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1970 El Camino 350 Daily Driver Project - Lots of modern Modz

47185 Views 492 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  sdcerreta
I am new to this forum. I am hoping to share some of my modz and project work while gaining some insight from others as well.

I have been building a new 2019 Subaru Forester Sport for the past year or so since buying it. I am glad to learn that the El Camino Central forum uses the same forum engine. Should be easy transition.

I am known for posting detailed build projects with lots of photos and hope to do the same for this project. I will share a little about this car and then I will move forward with some projects.

This car belonged to my father-in-law. He bought it in about 1990. It was his pride to work on. He did a restoration himself including the paint. There is nothing original about this car. It does not have matching numbers. He built it the way he wanted to drive it and he was proud of that.

Before his passing, the car had sat untouched for about 3 years. We fired it up and in his last year of life we spent some time working on the car together. Since he has passed, I slowly began moddifying this car in about 2015 to become a daily driver. Like him, I wanted this car to be what I wanted to drive and enjoy. I also want this to be a car to remmeber him by and one that my wife will drive and enjoy as well, especially since it was her father.

Since 2015, my wife feels scared to drive this car. My pursuit has been long but continues with the premise that I want to convert this car into something with a modern and reliable feel. I have no interest in keeping this car original at all. Therefore, this project build is all about performance, comfort, and reliability.

And away we go . . .
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Brakes are rock solid now after a few drives.

The front bumper arrived today. Just in time before the car goes into the paint shop. This bumper is in really nice condition and looks new. It has a nice top coat black satin paint on it. I wish the rear bumper looked this good. But, I now have two really good bumpers to work with. I think I will spray the rear bumper first with a topcoat black. Chances are that the coats will look different and I will end up painting the front bumper too. Once the topcoat black is on I will spray 3-4 coats of satin clearcoat for protection. The satin clear on the headlight bezels is holding up nicely against road debris. But, I need more miles on them.

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I got the bumpers all prepped. Bumpers will sandblasted then painted with primer. I added 4 coats of satin black top coat then 4 coats of satin clear coat. I did a quick check before heading out to work for the week and the finish seems smooth and durable.

I am going to pickup the bumpers, mirrors and door handles on Thursday so I can blacken those as well.

Here are the details for the paint and body project.

Project Start on 10/2/2020

Project completed by 10/23/2020 or sooner. Car show & shine on 10/23 that I would like to attend​

Color :

Single color, Toyota Cement; Code 1H5. Base coat, clear coat with lots of high quality shine and protection. How many coats of base? How may coats of clear?


The color scheme for this vehicle will be a solid color of 2018-2020 Toyota Tacoma Cement with mostly black trim and some chrome trim. There will be no logos or emblems of any kind. This includes exterior paint and door jams and door frame. When sitting inside the car with the doors closed, everything inside the interior should remain blue. The truck bed and rails will be sprayed with black spray-in bedliner material and rounding over the bed rails as necessary for cosmetic appearance and possibility to fill in gaps from removing the moldings.

Perform necessary body work to produce high quality paint adhesion and smooth body lines. This includes filling holes any small rust damage and sections of the body where molding has been removed.

Remove exterior chrome trim and emblems. Please save all of these parts and return to Scott at the end of the project. Please include any fasteners and try not to bend or break any of these parts when removing as I will sell them to other El Camino owners looking for OEM parts for their rebuild projects.

This includes removing: El Camino name badges, 350 badges, side molding, tailgate molding, door anti-ding molding, truck bed molding including piece under the rear window, wheel well molding and the molding attached to the body above each door.

The chrome molding that will be left in place includes: Door lock cylinders, tailgate lever, grille molding, molding around door windows, molding around front windshield and wiper area and molding around rear window (remove the lower piece under the window that is part of the truck bed).

Some parts will be removed and sent to Scott for blackening treatment asap. Scott will apply the blackened treatment and return to the shop for reinstallation. These parts include: Front and rear bumpers, door handles and side mirrors. The front grille and headlight bezels have already been blackened as a trial for the overall look and road chipping function. The rubber bed mat can also be removed, rolled up and returned to Scott.

