By on January 28, 2012

Marketing hybrids is a challenge. You just can’t get past the one failing point of hybrids. Hybrid are simply not cool.

Deal with it. Do you know what is cool? An El Camino is.

Save your redneck jokes, my red El Camino was born cooler than your hybrid when it rolled off the Fremont California assembly line in 1966. Sure, all the Hollywood A-Listers have a Prius, or a Leaf, or an Insight. But I have rarely looked to those who occupy the gossip columns to cue my behavior. After all, I have been married for over 10 years, apparently 3 months is en vogue. The last time you saw an Elky with the Hollywood crowd was on “My Name is Earl,” incidentally, the story of moral virtues in pursuit of good karma.  I get it; it’s the mullet of cars, business in the front, party in the back and redneck all over. It doesn’t matter, my El Camino is cooler than your hybrid.

Hybrids are “in,” and owning anything less is considered unfashionable, irresponsible and it helps the terrorists win. This was the same line that was used to hawk giant SUV’s and the same celebrities drove them because they were safe. My El Camino was better than those as well. So while green hipsters glob onto this latest fad, I’ll keep my ‘neckmobile.

Making hybrids “cool” has degraded them into fashion accessories. An Elky was never the choice of the jet set, and you will never see Paris Hilton driving a pink one. No, an El Camino is a purpose made device. Utilitarian by nature, the El Camino was designed to reduce, reuse and recycle from the day it was sketched onto a sheet of draft paper. One device built to do the work of two, reducing the need for more. As any 1st grader can tell you, one is less than two. Any college activist will tell you, less is good and excess is bad. So the old Elky may not seem as cool on the surface, but by being less, it is good. Good is cool.

Hybrids are now built on existing platforms to have a driving feel like conventional vehicles, but at the expense of efficiency. A standard American pickup averages 15 MPG, the hybrid version yields a mere 5 MPG advantage. Perusing http://www.fueleconomy.gov/ will show the folly of several hybrid options. After all these decades, my “personal pickup” still nets mileage in the high teens, almost par with the 20 MPG of a full size hybrid truck. Annually, a non-hybrid full size pickup or SUV will cost you around $3700 in fuel; a Hybrid will save $1300 a year. The small block Chevy in the Elky will consume $3200, less than the regular truck, but still a chunk over the $2400 you’ll feed a hybrid. But, my Elky cost 1/6th the price of a new hybrid. So in a hybrid you get 20/23 MPG, a cattle drive slaughtered for the interior and a roughly $13,000 premium. The return of investment on that vehicle is 15 years. By then something way more fashionable will have come along. Meanwhile, my 3600 lb beauty will continue being a simple honest transport. Honesty, like money, is also always cool.

Finally, despite all the talk, unless you live in the great Land Down Under, you can’t purchase a new El Camino. By rights, any Elky you lay your hands to is (to a degree) a classic. More so, since they don’t make them anymore, they are also a finite resource. You read that correctly, resource. If you can use it (remember, an El Camino is a tool), then it is a resource. Regardless, you have a period object of limited availability, like a collectable wine. It may not age well, but it will appreciate. My Elky bottomed out the depreciation curve when Gerald Ford was still president. So just like an old pair of jeans that still fit, my Elky is only getting better. Not just financially, but fashion-wise because it is a vintage piece. Those same hipsters who swear Hybrids are “in” also wear distressed clothes and have thrift shops all over the country prospering. Because vintage is cool.

So go ahead. Talk all about your regenerative braking systems that recover kinetic energy. Prattle on about your in car DVD, 16-speaker surround and hybrid electric drivetrain. It doesn’t matter. The Elky will still get thumbs-ups from truckers, frantic waves from small children and approving nods from bikers, hot rod owners and anyone working at the auto parts store. A hybrid will never generate that reaction, because no matter what the “in crowd” says, a hybrid is not cool, but an El Camino is.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

60 Comments on “My El Camino Is Cooler Than Your Hybrid...”


  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Love it, Amigo. But this post would have been even better over at http://www.curbsideclassic.com

    • 0 avatar

      Only if it wasn’t trying so hard to make an irrelevant point: Elky > Prius ???

      • 0 avatar

        I just remembered: the Prius ute: http://www.curbsideclassic.com/uncategorized/cc-capsule-prius-ute-wont-pollute/
        How does that fit in the comparison?

      • 0 avatar
        Educator(of teachers)Dan

        Can’t tell if original author is tolling or…

      • 0 avatar
        Vance Torino

        I LOVE IT when people have Classic Cars as their daily drivers and sole transportation device!

