Solid Californian: 1969 Chevrolet El Camino SS 396

While it has undergone many changes over the years, this 1969 Chevrolet El Camino SS 396 is a solid classic that could make a rewarding restoration project. Reversing the changes should be straightforward, with the result being a practical vehicle with enough performance potential to satisfy most enthusiasts. If a buyer needs time to plan their build, this El Camino runs and drives, allowing them time to enjoy the classic motoring experience while considering their options moving forward. The SS is listed here on eBay in Madera, California. Respectable bidding has pushed the price to $5,000, which is short of the reserve.

There’s a lot to unpack with this El Camino, but the fact it has spent its life in California is significant. The climate in that region is excellent for preserving classic steel, and this car is no exception. The only visible rust is some small sections in the lower front fenders. Both areas are insignificant, and simple patches would address the problem. The seller supplies several underside photos, and while there is the occasional dusting of surface corrosion, there are no signs of metal penetration. The previous owner performed a few changes, and the buyer may elect to reverse these to return the El Camino to a factory-fresh state. They performed a color change that hides the original shade of Frost Green. Slight traces of the original paint are visible in some shots. Combined with the original Midnight Green vinyl top, this would have been a stunning vehicle. They also removed the badges and changed the fuel filler to conceal it within an inner bed panel. Reversing these changes would not be difficult and should be worth the effort to increase its long-term value. The trim is in good order, and the glass has no problems.

The changes wrought by the previous owner aren’t confined to its exterior. The interior previously featured Black vinyl seat upholstery, but this has made way for cloth that’s now pretty shredded. The wheel is cracked, the carpet is gone, and a CD player occupies the spot reserved for the factory radio. On the positive side, the dash looks okay, as do the door trims. Surprisingly, the pad has survived the rigors of the California sun without cracking or fading. Returning this aspect of the interior to its former glory would not be complicated or expensive. Restoration kits for the wheel utilizing epoxy are available and sell for under $100. A carpet set will cost a further $190, while a seat cover in the correct color and material adds $300 to the total. The only remaining task would be to reinstate the factory air conditioning to add a touch of comfort to every journey.

Okay, I haven’t finished covering the changes to this El Camino, with the most significant hiding under the hood. The seller indicates that the SS rolled off the production line with a 396ci V8 under the hood, but it is unclear which version. Even the most “sedate” pumped out 325hp, fed to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission. Buyers could also select the L34 or L78 version of the big-block producing 350hp and 375hp, respectively. With 325hp at the driver’s disposal, the journey down the ¼ mile took 14.6 seconds. The L34 would drop that figure to 14.3 seconds, while the range-topping L78 produced a 14.1-second ¼-mile ET. The bad news for potential buyers is that the vehicle is no longer numbers-matching. The seller says that the previous owner asked too much of the 396 one night, which resulted in it emitting one of those loud noises none of us like. They swapped in a 350ci small-block and Turbo 400 transmission, which it retains. The motor is in excellent health, with the El Camino running and driving extremely well. However, there is another aspect of this project for buyers to consider. The seller includes a date-coded 1969 396ci big-block. It is dismantled but appears to be essentially complete. They feel it is an ideal candidate for a rebuild. While that won’t return the SS to its numbers-matching status, it could represent the final piece of the puzzle for a faithful refurbishment.

Light pickups like this 1969 El Camino SS 396 offer owners the best of both worlds. They are extremely practical vehicles capable of carrying a decent load or towing heavy trailers. However, they tend to be lighter than the sedans upon which they are based. Removing any load unleashes performance that would rival most muscle cars. The lack of weight over the back wheels can make them pretty entertaining if the driver buries the right boot. That is what the buyer could find locked away in this classic, which some may find difficult to resist. If anything surprises me with this El Camino, it is that it has only attracted ten bids. I expected more, but things could become more lively as the auction draws to a close. Could you be tempted to drop a bid or two on this SS, or would you prefer to remain an interested observer?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Don’t need any more cars but if I did I’d jump on this one. Fuel it up, drive it as is while you build up the other engine and in you’re spare time (which I don’t have much of these days) put it in and go have some fun. Paint and interior could follow but that’s for the next time you have spare time.

    Like 10
  2. 19sixty5 Member

    Believe it or not, the 68-72 El Camino’s actually have a slightly better weight distribution than a Chevelle equipped similarly. The difference is mimimal, with 56.5% of the vehicles weight on the front tires for a Chevelle, and 56.1% for the El Camino. I wasn’t aware of this until I bought my 70 SS 396 Elco, I always assumed that they were so much lighter in the rear. the 64-67’s were slightly lighter in the rear, no idea of the 73 and up Elco’s.

    Like 7
  3. Gtoforever

    I like it
    Honest car within reach and reality in a very unrealistic time.
    Maybe to far for me but maybe not.

    Like 2
  4. Pugsy

    They forgot to change the front park lamps to SS style.

    Like 1
    • 19sixty5 Member

      “SS style”? They are the same in all 69’s, same lamp housings in the same locations, all Chevelle’s and El Camino’s.

      Like 2
      • 19sixty5 Member

        Never noticed the bezel around the lamps before… then again, I was a senior in high school in 1969. Learn something new every day.

      • Tim

        I believe the chrome bezels were for Chevelle SS’s. I believe El Camino SS’s came with a driving light without a chrome bezel and a clear lenses with an amber bulb, which this one has.

        Like 2
  5. Hot Rod Lincoln

    My ’68 Elco track car with an aluminum LSX engine, the front/rear balance is 52.5/47.5 with great handling. Mine was a life long California car with a few rust holes in the floorboards and a quarter sized hole in front of the rear wheel wells. Easy fixes and a great driver.

    Like 1
  6. Al camino

    What is the difference with the parking lamps?

    • Pugsy

      It wouldn’t allow me to post a link.

      Google this:

      69 el camino ss park lamps

      • Pugsy

        now it posted. Strange stuff on my end.

    • Pugsy

      hit the link above.

      The regular El Camino lamps are oval in shape and are El Camino only.
      The rectangle Chevelle lamps come in either a plain border or with stainless trim around for the SS.

      Like 1
  7. Tim M

    Hi, I am the seller of this El Camino. As 19sixty5 mentioned I am not aware of a difference for “SS style lights”.

    Below is a link to videos of start up and driving if interested.

    Also I wanted to call out that I’ve updated the eBay listing as I mistakenly listed the El Camino as currently having a turbo 400 automatic, when in fact it has a turbo 350, my mistake. I apologize for any confusion, but wanted to ensure it wasn’t misrepresented due to my mistake.

    I have a picture of the steering shaft which confirms a bolted flange (big block only) to rag joint rather than pressed on flange (small block) which I’ve been told in one of the truer was to identify a factory BB car. Not claiming to be an expert but did look for information on forums from knowledgeable individuals when I purchased to confirm it was originally was an SS.

    I’ve owned since 2019, and was planning on restoring. Now only selling because another opportunity has presented itself. Runs great as you can see from videos. Feel free to contact me through eBay if you have any other questions.

    Longtime Barnfinds follower, pretty exciting to see write up! Thanks Adam!


    This car will sell for more than 10 grand

    Like 1
  9. Al camino

    Why do people take the chrome strips off the tail gate it makes it look so cheap

    Like 1

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