Muscle Truck: 1971 Chevrolet El Camino SS 454

From 1964 until the end of their production run in 1987, the Chevy El Camino was a “gentleman’s pickup” based on the mid-size Chevelle. As such, whenever the Chevelle got a facelift or redesign, so did the El Camino. Between 1970-72 you could get an El Camino SS that was equipped with a 454 V8, of which the first year would be the most potent before detuning came into play for emissions control reasons. This 1971 El Camino SS 454 looks pretty nice from the rather dark photos we’re given, but the seller says it needs some bodywork and new paint. Otherwise, it’s a good runner and can be found in Oak Hill, Ohio where it’s available here on eBay where the no reserve auction stands at $10,600.

1970-72 El Caminos shared their sheet metal with the Chevelle station wagon from the cowl forward. While the front-end styling of these models would differ from their 1968-69 counterparts, from the firewall back little was changed except for some minor trim. While it certainly functioned as a truck, the El Camino was a natural to take on some of the muscle car traits its cousin the Chevelle. Hence, the SS 454 was born for the first three model years of the seventh decade. Just as the Chevelle had SS badging and other exterior trim to separate it from regular models, so did the El Camino. Under the hood specifically in 1971 was the LS5 454 cubic inch V8 that produced 285 SAE net horsepower as the measuring stick had changed.

Chevrolet lumped Chevelle and El Camino production figures together in the 1970s, so we can’t determine how many El Camino SS 454s were built. Some 9,500 SS 454 Chevelles and El Caminos combined were built that year with the LS5 engine. So, if you assumed that 10-20 percent of production comprised the El Camino, something along the lines of 1-2,000 SS 454 El Caminos may have rolled off the assembly line in 1971. And that could be high.

The seller’s El Camino looks good in the photos provided, but the darkness of the hour-plus a black vehicle adds up to a vehicle that’s not easy to critique. The seller tells us the body is not without flaws and will need some work (where?) along with a fresh coat of paint. There is no mention of rust and we can’t see any, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. The chrome trim around the right rear wheel opening is missing. We’re also told that the insides are good “for its age”, but what doesn’t that really mean? The buckets seats, console, and all look okay from the photos, but it could stand a really good cleaning.

At 85,000 miles, there is no mention if the engine and transmission are numbers-matching or whether they have received any internal work. The engine looks awfully clean for a truck that appears to be used more than every-now-and-then. But we’re told it runs and drives great with everything working as it should, down to the gauges, clock, air conditioning, and heater. The seller says the tires have plenty of tread left on them.

If you’re looking for a muscle “car” that you could drive while you restore it, this El Camino might be a good choice. Besides it being a muscle truck rather than a car, the cost of buying one could be lower than that of a similar Chevelle. If you look online, there are several Chevelle SS 454s offered at $60-70,000 while the few El Camino SS 454s were more like $35-40,000. We also know that the Chevelle SS is a popular car to clone. Does the same thing hold true of the El Camino SS?


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  1. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    Of course these can be cloned, and probably have been. All it takes is a good bed to start with, and swapping out front clips, a good drivetrain, and a propensity to smile each time you start it up. IMHO I’d prefer a ’69 396 but even a known clone of this would be fun!

    Like 5
    • Mr Dave

      Swapping out front clips? With what? It’s not the same as Chevelle.

      Like 6
      • Michael Jabczynski

        Chevelle wagon is what the article say’s

        Like 2
  2. Big G

    Nice narrative. The ’71 LS5 actually still had the gross hp rating at 365 and a net of 285. The ’72 LS5 went strictly to 270 net.

    Like 5
  3. Timmyt

    It will probably hit 18k plus, it’s a great looking ride and factory air one of these numbers match are approaching 28-30k

    Like 3
  4. Mark Harribine

    It’s a shame to have all that engine with no balls
    My 350 put out 300 hp before rebuilding.

    Like 3
    • JoeBob

      I think the 1971 LS5 was rated at 465 lb-ft at 3200. That’s a lot of grunt.

