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El Camino SS.jpg


Template:Refimprove See also: GMC Sprint / Caballero Template:Infobox Automobile The Chevrolet El Camino is a coupe utility vehicle produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors for the 1959–1960 model years in response to the success of its rival, Ford Ranchero. Production resumed 1964–1977 based on the Chevelle platform, continuing 1978–1987 based on the Malibu. El Camino's literal Spanish meaning is "the road." Although based on corresponding Chevrolet car lines the vehicle is classified and titled in North America as a truck. It has a variant, the GMC Sprint introduced for the 1971 model year. Renamed GMC Caballero in 1978, it too was produced through the 1987 model year. Template:TOCleft Template:-



The mid-1955 introduction of Chevrolet's stylish Cameo Carrier pickup helped pave the way for the El Camino. Although a truck in every sense, the Cameo offered an unprecedented array of car-like features; Two-tone paint, smooth V8 power, an automatic transmission, a relatively luxurious interior, power assists, and more were among its attractions. The Cameo no doubt inspired Dodge, International, and Ford to offer flush-side cargo boxes on some of their 1957 pickups. But Ford had another surprise in store for the competition in 1957. It was the Ranchero. The 1959 El Camino was Chevy's eventual answer to the Ford Ranchero. Chevrolet was locked into the third and final edition of its 1955 chassis/body program for 1957. Ford however had a totally new chassis and body that year making the timing right only for Ford. Chevrolet had a one-year body design for its 1958 passenger cars. It would still have been impractical to engineer a response to the relatively low-volume Ranchero, which Ford simply facelifted for 1958. Furthermore, Chevrolet's efforts on the truck front "were focused on releasing smooth-sided "Fleetside" pickups as more-practical midseason successors to the Cameo. By the time Chevrolet unveiled the El Camino, the full-size Ford Ranchero was already headed for the last roundup. The El Camino and Ranchero would compete only in the 1959 model year.[1]

First generation (1959–1960)[]

Template:Infobox Automobile generation The first El Camino was produced for the 1959 model year two years after the Ford Ranchero's introduction. Chevrolet stylists had considered a new coupe pickup well before the Ranchero appeared; according to stylist Chuck Jordan, Harley Earl himself had suggested such a thing back in 1952. As was often becoming the case, though, it took Ford's example to convince Chevrolet to move, and Chevy's response to the Ranchero did not appear until 1959, just as Ford was preparing to shift gears. This was the year of the completely redesigned, longer, lower and wider full-sized Chevrolet. It sold in fewer numbers than the more conservatively styled Fords, but 22,246 El Caminos were sold, beating Ford's 14,169 Ranchero sales.

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1959 El Camino

Like the Ranchero, it was based on an existing and modified platform, namely the new-for-1959 Brookwood two-door station wagon and corresponding sedan delivery variant; unlike those models, the El Camino was available with any trim level and drivetrain option corresponding to the car line, including that of the Chevrolet Impala. The El Camino was built on Chevy's 1959 passenger-car chassis that featured a "Safety-Girder" X-frame design and full-coil suspension, both of which had debuted on the 1958s. The Template:Convert wheel-base was Template:Convert longer than that of the 1958 models, though. Overall length for all 1959 Chevys was up to Template:Convert. The El Camino's payload rating ranged from 650 pounds to 1150 pounds, with gross vehicle weights ranging from 4400 to 4900 pounds, depending on powertrain and suspension options specified. The somewhat soft, passenger-car-type standard suspension enabled the El Camino to stand level without a load. (By contrast, the Ranchero came with stiffer heavy-duty rear springs that provided it with a standard 1100-pound payload rating and gave it a distinct "rake" when unloaded.) The quirky Level Air suspension option, in its second and final year, was listed as available, but was almost never seen on any Chevrolet model, much less an El Camino. The 1959 El Camino was promoted as the first Chevrolet pickup built with a steel bed floor instead of wood. The floor was a corrugated sheetmetal insert, secured with 26 recessed bolts. Concealed beneath it was the floor pan from the Brookwood two-door wagon, complete with foot wells. Box capacity was almost 33 cubic feet. The 283-cid Turbo-jet V8 with two- or four-barrel carburetion and several Turbo-Thrust 348-cid V-8s with four-barrel or triple two-barrel carbs (the latter with up to Template:Convert by mid 1959) were among the entrées. Even the 250- and 290-bhp 283-cube Ramjet Fuel Injection engines were available. Hot Rod magazine conducted a test of an El Camino equipped with the hottest powertrain combination available in early 1959—a Template:Convert, triple-carb, solid-lifter 348 V-8 mated to a four-speed. HR testers clocked 0-60-mph times of around seven seconds, estimated top speed at Template:Convert, and predicted 14-second/100-mph quarter-mile performance with a rear-axle ratio suitable for serious drag racing installed. A total of 22,246 El Caminos were produced for 1959. That bested the count of 21,706 first-year Rancheros made in 1957 and the 14,169 Ford sedan pickups built in direct competition for the 1959 model year. But 1960 would be a different story.

