By on February 6, 2007

lees69ss2222.jpgThe Big 2.5 are floundering about, looking for new product ideas. And no wonder. Does anyone really think the beleaguered domestic automakers have the time, talent, energy and money to develop a Camcordima beater? A [profitable] B-segment car that can take on the Fit, Yaris or Versa? A luxury car to rival the Germans? As the founder of Federal Express said, the trick in business is not to do something a little better than the other guy. The trick is to do something different. Anybody remember the El Camino?

The iconic Chevrolet El Camino– half car, half truck– arrived in ’59. The original was based a full-sized Chevrolet Impala, sidewise tailfins and all. In 1964, the El Camino returned from hibernation as a variant of the mid-sized Chevelle/Malibu in ‘64. In ’68, the El was joined by the GMC Sprint, complete with an optional LS6 V8.

As “real” trucks increased in popularity, sales of the GM twins dwindled. Twenty years ago, after producing some 537k "elcos," GM pulled the plug on the Caballero (nee Sprint).

The El Camino was preceded and then mirrored by the Ford Ranchero. From ’57 onwards, the Ranchero’s development followed a similar theme, evolving atop the Fairlane, Falcon, Torino and Thunderbird/LTD platforms. The Ranchero faded from the scene in the mid-‘70’s, probably slinking off the automotive stage from the sheer embarrassment of having to wear imitation wood siding like a Country Squire.

There have been more than a few attempts at a nouveau camino. Most prominently, Subaru offered US consumers the BRAT (Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transport) and Baja (which bowed out last April). Chrysler served-up the Dodge Rampage and Plymouth Scamp (based on the Omni/Horizon platform). It must be said that none of these models set the American sales charts on fire.

The Honda Ridgeline is, perhaps, the only remaining modern equivalent, and it's WAY too ugly to consider a bona fide member of the "elco" family. Of course, the minivan platform sharing Ridgeline is [officially] a truck, which points to one of the main reasons why the El Camino disappeared from the scene.

When federal CAFE standards were introduced in ’75, the emissions and mileage requirements were far tougher on cars than “light trucks." A burgeoning selection of small pickups (e.g. the Ford Ranger) helped put the last nails in the El Camino's coffin compatible coffin.

New CAFE legislation bases required mileage on a given vehicle’s footprint, rather than averaging out an entire fleet. So, while trucks are still less hampered than cars, an El Camino shaped door has opened. The fact that Ford has completely neglected the Ranger and Dodge has supersized the Dakota only helps matters.

Ford has all the ingredients in its corporate cupboard to resurrect the concept. The Mustang needs only a little rework from the driver’s seat back. Use the same doors, quarter panels and rear floor; chop the roof, add a vertical window and the interior of the load bed, and there you have it. (The ‘Stang’s “antiquated” rear axle would become a genuine advantage/selling point for load luggers.)

For less than FoMoCo pays Carroll Shelby to sign a few autographs, a Ford is born. Call it the Ranchero and brag that it’s the fastest pickup on the market. That would spike up Mustang sales, just in time to help fight off the two C’s (Camaro and Challenger).

Chrysler could also resurrect the genre. The 300/Magnum/Charger platform is rear wheel-drive (a must if a truck is to have any kind of macho credentials) with a wide variety of engine choices. Of these, the Magnum is the best candidate for “caminoization.

Since it was designed as a station wagon (despite whatever DCX wants to call it), the Dodge Magnum already has the required length. Get rid of the back doors, truncate the roof (but keep the “chopped” appearance), and finish off the bed. Voila! Instant niche vehicle. While they’re at it, DCX should reinforce the chassis a bit and offer a towing package. With the Hemi, the Magnamino could easily pull ski boats, jet skis and small camping or utility trailers.

FoMoCo and DCX will have to move fast if they want to be the first on the retro elco block. GM is set to import their Australian division's Holden Commodore as the new Pontiac G6. Holden sells an El Camino-like variant called the Ute that's just begging for an American passport (both the paper and the radar detector). If they don’t badge it a Chevy and sell it as an El Camino, I'm going home. And yet…

The Chevrolet SSR reminds us that niche vehicles are a risky business. But the Big 2.5 have their collective backs against the wall. If they make a few low-cost bold moves sideways, they just might find some of the new product salvation they seek.

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74 Comments on “El Camino Redux?...”


