27 Years In A Lean-To: 1969 Chevrolet El Camino SS

When I first saw that this was an SS396 El Camino, I immediately was suspicious. We’ve seen a lot of SS badged Chevrolet vehicles that turn out to be just that; badged. However, this one looks real and comes with documentation that’s shown in the listing here on eBay. While it was produced in Fremont, California based on the VIN, it’s spent most of its time in Utah, and is currently in Cedar City. Bidding is starting at $5,000 with a reserve, but $7,500 would buy it now if you are so inclined.

This clean looking car/truck has a few rough edges (as we’ll show in some later pictures) but is generally pretty smooth. It looks like the paint that’s on it is original and the vinyl top is still there. The seller tells us that the vehicle has solid floors and around the windows, where some of this particular vintage El Caminos have a tendency to become perforated.

However, the holes you typically see at the bottom of the front fenders are there. You can also see some headers and aftermarket speakers in this photo, so if you are looking to return this El Camino to stock, you’ll have some work on your hands.

Under the car does look pretty solid, although everything does have a healthy coating of surface rust. I do appreciate the seller showing us the underside of the vehicle, though.

Obviously, the inside could stand some help. But how would you look if you had been sitting under a lean to for 27 years? Yeah, you’d be a little rough looking as well. And yes, those are air conditioning vents under the dashboard.

Wait a minute! I thought you said this was an SS396, Jamie? Well, it is, but unfortunately around 30 years ago, the 396 was replaced with a 1968 Chevelle 327 small block. The seller has got it running, but with a miss. And I doubt that anyone putting this car back on the road will be leaving the small block in there, anyway. Would you?


Fast Finds


  1. Dan

    Actually those vents are for the “Astro ventilation” as Chevy called it.

    Like 2
    • dm

      The A6 AC compressor and some brackets are in the bed. The evaporator, POA, and expansion valves are still in place. That means that the Astro Ventilation may, at some time, get assistance from a functional AC system someday.

      • gbvette62

        Yes, that El Camino is a factory AC car, something not to common in SS’s.

        68 to 72 El Caminos didn’t come with Astro-Ventilation, and I don’t think Chevelle wagons or 4 doors got it either. They all still had vent windows. Only the 2 door hardtop A-body’s came with Astro-Ventilation, instead of vent windows.

        Like 1
  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    I hate it when someone pulls the big block engine and drops in something else; they might as well have dropped in a six. One of the first things I’d be doing was to locate (at least) a big block, even if I couldn’t find a 396. Definitely restore this one right down to the A-C and have it like the day it rolled out of the factory. Well, a driver-quality restoration anyways. They were great in their original livery.

    • Steve

      You have to realize that 40 years ago these were just cheap used cars. People used them as daily drivers (I had a daily driver 71 EC back in the late 80’s/ early 90’s with just a 350, and bought a 90’s Ford tempo with a 4 banger to replace it as a daily driver, but kept the EC for a while.) The old big block was either tired or got blown. Gas prices were on the rise and instead of junking a good car, a good small block was bolted in to keep it on the road.

      My brother had a similar car about 10 yrs ago. His wife’s grandpa had bought a 71 EC SS new. He was a GM dealer mechanic, I forget which branch. It was dark green in and out. Solid car but needed a resto. Bench seat and column shift (some forget that buckets and console were still an option), but It originally had the LS5 454 and a TH400. It got pulled for some reason and a 350 put in its’ place. Grandpa got put in a nursing home and the EC got put up for sale. My brother bought it not running for $1k, with the understanding that the 454 was in a shed. Unfortunately it wasn’t. He later found an LS5 core motor out of a 71 Impala wagon. Closest thing to original as he would ever get. Unfortunately, he decided to build a house and the EC got put up for sale. He gave me first chance, but I was a poor apprentice electrician at the time and had to pass. He got the 350 running and sold it for $6k with the LS5 sitting in the bed.

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Hi Steve. Yes, I understand that back in the day people just dropped in whatever they could find. It still bugs me just the same. You see it all the time: GTO Judge, minus motor and transmission; Chevelle SS396, minus the 396; Torino Cobra Jet, minus the Cobra Jet; it goes on like a stuck record. I have visions of future muscle cars powered by steroid-fed hamsters in lightened and balanced tread mills…

        Like 1
  3. JDJonesDR

    Looks like an excellent starting point to me. If I didn’t have to pay so much in import taxes I’d jump on this.