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1960 El Camino

The similar but less flamboyant 1960 model started at $2366 for the six-cylinder model; another $107 for a V-8 with the two-barrel 283. At first glance, the exterior once again had a Bel Air look, with that series' bright-metal "jet" appliqué and narrow trailing molding used to accent the rear quarters. Inside, Biscayne/Brookwood appointments also persisted. The seat was now covered in striped-pattern cloth with vinyl facings. Available interior trim shades were once again gray, blue, and green. Floor coverings were in medium-tone vinyl. Mid-1959 powertrain availability was carried over with minimal changes for 1960: The base 283-cid V-8 was detuned a bit for fuel economy and was now rated at Template:Convert, and the fuel-injected engines were officially gone. Orders plummeted by a third, to just 14,163 at which point Chevrolet discontinued the model; meanwhile Ford moved 21,027 Rancheros, which were now based on the brand-new Falcon compact. The pioneering American sedan pickups just didn't connect with enough car-buying Americans. Perhaps these early "crossovers" didn't carry enough passengers; in a time when baby-boomer families dominated the market, three across was the best they could offer. The low-level trim and marketing efforts focused almost exclusively on commercial customers may have inhibited sales as well.[1] Template:Infobox Automobile generation

Second generation (1964–1967)[]

Chevrolet re-introduced the El Camino four years later based on the Chevrolet Chevelle. The 1964 model was identical to the Chevelle forward of the B-pillars, but Chevrolet marketed the El Camino as a utility model and Chevelle's most powerful engines were not available. Initial engine offerings included six-cylinder engines of 194 and 230 cubic inches with horsepower ratings of 120 and 155, respectively. The standard V8 was a 283 cubic-inch Chevy small block with two-barrel carburetor and Template:Convert with optional engines including a 220-horsepower 283 with four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts. Added to the El Camino's option list during the course of the 1964 model year were two versions of the 327 cubic-inch small block V8 rated at 250 and Template:Convert — the latter featuring a higher compression ratio of 10.5:1, larger four-barrel carburetor and dual exhausts.[2] The 1965 El Camino received an attractive facelift with a veed front end similar to the redesigned full-size Chevrolets. 1965 saw the availability of a higher performance version of the 327 engine rated at Template:Convert that was also available in Chevelles under option code L-79. Most of the other engines were carried over from 1964 including the 194 and 230 cubic-inch Turbo Thrift sixes, the 195-horsepower 283 cubic-inch Turbo-Fire V8 and 327 cubic-inch Turbo-Fire V8s of 250 and Template:Convert.[3]