        It’s a totally cool way to exist. And it makes you feel totally badass knowing that those “lame” normal people with families and jobs that require daily on-time attendance, and limited garage and tool space will never be as STYLIN’ AND PROFILIN’ as you!

        I think this gentleman protests too much and misses the obvious: hybrids are excellent transportation and that sometimes it’s OK to place a higher value on practicality than image.

        (And yes, readers of TTAC: Hybrid purchase makes total economic sense. The fallacy is to compare Prius to a Corolla. Ever driven them? Prius is CAMRY-sized on the inside: bigger even, thanks to that hatchback. Similarly equipped, Prius is basically the same price as Camry– with 50% better economy. Prius-C will outclass the 4-speed Corolla the same way.

        Prius lost most of its novelty long ago, about the time greenies no longer needed a rolling middle finger to “W”)

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    A modern hybrid that uses the latest in electronic and computer technology to obtain stellar fuel economy while providing much greater levels of comfort and convenience, is much “cooler” to the new car-buying generation than a half-car, half-pickup built using 1940′s technology that isn’t even half as reliable.

    I think that partly explains why the El Camino was cancelled some 30 years ago and hybrids are a continuously growing market segment. Honestly, was there a point to this article beyond some fuzzy math and Jalopnik-style backpatting?

    • 0 avatar
      Patrickj

      Compare a modern El Camino/Ranchero, based on a Caprice, Charger, or Taurus, to an F-150, not a Prius.

      Well-designed and marketed, such a vehicle would suit the needs of many non-business pickup owners, with mileage as good as the sedans they were based on. Nearly 30 mpg highway wouldn’t be difficult.

      AWD or a lower bed with FWD would be available, and likely a couple of inches of lift and mud/snow tires. They would also be distinctive and new enough on the road to be covered with company graphic wraps for marketing.

      I wouldn’t be too surprised to see their return.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        Perhaps you don’t remember the rather predictable failure of the “Bring Back the El Camino” movement to gain any traction with the mainstream less than a year ago:
        http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-the-search-for-el-camino-edition/

        Even when the El Camino and other car-based trucks were still in production, they were a fairly marginal market segment. If the death of the small and mid-size pickup in the United States is any evidence, then it seems unlikely that anyone could successfully reintroduce this concept and actually make money off of it.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        People are not buying hybrids to be cool. That was a fad in Hollywood 5 years ago, get over it.

        People are buying hybrids because live in the suburbs, have high paying jobs in the city, and either don’t want to take public transportation, or don’t have it available.

        That is the “silent majority” of hybrid owners. They aren’t even environmentally driven, since they are trying to avoid public transportation.

      • 0 avatar
        RedStapler

        Now that Ford has discontinued the Ranger and the Tacoma has bulked up into midsize territory there is a market for a small, economical two seats and cargo room vehicle.

        Heck they could even take the Prius C and/or V and make a Caminoesque runabout from them. Call it the El Primino or Prichero.
        It would be a perfect fit courier services that currently use Rangers, Transits, HHR Panels and Patriots. Higher up front cost would be more that offset by fuel efficiency and strong residuals.

      • 0 avatar
        racer-esq.

        Please note, my comment above is to this article, I didn’t mean to reply to any of the other comments.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      PintoFan:
      God Damned right his El Camino is cool.

      Sounds like someone is butthurt about their hybrid. Take life less seriously. Plus his car has already outlived the life of 3 prius’. It’s possibly the most environmentally friendly vehicle out on the roads.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    I believe its biggest shortcoming in the modern era is the single seat row – since most pickups are stretch/crew cab these days.

    • 0 avatar
      RedStapler

      This is what killed the Subaru Baja. Rather than commit to making a Legacy Pickup Subaru tried to be everything to everyone with a 2nd row and laughably small cargo area.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        If you think of the Baja not as a truck, but as a car that you can put dirty or awkward things into easily, it starts to make more sense. My mom has one. For her, it’s perfect.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        President Bill Clinton reportedly owned a 1970 El Camino at one time. Speaking to a group of GM employees, Clinton joked, “It had astro-turf in the back. I don’t want to tell you what the astro-turf was for.”

        Famous El Camino owners:

        http://www.chevelles.com/elcamino/ec_own.htm

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    Sorry, but except to a few of us car guys (people) — an old car, whether an El Camino or not, isn’t cool at all.

    The Prius has been so successful because it is the most cool vehicle someone can buy who is into “green.” Prius screams cool, environmentally aware, etc etc.

    While I think it looks ridiculous, its perfect for “green” cred — because it looks like nothing else out there. If Toyota had just made a hybrid Corolla — it would have been no where as successful.