    Like 1
  4. FH

    Having grown up with one of these cars brand new off the showroom floor, along with owning a ’72 at one point, the interior is the problem child here beside the lack of 396…gotta have the buckets and console/shifter.

    And although it’s far better looking, that steering wheel looks to be ’68 as well…it’s a Cool El though, love to have it !

    Like 1
  5. Vince Habel

    This was a A/C car. It has the vents in the center of the dash

  6. AJH

    how are the lower control arm pockets in the frame they had a habit of rusting out right in front of that from the top?. I had to replace two frames under two different El Caminos because the back in act like it had hinges when you got on it hard it would flop because of the Rusted frame.

  7. Doug Towsley

    Looks Like a sweet project to me. We are full up on Chevelle projects here (68 & 69) but this is a tempting project. We ALMOST bought one at the Oregon Chevelle and EC Club regional west coast meet in Canby Oregon about 7-8 years back. It was a 68 and a little worse for wear than this one. But a deal came thru for the ideal project my wife wanted (69 Malibu) so we went that direction instead.

    While the rivet counters and restoration people may LOVE the original 396, You can keep them. This is worth restoring so , not hard to get a date code correct block and go that route. But I have owned big blocks and over rated. The 396 never made sense. If you pay the weight penalty which is significant might as well go 454 and put 396 stickers on the air cleaner. But a well set up small block will run circles around a Big block car any day and way more enjoyable to drive.

    I vote 2 thumbs up for this project car,,, Nice find.

    Like 1
  8. Rocco

    Wasn’t ’69 the first year for the 402 to replace the 396 even though they kept the 396 badges?

    • ACZ

      No. 1970.

      Like 1
      • Rocco

        Thanks ACZ

    • mickey thompson

      My 1969 was produced late and came with a 402.

  9. stillrunners lawrence Member

    Yep…a little on the high side without the 396….but with it….it might be on the low side of BIN….not all SS got the buckets console….I for one like my lady to easily slide over if she get’s the notion…..good car/truck to just drive for a little less…but hell nice one’s are getting really hard to find.


    Factory Tach and gauges, original optional sport wheel, Astro Ventilation was an option in 1969! And factory A/C, with pump & brackets still there, even has the correct original open element Air filter! with the rolled lip. This car is perfect !! Go for re-stamp dime a dozen block and build it the way you want :)

  11. C Carl

    Cool car, realistic price. I would drive/wrench it for a year or two then flip it.


    Had a big 69 for 20 years, gave it to my son, he had it another 10 years. Fun to work on, easy to work on. Parts are available and everything economical. This car is 3 hours from me….my wife would kill me, but I miss mine a bunch. I too, am confident this is a true SS. The front fender trim, the 12 bolt, the th400, yes it’s an SS car
    It’s another car, that wouldn’t make you any money, but you would love driving it daily. Oh one important thing, the vinyl top …. it’s gotta go…. in my opinion.
    For a total investment of about 15 k , you could have a great ,quick, and different hot rod

  13. Raymond Goshorn

    I got a 69 El Co for a “Hot Rod resto” and it has a 454 and a T350 that needs alot of work, but come on, wait a while and offer him $6250.00 and call it even. The El Co’s are really getting harder to find and while mine has about the same amount of fender and bed rust, it does look like it’s in a lot better condition than this. Two flat tires and a 8.2″ 10 bolt is my Kryptonite, I will be having fun for years driving around in the San Fernando Valley like I did back in 1968 to 1974 in the 427 68 Camaro!! Ahhh, the memories!!

  14. dan Browning

    I bought a new 1970 el 350 cubic in 400turbo automatic tranny . traded it in for a 1972 SS 454 cubic in 400 automatic Cowel induction if it was extra I ordered it . vynal top .yellow with black interior a n black out side trim .
    tom much engine weight up front . ordered the lowest rear gear that the factory offered
    110 mph top speed
    it needed an electric booster pump to keep the engine running

    Like 1
  15. sluggo

    What did this end up selling for?? This was a posting from 2017,,
    But my point would be, Big blocks can be fun, but wasting your time with a 396,,, go 454 and put 396 stickers on the air cleaner if you like.
    But you pay a penalty in handling , braking and driveability with a big block. This has such a light back end too….. So Small block is very sensible and can build a hot SBC for peanuts..

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