Car WTFs

Will She Dig It? The Chevy El Camino

Car WTFs

Tyler is a writer and pastor's kid who infrequently writes about being a pastor's kid. A full-time automotive journalist, Tyler buoys himself with car facts that might kill a more reasonable person.

We’d like to welcome you back to our Will She Dig It? series, where we take a look at cars and trends from the past that were, for better or worse, perceived to be chick magnets. This month, we get mixed signals from the Chevy El Camino.

Ever since I was pre-verbal, I understood the Chevy El Camino to be something best admired not for its resale value or aesthetics, but rather for the covenant El Camino drivers shared with one another. The same unspoken tip-touch connects El Camino drivers that binds New York Jets fans or cancer survivors. There’s an insular society to each, and while I’m in no way suggesting that subjecting your children to a car/truck whatzit that’s mocked mercilessly and won’t stop overheating is somehow similar to a round of chemo, the fact that El Camino owners don’t memorialize their collective struggle with ribbons or road races is probably just further evidence of a comical lack of vanity.

Your author and some guy who's probably drowning in tail.

Your author and a guy who’s probably drowning in tail.

A bridge too far? Let me explain.

I’m the son of an absolute El Camino evangelist, a man who owned no fewer than seven such vehicles during my pube-sproutin’ years. I’ve spent whole winters when my dad’s next project occupied the garage stall under a cherry picker while my mom’s Audi sat in the snow. I’ve been dropped off a block away from school so that my sixth-grade friends, who I sincerely hope are enjoying a crippling meth addiction as karmic retribution for their inescapable mockery, wouldn’t see a project lacking a hood and driver’s-side door. I’ve actually felt the uncertain anxiety of a seat spring poking my balls, and a farm-found 1977 Elky is to blame.

But then there’s this: we ended up loving all of these goddamn cars. My brother’s first ride was a truly terrifying ‘79 with a four-on-the-floor that Dad gifted with a 350ci upgrade. In a cartoonish 1974 edition, I blew through waist-high snow drifts and, albeit not simultaneously, got laid on a bench seat boasting an upholstery pattern that I’ve never seen replicated. And my dad, bless him, has never been more at home than when he’s in a wrecking yard digging for his next recovery. The El Camino was indestructible, and at least one woman–I call her “Mom”–fell for this shit.

It might be the only vehicle ever created where the first step in haggling with a seller is convincing them that it’s utterly without worth, even to you. It’s also a vehicle where purchasing one cheaply is a source of pride, as if the El Camino buyer knows something that the rest of us don’t.

chevy el camino

The optional tagline was, “How do you not fuck this?”

The rub, of course, is that they might. The fact that the El Camino was in production for nearly 30 years, and that it’s still exceedingly easy to find parts, speaks to its enduring viability, as much as this would seem to defy reason to a normal person with, you know, eyeballs. It’s ugly; we know that. But although it wasn’t the first of its kind (the Ford Ranchero, which sucks, beat it by two years), it still is the best: a muscle car with a bed for storing work supplies or, if you’re feeling randy, babes.

The necessary creation of Chevy’s S-10 eventually made the El Camino expendable, and while the spirit of the coupe utility (yes, seriously) lives on in coke-frenzied markets such as Brazil and South Africa, we’ll never realistically see the likes of it again in America.

Which, I would argue, is for the best. Do you remember the late-’70s Malibu? Or the Caprice? Of course you don’t. But the El Camino lives on, if only in our memories, and in the occasional and fanciful concept. And that’s exactly where it should stay.

What makes it worthy of digging, you ask? I’ll let my mom tell it: “It was low, it was loud, and you kids couldn’t come along. And I could tell how much your dad loved driving it.”

So, will she dig it? The verdict is an undeniable “yes,” and I’d say my presence on this planet is pretty firm evidence of that.

We’ll see you next month in our “Will She Dig It?” series, where we let high-performance pickups such as the F-150 Raptor and Chevy Reaper have their way with us.

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