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1966 El Camino

1966 brought added a Template:Auto CID V8 engine to the lineup rated from 325 to Template:Convert. The 1965 327 would run low 15s in the 1/4 mile (at some 90 mph), while 1966 to 1969 models were easily into the mid- to upper-14s. New sheetmetal highlighted the 1966 El Camino, identical to the Chevelle forward of the B-pillars. A new instrument panel with horizontal sweep speedometer was featured. Inside, the standard version featured a bench seat interior and rubber floor mat from the lower-line Chevelle 300 series while the Custom used a more upscale interior from the Chevelle Malibu with plusher cloth-and-vinyl or all-vinyl bench seats and deep twist carpeting, or optional Strato-bucket seats with console. The 1967 El Camino followed the Chevelle's styling facelift with a new grille, front bumper, and trim. Air shocks remained standard equipment on the El Camino, allowing the driver to compensate for a load. The year 1967 also brought the collapsable steering column and options of disc brakes and Turbo Hydramatic 400 3-speed automatic transmission. It was the second year the 396 could be had in the El Camino (both 13480 300 Deluxe base and 13680 Malibu series). Since the L35 396/325 hp engine was the base for the SS396 series, the number of L35 engines reported sold by Chevrolet in 1967 (2,565) were sold in one of the two El Camino series since these were the only series the engine could be ordered in. Since the L34 (now 350 hp) & L78 (375 hp) were available in either El Camino series as well as the two SS396 body styles, there is no way of knowing how many of these optional engines went to which body style. Chevrolet does report 17,176 L34 and 612 L78 engine options were sold in 1967 Chevelles but there is no breakdown of body styles. The TH400 3-speed automatic was now available as an option (RPO M40) with the 396 engine in both the SS396 series and the 396-equipped El Caminos. The 3-speed manual transmission remained the standard transmission with a heavy duty (RPO M13) also available along with the 2-speed Powerglide and either M20 wide ratio or M21 close ratio 4-speed transmissions. Template:- Template:Infobox Automobile generation

Third generation (1968–1972)[]

1968 introduced a longer El Camino, based on the Chevelle station wagon/4-door sedan wheelbase and shared Chevelle Malibu exterior and interior trims. The interior was revamped including cloth and vinyl or all-vinyl bench seats and deep twist carpeting. All-vinyl Strato bucket seats and center console were an $111 option. Power front disc brakes and Positraction were optional. A new, high performance Super Sport SS396 version was launched. The Turbo-Jet 396 had 325 bhp or 350-bhp versions. Returning to the official options list for the first time since late 1966 was the 375-bhp L78. It had solid lifters, big-port heads, and an 800-cfm Holley four-barrel on a low-rise aluminum manifold. A three-speed manual was standard with all engines, and a four-speed or automatic were optional. 1969 models showed only minor changes for 1969, led by more rounded front-end styling. A single chrome bar connected quad headlights, and a slotted bumper held the parking lights. New round instrument pods replaced the former linear layout. 1969 marked the first time that the legendary Chevrolet 350 V-8 was used in an El Camino. The Super Sport group included a 265- or 325-horsepower 396-cubic-inch V-8 beneath a double-domed hood, along with a black-out grille displaying an SS emblem. More potent editions of the 396 engine also made the options list, developing 350 or 375 horsepower. Options included power windows and locks. 1970 models received sheetmetal revisions that gave the bodies a more squared-up stance, and interiors were also redesigned. 1970 saw the availability of a new SS396 which actually displaced Template:Auto CID (although all emblems read 396). Chevrolet's largest and most-powerful engine of the time was also put into a select few El Caminos. The LS6 454 in³ engine, rated at Template:Convert and Template:Auto ft.lbf of torque, gave the El Camino 1/4 mile times in the upper 13 second range at almost Template:Convert.

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1972 El Camino SS

The 1971 El Camino got fresh front-end styling that included large Power-Beam single-unit headlights, a reworked grille and bumper, and integral park/signal/marker lights. For 1971, mandated lower-octane unleaded fuel necessitated a reduction in engine compression, and GM's A.I.R. system, a "smog pump", was added to control tailpipe emissions. Power and performance was reduced. Engine offerings for 1971 included the 250-6, small block V8s of 307 and 350 cubic inches; and big block V8s of 402 and 454 cubic-inch displacements. Horsepower ratings of those engines for 1971 ranged from 145 for the six to 365 for the 454 — all in gross figures. A rebadged El Camino, the GMC Sprint debuted in 1971. It shared the same engine/transmission offerings as its Chevrolet counterpart. 1972 El Caminos wore single-unit parking/side marker lights on their front fenders, outside of a revised twin-bar grille, but little changed. For 1972, horsepower measurements were switched to the "net" figures as installed in a vehicle with all accessories and emission controls hooked up. Engine offerings included the Template:Convert 250-6, a 307 V-8, a Template:Convert 350-cubic-inch V-8, and big block V8s of 402 and 454 cubic-inch displacements. The 402-cubic-inch (still known as a 396) produced Template:Convert; the 454 managed to put out Template:Convert under the net rating system. Super Sport equipment could now be ordered with any V-8 engine, including the base 307-cubic-inch version. Template:Clear Template:Infobox Automobile generation