    Yep, logically, rationally, for most people a hybrid doesn’t make $$ sense really. But that’s not why most buyers get them.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      “Sorry, but except to a few of us car guys (people) — an old car, whether an El Camino or not, isn’t cool at all.”

      I don’t think you have the slightest idea how big the old car market is, especially to true car guys. Check out Mecum or Barrett-Jackson if you doubt this supposition. I assure it’s about more than just the money. It’s an enormous market with more and more repro specialists and parts producers entering the market each month; it’s become an industry.

      I’ll agree a Prius is “cool” in 40 years when I see one on the auction block in Scottsdale. For now it is an ecologically significant appliance.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Old cars ain’t cool huh? That must be why so many people grinned when they’d see my classic VWs, or complement my Ford Mustang.

      And driving an oldie does have its “green-cred”, you’re keeping junkyards clean and saving energy by keeping oldies on the road, rather than using gas an electricity to melt them down.

      The Prius has been successful because of its “hyrbid” badge and decent gas mileage, though it still dosen’t get he 100mpg of a Honda Z600.

  • avatar
    danman75

    Here in Southern California, El Caminos are associated with gang bangers and pathetic street thugs. Not cool.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      I find that really interesting. Here on the opposite southern coast the thugs, gang bangers & dopers seem to favor 300′s, Chargers & Crown Vic’s with the requisite 22″ wheels.

      Camino’s here are usually still in the trades (landscapers, etc.) or sorta hotrods. In either instance, they are rarely seen.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I agree with peteinsonj your Elky is only cool to a subset of “Classic” enthusiasts. The guys who collect Packards wouldn’t look twice at it.

    My guess is your Elky has just about peaked on it’s appreciation curve. 30+ year old cars are hard to keep on the road. If you only get it out on summer Sundays then you’ll be able to drive it the rest of your life. But driving something that old on a daily basis is a niche, within niche, residing inside a niche.

    I like elkys, but prefer Rancheros. The way to deal with the mullet problem is to either embrace your mullet-ness, or pretend to be “ironic” about it.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      45 year old GM cars from the late 60s are not hard to keep on the road.

      They are simple. Parts are abundant and inexpensive.

      Assuming there is no body or frame rot… an engine or transmission rebuild, supsension rebuild, and new brake lines or even a disk brake upgrade would still be a lot less expensive than a new truck, even assuming if you did it all at once.

      And you’d be really surprised at how well they drive if the suspension and steering are in good tune.

      The subset of the population who looks at Packards is far smaller than the population who are interested in late 60s GM memorabilia.

      Anyhow, I think this car would look a lot better if the factory aluminum side trim was still on it.

    • 0 avatar
      AMC_CJ

      30 year old cars are hard to keep on the road.

      Despite multiple new car ownership, my designated daily driver is a 1978 Chevy for this simple fact only; Anything that breaks cost a few bucks and can be repaired in a few minutes. Bought it a little over a year ago with 99k on the clock; have put 14k on it since. Biggest problem I had was fuel pump go bad; $25 part and a 20min job.

      Nothing hard about keeping a old car on the road, if you know what you’re doing and what to expect. It has left to yet me stranded.

      • 0 avatar
        Dynamic88

        You’re thinking like a gear head. Sure it’s easy for someone with mechanical ability and willingness to keep a ’50s/’60s/’70s GM on the road. But for most people, it’s beyond them, and even for a gear head it’s a big hassle. Most people with a collectible car get it out when the weather is perfect and rack up a thousand or so miles a year. If you drive it regularly, you have to order fuel pumps, do carb adjustments, file the points, and on and on.

        I’m thinking of getting a ’50s GM car as a daily driver – but I know what I’m getting into. It will not be like driving a Honda, it will require a lot more of my time and attention.

  • avatar
    LectroByte

    Cooler than a hybrid? Ah, just more predictalbe click-bait, but I’ll play along.

    I’m just not seeing it as all that cool, sorry. I think the cool hipster nostalgia ride from 1966 would be something like a Rambler 4 door without a radio. As a pickup, I can appreciate its low bed and so on, but I’d have trouble buying a truck that didn’t have at least as much cab space as the Ford Ranger I used to have, 2 doors, but with the two jump seats and plenty of storage inside the cab.

    I also have trouble with something that old as a daily driver, I’d rather have an airbag or two instead of a non-collapsible-steering column to eat for when somebody tests the laws of physics with me one morning on my way to work or something. And if I wanted a sunny day weekend toy from ’66, then give me a Corvair convertible. That would be cool.

