Freshly Built V8: 1966 Chevrolet El Camino

The coupe utility was designed to provide the comfort of a passenger car with the ruggedness of a pickup. This 1966 El Camino has obviously not led a pampered life, but it has survived its years of hard labor remarkably well. All it needs now is for a caring owner to take the opportunity to return it to its former glory, and they will find themselves the proud owner of a versatile and comfortable vehicle. The El Camino is located in Vacaville, California, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $1,025, and I’m not at all surprised that the reserve hasn’t been met. There is also a BIN option available, and this has been set at $7,250.

Finished in what is now a pretty tired coating of Roman Red, the El Caminos of this era had a tough look about them. Generally speaking, the vehicle seems to be solid, although it does have one or two rust issues that will need to be attended to at some point. The worst of these appear to be in the floor under the driver’s seat, which has been addressed by riveting a plate over the problem. I would be looking to do something a bit more permanent to this, while the rust in the bottom of the lower front fender should be a fairly easy repair. The bed is displaying all of the wear-and-tear that you would expect from a true workhorse, but this should be able to be made to look tidy again with little work.

The theme of obvious wear-and-tear continues when you open the doors and take a look around inside the Chevy. The dash pad is cracked, there is no carpet or mat on the floor, while the lumpiness of the seat under that aftermarket cover suggests that things probably look a bit grim there as well. There is wear on the wheel, while the wheel center and shifter handle both exhibit the sort of corrosion which can be a result of time spent in a damp environment. It could all be restored with no huge dramas, and the vast majority of the issues could easily be addressed by an owner who knows how to use a set of hand-tools.

Popping the hood brings its share of good news. Looking past the liberal coating of detailing spray that is evident, the under-hood area still presents well. The engine bay originally housed a 327ci V8. However, that suffered a bottom-end failure at some point in the past, so a 350ci short-block has taken its place. The original 327 cylinder heads have been fitted to this, but only after being treated to hardened valve seats and a set of roller rockers, along with new valve springs and retainers. The cylinder heads, intake, and carburetor are all original to the car, which now runs and drives really well. Power from the engine finds its way to the rear wheels via a Powerglide transmission, while the El Camino also features power steering and a refreshed braking system.

I stand by my belief that this is a pretty tough looking vehicle, and they can easily be made to perform as well as they look. Given the fact that they are significantly lighter than the wagon from which they are derived, they can provide some pretty impressive performance. Their greatest weakness in that role is the fact that they have a fairly light rear end, making for some potentially lively moments trying to put the power to the road under certain conditions. This one is a vehicle with a lot of potential, and even though I’m a person who favors vehicles that wear the blue oval, it is still one that I wouldn’t mind parking in my driveway. How about you?


  1. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    A ‘64 or ‘65 would be our first choice but we would not push this ‘66 out of the driveway-it’s very workable.

    Like 6
  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    My dad had an almost identical twin to this one. Well, it was a ’66 and it was red. Dad’s was powered by a 283 and he had bucket seats with a console. Interesting that Dad ordered it with buckets; apparently if you wanted buckets you automatically got the console unless you specified to delete it. Dad didn’t like the floor shifter but I wasn’t complaining. Dad ran the wheels off it in two years and after a Ranchero and two El Caminos was finally convinced that if he wanted something to use as a farm truck it HAD to be a farm truck. He did have regular Chevy pickups in between so he knew what they would take. He got rid of the El Camino and got a ’68 Chevy 1/2 ton Custom Camper with the 327.

    I’ve sometimes entertained the thought of trying to track one of these down, so I could restore it the way Dad had it. But then, would I really want it after all that? El Caminos never impressed me; I always gravitated toward the pickups. I remember Dad’s units; they always ended up sagging down in the rear because the springs just lost their tension. He did put airbags on his ’59 Ranchero and that worked fine but they always seeped down so that idea went down the road, along with the Ranchero.

    Like 3
  3. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Maybe worth the money he’s asking……my dad also had a 66 – a plain Jane 6 and three on the tree….

    Like 1
  4. jerry z

    Since Chevelles are way too pricey these days, an ElCamino is a nice substitute.

    Like 2
  5. TimM

    Really cool and fresh under that hood!! I’m sure the seat has seen it’s better days under that Mexican blanket!! Oh well, fix it as you go!! This is one I’d drive just the way it is!!!

  6. JOHN Member

    Pretty cool, but those bed rails have to go…

    Like 5

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