Stunning 1966 Chevrolet El Camino Is A Role Model For All Barn Finds
Introduced in 1959, discontinued in 1960, and then built again from 1964 to 1987, the Chevrolet El Camino changed quite a few platforms while in showrooms. Originally based on the Brookwood wagon, it was moved onto the midsize Chevelle model upon its return in 1964.
In 1978, it became part of the Malibu lineup.The El Camino was most popular from 1968 to 1980, when annual sales surpassed 40,000 or even 50,000 units (save for 1975). So while it became a hot seller during the golden muscle car era, when it got the Chevelle’s most powerful V8 engines, the El Camino remained the coupe utility of choice for many Americans for a good part of the Malaise Era.
The first-gen truck was the least popular with some 36,000 units sold over two model years, but now it’s a sought-after classic simply because it shares design features with the 1959 and 1960 Impala. Then there’s the second-generation El Camino, which doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves.
The first iteration of pickup based on the midsize Chevelle, it arrived in 1964. Essentially a two-door Chevelle wagon with a bed behind the front seats, the second-gen El Camino was offered with a selection of inline-six and V8 engines. Sure, this version looks rather mundane compared to the 1968 model that followed, but it was no slouch in the perform ance department.
The 283-cubic-inch (4.6-liter) small-block wasn’t particularly impressive at 195 horsepower. But the 327-cubic-inch (5.4-liter) V8 came with a solid 350 horses on tap. What’s more, the 396-cubic-inch (6.5-liter) big block that arrived in 1966 delivered 325 to 375 horsepower. The latter version turned the El Camino into a muscle car with a bed.
So why doesn’t the second-gen El Camino get as much love as its predecessor and immediate successor? Hard to say. But a solid option if you’re looking for a sprightly pickup that doesn’t break the bank. And the 1966 version you see here is proof that these American utes look downright fantastic when restored.
Delivered in Arizona brand-new, this Regal Red pickup met its second and current owner back in 1987. It was in rough condition at the time but it went through a frame-off restoration shortly after. Come 2023 and the El Camino still looks the part. As shiny and clean as it was when it left the Leeds Assembly plant in Kansas City in 1966, this Chevy would easily find room in any automobile-themed museum.
What’s under the hood you ask? It’s one of those pickups that got the juicy 396-cubic-inch bing-block. But the guy who bought it back in 1966 didn’t need the full 375 horses, so he went with the lower-output 325-horsepower version.
I know, I’m a bit disappointed too, but hey, that’s plenty of oomph for an El Camino. And here’s the good news: the big block comes with a four-speed manual transmission for three-pedal and row-your-own fun.
The owner, Jerry, also shares that this is his second 1966 El Camino in Regal Red. He got one brand-new in 1966 but got rid of it after he drove it hard for a few years. He felt bad about it and spent years trying to find an almost identical twin. Fortunately enough, not only he found the car he was looking for but he’s also taking much better care of it. Check it out in the video below.