Due to circumstances beyond his control, which are almost all circumstances, He of We took a different route to work one day not long ago. It took him past an apartment building’s parking lot where facing the street was the shiniest, brightest, chrome-iest, mid-80’s Chevy El Camino. A car/truck that few ever give a second thought to but was always around from its first release in 1959 until the last one rolled off the assembly line in 1987. If it seemed like there were a lot of them on the roads there was even a GMC version produced from1971 through 1987 called first the Sprint then later renamed the Caballero.
The El Camino was a cool vehicle. It and Ford’s Ranchero were the SUVs of the 60’s and 70’s. It was a car when it was people hauling time, a truck when it was stuff hauling time, but it wasn’t a dowdy station wagon any of the time. If you asked most American men who were gasoline-fueled teenagers then, they would be able to tell you quite a bit about these early utility vehicles . They could quote horsepower ratings, top speed, payload, wheelbase, and similarities and differences between these light duty pick-ups and the cars they were based on. Perhaps even with more clarity than they could describe their own garage built hot rods. That’s because that’s what gasoline-fueled teenage boys did back then.
Although it’s been over 25 years since an El Camino sat in a new car showroom, 35 years for a Ranchero to do the same, every once in a while one shows up on the road. They are reminders that the “crossover” vehicle segment did not begin with the Toyota RAV 4. (There were similar vehicles built in the 1930’s but they never made it through World War II.) If you happen to be reading this in Australia or South Africa it’s possible that you might see a brand new car/truck drive by. GM’s Australian division Holden still produces an El Camino type vehicle called the Holden Ute in Australia and the Chevrolet Lumina Ute in South Africa.
Perhaps someday the El Camino will return to American roads. When it does (ok, if it does), it might be enough of a draw to create a new generation of gasoline-fueled teenage boys. Now if we can only bring back malt shops and sock hops.
Now that’s what we think. Really. How ‘bout you.