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Chevrolet El Camino: Half Car, Half Truck, All Business

American, Classics, Concept Cars, Culture, Featured  /   /  By Nina Russin

In 1968, Chevrolet stuffed its big block turbo-jet engine under the hood of the El Camino and called it the SS. Arguably Chevrolet’s first crossover vehicle, the El Camino was 10 years old at the time and was outpacing Ford’s similarly-styled Ranchero. Today, 1968-1972 El Caminos, including this outstanding 1968 Chevrolet El Camino on sale now, are among the most collectible of the car’s 23-year production run, with concourse-quality cars valued at $27,000 according to Hagerty Insurance.

How It Started

“Ford was first with a car-based pickup truck, originally built in Australia in response to a farmer’s wife’s request for a vehicle that could carry the couple to church on Sunday, but pigs to market on Monday,” explained editorial director Larry Edsall. “GM-affiliate Holden followed suit, and eventually in the U.S. we had the Ford Ranchero and the Chevrolet El Camino, which certainly became the most popular of the genre.”


El Camino is Spanish for “the way.” Chevrolet’s 1959 model introduced in response to the Ford Ranchero was based on the Brookwood two-door station wagon. Since General Motors was late to the dance, the car didn’t sell particularly well and was discontinued after 1960. In 1964, Chevrolet reintroduced its car-based truck—building it off the then-new Chevelle platform.

It was no surprise that the El Camino followed in the Chevelle’s muscle car footsteps, with an available 450-horsepower LS6 engine available for the 1970 model year. What could be better than a car that could go to church, haul hay, and burn rubber?

Why Did It Go Away?

Blame it on the 1970s. In that era, oil embargoes and federally-mandated emissions controls wielded the death blow to American muscle cars.

Yet, a downsized version of the El Camino for the 1978 model year was a mishmash of parts sourced from other models, the Chevrolet Chevelle and Monte Carlo among them. Those not equipped with Oldsmobile’s disreputable diesel engines came with detuned Chevrolet small blocks rated at 180-horsepower. A Mexican-built version was discontinued after 1987, its horsepower diminished to 145 and sales eclipsed by Chevrolet’s new compact S-10 pickup.

It’s Back

This could have been the end of the story, but some ideas are too good to fade away. In January 2015, Hyundai unveiled its Santa Cruz truck concept at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. With its hexagonal grille, oversized wheels, and Brembo brakes, the all-wheel drive Santa Cruz was clearly the Millennial version of El Caminos past.



Hyundai’s concept stole the show and kept on rolling, winning North American Concept Truck of the Year that July and in December, a Good Design award presented by Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and European Centre for Architecture Art Design.

Apparently, burning rubber out of the church parking lot never goes out of style.

About the Author

Nina Russin is an ASE certified automotive technician and writer who has been covering the automotive industry for 30 years. She was a weekly automotive columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for 10 years, and a contributor to AutoWeek, Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, Cycle World, and AAA Arizona Highroads Magazine. Russin is co-founder and president of Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year, an annual competition.

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  1. Joe Swankie March 31, 2016 at 10:32 am Reply

    The elCamino in the picture is a 1969 not a 1968. The tailgate has the backup lights in the tailgate. In 1968 they were in the bumper. If it is a ’68 it has the wrong tailgate. Check the numbers on the tail light lenses.

  2. ROGER May 11, 2016 at 4:41 am Reply

    The 69 had SS emblems on the fenders and the hood had chrome vents in the back . Came with a 396…SS on the rear also.

  3. n8 March 1, 2018 at 9:01 am Reply

    How DARE you not pay homage to the Subaru Brat. Actually it’s ok, don’t.

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