  • avatar
    boltar

    Interesting world you live in. Being over 30 I don’t deal much with people preoccuppied with what’s cool and what’s not, but from what I recall about the topic I’d say you’re confusing off-beat for cool. El Caminos and Rancheros are plenty off-beat. Remember to wear your ear cuff, bolo tie and hand-woven-by-natives-somewhere leather bracelet and fair-trade woven shirt and you’ll be set. Not the same as cool IIRC but you and your friends will remember it in 20 years. FWIW having a “cool” car and the associated accouterments will only be remembered down the road as funny and slightly embarrassing.

    Incidentally, hybrids were cool a couple years ago I’m told by people in the loop. Last year they were no man’s land. Now it’s just another feature like fuel injection or interior room. If you’re worried about “cool” you have to keep up, it’s a moving mark.

  • avatar
    skotastic

    A true car guy doesn’t give a rats a** what the majority of new car owners think.

    90% of new cars are appliance tools for transporting oneself and others from place to place, safely and comfortably. Nothing wrong with that.

    However owning a new car and calling oneself an enthusiast is like a self-proclaimed ski junkie who only visits the local mountain twice a year, or a huge hockey fan yet who can’t skate to save their life.

    Yes they all have 4 wheels, but one is a lifestyle, and the other is something that’s done to fill the time and tool about.

    A Packard fan may not be a huge El Camino buff (or maybe he is) but he has WAY more respect and common ground with that El Camino buff than someone who thinks shopping at dealerships for good lease rates makes them an enthusiast.

    Being an old car guy can be a PITA. It’s not supposed to be soft, comfortable and iTunes compatible. It’s about going against the grain, dealing with emissions, govt regulations, rust, sourcing parts, bodywork, personalization, fixing it themselves, dealing with horrid Prius drivers, getting dirty, having a good time, walking the walk, and the love of the hobby.

    An El Camino is cool, but only to the car people who matter (except those chrome rims; chrome rims are just not cool!)

  • avatar
    stroker49

    In Europe we still have them. VW Caddy and Seat Inca, Skoda pick up and Fiat Strada. But these are fwd and gives +30mpg.

  • avatar

    This ’66 Elky owner we interviewed would absolutely agree with you. http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/3-the-stars/star-truckin/466-1966-chevy-el-caminothe-journey-from-mild-to-wild.html

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    I frequently post pro-minivan, pro-small car and pro-hatchback posts. I try to appeal to logic.

    But I have to admit that is way cool, as cool as liquid helium left out over night in Antarctica. As cool as the reception a redneck receives at a BMW dealer. So cool that any metaphor fails. Chevy astro style at its peak, a pickup with car proportions.

    What makes this El Camino so cool is largely logical/practical. The reason this rig can deliver mileage similar to modern pickups is that it is much lighter and smaller cross-sectional area. I think it would suffice for much of the population. Somehow modern car-makers put huge amounts of technology, money, and complexity trying to compensate for mass and air-resistance. This El Camino takes a more modern approach.

    OK but consider this: shouldn’t the big 3 be making a modern version of this? Take this vehicle, add updated suspension, tires, and a Ford eco-boost V6. Compared to modern Nimitz class pickups you’d have better performance (1000 lb less can’t hurt) fuel economy (much lower frontal area), handling (CG lower).

    An added benefit is that this could provide CAFE-loophole to produce fast, practical vehicle. My understanding is that CAFE give credit for having large foot print (wheelbase and track) and additional loop-hole for truck. Heck Congress went to the trouble of writing a super complicated CAFE law with tons of loopholes, we might as well use them.

    Isn’t there a market for a 30 mpg, better-handling, less expensive, faster pickup?

    Or would Big3 mess it up by using expensive low-profile fragile tires and ground effects that would shatter from driving over a half inch curb?

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Considering how crossovers are “cool”, why would an El Camino not be?

    Anything old is cool really, too many people would prefer a modern “retro-remake” boat over an original though.

    Modern safety features wouldn’t be needed if we’d stick to CBs, instead of texting and drivinng.

    Neat rims on that Camino btw, I never did like the huge DUB wheels that too many GM owners put on their cars.

  • avatar
    MZ3AUTOXR

    The El Camino is cooler than a hybrid, the same way a Hyundai Excel was faster than a Yugo GV.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Holden Ute V8 would have appeal if it got 35 mpgs my C5 Corvette could see on occasion. That would cut into more profitable pickup sales. V6 engined version would close to 40 mpgs.

  • avatar
    coatejo

    Coolness like beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. Although there are many examples of broad agreement on what is cool, it is largely a personal perception. To me the El Camino is cooler than any hybrid vehicle out there. The key phrase is “To me”….

