Rare Project: 1959 Chevrolet El Camino

This old girl adds new meaning to “a little grey on top,” as this usually refers to a person who has started seeing some grey hair sprouting on the old dome.  What a marvelous design, radical, and 1959 was the introductory year for the El Camino.  The batwing horizontal tail fins and the low slung dual headlights all point to Harley Earl, the legendary designer of Chevrolet–this model year’s design was Earl’s last one for Chevy.  Chevy was a little late to the show on the gentleman’s pickup, Ford had issued the first Rancheros two years earlier to decent success, enough so for Chevy to greenlight a competing model in the new category of car/trucks.  Find this car here on eBay with a BIN price of $5,000. Twenty-two days remain on the posting.

From this angle, it’s easy to catch how alluring this design was to car buyers still getting used to huge vertical tail fins like the jet fighters of the day, precisely where auto designers got the ideas.  The complex double inside-out curves and the compound curved corner where the side meets the rear facade is a metallurgic and steel pressing mindblower.  Just gotta admire the curved gas filler door.  Our girl here is flirting with that point of no return to bring her back from the abyss of neglect and her years outside in the elements.  Seller is located in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, and claims to have not one, not two, or even three but–count ’em–FOUR ’59 El Camino hulks in his possession.  The rear-wheel wells are road-salted out, and this photo shows rust at the tailgate.  Her ghost is trying to speak to a viewer of this post through those sad cats’ eyes to get her to a warm shop this Yuletide season.

Seller makes no claims about the starting or turning over capabilities of the 235.5 cu in 135 hp Hi-Thrift engine though it looks remarkably complete sans oil filler cap.  This car has the optional PowerGlide automatic transmission; the standard-issue was a 3-speed column shifted Synchro-Mesh transmission. Major bummer: no title on this car because Seller claims the VIN is unreadable.  Uh-huh.  What was the name of this place in MN? [Kidding]

Here’s the long-term “sitting in the woods” part of the story: Floors–gone. Chrome strips on the seat–good.

Rocker panels are rusted through.  Lower doors seem intact, but surface rust everywhere.

The bed seems mostly solid with some rusting through near the cab.  Front and rear window glass are intact. Research reveals that underneath this pickup bed is the floor for a station wagon complete with footwells. That floor underneath could be catching the fury of the forest rust demons, but there are no underside pix, sorry. Also, could use a little help identifying that white substance at the left side of this photo, not sure if it comes with the car or not.  Is it dangerous?

We would be remiss if we neglected to include this cool B & W shot from the Chevy design studio of a clay model of the proposed rear-end styling of the 1959 Batwing.  Maybe there is a little 1961 styling brewing in the left of the clay?  Chevrolet sold 22,246 of the 1959 El Caminos, and four of them have wound up in possession of the Seller who includes his telephone number in the eBay posting. Maybe, just maybe, there is a little room in the pricing to take this iconic, final Harley Earl design home and create a dream ride for Santa next year?


  1. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    Knock yourself out!

    Like 2
  2. local_sheriff

    It’s interesting to note that out of these 4 Elkys, 3 are manual equipped. And they all show comprehensive body rust in the same areas – however when buying even an ‘OK’ project ’59 Elky those exact panels would probably need replacement anyway…!
    I really hope that at least a couple of these will be saved, either partly or entirely – I’m a massive fan of B-body Elkys. Despite seller’s horrendous asking there are currently over 200 watching these 4, making me think there are many sitting on the fence waiting to low-ball

    Like 2
    • Mike Tarutis Staff

      Sheriff, I would love to find someone still alive who may have worked on those rear quarter panels of the ’59 and ’60 Chevy models to find out how they were made and how many different pressings it took to finish them and what size tonnage those presses were. If anyone knows of the stories of making those wild rear quarter panels and deck lids, I’d LOVE to hear the stories and how many they recycled before they got it right!

      Like 5
  3. sir_mike

    Hope fully someone can save her.

    Like 0
  4. Mountainwoodie

    I dont know if you can low ball low enough on any of these four……….Maybe open a Pic A Part. Darn shame. I’d love to have a ’57 Elky or a ’57 Ranchero.

    Like 0
    • Thomas Nemec Member

      My dad, born in 1928, had a few cool cars in the 50’s. He was a mechanic but never thought to save any of them until 1970 when he saved our 1964 Olds 98 4 doors. He had a 57 Ranchero…and a 50 olds convertible….which he had thought about it earlier!!

