402 Big-Block! 1971 Chevrolet El Camino

Disclosure: This site may receive compensation from some link clicks and purchases.

The nearly identical ’71/’72 Chevrolet Chevelle/El Camino SS seem endless in nature, almost as if there are more now than there were 50 years ago. The ease of cloning lesser Chevelles into something beyond their initial station in life has led to a cottage industry. This 1971 El Camino sort of goes in that direction, but not quite. And for that reason, this example is worthy of a closer look. Located in Gentry, Arkansas, this El Camino is available, here on eBay for a BIN price of $10,000. There is a make an offer option too.

From 1966 through 1970, a Super Sport (SS) designation on a Chevelle (’68-’70 for the El Camino) meant big block power, a 396 CI engine through ’69, and then the added excitement of Mr. Big, as Chevrolet called it, a 454 CI motor for ’70. All of that changed in 1971 when small-block engines were added to the Chevelle SS arsenal too. Chevrolet’s assumption was that buyers wanted the look and road handling ability of the SS but maybe not the insurance premium surcharges associated with the bigger engine. But another change also occurred in that a big-block engine was now, for the first time, allowed in a non-SS designated Chevelle. For the El Camino, it was a rerun as 396 CI V8’s had been allowed in non-SS-equipped vehicles in ’66 and ’67 (primarily because there was no El Camino SS in ’66 and ’67), but that was nixed with the introduction of the ’68 El Camino SS396. From that point forward, the Camino followed the Chevelle’s lead.

Starting with the ’70 model year, Chevrolet’s 396 V8 grew .030 of an inch in bore and now displaced 402 CIs. The 396 moniker, which was marketing gold, continued to be used in certain vehicles, others were referred to as a “400 Turbo-Jet” to distinguish the big-block from the “400 Turbo-Fire” small-block that was based on a similar architecture to the 350 CI engine. Confused? I don’t blame you, it was one of Chevrolet’s more mixed-message moments.

Today’s El Camino subject is one of those fairly rare, non-SS El Caminos powered by a 300 gross HP, 400 CI Turbo-Jet (really a 402) big block motor. The seller adds, “This El Camino has original paint and has original white SS stripes on a non-SS hood, very rare“. It is rare, I have only seen one other non-SS Chevelle/El Camino with stripes and that was on a ’71 Malibu that a high school classmate of mine acquired new, in the autumn of that year. Someone had ordered the car and then passed on taking delivery and my classmate got it on an end-of-model-year deal. It was odd-looking because it had not very visible black SS-style stripes placed over a dark green finish, but there was no doomed SS hood, just like this Camino. The seller adds, “Runs and drives, It should load on a trailer“. OK, so this 94K reported mile Chevy has some motivational difficulty. Having a big-block engine with an automatic transmission means being equipped with a Turbo-Hydramatic 400, three-speed automatic unit.

Besides the non-domed hood, the silver-painted rocker panels give evidence to this non- SS, Malibu-based (model 3680 per the VIN) origin. The finish is quite worn and showing what looks like rust-through in the lower passenger side fender leg and quarter panel, typical problem areas. It is obvious that trim is missing but the seller states that he has most or all of it. There is one image of the cargo bed and it appears to be sound. This Camino is another example of a vehicle that looks OK but is significantly enhanced by its Torque-Thrust wheels – always a nice addition.

The interior is a standard bench seat environment and the seating upholstery appears to be in fair condition. The carpet is missing which gives prospective buyers a better look at the floors. Minus the carpet, everything, with the exception of the headliner, is there. Something is up with that black steering wheel, it should be tan like the dash and steering column – it’s probably not original. Note the rust on the gear selector lever, that’s evidence of a damp environment.

The draw here is this Camino’s engine and the fact that it is so equipped without the SS option group – if a  350 CI engine or the lowly, standard 307 V8 were ensconced, the value would be a different matter. Sure, it needs work, but I see nice possibilities here, how about you?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. gbvette62

    This looks a lot like the El Camino I bought new in 71…..and still own. Mine has the L-48 4bbl 350/270, and a black vinyl top and black interior. This is only the third 71 El Camino I’ve ever seen painted Burnt Orange Metallic, besides mine and an SS I knew of 40 years ago. Mine still wears it’s original paint too, but thankfully, my El Camino’s in much better shape, having been garaged most of it’s life.

    The steering wheel’s not original and neither are the seat covers (the pattern’s wrong). It’s nice to see that the build sheet shows the RPO D88 Sport Stripes, to verify their originality. The build sheet also indicates this El Camino started life with a white vinyl top.

    This is actually an El Camino Custom. 71 El Camino’s came in two trim levels, base and Custom. The Custom was basically a Malibu level El Camino, adding carpet, Malibu seat covers and door panels, the silver paint along the lower body, wood grain applique on the tailgate and bright door window frame trim.

    Like 12
  2. Charles Atlas

    I prefer my 1986 Ford Escort Pony.
    White 2 door 4 sp, no radio.

    Like 9
    • Steve BushMember

      Charles, are you sure you’re ok?

      Like 19
  3. jerry z

    SOLD! I guess the price was right on the big block El Camino.

    Like 2
  4. William Smith

    I have a 1970 El Camino SS 396 and I purchased it in 1985 for $3,500.00 35,000 miles the guy that owned it used it to tow his pickle fork drag boat so he installed upgraded front and rear sway bars, and rear air bags. The paint was originally med metallic blue but he change the color to black, nice choice! I restored this beauty this past10 years and repainted it black with the new super shinny improved black paint. So the guy that owned this car had to sell it as he owned the IRS money, my gain. I take this car to all the local car shows and always get great complements.
    Now looking at the the 1971 El Camino that is advertised in the above ad first off I wouldn’t want a 1971 the front end design is ugly. The 1967, 68’s, and 69’s really look good and then the 1970 front end design is killer but when you get past the 70 forget it. Also I can see big rust problems all over the El Camino, floor pans, under the top edge of under the hood body rust, around the rear window, rust, oh my god terrible. I bet there’s plenty more rust areas under the outside trim, no thanks I myself wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole, were looking at mega big bucks to cut out and replace floor pans, and all the rest, good luck.

    Like 0

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.


Get new comment updates via email. Or subscribe without commenting.

Barn Finds