  • avatar

    Ahhh memories…I miss my ’73 El Camino….I fought back the tears when I finally sold it…I could light up the rear end in dry conditions! Then there was the year my fraternity brothers changes it into the “death mobile” ala Animal House. Not so good on gas but so what, the look on my neighbors faces made it all worth it as a barrelled down the street!

    I agree with the Magnum likelihood for experimentation….what a kick asphalt concept that would be!

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Bob!

  • avatar
    Vega

    And now that Loverman will spread the word at Edmunds and even TTAC has joined the Jalopnik -amino bandwagon, the Camino will be unstoppable…

  • avatar
    starlightmica

    This goes without saying – the manufacturer-to-be needs to sponsor Jalopnik in perpetuity.

    Subaru Baja is gone, who’s next?

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Jalopnik remembers the El Camino!

    (Just had to say it)

  • avatar
    nweaver

    The big opportunity really IS that the compact truck is no longer compact, and height doesn’t help rideability or haulage.

    Ford has forgotten the Ranger, Chevy gave us the (ehh) Colorado, and Dodge’s has gone supersized.

    A Mustang-based ‘mino would rock.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    I second the Magnamino idea. It is already being marketed as the functional hotrod and could potentially have reasonable space in the bed.

  • avatar
    Tiger Commanche

    Of all the cool cars they have in Australia (like the Commodore and the Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo to name a few) to hear that we might be getting a modern day El Camino imported here in the U.S. makes no sense. Sure, you see an El Camino every now and then and realize that there is a certain segment of the population that finds them endearing for some reason. Rightly or wrongly, we associate that car with white trash, and that’s the reason Earl drives one on his TV show. It’s the automotive mullet.

  • avatar
    1984

    Who is going to pay for this keyboard after I spit coffee on it? A mustang with a pickup bed is by far the most nauseating thought I have ever been subjected to.

    Besides GM still has an El Camino, it’s called a Holden UTE.

  • avatar
    maxo

    There are lots of mullet-wearers (and thier demographic) in this country still, and they buy cars. Go buy a subaru, TC.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    It will only work if it is rear wheel drive and has a real frame – hence why the Baja did not work.

    A better idea is to compare something like the 1996 Buick Roadmaster wagon to these “CUV’s” of today – both carries 7, and both get about the same fuel economy, but the Roadmaster can actually tow something.

    Ford could build another Country Squire wagon, but they seem content to lose market share every year rebadged foreign jobs.

  • avatar
    nocaster

    El Camino conjures up these images.

    Grey primer.
    Krager mags.
    6×9 speakers stuck to the rear wall by their magnets.
    AC/DC.
    Flannels with no sleeves.
    Mullets.
    The occasional transmission sitting on a tire in the “bed”.

  • avatar
    Axel

    How about a compact diesel truck, available in RWD or 4×4? Imagine a vehicle that gets 35 MPG and can tow a boat or decent-sized camper trailer? Extend the cab or slap an SUV body on top and you can take the young’uns along as well. Make it a diesel-electric hybrid and you can boost the towing capacity AND the MPG.

    There is no logical reason the big 2.5 shouldn’t make compact diesel trucks/SUVs. They are the ideal “rural lifestyle” vehicles. My prediction is that the first 2.5 automaker to do so will win the “stay alive for another 20 years” sweepstakes. Outsource the engine if you have to, but just do it!

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    any bed under 6 feet sucks.
    the baja and any compact or midsized “crew cab” truck are nearly functionless because the beds are too short for real use and aren’t protected from the weather for soft cargo.

    the ssr failed because it’s hideous. if ford remade the 1955 F-100 like they did the ’68 mustang, it’d sell like, um, mustangs…
    the ssr should have been aborted before it went to clay.
    GM should know better by now.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    There is a reason the El died and any subsequent iterations don’t do well. There is no need for it. Just look at the flop that was the SSR and the Baja.

    What I’d like to see is the Sportback/fastback embraced (Audi Shooting Brake concept, Mitsubishi Sportback concept) or a mid-sized wagon variant with sloping back. Not boxy as a hatchback or dull as a wagon but offers good driving dynamics, style, and a modicum of functionality.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    I have heard this idea espoused by several auto bloggers, and all I can say is you had better keep your day job. This is flogging a dead horse. Why would anyone bother to tool up for a sub 10,000 unit niche vehicle? The recent experience with the GTO will pretty much preclude listening and/or catering to the “enthusiast” RWD advocates as an untenable business model. In the days of profit- maybe. Today- no way.

