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1978 El Camino SS: Party In The Back

1978 Chevy El Camino SS

We haven’t featured an El Camino in a while, and this 1978 SS with a factory manual transmission looked like a good candidate. It’s available here on craigslist in Washington state for $6,850 and is up for grabs due to a death in the family. It looks like a clean, affordable project with all of the obvious utility of an El Camino.

Chevy El Camino SS

The El Camino is one of the last examples of a car that truly combined the best features of a car-like cabin with the usefulness of a truck bed. The Subaru Baja was an anomaly at every level, whereas the El Camino actually looked good while trying to be two different vehicle types. There’s also the Dodge Rampage, which wasn’t a bad-looking alternative but are very hard to find in good condition.

El Camino SS Interior

The El Camino featured here has the venerable Chevy 350 with a 4-speed transmission! When was the last time you saw a 4-speed in one of these? I suspect the fire extinguisher is some indication of some high-performance mods under the hood, but I suppose it could also be the result of a safety-minded owner. Either way, the interior appears to be in great shape and the manual transmission is a welcome sight.

1978 El Camino SS

The body looks pretty straight in this photo (and the other images captured in the ad). All El Caminos wear white-letter tires well, and the polished hubcaps are a great look. My feeling is most of the El Caminos I spot are in tired condition, so the fact that this look looks well-loved makes the asking price seem fair. You could use this as a daily driver, weekend cruiser or some combination of both, once the added utility is factored in. How would you use an El Camino?


  1. Avatar photo DENIS

    Looks like a nice one…wish it was closer, I’d like to own it….

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  2. Avatar photo Stang1968

    Looks like it might have been off the road for a while…Washington phased out the green and white plates nearly 25 years ago. Not sure if they let you use them as year of manufacture plates since they don’t have embossed year codes like the earlier ones.

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  3. Avatar photo Woodie Man

    Love the 4 speed…not so much the mid seventies dash design and Grandpa’s plush GM seat design. That said the 4 speed makes up for a lot.

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  4. Avatar photo Duffy

    Looks like a great vehicle. The four speed is a plus. The seats look pretty decent, design wise for this vehicle. Maybe dated but nice. Price seems fair for the condition of the vehicle. Good fine

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  5. Avatar photo Donnie

    The vin number is not al there it should have 13 digits it only has 12 .1W808K531761 the 5th digit should be M OUR A OUR U OUR L .M IS FOR V6 A IS A V6 U IS A 305 V8 L IS A 350.It could have been a 6 cylinder 3 speed manual at first and latter had the 4 speed and 350 put in it It is still a cool car just may not be a factory SS

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    • Avatar photo Rocco

      I thought the 305 was the biggest eng you could get in that yr. SS or not.

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      • Avatar photo Donnie

        At Gbodycentral.com is where I went to look at the vin decoder for a 1978 I thought that it having a 350 did not sound right. I don’t think it is a SS I think it started out as a 6 with a 3 speed.

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      • Avatar photo Duffy

        Your correct.

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  6. Avatar photo 64 bonneville

    Didn’t the factory SS come with buckets and a console as part of the package. With a digit missing in the VIN, can’t tell what motor is supposed to be in it. would also like to see the trim tag on the firewall. The asking is not to high for the apparent shape it is in. I have seen 4 78-80 model El Caminos’ with a 3 speed, but 3 were 6 cylinders, the 4th one was a 305 4 speed SS, with buckets and console, and complete gauge package in the instrument panel.

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  7. Avatar photo brakeservo

    A few years ago I acquired a similar 1980 4-spd El Camino in Portland, Oregon probably within 60 miles of this one. The big difference – the one I obtained had been restored over a 10 year period with total expenditures exceeding $60,000! A brand new one sitting on the showroom floor wouldn’t have looked any better nor have any hope of catching it – the small block had been thoroughly hot-rodded so that it really needed race gas to run properly but what a kick to drive! It was also nearly impossible to sell. It was the absolute last car I ever ran through the Rustle & Steal Scottsdale Auction (and what an experience dealing with that band of thieves as they actually tried to legally STEAL the car). A small display ad in Road & Track Magazine finally found a buyer for about 1/3 of the restoration cost and about five thousand higher than the reserve at Rustle & Steal! No, I didn’t restore it (I’m not that crazy) but did buy it in order to sell a Bentley (and that’s another long story . . . ) Oh, my experience with Rustle & Steal?? They actually tried to trick me into signing a sales agreement for a price half the reserve figure to one of their insider good old boys! There’s a reason they’ve earned the sobriquet ‘Rustle & Steal.’ You’ve been warned!

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  8. Avatar photo Fred

    It is not a factory standard shift car, unless the steering column was changed. Factory manual transmissions had a lever to release the key from the ignition switch. I had a 1978 Monte Carlo and a 1978 Malibu wagon, both with 305’s and 4 speeds, and both were bought from the original WOMAN owners on Long Island.

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  9. Avatar photo Rick

    Pretty sure Washington State will let you put a year of manufacture plate on your car if it is at least 30 yrs old. The embossed year on the plate is not req’d because that was dropped after the original 1963 series; the correct year sticker is req’d however. It’s possible these were the original plates on this rig when new.

    Like 0

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