Fourth generation (1973–1977)[]

For 1973, the El Camino was redesigned. Matching the Chevelle line and using the wagon chassis, it was the largest El Camino generation. Energy-absorbing hydraulic front bumper systems left an ungainly appearance on these vehicles and added more weight. There were two different trim levels of El Caminos during this period. The base model and SS option shared interior and exterior appointments with the Chevelle Malibu while the El Camino Classic (introduced for 1974) shared its trim with the more upscale Chevelle Malibu Classic.

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1973 El Camino

The chassis design was as new as the bodies with Template:Convert wider wheel track front and rear. The left wheel was adjusted to have slightly more positive camber than the right which resulted in a more uniform and stable steering feel on high-crown road surfaces while maintaining excellent freeway cruise stability. Clearances for spring travel were also improved for a smoother ride over all types of surfaces; the coil springs at each wheel were computer-selected to match the individual car's weight. Front disc brakes were now standard on all '73 El Caminos. Additional new features were an acoustical double-panel roof, tighter-fitting glass, flush style outside door handles, molded full foam front and rear seat construction, flow-through power ventilation system, inside hood release, refined Delcotron generator and sealed side-terminal battery, a larger Template:Convert fuel tank, and "flush and dry" rocker panels introduced first on the redesigned 1971 full-size Chevrolets. New options included swivel bucket seats (with console) and Turbine I urethane (backed by steel) wheels as was the instrument gauge cluster.[4] A benefit of the new body designs was much better visibility of which the unusually thin windshield pillars contributed. A structural improvement was a stronger design for the side door guard beams. The 350 2-barrel V8 of Template:Convert was the base engine. Options included a 350 4-barrel V8 of Template:Convert and a 454 4-barrel V8 rated at Template:Convert. Hardened engine valve seats and hydraulic camshafts made these engines reliable for many miles, and allowed them to accept the increasingly popular unleaded regular gasoline. 3 speed manual transmission was standard; 4 speed manual and Turbo Hydra-Matic 3 speed automatic were optional. Crossflow radiators and coolant reservoirs prevented overheating.[5]

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1973 El Camino SS

The SS was now a trim option. It included a black grill with SS emblem, bodyside striping, bright roof drip moldings, color-keyed dual sport mirrors, special front and rear stabilizer bars, rally wheels, 70-series raised white lettered tires, special instrumentation and SS interior emblems.[5] The SS option was available with a 350 or 454 V8 with 4-speed or Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. [6] 1974 El Caminos sported an elongated Mercedes-type grille. Inside, the new top of the line El Camino Classic featured luxurious interiors with notchback bench seats (or optional Strato bucket seats) upholstered in cloth or vinyl, carpeted door panels and woodgrain instrument panel trim. A 400 V-8 engine was new this year. The 454 was the top engine and available with the Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 automatic or 4-speed manual transmission. The 1975 models featured a new grill providing a fresh appearance. Suspension upgrades offered a quieter ride, and radial-ply tires became standard. Dual remote mirrors, new twin sport mirrors, intermittent wipers, and cruise control were among new convenience features this year. The 1975 H.E.I. or High Energy Ignition provided spark to the spark plugs with minimal maintenance and increased power. The larger distributor cap also provided better high RPM performance by decreasing the likelihood of the spark conducting to the wrong terminal. The 454-cubic-inch V-8, downrated yet again to 215 horsepower, made it into 1975 as an El Camino option, but this would be its last go-around. It was not available in California and the optional four-speed stick was no longer offered. Buyers could now choose an Econominder instrument package that included a vacuum gauge to point out when optimum fuel economy was being attained. For 1976, El Camino Classic models now featured the new rectangular headlights that other high-end GM cars were sporting. These were quad units in stacked arrangement. The base model retained the previously used dual round headlights. Engines included a new 140-horsepower 305-cubic-inch V-8, two- and four-barrel 350s (with availability still depending on California delivery), and the 400-cubic-inch V-8, still good for 175 horses. All engines came with the Turbo Hydra-matic automatic transmission.