  • avatar
    whitenose

    The Honda Ridgeline is […] WAY too ugly to consider a bonified member of the “elco” family. 

    Pfft. El Caminos, along with many other 70’s American cars, defined ugly for a generation. The Ridgeline’s Akira-tinged styling is immensely appealing by comparison. Perhaps you have to be under thirty-five to appreciate it.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Put me on the skeptical side as well. The Ranchero/Camino were built at a time when (1) there was a social stigma against trucks, and (2) most trucks sat high, drove like grocery carts, and did not offer comfortable amenities like automatic trannies, power steering, etc. The El Rancheros offered the ability to do a little light hauling/towing without sacraficing the comfort of a car.

    Fast forward to the 21st century, and not only is there no “blue collar” stigma associated with trucks, but many trucks come out of the factories with lush appointments that would embarrass an Arabian sheik. So people who want a truck but still like all the fancy luxuries they’ve come to depend on will buy…a truck.

    The Rampage failed, as did the VW Rabbit pickup (you missed that one, Bob) and the Baja. There’s no reason to expect the Mustang-pickup to succeed.

    BTW, I completely agree with Axel that somebody needs to build a genuinely small economical truck. With fuel prices sure to increase there’s a market there but for some reason nobody’s got the foresight to go out there and get it.

  • avatar

    >>The Chevrolet SSR reminds us that niche vehicles are a risky business. But the Big 2.5 have their collective backs against the wall. If they make a few low-cost bold moves sideways, they just might find some of the new product salvation they seek.

    The SSR was all style with almost no substance, and at the rather high price, there was just no reason to buy the damn thing. I could imagine a car-based El Camino selling substantially better, provided it had real style. An Impala won’t do. Having said that, I don’t think this idea can save the big 2.5.

  • avatar
    Axel

    Really, the best way the 2.5 can remain afloat at this point is to “develop a Camcordima beater,” “A [profitable] B-segment car that can take on the Fit, Yaris or Versa,” and “A luxury car to rival the Germans.” Seriously.

    But a diesel Ranger or Colorado would be a smash hit.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    I have to agree with Axel, about the 2.5 needing to develop a better camcordima just to compete.

    Niche markets are what American Motors Corporation felt they had to do in order to survive, usually on about 2% of the US market, for the last decade.

    AMC Gremlin.

    AMC Pacer.

    AMC Matador.

    Now you know why the 2.5 need to compete mainstream or give it up.

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Old David,

    Except for the fact that TOMORROW Pontiac will be unveiling the G8, which is a RWD sedan.

    Also, the El Camino is coming back to America. South america, but still America.

    For now.

  • avatar
    tony-e30

    A new El Camino? Really? I’ll admit that the 2.5ish need drastic measures to dig themselves out of the quagmire they’re currently in, but I would argue that a new El Camino based upon current platforms would not help matters. I couldn’t see any variations of the Magnum-ino, Mustang-ino, or Malib-ino (G6-amino?) turning a profit worth mentioning that wouldn’t dilute sales of the current models. I’m as carstaligic as the next guy, but I think the Three Amigos of Detroit should let the El Camino R.I.P. Make us feel the LUV again, if anything. (But with a more manly name, please).

  • avatar
    mdanda

    The failure of the SSR was due to stupid pricing. It would have been a brilliant success at around $25K. The target market simply couldn’t afford it. Another case of GM having a good idea but poor execution.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I REALLY like the mustang idea! Might as well use the now useless back seat area for something! I think it woiuld be cool looking. and fast!!

  • avatar
    NickR

    I have to agree, the SSR was one of the stunnedest ideas to come out of GM in a long time. Anyone care to guess what the MSRP was for this neither fish nor fowl vehicle in Canada? $71,900. Needless to say, they went nowhere at the price and were often found selling for 50-55. Even then, hardly any one bought one. Dealers are so desperate now you can find examples with 10,000 miles on them selling for $35,000. If they want their dealers to take a El Camino like vehicle on again, it has better be cheap.