      Like 7
  5. TJJR

    1971 was still LS 5 454 365. Restored 40 + 70 to 72 Chevelles Montes, and “Caminos. 10,6 is ALL the money for a NOM, wrong A/c brackets etc. Prob has a 5,000 redline tach, IF it has one at all. Throw a bolt on the ground, and I’ll tell you where it goes on one of these! Gave a NICE one away in 1995, at a bargain price of 7500. AND it was ALL THERE, I just hated it… When you restore so many, you sometimes get one that “just doesn’t feel right” even though it runs and drives 110%…

    Like 4
  6. Frank Armstrong

    I bought what appeared to be a very nice 1971 SS El Camino for $7500. $10,000 worth of rust repair to floors, wheel arches, quarter panels and paint and it was finally actual solid and right. The floor pans for a station wagon were luckily available, and the full station wagon floor goes from the firewall all the way back, ending up under the front section of the El Camino bed. The station wagon rear foot wells and drivetrain hump are under the incredibly stupid screw down panel at the front of the bed. The panel was poorly sealed at the factory, so water eventually works it’s way into the foot wells and rots it out, working it’s way under the cab into the rest of the floor. When finished it was a head turner in black with white SS stripes and black interior.

    Like 8
    • Jerry Member

      I like the looks of the 68-72 El Caminos but your rust issues r one reason I like the Ford Rancheros better…..that and the Rancheros are rarer, Chevy sold more El Caminos and made them from 59 to 87 while Ford made the Rancheros first from 57 but stopped in 79.
      I have a Ranchero 73 with the 351 Cleveland but with 73 Boss block and internals.

      Like 2
    • chuck

      Did you buy it from TJJR?

      Like 1
      • Jerry Member

        Whats TJJR??

    • ACZ

      Frank, you’re lucky. I have a 1975 454 that needs a complete floor. The aftermarket doesn’t make one and I’ve been looking for an intact used one for years. No luck so far.

  7. John Alm

    Mr Dave , 68 – 72 Chevelle & El Camino Shared The Same Contour Between Door & Fender , Bolted On Cowl & Frame The Same , I Restored A 1972 El Camino & Install A 1969 SS Chevelle Nose , You Could Tell The Difference , Also Tail-Lights Have identical Factory Markings , Spent 1,100 Dollars on Just the Bed Crome & Wheel-Opening Moldings , Owned & Daily Drove And Enjoyed It For 5yrs

    • Mr Dave

      John Alm, 70-72 is where the differences come into play. Body lines DO NOT match between Chevelle and El Camino. 70-72 Chevelle have a bulge area in the doors and fenders and El Camino doesn’t. Yes, you can put a 68-69 front clip on 70-72 El Camino and fit fine. Yes, you can put 70-72 El Camino front clip on a 68-69 Chevelle and all fit fine. Once again 70-72 Chevelle nose will not fit on 68-72 El Camino, but 68-69 Chevelle will fit. I have had 2 Chevelles and about 5 El Caminos. Currently have a 70 SS396 Chevelle and a 71 SS454 El Camino. Same but different. You should do more complete research. Folks that believe your information are the ones that bought incorrect parts because they “read somewhere” they worked.

      Like 3
      • Pugsy


        I saw a fella online, restore his 72 chevelle fenders, completely stripped, blasted, painted and then go to bolt them up…D’OH!

        Like 1
  8. Paul Edwin Gaffron

    Always wondered why ’64-’72 Elkies used full frame doors. They switched in ’73, tho. Just curious.

  9. Amishtrucker

    Sure, show me this on Christmas morning. If I take all the gifts back I’ll be close….

    Like 2
  10. Troy s

    Nice wheels. I dont see all that many El Caminos anymore, on the road or otherwise, like I used to. Used to be lots of tricked out, usually amped up small block powered, Elk’s out and about.
    The one at the end of Two Lane Blacktop, first thing that came to my mind when I saw this post.

    • Showbiz

      That is what did it for me also ,the glimpse of the Black Elcamino in Two Lane Black Top in 1970 took a long time but found a nice plain custom rust free and went nuts in 2007 572 5spd tremec airride 373 12bolt drives so nice and tight , this one on Barn Finds looks like a very sweet ride ,thanks for the good Christmas reading Guys…Cheers!

      Like 2
  11. Fran

    Love the banner!!!! The majority of us know the truth! Nice car!

    • vintagehotrods

      That may be an indication this seller can’t be trusted to be honest about what he’s trying to sell you!

  12. Victor Sanchez

    This may help a little bit about the fron ends, a friend if mine had a 1972 El Camino SS 454 that he cruised around in until a DWI driver destroyed the back end, when he took it to the body shop the guy said ti was to far gone but offered this he had a 1972 Chevelle station wagon that shared the front end sheet metal. He removed all of the sheet metal from both cars and swapped the front ends engine, tranny, cowl hood etc. So when he got the El Camino / station wagon back he had a really nice Chevelle wagon SS so yes the front ends are interchangealbe wagon to El Camino

    Like 1
    • Mr Dave

      Correct, wagon does, Chevelle coupe does not

      Like 1
  13. Grease

    My El Camino experiences can’t be totally unique yet i have never seen another similar experience mentioned anywhere. Twice on my next generation models (78 – 87) I had tailgate issues. Once an eager friend 200lbs jumped on the tailgate and bent it. Another time a 300lb friend sat on the tailgate and destroyed it. Am I the only one..?

