Table of Contents
- Work Requirements
I have a lot of really great memories in this old cruck.
My Grandfather and I went everywhere together in it. I was in it almost every day of my early life.
There are so many details about it I remember intimately.
My Grandpa used to sit and regale me with stories about it from when I was a toddler up until he died. I'm familiar with every crack, crevice, and reason behind each modification and how they got there.
Of course, I haven't spent any significant time with it in nearly 30 years, so I don't know how kind those years have been to it.
I do know that it's in pretty good shape with low mileage — as long as the abuse it's experienced in storage hasn't been too severe.
That's what Project: Homage is all about: Repairing what time and neglect have done to my Grandpa's El Camino.
This is a hot rod in fact, but not in function.
In other words, it's been modified — air cleaner, carb, intake, heads, and exhaust — but not for speed, so it lacks the oomph you would expect out of a suped up '60s Muscle Car.
Every single mod on this car was done to increase gas mileage, believe it or not. My Grandfather had been a hot rodder since he was a teenager, but he was older and not interested in raising hell any longer.
This car was my Grandfather's last car, which he bought new in 1967. It has a 283, a Powerglide automatic, 3.08:1 Positraction rear end, and drum brakes all the way around — and it's going to stay that way.
After years of growing up with the El Camino, the stories, and the drives, we were putting together a summer vacation to the Grand Canyon — a road trip in that very same El Camino — our first vacation together, just he and I. I had just turned 16 and it was going to be my first time driving it.
He died before we got the chance.
Since the El Camino wasn't mine, it went into permanent storage and I never got to drive it.
Fast forward nearly 30 years and I finally have it in my possession, but it isn't in running condition. It needs some transmission work — among other things — but it's got low miles and it's all there. It just needs some help bringing it back to the condition my Grandfather would have kept it in.
And it won't see the road in any condition less than that.
Although very pragmatic and down to earth, he was also particular, and so am I.
This project isn't a restoration, it's what I would define as a rebuild. I have no intention of taking the El Camino down to its nuts, bolts, and frame. It's got low miles — if memory serves, somewhere around 66,000 — and although it requires a transmission rebuild, the engine has already been rebuilt and the most extensive repair beyond the transmission is some bodywork to repair some rust bubbling under the paint on a quarter panel and potentially replacing the exhaust — it's rusted through in places, as well.
The end result is to have my Grandpa's El Camino back on the road in the condition he kept it in.
This project is planned to be sixth inline, and, based on the work, you may wonder why I'm not attacking it earlier on — and you'd be right to think that. I'm certainly considering that line of thought, myself. The reason I'm not choosing to do it earlier is because I don't want to make even a small mistake here. I would also ideally like to be in a place where I can do all the work on this project, myself. Placing it last gives me the opportunity necessary to put together the resources needed to tackle Project: Homage on my own.
That's all well and good, and that's my aim right now. However, I've wanted to drive my Grandpa's El Camino for decades, so its place in the project line may be adjusted if I change my mind at some point.
The reasons behind Project: Homage are so many I won't waste your time trying to list absolutely everything that's prompted it, but I will mention the most prominent here:
- This El Camino is a piece of history, both personal, and as a relic from a time where it fits — everything from the fact that it's a low mileage '67 to the period mods used on it — and, it's a '60s Muscle Car. They're a dying breed, and they all need to be saved. Every. Last. One.
- It was a very ugly pill to swallow when he died and I never got to drive the El Camino while my Grandfather was alive — something that he and I shared my whole life. While I can't have him back, I would very much like to have the experience of driving my Grandpa's El Camino exactly as he kept it.
Lastly, as I've mentioned ad nauseam, abandoning my first car, the Original 351, has left an indelible mark upon me and just like my Mom's Mustang, if ever there is a car I won't abandon, it's this one.
I haven't been up close and personal with the El Camino for nearly three decades, so I don't know everything it needs, but based on my fuzzy memory, here's what I have for goals:
- Rebuild the transmission — the 2-speed Chevy Powerglide auto done got tired. The seals have likely failed based on the issues I remember, and possibly more. At this point, I'll need to drop it out of the car and go through it, likely performing a rebuild in the process.
