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oldopelguy UberDork
3/30/20 9:13 a.m.

For decades now I have been intrigued by the idea of chopping up whatever random car I have and turning it into a ute. Smyth kits only made the problem worse, especially since every new pickup is just too tall. I have been referring to every idea as a blank-amino forever and finally my wife suggested just getting an actual El Camino and seeing if I actually liked it. 

Seemed like good advice, and when I started looking I stumbled across this:

It's a base stripper model, so stripped down in fact that it's one of only 600 some odd manual transmission trucks made in '80. That makes it sorta rare. The Chevy 3.8l and 3-speed manual, coupled to a 2.73:1 rear axle make it not really all that desirable however. The engine being locked up solid further reduces the desirability, but it came home with me for $800.

First thing it needed was tires so it could roll around and while I was rummaging around I stumbled across a set of wheel adapters I had ordered for my dad's truck to go from 5x4.5 to the more common Charger/Challenger 5x115mm. Somehow I must have been hedging my bets or something, because the adapters were dual drilled for 5x4.5 and 5x4.75 on the car side, which let me bolt on a set of 17" Charger wheels and tires I had sitting around:

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
3/30/20 9:16 a.m.

I already love where this is going and I am excited to see where you take this thing.

oldopelguy UberDork
3/30/20 9:45 a.m.

Once it was able to be rolled around it pretty much got parked while I noodle over drivetrain options.  Goal is to keep it manual, but it's a linkage set up for the clutch that only works with the G-body specific bell housing. That would be fine, it's a regular Chevy bolt pattern on the front, except it's one of the small 153 tooth flywheel bell housings.

There are several engine options in my shop that would make sense and bolt up, including a 2.5L Iron Duke, 4.3L v6, 250 straight-6, 4.8 or 5.3l truck motors, and a Vortec 454. None of those have 153 tooth flywheel options except maybe the Iron Duke.

What about the flywheel on the 3.8L in the car? That's the wrong balance for anything else. 

So what about the Buick 3.8L out of a G-body, that should work and the adapter is easy, right? There are manual flywheels available, but 6 months of looking hasn't turned one up. 

Enter Speedway motors, and their 60 degree GM to Chevy adapter. That plus an AMC Eagle 9.5" clutch disc will let me drop in an S10 or Camaro 2.8, 3.1, or 3.4L v6, or a Camaro 3800 v6 and bolt it up to what's there. I happen to have one of those adapters leftover from an ls4 experiment, and a 20k mile Goodwrench 2.8L on the shelf so that's the leading contender. 

The other direction to go is to swap the clutch over to hydraulic. There are kits, and they are expensive, but it looks like an early S10 master might be able to be made to work with the stock pedal assembly. 

AngryCorvair MegaDork
3/30/20 9:49 a.m.

i would rather have an el Camino than my current Sonoma.

not *that* el Camino, mind you.  ;-)  but i am excited to see where this goes.  

oldopelguy UberDork
3/30/20 9:55 a.m.

In the meantime, a fellow vet reached out that his body shop was struggling due to business downturns associated with Covid. Obviously the El Camino needs body work, so it's now off to a shop becoming Challenge ineligible:

AngryCorvair MegaDork
3/30/20 10:28 a.m.

EDIT:  dammit I suck at this gif game.  Imagine Ron Burgundy "boy, that escalated quickly"

gumby HalfDork
3/30/20 10:29 a.m.
AngryCorvair said:

i would rather have an el Camino than my current Sonoma.

I would rather have a Ranchero than my current Ranger as well, but I would have to tear it apart and turn it into another project before it would make a viable appliance.

Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
3/30/20 10:31 a.m.

I ve had s10, ranger, Dakota, 80 el camino, 64 el camino, and a couple gmt400. 

The gmt is all i want to use to tow cars with. The rest were suitable for homeownership. 

Clem: 2.8 for the win!!!!

maschinenbau SuperDork
3/30/20 10:39 a.m.

I will ALWAYS upvote El Camino content! I agree with using whatever parts you got on hand to make it run, but I've always liked the idea of 4.2 Atlas in one of these. If the 350 in mine bit the dust, I'd be looking hard at that swap. 

From 15 years of driving an El Camino, I have learned a few things:

  • Everyone loves an El Camino
  • Fellow owners always give a thumbs up, like the motorcycle wave
  • You may notice your inner mullet tingle from time to time. The only relief is to drive your El Camino.
Toyman01 MegaDork
3/30/20 10:40 a.m.

I had a Malibu wagon with the Chevy 3.8. What a horrible little engine. It may be the worst engine Chevy ever made. Does it have the computer controlled carburetor on it. Someone at GM thought it would be a good idea to chop a Q-jet in half and then computer control the metering rods. What a horrible design that was. Be glad it's locked up.

