What A Gas! Propane-Powered 1969 El Camino

How often do you get the chance to buy a 1969 vehicle from it’s original owner? Well, not this time either, as a dealer has already purchased it from the folks they gave it to and the dealer is now offering it for sale here on eBay. However it’s still a pretty cool vehicle and I love the graphics. The El Camino isn’t in Woodland anymore, now you can find it in Pleasanton, California. Bidding is up close to 5,000 but hasn’t met the reserve yet.

By 1969 the El Camino was in the middle of its third generation, based by this point on the Chevelle platform and sharing a lot under the skin with the Chevelle wagon. There were just over 48,000 El Caminos made that year, so while it’s not exactly rare to see one, it is rare to see one looking this solid. The seller tells us it’s rust-free, and while I’d argue that’s almost technically impossible on a 1969 vehicle, it’s clear it is practically true.

As you can see, the front grille is slightly damaged. You may look at that as adding character, but I’d be replacing it with this one. As a side note, isn’t the internet wonderful for sourcing car parts? That took me less than 30 seconds! The chrome certainly looks nice in the pictures!

What’s that tank for, you might ask? Well, California has some of the highest gas prices in the nation, and as this was a parts runner truck for a well-known local auto repair shop, the owners of the shop decided to convert the truck to run on propane. While the conversion back would be easy enough, I’ve heard enough good things about running on propane and how clean it keeps the engine (on the inside) that as long as there weren’t driveability problems, I’d leave the conversion intact.

Naturally, as a showpiece for the shop, Bee Line kept the interior in nice condition. The seat has been reupholstered in what I would call functional rather than stylish vinyl. The seller does recommend replacing the door panels due to wear (you can get them here), and you might want a new dash top rather than the cover. You’ll also need one window handle.

Under the hood we have the aforementioned propane-converted 350 V8. I also see air conditioning (I would inquire about the functionality of same) and a relatively clean underhood appearance. I realize this one wouldn’t work for everyone, but what do you think about this piece of history? Would you convert it back to gasoline?

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Comments

  1. Mark

    Propane pull the same hp as a gas engine, ?

    • Steven Dacke

      Not quite. Propane doesn’t have as much btu’s as gasoline, but burns so clean that engine life is easily doubled. Propane consumption is higher than gasoline as well. It used to be that propane was cheaper than gasoline, but not as much now a days.

  2. Lemble

    Leave the propane conversion. My brother has driven a truck with this conversion for years. 350 chevy in a box truck with a 4:88 gear out back. The only issue is in cold weather. It has to be up to temperature to pull a full load up the hill from the river. They just run it on regular gas until they are good and warm. As I would doubt this could ever have than much weight in the back, so it would be fine. It is something different.

  3. Classix Steel

    I remember reading years back about a small town in KY that ran their police cars off propane in the late 90s . Their engine life of the cars ran over two and a half times due to burning cleaner etc.

    Here is a San Fran article on less than 50% on repair cost

    http://meetingoftheminds.org/the-impacts-of-running-our-fleet-vehicles-on-propane-12614

  4. LAB3

    My brother ran a chevy pickup on propane about 20 yrs ago. He was driving a delivery truck for them and got a huge discount on fuel. It ran well but the conversion was done with a molded plastic intake manifold that cracked pretty often, he probably would have kept it if it hadn’t been for that.

  5. jdjonesdr

    Here in the Dominican Republic, most cars run on Propane. Most systems allow for starting the engine with gasoline, then immediately switches over to propane once the engine is running.
    I have a 94 Blazer K5 with a professional propane installation, but to be honest, do not use it very much because it frequently gives me a check engine light when I do use it. I run it occasionally to keep the system functioning.

  6. Bobsmyuncle

    Back in the day it was a good alternative to an injected engine for running off-road. The benefit being that at extreme angles on the trail, fuel delivery was never an issue as it could be with carbs.

  7. Martin Sparkes

    Propane used to be quite popular here in BC. If you build a motor for propane with the appropriate timing and higher compression you get all the lost power back, and propane typically runs around 60 to 70 per cent the price of gas so even with a 10 per cent loss in mpgs you save money.
    I bought a 1989 Toyota 4×4 new and took advantage of a government program to convert it. I paid for my propane at the regular price of gas and the difference went to paying off the conversion. It took two years and I had a free conversion and my fuel costs dropped dramatically. It was dual fuel so if I needed more power I could flip a switch and run on gas.
    I would still today buy a classic like this and run it on propane. You could make this car a much more economical daily driver. I expect the conversion is part of the reason the original owners managed to keep it on the road so long.

  8. Clinton

    It would go back to a gas burner for me. Too much hassle to find filling stations if you plan on going anywhere .

  9. chad

    keep it and turbo

  10. JimmyinTEXAS

    I sure hope the phone number is removed before sale. The owner of that shop may end up like the plumbing company whose used vehicle showed up on the six o’clock news being driven by an ISIS crew in some far off and less than exotic land…

  11. DB

    I almost converted a cargo van to natural gas, similar to propane. A filling apparatus was to be available at my house with a separate meter for vehicles as opposed to house heat. Montana Dakota Utilities Co was the company. Early 90s, should have done it, but quite spendy, long time return of investment. I would certainly proudly keep this El Camino as it is.

  12. PeterK

    Go down to Mexico, its what you see running on pst of the big trucks now… You could also convert it back to gas and keep the propane as a booster. You’d get 20% more horsepower and a 20% fuel mpg increase. I’d put a tonneau cover on the bed to hide the propane tank. Whats not to like?

  13. Clay Bryant

    I had a truck 40 years ago that had a Century unit on it and worked well. Oil always lilly clean, Ran 300+ thousand miles and only problem was burned out a couple exhaust manifolds(it was a 6).Manifolds sometimes were cherry hot but that was my fault. Got smart and when I ran it hard I would let the engine run til they cooled down then shut it off………….

  14. sluggo

    forlifts run inside buildings and nobody gets sick, motors run forever,, a power generator is ALSO a great conversion product as well. No worries about unstable fuel

  15. Andrew Minney

    Bee Line? Is that Hubert (Hub) Westmoreland’s outfit that was out Burlington way?

  16. Pete

    I don’t think you would go wrong buying this solid example of an El Camino to enjoy. A few parts would put it back to right. I am ambivalent about the propane. I’d probably run gasoline in it and have the propane for back up in the event gas prices hit 4 bucks a gallon again. If you could get the lettering off without repainting it, that would just make it a sweeter deal. Even with it on there though it still looks cool.

  17. GP Member

    The car is real nice, But I think they should of spent a few dollars on the house. A window would be nice.

  18. Rob

    Back in 1957 my father went into partnership with three other people in a propane, appliances, gas and oil business. All of their trucks were converted to run on propane and gas, and remember dad starting his 58 GMC 1/2 ton service truck then stepping out to open the bottle of propane before leaving for work. They converted many farm tractors to propane. Back then the company bought propane at .03 a gallon. times have changed.

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