- Repair the rust spot — my memory is shitty on this one, but I remember there being some paint bubbling on the driver side quarter panel that will need to be addressed.
- Open the carburetor's secondaries — to keep himself out of trouble, my Grandfather wired the secondaries shut. He had a propensity for full-throttle blasts. He also had an issue tuning the Rochester without a chassis dyno and an air/fuel meter, which played a large part in his decision. I have no such issue, and, it's only a 283 in a giant El Camino — I don't think I'll need to police myself with such Draconian measures ;) Okay, this is technically a change from the way he drove it, but, my god, it's still just a 283 in an El Camino. It needs all the help it can get.
- Perform a tune-up and install a Pertronix Ignitor — I still don't like points. So, I'm making a few minor changes from the way he drove it, including this one. The reason he put a Rochester 4-barrel on the engine in place of the original 2-barrel is that it had smaller primaries, which would increase velocity and signaling for better gas mileage. This will also increase gas mileage and power — which he would appreciate. Plus, I don't have to install and adjust points while performing tune-ups in the future.
- I&M — this thing has sat forever and it's going to need a thorough inspection and maintenance regimen to bring it back to life. All the basics here like fresh battery, coolant flush, belts, hoses, and wipers, chassis lube, power steering flush, etc — the works.
- Tune the engine — this concession is to solve the problem my Grandfather had with the secondaries. It's also to maximize both gas mileage and power. This is the last change I'll be making from the way he drove it, but I can guarantee with absolute certainty that he would be on board with all of it. So, I don't feel that I'm doing anything too sacrilegious.
- Replace the tires — I have no clue what those things look like, but they've been there for around 30 years. I'm thinking deflated, cracked, dry rotted, and they may even lack the ability to hold enough air to move the El Camino. Oh, and probably flat-spotted, but I don't think that's really a concern given the other issues.
- Thorough cleaning and detailing — the El Camino has been sitting on dirt for decades now. It's covered and out of the elements, but, still, it's dirty as hell. It's going to need a lot of help.
- Replace the exhaust system — this one is a bit out of sequence with other similar goals in this list, but the reason is that I'm not sure it's going to happen. I seem to remember that the exhaust is rusted through in places and needs to be replaced, but if I'm wrong about that, well, I'm certainly not going to replace anything he had on his cruck.
- Repair any paint blemishes — this is another one that's just a possibility. It's been sitting under piles of wood and other junk for quite some time, so I can only imagine the paint is scratched all to hell and going to need to be repainted — but maybe not. By sitting under piles of wood, I mean it also had loads of plywood leaning against it, which potentially warped the body panels. I hope to hell, not, but if they are, the panels will have to be repaired or replaced as well — which would be a travesty of the highest order.
There you have it, the goals for the El Camino are simple: put it back on the road the way he drove it — with three very, very slight improvements needed to address some long-standing, but minor issues.
Any and all resources and work necessary to put the El Camino back on the road the way my Grandpa drove it.
Other than the extremely slight improvements mentioned in the goals section, absolutely no modifications.
The El Camino has low miles. I've already mentioned somewhere around 66,000, but it's old and needs help in several places. That makes this a candidate for rebuild work rather than a restoration. Because that is the case, I'm targeting six months to complete Project: Homage.
I've already chosen that number for the LX's Project: Special K and the GT's Project: GT Revival. Those cars have more work in the powertrain and chassis areas, but less in the body area, so I'm calling it a draw — arbitrarily, of course, since I haven't actually worked out a detailed project plans for either of them, I don't know precisely what their needs are.
It sounds good, here, too. Of course, it breaks down identically to those projects, as well — 180 hours over 36 days, spread out among 18 weeks. The following table provides a summary of the breakdown:
The budget for this project is going to be about the same as the other two rebuilds since I foresee the extra bodywork coming out to about the same as the powertrain and chassis costs of Project: Special K and Project: GT Revival.