Looks like a fun project. I'll be interested to see what you end up powering it with.



slowbird Dork
3/30/20 11:14 a.m.

I'll just be over here crying about the fact that they quit making the Ranchero.

Cool truck though, those era are the best El Caminos.

914Driver MegaDork
3/30/20 11:23 a.m.
oldopelguy UberDork
3/30/20 11:43 a.m.

Right now the contenders for drivetrain are:

Options using the stock clutch and either the stock side shift 3 speed, an A833, or a Corvette 4+3 that wouldn't require cutting a new shifter hole in the floor:

-2.8 or 3.1 V6, because I have one of each, an edelbrock intake, some fiero parts, and it's a $35 clutch disc away from being more everything than the 3.8 Chevy in it was.

-305 out of my wife's Nova after I swap in a 5.3L and 200r4. Scope creep....

-Some random sbc I don't have yet. 

-Jeep Iron Duke 2.5L


Options if the hydraulic clutch works that use the same transmission options and don't involve cutting up the floor:

-4.3L v6

-250 straight 6

-4.8/5.3L truck motor

-454 Vortec 

-Opel CIH

-60 degree GM pattern stuff


Options if the hydraulic clutch works and I cut a hole for a top shift transmission include all of the above and NV3500, T5, T50, or MA5 transmissions plus:

-Toyota Supra 5MGE with w58 5 speed. 


So many options and there are cases for several that are compelling. 

Also, the redneck in me keeps eyeing the '97 suburban 4wd chassis I bought for another project that sold already....

Norma66-Brent Reader
3/30/20 7:38 p.m.

My wife use to drive a 83 el Camino to school. It only had am radio and would only pick up mariachi music. I'm banned from owning a El Camino crying. I always thought a 80's El Camino would be sweet with a modern diesel.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
3/30/20 7:49 p.m.

4.8 and NV3500 or Supra 5M & W58 seem very appealing from over here, the corner where I do no real contributions to the project, besides cheer you on.  305 & NV3500 might be easier overall and also good.  Which of these transmissions do you own now? 

oldopelguy (Forum Supporter)
oldopelguy (Forum Supporter) UberDork
4/8/20 1:56 p.m.

Body shop is making some progress:

EvanB (Forum Supporter)
EvanB (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
4/8/20 2:00 p.m.

How much boost will an Iron Duke take?

02Pilot UltraDork
4/8/20 2:48 p.m.

I know very, very little about the GM parts bin, but I would really love to see this built with some truly odd drivetrain combination. Of the stuff listed, I like the 2.8/3.1 V6 or the 250 straight-6 with the Corvette 4+3 transmission.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) PowerDork
4/8/20 2:55 p.m.
EvanB (Forum Supporter) said:

How much boost will an Iron Duke take?

Probably negative two without a bunch of no longer produced parts that said Super Duty on them. 

eastsideTim UberDork
4/9/20 8:43 a.m.

 Cool!  I love cartrucks!  I am very surprised you could still get something with a 3 speed manual in 1980.  Would have figured 4 speed would have been the base transmission by then.

Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter)
Professor_Brap (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
4/9/20 8:53 a.m.

That thing is cool, can't wait to see where it goes.

oldopelguy (Forum Supporter)
oldopelguy (Forum Supporter) UberDork
4/9/20 8:59 a.m.

In reply to eastsideTim :

I was as well. I actually would have maybe expected it on my wife's 79 Nova, being the last year of the chassis, but 80 was a couple years into the A/G body and by then I assumed 3 speeds were a thing of the past.   I have to admit, when I found out it was only a 3 speed I really thought about figuring out how to put a 3-on-the-tree shifter in it just to mess with people. 

twentyover Dork
4/9/20 2:49 p.m.

Will I be the first to suggest Ecoboost?


Why yes, I think I am.


Have had a 79, 84, & 84, currently have a 65 project (LS2, T56) that is at brother's house 2500 miles away



oldopelguy (Forum Supporter)
oldopelguy (Forum Supporter) UberDork
4/9/20 8:05 p.m.

I would love an ecoboost, but spending real money on the engine for this isn't really an option. 

I had been leaning towards the 2.8L swap for the last few days right up until I found out that the 250 straight 6 uses the same flywheels as small block chevys, and that I can get one new for @$70. That information, plus running across a brand new 1 barrel Holley ProJection kit for a 6-cylinder engine that will bolt right on have swayed me towards the 250. I actually think the torque in that motor is going to be a good match for the tall rear end and the overall vibe of the trucklet.

Now I need to clean the motor up and get at least a valve cover gasket for it...

maschinenbau (I live here)
maschinenbau (I live here) SuperDork
4/9/20 8:37 p.m.

Yes! Inline 6 Elky! Awesome choice.

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