350 short-block for $100 that we cleaned and bottle-brush-hone
After measuring bearing clearances, we added a set of Federal-Mogul 0.001-inch undersize m
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.
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.
Roughly a month before Build Day, Jim Peterson and son Patrick spent several long days and
Jim did all the messy bodywork and interior paint in our adjacent garage to minimize the d
Craig Boone volunteered to mount the new Year One gas tank and new sending unit.
To take a break from the bodywork, we also disassembled the stock 10-bolt to discover dead
Kris Shields brought over his stash of '65 Chevelle grilles and allowed us to pick the bes
After enduring the heat of the desert through Las Vegas and into Utah, the cooler temperatures of Colorado found us in Grand Junction by the end of the first day. After replacing the cut tire caused by an over-exuberant U-turn, we headed for our pal Scott Gillman's house for a half-day respite and a tour of Crested Butte at 9,000 feet. Leaving the next day, we cleared the peak of Monarch Pass on Highway 50 east of Gunnison with our little 350 wheezing through 11,300 feet but still running fine. We stayed overnight with family friends Gene and Crissy Christensen in Castle Rock, Colorado, before finding I-80. From there, we stopped overnight in Lincoln, Nebraska, where we shot an ex-Baldwin Motion and Car Craft All-Star Drag Racing Team Camaro before again laying down the miles for Iowa. By Saturday afternoon, Graham had parked the El Camino in his mom's driveway and had begun inviting all his friends over for a ride.
Our arrival also meant the end of the effort, and while it was rewarding that the car survived, it was also bit of an emotional letdown for us after the thrash of the previous two months. But this takes nothing away from what this small circle of friends and car crafters accomplished. While the build-it-in-a-week TV shows fire up the engine and call it complete, we built a bleached-bones roller from scratch in less than a week and then drove it 1,900 miles. And if you double-dog dared us-we'd do it again.
A previous owner had decided to convert this cruiser to factory A/C and then retreated to
The TH350 trans and stock converter came from an earlier project and bolted up easily enou
One of the biggest investments was in a complete new bumper-to-bumper wiring harness from
Luckily for us, Frank Saenz spent most of his time underneath the dash tracing wires and i
It was still morning when we discovered no oil pressure during a prelubing exercise. After
Our next challenge occurred when the driveshaft we had rebuilt weeks before didn't fit. Af
The following is an abbreviated list of the major components Year One supplied. The entire list is available on CarCraft.com. We'd also like to thank Year One for its help with this story. We couldn't have pulled it off without the company's cooperation.
|DESCRIPTION ||PN ||SOURCE ||PRICE |
|Dashpad ||SP064BLK ||Year One ||$182.00 |
|Rear-light harness ||LO7800 ||Year One ||128.00 |
|Dash harness ||L05955 ||Year One ||460.00 |
|Engine harness ||L05970 ||Year One ||150.00 |
|Forward-light harness ||L18010 ||Year One ||167.00 |
|Door panels, black ||IF065M10 ||Year One ||150.00 |
|Carpet, black ||6467EBLK10 ||Year One ||114.00 |
|Headlight bezel ||J6501 ||Year One ||129.00 |
|Headlight eyebrows ||DL5239 ||Year One ||87.00 |
|Headlight molding ||YD40 ||Year One ||51.90 |
|Parking-light assembly ||XQ89LH ||Year One ||85.00 |
|Parking-light assembly ||XQ89RH ||Year One ||85.00 |
|Fuel tank ||U98 ||Year One ||246.00 |
|PERFORMANCE PARTS || |
|Ingersoll-Rand impact ||2507K ||Jack Xchange ||339.50 |
|Grant steering wheel ||769 ||Summit Racing ||104.69 |
|Installation kit, Grant ||4181 ||Summit Racing || 18.95 |
|American Graffiti cover ||64-67 ||American Graffiti ||139.95 |
|Optima battery ||9004-003 ||Summit Racing ||129.88 |
|Auto Meter Sp. Comp tach ||3991 ||Summit Racing || 87.88 |
|Auto Meter voltmeter ||3592 ||Summit Racing || 37.95 |
|Auto Meter oil press. ||3522 ||Summit Racing || 49.88 |
|Auto Meter water temp. ||3531 ||Summit Racing || 41.88 |
|Auto Meter three-hole panel ||3233 ||Summit Racing || 13.95 |
|Proform alternator ||141657 ||Summit Racing ||107.39 |
|Proform alternator mount ||66114 ||Summit Racing || 8.88 |
|Proform dress kit ||141-900 ||Summit Racing ||179.95 |
|TD water-pump pulley ||6050 ||Summit Racing || 46.69 |
|TD crank pulley ||6052 ||Summit Racing || 36.88 |
|TD alternator pulley ||6059 ||Summit Racing || 36.69 |
|TD timing tab ||4960 ||Summit Racing || 3.39 |
|Randy's axles, 28-sp || G1255803 SH ||Randy's Axles ||162.57 |
|Randy's axle bearings || AK1563 ||Randy's Axles || 9.16 |
|Cover, 8.2 ||YPC1GM8.5-R ||Randy's Axles || 23.61 |
|Flowmaster mufflers, 2 ||9452553 ||Summit Racing ||199.76 |
|Flowmaster tailpipe ||15802 ||Summit Racing || 99.88 |
|Radiator, four-core ||10670 ||U.S. Radiator || 422.00 |
|Classic Tube trans lines ||CET1001 ||Classic Tube || 45.00 |
|Wilwood prop valve ||260-8419 ||Summit Racing || 41.88 |
The tool that was unanimously voted "Most Likely To Be Stolen by an Admiring Car Crafter"
As the day wore on, it began to look more like a Department of Transportation work site-yo
With the engine in place, we finally had a chance to appreciate the ProForm valve covers,
This was Sunday, a mere 36 hours before we were scheduled to hit the road. At this point,
Because we didn't have time to paint the El Camino before we left, we protected the car wi
After we chased the sun away, we broke for dinner and had a chance to recharge for a few m
After chasing a starter ground loop problem for an hour, we gave up just past midnight. Ou
Graham drove the first leg while still getting accustomed to manual steering through the G
Just to prove we were there, we took a quick jog through downtown Vegas. It was already ov
Even with the push to make it into Colorado the first day, we couldn't resist a detour pas
Some of the prettiest scenic views are just east of I-15 on I-70 in Utah in the Fishlake N
Our good friend Scott Gillman lives in Crested Butte, Colorado, which is way south of I-70
After mounting two new front tires in Grand Junction, we stopped in Montrose just long eno
While we were houseguests, we also performed front and rear wheelwell trim work after havi
After 1,900 miles, a cut tire, and an abused credit card as souvenirs, we finally arrived
After staying the night in Castle Rock with Gene and Crissy Christensen, Gene introduced u
667 West 100 North
80 Rotech Drive
Randy's Ring & Pinion
100 Enterprise Blvd.
Trans-Dapt Performance Products
700 Allen Avenue
PO Box 129
5757 N. Green Bay Ave.