If there are any issues along the way, please call to discuss. If there are opportunities for me to stop by and take some pictures of the project progress, that would be great. I would also appreciate other photos along the way. Feel free to text or email some photos to me as well.
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I made a trip to the body shop today to collect the door handles, mirrors and bumpers. My plan for the truckbed was to remove all the chrome trim and just have the shop smooth that edge and spray bedliner material over it.That is not going to work. Under the trim is a raised edge. The shop said there would be a lot of labor to give it the look I wanted. That of course changes the budget. So, I also took that trim home to blacken it. The plan now is to put the trim back in place, but it will be black trim instead of chrome.

In just a couple days, some good progress has been made to the Elky. Bumpers and most of the trim are off. Repiar on some bad body spots have been started.

Roof work was started. There was one really bad spot where the paint was peeled off and the sheet metal underneath was getting a little rusty.


You can seem the raised edge on teh truck bed rails. These require too much work to make ready for bedliner material. So, I agreed to blacken the trim pieces and put them back in place.

Lots of work done to the tailgate. Looking good!

Here are the stock bumpers. These had some dents, pitting chrome and some bends in the support arms. The goal is to remove all the support pieces, paint them black then attach to the new Black painted bumpers. A lot of the bolts were rusted and a couple could not be removed, so I used an angle grinder to cut a slot in the nuts, then the impact wrench did the trick to free up the bolts. There was some damage to a few parts, so I decided to buy a new bumper bolt kit (I will paint the plugs black) rear deflectors and some license plate parts.

Everything is coming together. I hope to have some more updates next week. I also hope to get everything prepped and painted before the shop needs them.
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As I was pulling all the bumper support braces off, I discovered that most of the bolts were rusted.Some did not move well and required WD40 and an impact wrench. Two bolts had to be cut then the impact took them off. I had to replace the whole set of bolts and the rear deflectors as one bolt was glued on with rust and I broke it trying to get it off the bumper. I am still waiting on those parts. So, more work to do before I return these to the shop.

Making progress on these parts. Here are some photos. These accessories had chrome plating. I used scotch brite to dull the surface, then sprayed them with 2 coats etching primer, 2 coats gray primer then 3 coats satin black and 3 coast satin clear.

Here are some photos:

The condition of the bumper is fair. Lots of rust and pitting in the chrome. Some dings too. So, I am replacing them. The new bumpers were sandblasted then painted. It should have a better surface compared to the other parts that I have to dull the chrome then paint.

The handles need disassembly then prepped.

Here the thumb lever was removed. Easy work.

All the parts were prepped then painted with etching primer. This should have a better bond to the metal surface compared to standard primer.

The mirror glass was taped then sprayed.

Now on with the satin black.

Once I had the back sides painted to the big pieces I just turned them over to paint the finished surface and with clear coat. I did not clear coat the back surface. Then, I moved on to the small pieces with finished surface on all sides. I have done lots of small work like this. The best method I have is to wrap wire around the part, spray, then hang to dry. This way no surface is on the ground and it does not disturb the fresh paint. I did this to the handles and taillight trim pieces too.
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Well, I was supposed to pickup the car this week, but the shop said they need another week. I went in to take some photos on Friday and it looks like there is still a ton of work to do. They said it will be ready by Thursday next week, but I really doubt it. I hope they prove me wrong. The winter chills are quickly approaching and I woudl like to make one or two more trips to the local club before we break for the winter.

Here are a couple photos in primer.