As with those two projects, I've worked out a scheduled budget based solely on the timeframe of the project and the $10,000 target price I'm setting for it. I've summarized that budget in the table below:
Ideally, I would like to complete this entire project in my own facilities, on my own. The reality as that I'll likely be forced to take the El Camino down to a body shop to have the bodywork handled. That said, I think it's reasonable to consider that with this being the sixth scheduled project for my hobby, I'll have the Service Garage built by then and hopefully fairly well decked out. If so, that's where the majority of the project work will occur.
The work requirements for this project mean I'll likely have to touch every vehicle system, including the interior, chassis, trim, and maybe even the electrical — which weren't mentioned above. Because of the extent of this project, I've broken down the work by vehicle system as follows:
- Rust removal
- Paint repair
- Panel straightening/replacement? (I certainly hope not)
- Cleaning and detailing
- Rust removal
- Mechanical part replacement
- Rebuild transmission
- Performance tune
- Drivability adjustments?
- Mechanical part replacement?
- Rust removal?
- Mechanical part replacement?
- Primer and paint?
- Rust removal?
- Mechanical part replacement?
- Primer and paint?
- Powder coating?
- Mechanical part replacement?
- Material reconditioning?
Project: Homage is a rebuild, not a restoration. That means that there are a number of major repairs that need to be made, but I'm not tearing the car down to the frame to make everything like new. Consequently, I'm looking at this project as a bunch of isolated repairs, not as a manufacturing process.
In the goals section, I talk about what I know needs to be addressed, and mention things that may need to happen. In the work requirements section, I further postulate work that could conceivably need to be done, but that I don't have any firsthand knowledge of to support. In the schedule section, I'm going to stick to what I know to be probable to keep it simple. I'll know more after the assessment section below.
Following are the major milestones for Project: Homage.
Assessment, Feasibility and Go/No Go
Thankfully, the El Camino is all there.
I'm less grateful for the fact that it's been sitting there for almost 30 years and I don't have a good idea of its current condition.
Especially since it hasn't been treated very well.
I'm going to have quite a bit to do during the assessment phase, but once I do, I should have a clear idea of its feasibility. Honestly, if I have the funds to cover it, I don't foresee there being any trouble with the feasibility of this project based on my life-long familiarity with my Grandpa's El Camino.
Pulling the trigger on the project launch is another story, though. Since I'm planning this project to be the sixth in line at the moment and I'm not even close to having the resources necessary to begin on the first, this project will be on hold for quite some time.
The planning phase will be used to explore the depth of the work needed to complete the project goals, arrange the sequence of that work, and source any outside vendors to complete work I'm not able to do.
Rust and Paint Repair
The first of the principle project work is repairing the rust spot on the driver side quarter panel.
Nearly 30 years ago the paint was bubbling on the lower front quarter, so it's had some time to fester. It's also been kept out of the elements for the most part, so how much festering it's done remains to be seen.
This process may involve simply de-rusting and repainting the area, removing and replacing the damaged portion of the panel, or a complete quarter replacement. I won't know until I'm in there.
Although not mentioned, the El Camino has spent many a year with layers of heavy plywood leaned against it, so the entire driver side could potentially be warped and in need of repair.
I can't get to it now to do any kind of inspection, so, hopefully that isn't an added cost to the project.
Come to think of it, it's also had a ton of shit sitting in the bed all that time and the rear springs may need replacing as well...hmm.
What may very well be an added cost is a complete repaint of the entire cruck. It's had so much crap up against it that the paint could be scratched to shit and more than likely picked up a ding or two and I absolutely guarantee that would have never flown with my Grandfather.
This is one of three things I see needing some outside help for — but if I can get it done myself, I'll be jumping all over it.
Inspection, Maintenance, Tune-Up and Carb Repair
The second item on the to do list is getting the engine and the rest of the car in running order. Why, when it needs a transmission rebuild? Well, in order to properly diagnose the trans, it would be helpful to have a running engine. And should it actually end up moving under its own power, brakes are another great thing to have working.
