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Showcase cover image for My 1979 El Camino had (estimated) 500,000+ miles on it when I bought it

General Information

Year
1979
Make
Chevrolet
Model
El Camino
Color
Repainted in 2003 in Diamont Desert Sunset
History
Bought back in 2000 in Phoenix, AZ. Car salesman told me previous owner was a traveling salesman and put on 250,000 miles on it in the first ten years and then the odometer broke. The emissions test records showed the same mileage for the next ten years and the owner claimed he put approximately the same mileage on it the second ten years as he did in the first ten years so he estimated it had about 500,000 miles before he got rid of it. I was told the motor was rebuilt twice. It had chrome valve covers on it and a glass-pack muffler installed.
The seats were down to the bare frame and springs in spots, the carpeting was worn down to bare metal under the pedals and the rubber on the pedals was worn down to bare steel as well.
I was travelling for my job back in March of 2000 and found this El Camino in Phoenix. After buying it, I drove it back to Wisconsin where I live. My coworker had just found an old Jeep Wagoneer and was going to drive it back himself. I found this El Camino and we were both able to drive our vehicles home and we had the benefit of having a parts chaser if one of us had car problems.
I spent the next 4 years restoring it. I was able to piece together the interior with junkyard parts. I removed the 94hp V6 and got rid of it for scrap iron. A friend of mine found me a TPI 305 with a 700R4 from a 1989 IROC Camaro with only 69,000 miles on it ($700.00 for both - I couldn't pass up that deal)
I had a local marine/body shop take it apart and paint it gold with black SS stripes that were based on the '70 El Camino / Chevelle. Since I installed a hard fiberglass tonneau cover I had the body shop paint that like it were the trunk lid of a Chevelle with the stripes ending just before the rear edge. I installed a GM cowl induction hood and had that painted like the '70 El Camino only instead of the "Cowl Induction" emblems I used two "Tuned Port Injection" emblems from the rear bumper of IROC Camaros that came with the 305.

It's awesome to drive. The 305 is basically stock IROC but it has quite a bit of torque. It gets up to 60 mph decently enough and it'll chirp the tires during that wonderfully hard 1-2 shift that 700R4s seem to have. It floats a little as you get it up over 85 mph but since the highest speed limit in Wisconsin is 70 I guess I don't have to worry too much about that. :)
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Modifications

Drivetrain
1989 TPI 305 and 700R4 from IROC Camaro
Interior
Used pieces from multiple junkyard donor vehicles: Chevy Malibu, Monte Carlo, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Buick Regal (Gotta love GM and their G-Bodies)
Exterior
Repainted in 2003 in Diamont Desert Sunset which is fitting since I found the El Camino in Phoenix
Audio
Blaupunkt AM/FM CD player installed specifically because it has NO bluetooth connectivity
Lighting
Stock
Exhaust
Factory IROC manifolds and 3" y-pipe sectioned to fit within the El Camino frame rails. Factory (replacement) IROC Catalytic converter, custom 2-1/2 pipe to Flowmaster IROC muffler with single input and dual outputs (one behind each rear wheel)
Suspension
Lowered one inch with drop spindles in front and one inch with blocks in the rear. Replaced rear factory air shocks with new Monroe air shocks and a Fleet Farm air hose kit
Wheel and Tire
Sears 15X7 solid aluminum wheels at all 4 corners with 235 60R15 Widetrack Radial SR tires

Comments

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What an interesting history she has. That must’ve been a fun, nail bitting road trip you had with your Bud. Any interesting incidents along the way?

She looks great. Kudos to you for rescuing her.
 

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What an interesting history she has. That must’ve been a fun, nail bitting road trip you had with your Bud. Any interesting incidents along the way?

She looks great. Kudos to you for rescuing her.
(re-posted from the tool box thread)
Thanks!
It was actually quite the road trip getting the El Camino back to Wisconsin from Phoenix. We had to travel via Henderson, NV (we were in Phoenix for work and another job came up and we were the closest group to Henderson while we were getting ready to start the trek home - long story but we ended up being able to charge our return trip to two different jobs so we got to charge our hours for driving home, hotels, meals, and gas to one job and all our mileage to the other job - all legit since we were actually helping the company out and saving them money - so my company pretty much paid/reimbursed me what I had into buying the El Camino and getting it home) and then up through Vegas, Salt Lake City, Lincoln, NE, Minneapolis, MN and then home to Wisconsin. It was March of 2000 and I think I made it to SLC before I realized that while the A/C worked nicely, there was no heat! The lower heating ducts were blocked with rags/paper towels and there was no thermostat in the engine. I remember installing the thermostat in an AutoZone parking lot early the next frosty morning while my coworker looked on while glancing repeatedly at his watch since we had hotel reservations that night in Lincoln, NE. (almost 900 miles away) So I got it installed, warmed it up and still no heat. I felt the heater hoses and while one was hot, the other was ice cold. I didn't have time to swap the heater core so I just had to drive it home with no heat. And did I mention the window seals had dry-rotted away and I had to stuff some egg-crate foam between the windows and the frame every single time I opened and closed the door? Did I also mention that my co-worker's Jeep only had a 10 gallon off-road fuel tank and a 360 V8 so we had to stop literally every hour for gas? Or that we got pulled over in Wyoming because he had no plates on his Jeep? (it was legal - we filled out the Wisconsin registration forms and mailed in our checks before we headed out) You should have seen the look on the officers face when I rolled the window down to hand him my paperwork and that egg-crate-foam fell out at his feet and he saw I was wearing my winter jacket, a hat and winter gloves. Anyway, we made it to Lincoln about midnight, and made it home to Wisconsin after another long drive the next day. And although it was cold, we were lucky the weather was clear and we didn't have to drive through any snow (or salt!) on our trip home.
I have a photo album full of pics from the road trip and also the restoration but it's from back in 2000 so it's actual photographs. One of these days I should get out my digital camera and take some photos of the photos so I have digital copies. :p
 

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Very nice ride. I want to upgrade my bed cover to a fiberglass cover. Can you tell me where you got yours?
 

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Very nice ride. I want to upgrade my bed cover to a fiberglass cover. Can you tell me where you got yours?
I got mine back in 2002 from Honest Charley's Speed Shop in Chattanooga, TN. I just looked at their website today, though and it seems they no longer offer the fiberglass tonneau cover. Bummer. It's a Gaylord lid, though and it looks like you can still get one at El Caminos - Gaylords Truck Lids
Good luck!
 
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