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Junkyard Gem: 1973 Chevrolet El Camino

After noting the strong sales of Ford and Mercury coupe utilities (which came to be known as utes) in Australia, Ford introduced the station-wagon-chassis-based Ranchero to North Americans for the 1957 model year. GM jumped in with the new El Camino for 1959, and— after a dalliance with a Corvair-based cartruck for a few years— sold Chevelle-based El Caminos (and, eventually, their GMC Sprint and Caballero siblings) all the way through 1987. I find plenty of discarded Rancheros during my quest for junkyard history lessons, but the El Camino is another story. Here’s a very rough but still identifiable ’73, found in a Denver-area car graveyard.

Yes, there were decades of business in the front/party in the back for this Elco, but now it’s completely used up.

The Chevelle got bigger and cushier for the 1973 model year (just in time to be blindsided by certain geopolitical events that gave small-car sales a huge boost), and so the pickup-ized Chevelle also grew larger. The El Camino Classic was the truck version of the Malibu (which was an upscale Chevelle trim level at the time but later shoved the Chevelle name aside), with Malibu-style trim and interior bits.

In fact, this El Camino may have just the fender from a Classic — lots of mix-and-match parts swappage has taken place here.

It appears that the original engine was a 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) small-block V8, an optional plant rated at 175 horsepower. The base engine for the 1973 El Camino was the 307-cubic-inch (5.0-liter) small-block, with just 115 horses and a reputation as one of the least desirable Chevy small-blocks ever made.

Is this that original 350? I didn’t feel like getting filthy scraping away ancient schmutz to peek at the block casting numbers to find out. My guess is that this cartruck’s engine compartment has hosted at least a few engines during its life.

The bandanna gas cap tells us that this Elco didn’t get much tender loving care during its final months on the road.

This generation of El Camino was built through 1977, after which the smaller and more angular G-body El Camino carried on until the end.

One tough car. One comfortable pickup.

Essentially a C10 with the comfort of a Monte Carlo. It wasn’t long before real pickups got sufficiently comfortable to make cartrucks less relevant.

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