The 1977 models were little changed except the new 5.0 liter 305 V8 joined the 350 V-8 and the 400 V-8 was gone. The El Camino Classic was again the top model and the SS option continued. [7] Template:Clear Template:Infobox Automobile generation

Fifth generation (1978–1987)[]

1978 through 1987 El Caminos were produced in four models: El Camino, Royal Knight, Conquista and Super Sport, and shared chassis components with the Chevrolet Malibu. Chevrolet 90° V6 and Buick V6 engines were used for the first time. The optional 305 cubic-inch small block V8 was rated at 150 or Template:Convert, and from 1982–1984, the Oldsmobile-sourced diesel engine was also optional.

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1979 El Camino

A new trimmer El Camino was unveiled in 1978 adopting the new, more sharp-edged Malibu styling, and a one-inch longer Template:Convert wheelbase. The front end sheet metal was shared with the Malibu, the doors with the Monte Carlo, and the rear tailgate and bumper was shared with the Malibu Station Wagon. But for the first time, the El Camino had a unique chassis - it was shared with no other Chevrolet. The front end featured a new single rectangular headlight design. Base engine was a 200-cubic-inch (3.3-liter) V6 that developed 95 horsepower. Three upgrades could be ordered: a 231-cubic-inch V-6 developing 105 horsepower, or a 305-cubic-inch V-8 with 145 horsepower. Only El Caminos (and Malibu station wagons) could get the 170-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8. It was not available on Malibu passenger cars. Among GM makes, at least, the era of bigness was fading into history, overtaken by a new age of efficiency and economy. The 1979 models got minimal changes following its debut as a redesigned "new-size" model in 1978. Alternations to the 1979 El Camino amounting to little more than a new divided grille. However, a "small-block" 267-cubic-inch (4.4-liter) V-8 joined the options list and slotted between the standard 3.3-liter V-6 and the optional 5.0-liter four-barrel V-8. The 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) V-8, developing 170 horsepower was again available. Both three- and four-speed manual transmissions had floor shifters. The 1980 El Camino started out the decade of the 1980s with few changes, though engine choices were shuffled a little. The base V-6 displaced 229 cubic inches, up from 200 the year before. Horsepower increased from 94 to 115. Optional again were a 267-cubic-inch V-8 with 125 horsepower and a 305 V-8, now with 155 horsepower (down five). The 350 with 170 horsepower offered in 1979 was dropped. A "three-on-the-tree" manual transmission was standard, but most got the optional three-speed automatic. The 1981 models received a new vertical grill. The 1981 engines mostly continued from 1980 but now wore GM's Computer Command Control (CCC) emission system. The base 229-cubic-inch V-6 made 110 horsepower (down from 115), as did the California-only 231-cubic-inch Buick V-6. Optional engines were the 267-cubic-inch V-8 with 115 horsepower and The 305-cubic-inch V-8, now with 150 horsepower. The three-speed automatic added a lock-up torque converter to aid highway mileage.