      Like 2
  5. Thomas Nemec Member

    59 was the first year for the El Camino then 60 with a 3 year break until they came back in 64. I am a big 59 El Camino guy and this one is again probably too far gone, demanding a restoration budget 2 to 3 times its market value.

    I have owned a 59 and lost it during the recession with everything else. I have been watching the 59 Elky market since 1989. It is a very strange market where they really have never been worth a bunch of money.

    Most guys resto mod them, put 80-100K+ into them and end up selling for half of what they have invested in them. Strange but true. When you make them too unique, put too much money into them people don’t want to buy because it is “not really what they want” and the price tag is high. It is a car that is unique enough to BEGIN with, that you either LOVE em or HATE em. Most people will not have a 59 El Camino on their TOP 10 want list. I personally think it is one of the coolest cars ever built. I will have another but not one of these money pits.

    Like 5
  6. Thomas Nemec Member

    I went back to the listing. This thing is toast. All 4 of them for $4000 might be a deal and that MIGHT still not be a good deal. That partial shot of the blue one seems most promising. I don’t even know if there is $4000 in good parts from ALL of them combined.

    Sorry but storing a car in the forest, leaving it to the elements was dumb…therefore you should not be able to collect lots of money for it. UGH! You should be paying someone to haul them away and forgive the sin…..maybe THEY could revive something out of this massively poor decision. You should not profit from it.

    Like 4
  7. Mike Tarutis Staff

    All said, and thanks for the comments all around, I’m still tempted to try to make a bargain.

    I am looking for my pictures of the ’57 Ranchero I somehow made a deal for with a good church friend. I loved that baby blue Cali car, not a spot of rust, ran well, used it quite a bit for about 6 years.

    I guess I can call up my old friend and see if he’ll pray for these forest babies. They do come apart easily. . .not a lot of upholstery. . .but they seem to go to the “The Bid Goes On” tent at Mecum. . .

    Hey, guys, speaking of Mecum, did any of you see the Honda 70s and 50s for sale on Mecum this weekend? A Honda 70 from the 70s went for $6K! Another was right behind at $5k! I’m thinking these bikes sold for about a tenth of that new? Am I thinking clearly on that? Wow!

    I am going to guess our editors got some pretty good Honda iron a good bit cheaper than those Mecum auction prices!

    Like 2
  8. Super Glide Member

    So you put 100 grand in this piece of poop and it’s worth what?
    This needs to end up like the Lincoln in Goldfinger.

    Like 0
  9. Bob

    In the mid-80s I bought one of these for $1500 at the Pomona swapmeet. It had been a six with three on the tree, but had a V8 in it with a 4 speed. It didn’t have a shift boot and before I added one, my kids liked to look down and watch the road go by underneath. I think it had buckets, but I put in a bench, maybe from a Pontiac? It came with 2 American clone mags. I went to steel wheels, wide whitewalls and hubcaps.I had the seat reupholstered and a toneau added to the bed. When I bought it, it had no floor to the bed. My neighbor told where there was a 60 at a Pick A Part with a bed, so I drove over and grabbed it. A Mexican said to me “Tu caro is como avion!” Your car is like an airplane! So true. Sold it around 90 for what I’d paid for it.

    Like 2
  10. Super Glide Member

    Ironically, taken back to the farm in a Ranchero.

    Like 0
  11. E.L. Puko

    Uh, that white substance would be snow.

    Like 1
  12. Stan Marks

    Poopmobile rustbucket.

    Like 2
  13. Ed Smith

    Thanks Mike for s great read and the clay pic I have always loved them and hardly ever see them at car shows I had a 69 SS Elky 396/4speed theta would pull the front wheels off the ground when I hit second Like all the rest I wish I still had it I also hope to have a 59 one day but getting harder to find one worth rebuilding

    Like 0
  14. Glenn C. Schwass Member

    It amazes me how many different styles of the oil bath cleaners there are. I even see different ones than the one my 57 had even for the same year. This one is really fancy. Too bad the rust is too much here. I’d take the engi e if it was stuck. That and a 3 speed manual would work for me , with that oil bath ..

    Like 0
  15. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Actually even for parts – most all them are missing most if not all the rear bed trim. The doors and glass are Elky only but lots of those to be had in the rust belt area – the door top frame is all you need and a good 2 dr post door which are getting hard to find.

    Like 0

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