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It's lookin good! Having worked in a body shop myself. You should always assume you're going to get the car back much later than you're initially told. If things move along smoother and faster, and it's returned to you sooner than you expected, then you can be pleasantly surprised. If not, then things will be moving along as you thought they would. It's looking good though. My car will need to be resprayed at some point. I learned the hard way, you truly get what you pay for. I bought extremely inexpensive product, and it backfired. I was told later by a painter I worked with, you can buy the cheapest base coat in the world, don't cheap out on clear. As long as you have quality clear, you'll be good to go. Can't wait to see it finished. Are you going to rhino line the bed? Are they jambing it to?
Thanks Tony. I appreciate the tips too. Yes, black spray-in bedliner. Door jambs will be sprayed, but not the other parts of the intorior trim. So, when the doors are closed everythign inside the car should be blue, A pillars, dash metal, rear deck metal, etc. The bed trim pieces have been blackened along with the mirrors and door handles and bumpers. These will all be placed back on the car. All the emblems and other trim will be left off. The fenders and door ribs have already been treated and they look really good. If you look close you can see they left the holes for the emblems on the front fenders and tailgate. These will all be plugged.
It appears the grill valance below the grill did not get primed (yet).
Will this be blacked or body colored?
As seen below, it is visible.
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It is going to be body colored. Not everything was primered. They told me they primered the main body so they can identify uneven spots and continue the body repairs. It is mostly smooth, but on both sides there is an uneven section above the rear tires. All the damage on teh roof came out looking really good. But nothing was sanded either.

All these clues really tell me that they have a ton of work to do. I don't think they will be finished next week. I hope i am wrong.
I would prefer they take time to do it right than to rush them.
I agree with Old Bear. Body and paint takes time. I'd rather they take the extra time to get it done right the first time. I can tell you from experience. The thought of having to take everything apart for a repaint, because it wasn't done right the first time, sucks.
don't cheap out on clear. As long as you have quality clear, you'll be good to go.
Tony (or anyone else) every heard of SPI? Automotive Refinishing | United States | Southern Polyurethanes and have any feedback?
What I love is that they are a small company (compared to PPG etc.) and someone always answers the phone and are willing to spend time and answer questions. Online reviews seem very positive as well.
Tony (or anyone else) every heard of SPI? Automotive Refinishing | United States | Southern Polyurethanes and have any feedback?
What I love is that they are a small company (compared to PPG etc.) and someone always answers the phone and are willing to spend time and answer questions. Online reviews seem very positive as well.
DJenkins, I hadn't heard of them. After looking at their site. I can see why. They do not sell to California. Unfortunately the EPA (Along with every other government organization has implemented strict rules over just about everything in the state) Body shops and I think anyone selling automotive paint products, have to use Water Based Paints. They are not allowed to use Solvent based products anymore. This came down the pipe several years ago. The other thing I noticed, for those that are able to purchase, it looks like they only offer, White, Red, Dark or Med Red, Black, Orange, and a Matte Black for your color options.
Seems to be a bit limited color palate.
Thanks. I'm going black so the colors work for me. I'm going to give them a shot. I haven't painted a car for over 15 years, so I'm going to to paint the original flat hood (will be putting new SS hood on the car) as a test panel and see how is goes. If good results then I'll have the confidence to do the whole car and will find out how SPI paint is.
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There is some discussion of SPI in @roger1 discussion in his thread on repainting his ChooChoo.
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DJenkins, do report back and show some photos. I woudl love to see and hear about how the SPI paint was.

To Tony and Old Bear, yup agree with waiting to get it done right. However, I don't get the sense this is what is happening. I am begining to lose a little faith in the shop. Each time I call they seem to forget about essential elements of the project. The price changes each time I call, they keep saying we are not doing the door jams right?!.

It is a little dissapointing and I am starting to fear that it won't be done right. I hope I am just being a little paranoid, but it is now 1 full week behind sched and when I called to see if it was ready for pickup tomorrow, i learned that they are buying the paint today. Somthing they told me was going to happen last week.

While I have no problem waiting so the job can be done right. This is not the sense I am getting. I think what is realy happening, is that the car is sitting at the shop and they are spending time working on other cars and turning quickjobs rather than working on my car. There are too many signs and on several visits, there seems to be a lack of real progress. So, hopefully I can pick up the car next Monday like they said.