    • Jerry Member

      No, you’re not the only one.
      I noticed when I was looking at Rancheros and El Caminos to buy, that the Ford Rancheros had much thicker, heavier tailgates.

    • ACZ

      Never had that problem on my 85. The problem I had was the tail gate cables breaking, until I found a brand new set a couple of years ago. I’ve had this one since 1991. Now if I could only find a floor for my 75………

  14. vintagehotrods

    Any seller that takes pictures of their car in the rain is telling, no, screaming at you, that he is trying to sell you a pig in a poke. If you can’t supply pictures taken on a dry, sunny day, of it top and bottom, and say it needs paint, and doesn’t need a “a ton of body work”, it probably needs a mile of sheet metal. And I wonder if that Texas title is in the seller’s name? If you bid on this without looking at it, you are proving P.T. Barnum right, “There’s a sucker born every minute”!

    Like 5
  15. 19sixty5 Member

    vintagehotrods, absolutely correct. Between thw freshly hosed down car, a generic description, and absolutely garbage photo’s, don’t even bother with this one.

    Like 1
  16. Schanester

    That driver side front wheel isn’t an SS wheel. It appears to be a flat spoke Z28 wheel and the same wheels I have on my daily driver 79 Malibu. Mine are dated 1977. That other pic is too blurry to see the other wheels to see if they are correct or not!? My 72 Chevelle has a dated correct wheels on it that were made from the correct wheel mold. I’ve proudly owned many of these in the last 40 years so I notice the small stuff cause it jumps out at me lol. Plus I had a Daily Driver 72 Elky factory SS built at the Van Nuys Cali Plant for 11 years. Mine was Mulsanne Blue with White Top and White Stripes. Only sold it to pay my cancer bills. A good friend just purchased a factory 71 SS 454 with a 4 speed and Cranberry Red Chevelle. These just keeps going up and up in value. Also: the tailgate on this one above is incorrect, it’s supposed to have the SS emblems up higher and closer to the upper trim and have a 454 emblem under them. No mention if it has the optional U14 needle gauges with a tach to watch over the 454 engine…and I’d have to switch them out it if doesn’t have them. I’ve had a soft spot for El Camino’s for many years so Yes I like it. I’ve owned 3 diff ones. All 3 were factory Super Sports. A 69, 70, and my 72 I mentioned above. My last one was 70 SS 396 m21 4 speed. All great rides.

    • Mr Dave

      Are you Dee? Daily driver Malibu? Texas or maybe Oklahoma?

  17. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    SOLD for $15,600.

  18. Jack Member

    Mark Harribine made the statement that this LS5 wasn’t much hotter than his 350 with 300 hp. Only “stock” vehicles should be used when you start comparing them. Mark is comparing his small block to a big block 454.

    The 1970 Chevelles with the 350 had 300 hp were basically bored-out 327s rated at 275 hp that came out in 1966-67. The older 327s before 1966 that were rated at 300 hp had increased air flow provided by the larger AFB carb on an aluminum intake with bigger ports. They also came with 2.5 inch dual exhaust systems versus the 2 inch pipes which the 250 hp 327s had. A lot of the 1967-70 327s and 350s had single exhausts because dual exhausts were still an option. Some people feel the older 300 hp 327s with the AFB and aluminum intakes were underrated in actual horsepower by Chevrolet on purpose. (The 350 hp and 370 hp 327s were stock Chevelles that would really run.)

    This 71 El Camino has the LS5 engine rated at 365 Hp. The only difference between the LS5 1971 and 1970 was that they dropped the compression ratio from 10.25 to 9.00. The engine was the same. The heads on the 1970 and 1971 were the round port heads. These are not the small “peanut ports” heads that came out later.

    The LS5 was rated at 360 hp in a 1970 Chevelle and 390 hp in a 1970 Corvette. It’s the same engine and insurance rates caused this. The 1971 LS5 really only lost 25 horsepower (390-365) from 1970 to 1971. The torque only went down 35 foot pounds (500-465).

    I would estimate if the car had posi-traction it would run somewhere around 14.8 seconds in the quarter. A stock Chevelle 350 with 300 hp would probably run a second slower at about 15.9-16.2.

    This El Camino would still be fun to drive. It is had the M-22 rock crusher it would take the enjoyment to a much higher level.

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