That isn't the limit of this milestone, however. Since she's been sitting for the automotive equivalent of eons, a thorough inspection is in order, as is all of the necessary maintenance, up to and including repair or replacement of old and/or not working parts. This is also where the tune-up and installation of the Pertronix Ignitor will occur. The finishing touch will be to open up the secondaries my Grandfather had wired shut and possibly do a rough tune to them so that the engine can run — we'll see.
The Powerglide is old. It was old almost 30 years ago when it quit working. It may not have many miles on it, but sitting and age will do that to the internals of an automatic.
Regardless of what it is, it won't build pressure any longer so the torque converter doesn't catch up to the engine speed and the car doesn't move. That will need to be remedied. First from a careful diagnosis, then, more than likely removal, a rebuild of some kind, and re-installation.
I'll be doing all of that myself.
This is a milestone that may need to be done well before the transmission if the old tires won't hold enough air to move the El Camino around. However, if the old tires will function well enough for it to move, then I'll be waiting to replace them until I actually need the El Camino to physically go some where under its own power — like to have the exhaust replaced. The reason for my logic is simple: I don't want the new tires to flat spot should I need to have it sitting for an extended period of time during this project.
Ideally, like the rest of Project: Homage, I'd rather do the exhaust replacement myself. The reality is that I doubt I'll have the pipe bending equipment to do it — I really hope that I can, though. Man I prefer to do this myself — this is another area where I'm never happy with the quality of someone else's work.
The El Camino's exhaust is also unique to my Grandfather's cruck. He had the center section of the two pipes larger than the rest and it has this really unique, very mellow "wub, wub, wub" sound. I always knew when my Grandfather was home because nothing else sounded like his El Camino.
Consequently, the exhaust replacement must be a perfect replica. And I do mean perfect — nothing else will be acceptable.
Cleaning and Detailing
After sitting for decades, all manner of dust, cobwebs, and detritus have built up on her and in her. It's also spent a good chunk of that time on dirt. Completely covered, but on dirt. So that dirt has kicked up into the undercarriage and will need to be removed as well.
My Grandpa kept a clean machine. Maybe not perfect, but not covered in dirt.
My hope is that the trim isn't too damaged from all its mistreatment. If it is, there isn't any amount of detailing in the world that's going to make it better and I'll have to add a section for removing, repairing, or heaven forbid, replacing it.
Adjustment and Quality Control
I think the suspension is fine, but it may need an alignment, and that will occur at this point. The engine's performance tuning will also occur during the adjustment phase.
Once the final adjustments are taken care of, I'll perform a final QC and she'll be done — provided I don't find something I missed or isn't up to snuff. If I need to, I'll redo it. Then, it'll be done.
I won't be driving it much, some sunny days, maybe a road trip or two. Okay, okay, maybe a night at the track — just once, just to see what it'll do ;)
This is it, the last project planned for now.
I'm still going to review my successes and failures, though — I'm not done with my hobby. I won't have invested this much into my hobby to be done, so what happens here will impact future as-yet-unplanned projects.
Project: Homage is about returning my Grandpa's El Camino to the road in the condition he would have kept it in. In part, it's also about getting to experience a piece of my Grandfather and my upbringing, as well as make good on a road trip that never was.
This project is about keeping the El Camino all original — that is original to my Grandfather. That includes the Medium Green paint, the 283 V8, the Powerglide transmission, 3.08:1 Positraction rear end, drum brakes, steel wheels and 205 tires, and as many parts as can be retained as possible — especially those that make this cruck uniquely his.
After all, I plan to keep and drive this El Camino until the day I die — as an homage to the man who raised me.
Progress is a neat thing.
I like making progress.
But there's no progress here yet.
As Project: Homage is planned to be sixth inline and I haven't made progress on any of the others, it's going to be a while.
However, keep checking in periodically. When there's an update, it'll be right here.