    Anyway, I never understood the appeal of these vehicles. A big vehicle, still with only two seats, an exposed cargo area, and not a particularly impressive capacity (by weight) either. Nah, I figure a new El Camino would be a flop. GM can’t afford to dabble in any niche vehicles (save for the Corvette) for now and the foreseeable future.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I think the Ridgeline is positively hideous, followed closely by the Pilot as two of the ugliest cars on American roads today. But the latter sells well because of UTILITY.

    I’m all for a ‘mino. I live right in the heart of Alabama and I virtually never see them outside of collector circles. Whatever image people have of the perennial redneckmobile are long gone around here…except among a small contingent of Latinos. I think the negative image has passed and it’s time to try again. I wholeheartedly second the Dodge Magnumino.

  • avatar

    I truthfully wanna believe this article was written tongue-in-cheek but you sound very serious in your claims that this could aid American manufacturers.

    All I can do is shake my head on this one since it is only a trainwreck waiting to happen…again.

  • avatar
    Adrian Imonti

    This is a great idea, and one that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

    A great thing about it is that it wouldn’t take much to bring them to market, because Ford and GM are already building these types of vehicles Down Under. Of all of the Big 2.5’s foreign outposts, the Aussie operations are the ones that are offering the types of cars that most closely resemble US tastes. And as a throwback to yesteryear, members of the Aussie mullet brigade are even more adamant about maintaining the traditional Ford-GM rivalry than even we are.

    Ford Falcon Ute:
    http://www.ford.com.au/servlet/ContentServer?cid=1137384335443&pagename=FOA%2FDFYPage%2FDefault1024&c=DFYPage

    Review of Holden Commodore Ute
    http://www.drive.com.au/Editorial/ArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=11477

  • avatar
    NickR

    I think the Ridgeline is positively hideous

    Word. Never let it be said that the Japanese aren’t capable of producing complete and utter stylistic duds (I almost went on a tangent about the nost of the new Camry…gah.)

    However, looking at the picture of the El Camino above, there is one aspect of it that I do like. Notice the two small (by today’s standards) headlights? And if you could see the tailights you would see that they are also small and relatively unobtrusive. Which brings me to one of my favorite beefs. Why, why, why does almost every vehicle that comes out now have enormous headlight and taillight assemblies? They are, almost without exception, hideous. And to me they smack of lazy styling ‘forget about the sheet metal, we’ll just dink around with the lights’. I would be delighted to see a manufacturer come out with lights resembling a 71 Cuda’s, a 69 Chevelle’s, or a 66 Satellite’s.

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    Given the interest I’ve seen, in 1965 through ’74 Chevrolet El Caminos at collector car auctions, especially those with a big-block engine – 396 cid or 454 cic V8s – I think the market for reintroducing them is viable. I am not quite certain about the Ford Ranchero, given that when they show up on the docket, a lot of people aren’t quite certain what they are. (They seem to think they are somebody’s Falcon, home-made into a pickup.) However, if the new Mustang was used as the basis for reintroducing the Ranchero concept, that might work – or it might not. As interesting a little rig as the Subaru Baja was – is? – nobody seemed to care about a latter-day BRAT.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Call it whatever you like but a small pickup with really good gas mileage and a comfy, pleasant interior would probably sell.

    My understanding is that a pickup is generally cheaper to build than a sedand or coupe. If so, maybe that’s Detroit’s window of opportunity to move into the Yaris/Fit end of the market, at least in price. A low-cost but not shoddy trucklet with good fuel economy would make a decent commuter vehicle for those that like the light hauling utility of a small pickup but have a significant commute and don’t want to commute at 23mpg.

    If pickups are actually less expensive to build, then maybe it’s possible to price one against the bottom-end vehicles from Asia. The bad news would be that Detroit probably doesn’t have a platform on which to base something like this and would have to design and tool for it from scratch. Years and big investment $$, just to get to a $12K vehicle. Might be impossible to turn a profit.

    Whereas, if Toyonda thought this was a good thing to do, they could probably just bring in or adapt a compact pickup from Asia. Even if GM brought it out first, Toyonda could probably deliver a competitor very, very fast.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Since I’m a truck guy I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out who the market for the new El Rancherino would be.

    And I keep coming up with the same answer: It’s the same market as the Magnum/Charger/300/Mustang/insert-name-of-RWD-muscle-car-here. I cannot see any potential truck buyer having even a modicum of interest in this when compared with a real truck.