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1987 El Camino

The 1982 (through the final 1987) El Camino sported a frontal appearance with a crosshatch grille flanked by quad rectangular headlights. New under the hood for 1982 was a 105-horsepower 5.7-liter (350-cubic-inch) Diesel V-8, which was also offered in Chevy's full-size cars. Though mileage with the diesel was commendable, it was an expensive option and would eventually amass a dismal repair record. Gasoline-engine choices were unchanged, except Chevy's 229-cubic-inch (3.8-liter) V-6 was now standard in California-bound cars, replacing Buick's 231-cubic-inch V-6. In 1983 the 4.4-liter V-8 was gone, leaving the 5.0-liter version as the only optional gas V-8. Standard engine was again Chevy's 3.8-liter V-6 with 110 horsepower, though California cars, once again, got a Buick V-6 with similar specs. Continuing on the options list was the 5.7-liter V-8 diesel with 105-hp. The sister Malibu sedan and wagon was discontinued after the 1983 model year. The 1984-87 El Camino SS was offered in Choo-Choo special edition and shared the aerodynamic front end with the concurrent Monte Carlo SS, and received the L69 engine package, which included the 190 hp 305 V8. For 1985, GM shifted El Camino production to Mexico, and the new 4.3 L was standard through 1987. Production ceased after the 1987 model year, as sales of the Chevrolet S-10 conventional pickup truck were outselling its coupe utility counterpart. 425 unsold 1987 El Caminos were sold as 1988 models.

El Camino today[]

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1965 El Camino

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1987 El Camino SS

El Caminos can usually be found at car shows in the muscle car category. Early models can be found as restored originals or Hot rods with modified engines, mag wheels and custom paint. Some are used in various racing venues, and more can be spotted used as daily drivers. The late 60s version commands the highest prices and inspires the most replicas from Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Johnny Lightning. The Discovery Channel program Monster Garage once turned an El Camino into a Figure-8 racer (dubbed the "Hell-Camino"). The drift team Bubba Drift uses a 1986 El Camino as the only drifting truck. It has been rumored for years that GM may bring back the El Camino. A Chevrolet badged version, known as the Lumina Ute, is sold in South Africa.GM already has a vehicle ready in Australia in the form of the Holden Ute, save for some minor changes necessary to make it available in the U.S. This may have been backtracked within the past couple of years, however, as the Subaru Baja, the only "pickup car" recently available in the US, didn't sell well at all and was dropped after the 2006 model year.

Australia, Mexico and South Africa[]

General Motors manufactured and marketed "utility" coupe-pickup models in Australia as early as the mid 1930s. These Aussie "utes" typically combined the styling of a five-window coupe body with an integrated pickup box. GM's export organization offered a Chevrolet utility as late as 1952. In Mexico the El Camino was sold as the Chevrolet Conquistador. In South Africa rebadged Australian Holdens were sold, including the Holden Commodore utility as the Chevrolet El Camino and later the Chevrolet Lumina Ute. GM's Australian Holden model line continues to feature a distinctly El Camino-like "ute."

Concept vehicles[]


Caprice-based El Camino concept from 1995

In 1974, Chevrolet's sister division, Pontiac, reportedly took an El Camino body and grafted the urethane-nose front end from its Grand Am series and added the GA's instrument panel and Strato bucket seats with recliners and adjustable lumbar support along with Pontiac's Rally II wheels as a styling exercise for a possible Pontiac version of the El Camino, however the concept never reached production. During the 1995 model year, GM had a concept El Camino based on the full-size Caprice station wagon using the grille of a 1994-96 Impala SS; this concept was destined for production but terminated due to GM's profitable SUV sales.

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2010 Pontiac G8 ST, NY Auto Show, 2008

The Pontiac G8 ST was shown at the New York International Auto Show in March 2008. Based on the Holden Ute, it was built on the same G8 platform with a Template:Convert cargo bed. The Sport Truck had the same Template:Convert, 6.0-liter V8 used in the G8 GT, as well as the 3.6-liter, Template:Convert direct-injection V6.[8] The G8 ST, slated for release as a 2010 model, was to be GM's first coupe utility in North America since the El Camino was discontinued in 1987. In January 2009, GM announced to dealers the G8 ST was cancelled due to budget cuts and restructuring.[9] Template:Clear



See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Editors of Consumer Guide
  2. 1964 El Camino brochure
  3. 1965 El Camino brochure
  4. 1973-1977 Chevrolet El camino brochures
  5. 5.0 5.1 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle Brochure
  6. Cars of the 70's - By the Editors of Consumer Guide
  7. 1973-77 El Camino brochures
  8. Template:Cite web
  9. Template:Cite web

External links[]


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