Sometimes a car is more than a car. Sometimes it's a truck, other times it's a punchline, or even a song. Found recently in Park Slope as celebrated in lyrics by Ween, I present to you the HOT TOMATO!
What we have here is a 1976 Chevrolet El Camino in Crimson Red. There was a Chevy passenger car color that looks very similar to this called Medium Orange but I'm 99% certain the paint choices for El Camino were listed amongst the colors for Chevy trucks.
This is a tricky year to identify because most El Caminos were built with 4 stacked square headlights in '76, with only the base model retaining the single round headlight on each side such as this one. We know it's not a '75 or '77 due to subtle yearly changes in the grill.
Here is this big beauty in all her glory. The idea of a vehicle that was part car part truck has been around in various forms since the '30s. However, the El Camino was first introduced in 1959 and '60 (those first years look absolutely amazing). After a few year hiatus it came back in '64 and continued on up through 1987, looking very much like the Chevelles, Malibus, and Monte Carlos of the same years.
This one looks ready to work with a protective bed liner installed.
1976 was the height of the Malaise era in domestic auto production, and the El Camino is no different. Its massive overweight proportions are somewhat exacerbated by the fact that it does have a large and useful pickup bed. The 2 door Chevy coupes of the day had about the same dimensions and managed to look as slow as they actually were.
Things get pretty interesting on the inside of this beast though as it's sporting a floor mounted stick shift! It also seems to have air conditioning and an 8-track stereo. I'm pretty sure that gray velour seat is an aftermarket replacement, though the overall pattern looks correct. You've gotta love the Baroque faux-luxury details of this era such as a woodgrain strip in the steering wheel center.
The Chevy station wagons of this year also had their taillights set into the bumper but it consisted of one rectangle per side. I believe this quad light rear bumper is unique to the mighty El Camino.
Fitting this beast in a tight space would be pretty difficult due to the voluptuous shape.
El Camino means "The Path" in Spanish, sometimes referred to as "The Road". This was the era of Cordoba, Nova, and Monte Carlo so you know it was more about sounding foreign than the meaning.
The base engine for the '76 El Camino was the 250 inline 6-cylinder which must've been unbelievably underpowered! What could you expect to haul with that tiny motor in a car that already weighs 2 tons? Usually dual exhaust and stick shift would ensure that a V8 lives under the hood, but in this instance the 6 is possible as it was available with a 3 speed manual. Chances are that this ride was built with either the terribly wimpy 305 V8 (155 horsepower!), or the somewhat better 350. Either way this is not a performance vehicle by any stretch.
The angled tailgate allows for the El Camino to use the same quarter panels as the station wagon for this year.
I included this pic because it was the first I took and I couldn't fit it into the frame even with my back pressed up against the gate behind me. Good for this owner finding a parking spot!
From this close-up shot you can see that the round headlight is set into a square cradle that looks too small for its setting. This is because the standard stacked square quad headlights of the higher trim models fits into the same opening. This also explains why the lights emerge from the raised housing that is higher than the grill.
Most of my life I considered the El Camino the most ridiculous and pointless thing ever produced. These days I enjoy their rarity and absurdity as nothing on the road looks like them. The fact that someone drives one year-round in 2015 Brooklyn makes me happier than it should, so hats off!
Here's your Friday bonus folks; thanks for playing. I saw this thing and figured "why not?". However, once I took the 3 pics you see here I was run off by some people who came out of The Essence of Life. They were a bit older and really furious that I would have the gaul to take pictures of a 30 year old minivan. You'd think I was hanging out in the vestibule filming people typing their ATM numbers by their reaction!
I mean, I understand you don't want anybody looking to make off with these sweet rims. I started with my standard "Hi, I love old cars and have a blog where I write about them with pictures" but the guy was just shaking his head saying "NO. NO. NO." with his arms crossed and the lady was saying "It belongs to an 80 year old friend who doesn't appreciate people just taking pictures" etc. I apologized and backed away because really I was snapping it as an afterthought since it was parked across the street from the El Camino.
With that I will share this emblem trumpeting the mighty EFI V6 that powers this beauty. My advice to people seeking the Essence of Life is to be careful! Permission will not be granted. And with that, enjoy your weekend!