  • avatar

    Awesome photos. It’s a shame that the Ute body style isn’t popular in the US. Holden makes a mean looking Ute in Australia that Brad Pit would approve of http://rockyroadblog.com/2011/09/yeah-man-el-camino/

  • avatar
    theonewhogotaway

    I suspect that a new (or newer) Ford Ranger can have pretty much similar utility to your El Camino, with better safety features, reliability and better mileage (rated at 24mpg mixed; 4 cyl manual.) Similar with other 2WD four cylinder trucks with manuals. The coolness factor, is another story :)

    If you want to look at car-based truckoids, the mid 80s Subaru Brat gives you about 25 mpg mixed.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      Perhaps, but the person suggesting to someone who drives an el camino to drive a ranger is like suggesting to someone who loves chocolate that vanilla is just as good.

      Subaru Brats are the king of dork.

  • avatar
    grzydj

    Cool car, stupid troll bait article.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Agree with you there.

      If you want to find out how cool the El Camino is, try making an emergency stop at 60 mph in the rain, with nothing in the back.

      Betcha can’t keep it pointed where it’s goin’! ;-)

  • avatar
    Freddie

    The Nissan Altima hybrid was attempt to be cool, or at least appeal to enthusiasts. It was fast for a hybrid, handled well — and had dual exhausts! Most hybrids try to hide the tail pipe. Don’t know why it didn’t catch on.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    I am very pleased to be so old. Because of that I couldn’t care less if pretenders think I’m cool or not. I have a car from 1957 that I have had for years. Every time I drive it I can’t stop grinning. I have a car from 2011 that’s small and economical and I grin a lot with that too.

    You should drive what you like. I agree that the article was troll bait and doubt you have close to your limit yet. Fishing appears to be good today. Telling others that their ride isn’t cool just isn’t cool. It’s a moving target!

  • avatar
    Quentin

    If you have to tell people it is cool, it isn’t cool.

  • avatar
    PJ McCombs

    So, you are the owner of a (car/truck) hybrid… “because it’s cool.”

    I need a bigger knife for this irony!

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    This El Camino has surely passed the test of time for 46 years, and is only getting better.

    In 2058 will a Prius be this cool and this inexpensive to repair?

    My only problem with the article is it didn’t mention the Ranchero.

    ***

  • avatar
    ckgs

    Agree with grzydj … this is stupid and doesn’t fit with the usual quality posts on this site.

    And when can we stop with the mathematical formulas “proving” that hybrids aren’t worth it?

  • avatar
    MrFixit1599

    I greatly enjoyed the article, and all the trolling that went along with it. My only complaint is the Subaru Brat bashing. Mine had 4wd, T-Tops, was remarkably maneuverable due to its size, had a 5 speed, got decent gas mileage, could seat 4 assuming the weather was decent, or with the topper on, even during inclement weather, and I could help friends move, which I seemed to do alot back then. Remarkably versatile and durable little trucklets (until the rust took it’s toll).

  • avatar
    tresmonos

    I’d say over half of the people bitching about this article didn’t take their metamucil this morning or had their humor extracted at birth.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    It doesn’t matter that the El Camino is “cooler” than a Prius. What matters is that the Prius is “cooler” than the Camry so many hybrid drivers would otherwise drive. It saves gas that can instead be used to power something more worthy and interesting (hell, like this Elky), and frankly, it’s something of a modern miracle that Toyota built a hatchback that Americans actually aspired to own.

  • avatar
    thx_zetec

    Maymar

    as a hatchback lover I agree. The Prius’ biggest asset is that it is a mid-sized car with a hatch. I wish they’d make an IC version.

  • avatar

    I tried really hard to find a pic of a Prius with nitrous. There’s talk in some forums, but no pics. Would that make it a Pritrous?

  • avatar
    psychoboy

    the car/truck hybrid is a wacky offshoot part of the classic car scene.

    the gas/electric hybrid is a wacky offshoot part of the current car scene.

    the classic car scene is cooler than the current car scene, for a myriad of reasons, therefore the elco is cooler than the hybrid.

    the elco hasn’t lost coolness (what little it started with) over the last 40 some years, i doubt a 40 yr old prius will be deemed as relatively cool when its time comes.

    of course, by that logic, the coolness of the 40 yr old car in my av beats both the elco and the prius. more seating than the elco, better mileage than the prius. harder to find parts for than the elco, easier to work on than the prius. it wasn’t cool when it arrived on these shores, so its relative coolness has had nowhere to go but up.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States