    Think about it: Today’s truck buyer can choose from a bunch of different platforms in sizes from Ford’s now-diminuative Ranger all the way up to Ford’s monstrous F-450. To power said truck, he can choose anything from an anemic 130hp 4 cyl all the way up to a massive V-8, V-10 or diesel. He can get a 5 speed, a 6 speed, or the auto tranny of his choice. And needless to say he can go with either 2wd, 4wd, or some sophisticated full-time AWD. He has a choice of cab configurations (standard, extended, or double) and a wide choice of bed configurations, tow packages, etc etc etc. And to top it all off, he can get comfy leather seats, googol-phonic stereos, or even LCD TVs in his vehicle. So what would be the attraction of a car-pickup to a truck guy?

    Which leads back to the conclusion that the only potential customer for this thing is the RWD muscle-car/nostalgia buyer. And if every El Rancho sold means one less Mustang/Magnum/Charger/300 sold, then the big 2.5 are in the same position after the introduction of the new vehicle as they were before, except for what they’ve spent in developing and marketing the new vehicle.

    Just doesn’t make much business sense to me.

  • avatar
    Glenn A.

    GM has the best shot at it with their Holden Ute, since they’re currently developing a US market version for Pontiac (as a sedan). A new GMC Sprint? Naw, make it a Chevrolet El Camino.

    But is it a good business proposition? Probably not, in reality.

    But neither was the Corvette in 1953, or the GTO in 1964…

    Now, let’s talk about really really stupid wastes of GM’s money in development costs.

    The SSR. What a rolling abortion. The HHR. Ghastly. The Aztek. Gaaaak.

  • avatar
    BimmerHead

    I have never owned nor ever wanted an el camino…
    In my mind, it is the worst of both worlds: Small cab, limited seating of a truck without the hauling/towing ability of a truck.
    Like has been said above, the reasons these things sold in the past was because of things that the then truck market lacked… now you can get all the comforts of home in a truck… except gas mileage.
    If the big 2.5 really want a market buster, I believe it will be a hybrid truck that gets 25+ mpg. The thing that killed the truck market is the spike in gas prices… increase the efficientcy of the truck and the reason for the downturn goes away.

    Noone believes that the 2.5 can do anything with cars at this point… they should focus on what they do best, but make it better.

  • avatar
    Axel

    Glenn A.: The SSR. What a rolling abortion. The HHR. Ghastly. The Aztek. Gaaaak.

    Don’t get me started on the HHR. GM currently makes the most utilitarian mid-size vehicle available in the North American market: the Malibu Maxx (Ed. Note: I’m a Maxx owner). Figure out why the Me Too Cruiser is the one with the nearly-naked octogenarians gyrating around it during the Super Bowl, because I certainly can’t.

  • avatar
    Lesley Wimbush

    I love those little Falcon styled Rancheros, beautiful little things. Not so cute when they morphed into the Fairlane model though.
    A motorsports buddy has a turbo-Rampage that turns low 13s in the quarter mile, it’s one of my favourite vehicles.
    As a truck, they were somewhat impractical since a fully loaded bed would take weight off the front driving wheels.

    Dodge’s recently unveiled Rampage concept… looked like the result of a Ridgeline shtupping a water buffalo.

  • avatar
    Axel

    BimmerHead: If the big 2.5 really want a market buster, I believe it will be a hybrid truck that gets 25+ mpg. The thing that killed the truck market is the spike in gas prices… increase the efficientcy of the truck and the reason for the downturn goes away.

    A diesel Ranger or Colorado would do a helluva lot better than 25 mpg. And could pull 5000 lbs. And could convert to run on fry grease if needs must. If you then made it a hybrid diesel, we’re talking, what? 45? 50 mpg?

    Even a mid-size diesel in a Silverado or F-150 would do extremely well at the pump.

    I’m reminded of a sticker I saw on some behemoth: “Real trucks don’t have spark plugs.” The marketing potential of having a “real” workhorse in a small, inexpensive, fuel-efficient package, I think, would be fantastic. Or am I just way off-base here?

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Something tells me that if Subaru couldn’t stoke the fires of nostalgia with the Baja, then the Big 2.5 probably won’t be able to either with any reincarnated El Camino type of ute. Different, sure, but how practical? And how practical when compared to a compact pickup truck, crossover utility, or SUV?

    2.5 has too many things to worry about to try building a car for a questionable niche market.

