The First El Camino?

1948-el-camino-conversion

This 1948 Chevrolet may deserve the title of the world’s first El Camino. While it wasn’t a factory offering, it does look like someone did a decent job of converting it. This CUV (coupe utility vehicle) may have started life as a 1948 Chevrolet Business Coupe, but someone decided that it would much more useful with a truck bed grafted onto the back. Eventually it was abandoned in a field where the current owner found it in Montana. They dragged it home to Welches, Oregon with the intention of building a rat rod. That never happened though, so now it has been listed here on craigslist for $2,800.

chevy-216-inline-six

The  Stylemasters originally came with a 216 inline-six attached to a 3-speed transmission. The seller of this coupe-converted-truck claims that the six is still in place, but that the transmission is out of a truck. I suppose the truck gearing would make sense if you were planning on hauling anything of significant weight. I wouldn’t be surprised if the engine is out a truck too since the Chevy cars and trucks shared that engine. It would be interesting to see if the rear suspension was upgraded too while they were at it.

1948-chevy-interior

The interior is stock and needs lots of help, but the only thing missing in here is the rear seat. If this were sitting in my garage, I would probably abandon the rat rod theme and try to make this thing look like it was really built by GM to be a truck. Some El Camino badges could complete the scam and would surely cause some confused stares from the Chevy guys. I know we are all about originality here, but the damage has already been done so why not have some fun with it?

1948-chevy-coupe-truck-bed

Whoever did this conversion went to great lengths to make it look right. There is some rust starting to form around the seams where that rear panel was welded into place. That will need to be addressed, but the rest of the work looks well done from what can be seen in the photos. Personally, I thought this thing looked so cool that I was tempted to pick it up as the next Barn Finds project car. We already purchased something though so maybe one of you guys could go get it and then keep us updated as you bring it back into hauling duty. Any takers?

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Comments

  1. Brian C Member

    This is a great conversion, and speaking of the first El Camino, did you know that today is the anniversary of the first public offering of the actual El Camino on this day in 1958 for the 1959 model year? Read more: https://www.facebook.com/automotivehistory/posts/526208817514521

    Like 1
  2. Artinoz

    This looks like someone took the time to do a “factory” looking utility.
    However the Australian arm of the General was making a utility to compete with the Ford offering of the mid thirty’s.
    Here is a photo of a ’37 Chevrolet with a body built by Holden. So is this the first El Camino?
    http://www.bonzle.com/pictures-over-time/pictures-taken-in-1937/page-2/australian-cities-towns-and-villages/size-3/picture-e9x2zk0t/blackall/department-of-agricultures-chevrolet-1937-model-coupe-utility

    Like 1
    • MildBill

      This is another variation I saw in Oregon.

      Like 2
  3. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    I just talked to the owner and he said that this truck had probably been sitting in that field for 40 years. Apparently this was common thing to do. Trucks were expensive, so farmers would buy used coupes and turn them into trucks. The engine in this one is seized, but there isn’t as much cancer as you would expect an exposed vehicle to have. If anyone is in the Mt Hood area and can go take a look, please send in an update!

  4. paul

    They had an overhead valve engine in 48?

    • John M

      Yes.

    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Chevrolet engines were OHV since 1914. A lot of other offerings from GM were flathead type but Chevrolet (and I think Buick) were OHV.

      • Gary Rhodes

        Pontiacs were flatheads

    • Chris

      Not everyone was wedded to flatheads in ’48 like ford was………

  5. John M

    Somebody will buy this, restore it, and have a great conversation piece. It’s a good value.

    Like 1
  6. paul

    Thank you John M & Geomechs.

  7. geomechs geomechs Member

    Back in wartime, a lot of cars, including very fancy ones, were converted to trucks to allow the owners more gas rations. Seeing this one, definitely post war, makes me wonder why it was modified. I remember a ’34 Pierce Arrow that had that done to it. The owner sure did a lousy job of it though, except that he kept the rear fenders on it.

    This one looks like the builder got a good start on things but ended up running out of gas so to speak.

    • Robert Simpson

      I remember seeing Ford two doors converted into Rancheros by the Texas highway Department in the fifties and early sixties.

  8. MikeW
  9. William Henshaw

    This is crazy cool, probably one of the best car-truck conversions I’ve ever seen. Whoever built this obviously took the time and effort to create an almost factory look. Someone is going to buy this and put the effort into it and it’s going to see the road again. I’d like to see it as a resto-rod, upgraded but almost stock in look. Good price, shouldn’t last long.

  10. Henrie

    I recall seeing a number of post war American Two Door Coopes here in South Africa , where the boot lid was removed and a load carrying platform with sides were inserted in the boot space with a fair bit protruding out the back. These were diff. not home-made , and, on reflection, it would be typically what the Australians would do to make their sedans their utility vehicles ( Utes )

  11. Chris

    Here’s some we made earlier. A factory Chevy pickup. Or to us Aussies, a Chev ute.
    Granted the factory was Fisherman’s Bend, not Detroit, but its still a factory job

    http://www.gregwapling.com/hotrod/utes/chev-ute.html

  12. ConservativesDefeated

    Had a ’48 Chevy 4 door in high school hidden in a field. Used to sneak out at night , drive around and do what kids do. Too bad the owner thinks this is worth so much. It needs a frame up tear down and who knows what you’ll find. Really it’s only worth what someone will pay. If I wasn’t at the opposite end of the West Coast I’d be tempted. I hope someone buys it and spends the thirty grand to bring it back

    • Michael ashby

      Well… I know the truck isn’t staying in the US. It is coming to Australia and will be used as a shop truck. Some work to do, but will keep everyone informed.

      Like 2
      • TC.

        Hi Michael where are you located and is the ‘UTE’ going to stay LHD, be a shame to convert it as some of the value will be lost. In my opinion all US cars should stay as they were built, once converted they become a “nothing” vehicle, never built in the factory as RHD so no longer American and not Aussie either as they were never built here, the originality has also gone down the toilet so the value is reduced by quite a bit.

        Like 1
  13. Wiley Robiinson

    You sure that’s not a Ute from Australia?

    • Chris

      Not with the steering wheel on that side it isn’t. Seriously, the Chev utes made here had an extra side window each side. Think of them as a 5 window over this one’s 3 window.
      More curved ‘C’ pillars too.

  14. Geoff Blair

    TC and others
    I have a 1st Series 1934 Graham Model 65 4 which was built (after June 1933 but before before January 1934) in Detroit. This car had factory optional right hand drive equipment available (as you would think other makes would have had) and so Grahams were able to be converted to factory specifications right hand drive.

    Like 1

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