The winter is already here, so not sure I will get many drives in after I get teh car back. Bummer.
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On another note, I have been exploring two more major upgrades. A classic auto air AC kit. This looks straight forward and somthing I can do on my own.

The other upgrade is adding a Gear Vendors overdrive and swapping my new posi 3.08 rear gears to a posi 3.73 gears. I hear this combo is really awesome and I feel quite excited about this upgrade. Does anyone have any experience with Gear Vendors. I also hear that the install is easy, but I cannot view instructions so I do not know what is involved. It seems like I have to have the driveshaft shortened. I also cannot tell if I have to remove the tranny from the car. If so, then that is not me. But if it is a bolt on then I can handle that. I wish I could review the instructions.
The winter is already here, so not sure I will get many drives in after I get the car back. Bummer

The silver lining to this, although the car should be baked in the booth, is that you will have ample time to let the paint fully cure, before exposing it to the elements.

I'm sorry to hear that you're losing faith in the shop. I feel like I would be in the same boat as you. Although I don't have the knowledge and skill to perform all the tasks necessary on my car, I don't like taking my stuff in to a shop. I don't trust other people to touch my vehicles. Unless I really know them. Shops, not a chance. I get impatient very quickly. If my car were in the shop, I would be constantly checking on it, looking for progress, and asking for a hard finish date. I would constantly be critiquing their sanding and masking process. Wondering if they're doing a good enough job. Expecting a show quality job, but certainly not paying for one. My expectations and my wallet don't always align. It's one of those things, you get what you pay for and paint jobs aren't cheap if they're done right.
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Roaring with laughter. I am feeling anxious, but not quite as badly as you would be. It's a good thing that I work out of town and have not made too many trips to the shop or I likely would have scolded them if I actually saw the car just getting pushed into and out of the bays without any work being done on the actual car. :oops:

I am lucky that I have a mechanic shop that I really trust, but their labor rates are high and I don't like to use them if I do not have too. I hate to spend money on labor when I can do the work myself and save the money for parts like a Gear Vendors overdrive. I really want one of these.
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I was late getting out of work and when I got back to town, I thought I would stop by the shop after they closed and hoped to get a glimpse of the El Camino. I had no luck, then I got caught peeping through the windows. A guy came outside to ask what I was doing and I told him I was hoping to get a glimpse of the El Camino before I was headed back out of town for a weekend trip. He told me I was not going to find the car because it was in the paint booth.

He told me to come back tomorrow. I explained that I won't be back into town until Monday and he said that was fine, the car should be done by then. So, I felt happy that the car is making progress and not just sitting around with another week delay. Then as I was driving off, he rapped on the window, "do you want to see it?" Are cows fat - hell yeah I wanna see it.

They wousl not allow me to take photos because they did not want the boss to get mad at them that they let someone into the shop after hours. So, I obeyed and was happy to see the pregress. I think I have been feeling seperation anxiety the past couple weeks. ;). It was a relief to see the car and to see that some of the progress. The last time I saw the car, the body holes from the trim were not plugged and some of the essential pieces like jams, inside hood area, grille area and other small spots were not primed. So, I worried that these sections would not be done right.

Everything looked better than I expected. The holes were plugged. The doors were off and getting prepped for paint tomorrow while the jambs were done and all the grille sections were getting treatment as well. The car looked really awesome without the trim. the body was smooth and the lines were super clean and straight. The paint color was everything I hoped for. It is the Toyota Cement. It actually has a nice pearl in this color that I was not aware of until the shop called me the other day to verify that this is what I wanted. In fact, it does not superise me that there is pearl in that color as this is probably why I love that color and the gloss it has in certain light.

The olny piece I could find wrong, was that trim panel under the front bumper that Old Bear pointed out. They taped that off and was going to leave it black. I explained the importance of getting that to be body color and they said no problem, we will paint it tomorrow with the doors and when they start the block sanding and polishing.

Woohoo I feel really good about this now. It seems to be on track for a Monday afternoon pickup.
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