  • avatar
    bestertester

    jalopnik likes the el camino because daryl hannah has one, and because it is a weird car and it reeks of sex.

    not the job description for the new all-american car, if you ask me.

    these ttac marketing ideas are getting nostalgic-eccentric. what’s next, somebody saying detroit should do the batmobile?

  • avatar
    ash78

    The Maybach Exelero IS the batmobile!

    I think the camino market would only be ripe after the wagon market takes off, which I think is still several years away (and won’t happen without participation from the whitebread Camcordima models). Essentially, what would be sold would be a wagon with an external cargo area, NOT a truck. I doubt this would even be pitched to truck owners/prospects.

    I’m a wagon fan, but my single biggest complaint is that the cargo areas are too nice, right on par with the rest of the interior! I’m hesitant to load wet mulch bags or dirty shoes and gear into the back of a pricey wagon…and what if we substitute dog shizzle for mud in this example? I don’t want to be in the cabin with that :D

  • avatar
    Axel

    quasimondo: Something tells me that if Subaru couldn’t stoke the fires of nostalgia with the Baja…

    Exactly. If the owners of the AWD “truckish car” niche market can’t make it viable, there’s no reason to expect the 2.5 could.

    bestertester: these ttac marketing ideas are getting nostalgic-eccentric. what’s next, somebody saying detroit should do the batmobile?

    Are the Big 2.5’s ideas any better? I want to know where the concept of “Let’s bring back the muscle car in the era of $3/gal gas and charge $10k over the traditional muscle-car price point, so that its potential market either can’t afford it or can’t fit their kids in it, then bank the future of our entire brand on it” got any kind of traction.

    The New Camaro. I’ve never seen so much hype over what’s going to be a 10,000 unit/year car.

  • avatar
    RX8guy

    Actually I thought the SSR, was a really nice truck. The BIG problem was they priced right out of everyone’s reach.

  • avatar
    bestertester

    axel, re: the new camaro: exactly!

    instead of trying to apply selective yet crucial lessons from toyota (as, for instance, porsche did), detroit seems to be looking at hollywood.

    in other words, milking as many sequels as possible from a once-original concept.

    (i could add: and paying the bosses one thousand times what everybody else gets, with a golden parachute to boot).

  • avatar
    Adrian Imonti

    bestertester: these ttac marketing ideas are getting nostalgic-eccentric. what’s next, somebody saying detroit should do the batmobile?

    I wouldn’t presume that the styling needs to be retro. Both the Falcon and Commodore “utes” resemble the front half of their mid-sized sedan cousins, and are not at all retro. The styling can be as contemporary as any other.

    Martin Albright: I cannot see any potential truck buyer having even a modicum of interest in this when compared with a real truck.

    The ute is to the pickup truck what the crossover is to the SUV — a more car-like version of same. Many of today’s truck buyers don’t particularly need or even want a “real” truck, and a ute could handle sufficient cargo loads and weight to serve a large segment of the market.

    The ultimate question is whether or not the marketplace would accept it. I’d say that it just might — this is one of the few unique segments in which the Big 2.5 actually could have a bit of credibility from the onset, and there is no competition to speak of.

    This is one of those ideas that can’t be tested in a focus group. It will either appeal to the market (accompanied by the advertising and marketing needed to get it moving, of course), or it won’t. These are quite popular in Australia and were once popular here — with the right styling and positioning, I can’t see why these couldn’t be revived here with some success.

  • avatar
    Darrencardinal

    El Camino- the ultimate up-on-blocks-in-the-frontyard redneck driving machine. Phew!

    Remember when President Clinton talked about having an El Camino back in the 70’s with “astroturf in the back?” Har!

    Good times. And God, that horrible Ranchero was somehow even worse.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    A diesel Ranger or Colorado would do a helluva lot better than 25 mpg. And could pull 5000 lbs. And could convert to run on fry grease if needs must. If you then made it a hybrid diesel, we’re talking, what? 45? 50 mpg?

    I love diesels, too, but didn’t DCX drop the Liberty CRD after just one year because of poor sales and disappointing performance? I noticed on Edmunds that the gas Liberty was rated at 17/22 while the CRD was rated at 21/27. I don’t know what it achieved in the real world but that’s a pretty small increase in MPG, and by the time you factor in the additional initial cost of the diesel + the fact that diesel fuel itself costs 5-10% more in most markets (at least around here it does) then you haven’t saved a penny.

    And the problem with hybrids is where do you put the batteries without cutting into cargo space? I’m sure that one day hybrid/diesel small trucks will be as common as weeds but I think before that happens gas prices have to get up and stay up. Otherwise buyers fall back into their old habits.

  • avatar

    As my ’96 S-10 (121,000 troublefree miles) is going to be due for trade-in next year, I’m really open to the resurrection of the El Camino concept. I only want two wheel drive, use the pickup mainly for garbage (I live in the country), motorcycle, and bicycle hauling, and the periodic trips to Lowe’s. The Dakota’s too big anymore (loved the two that I had previously), don’t want a full sized pickup, and the El Camino/Ranchero concept is probably the best pickup for my use.

    And yes, I wear a mullet. So what?

  • avatar
    nino

    Who is going to pay for this keyboard after I spit coffee on it? A mustang with a pickup bed is by far the most nauseating thought I have ever been subjected to.

    Allow me to “burn out” your monitor

    http://freenet-homepage.de/pony/joke.htm

  • avatar
    mike frederick

    El Camino conjures up these images.

    Grey primer.
    Krager mags.
    6×9 speakers stuck to the rear wall by their magnets.
    AC/DC.
    Flannels with no sleeves.
    Mullets.
    The occasional transmission sitting on a tire in the “bed”.

    Man thats funny.Since grunge died out I’ve tossed the flannels.Its important to note that I never had a mullet.Could’nt bear to be seen with a hair syle such as that.But with all things said–I’d contemplate giving a testicle ( just one,mind you.) for a 69 El Camino SS

    And the post regarding Clintons El Camino with astro-turf in the bed is great.Just think of the possibilities of practicing your golf swing any-time,anywhere.Maybe G.M. could sign on John Daly to the camino camp.He would represent the “necks” really well.Buick has Tiger,hell why not G.M.?

    The all new 2009 El Camino.John Daly edition.Complete with bed size practice mat.On-Star will gauge your swing speed.Monsoon system will include re-configured 6 by nine speakers and complimentary booklet containing Hooters gift cards.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    It’s unfortunate that the Monaro-based GTO tanked so badly in the US. If sales had been a bit better, GM might have brought in the Holden Commodore SS ute as an El Camino SS.

    I don’t see Ford bringing back a Ranchero because of cannibalized sales from the regular cab Ranger, but an El Camino from DCX based on the Magnum/Charger would be perfect since there is no longer a regular cab Dakota from which to steal sales.

  • avatar
    Ryan

    If we’re going to suggest that the Big 3 start caminoizing left, right, and centre, why not revive a couple more. A 2.0T Rabbit pickup sounds a little appetizing, and the WRX wagon practically screams to have the D-pillar moved up to the B-pillar. And why not give the Rampage treatment to the Caliber SRT-4? It’s certainly a spiritual successor to the turbo K-car hoonmobiles of the ’80’s, and as such, deserves a truely hoonerific body.

    Oh, and why not bring back the rumble seat while we’re at it? Honda’s experiemented with throwing a trunk in the bed, why not throw a rumble seat in?

    This is all crazy talk, mind you.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    nocaster:

    El Camino conjures up these images.

    Grey primer.
    Krager mags.
    6×9 speakers stuck to the rear wall by their magnets.
    AC/DC.
    Flannels with no sleeves.
    Mullets.
    The occasional transmission sitting on a tire in the “bed”.

    Add to that the following:

    Empty beer cans in the bed.
    Wooden-beaded seat covers.
    One single “Fuzzy Dice” hanging off the rearview mirror.
    One or more of those Krager’s missing. May be found in backyard.
    One fender missing. May be found in side yard.
    One bumper missing. May be found in front yard.
    One window that won’t roll all the way up/down.
    8-track tapes.
    Concrete blocks holding the car up. But concrete blocks cannot be seen because the weeds are too high.

    !

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Looking back to the taxi/police ideas of last week, why not create a platform that can support a compact pickup, AND a taxi/police vehicle?

    Stranger things have been known to come out of Detroit, except for…oh wait! This actually make SENSE…

  • avatar
    dean

    Read my lips: no new caminos.

    Won’t happen. Guaranteed. If it does, no one will buy them.

    A proper, compact pickup truck with body-on-frame construction, and a small gas or diesel engine is a better choice. Something the size of an ’80s Ranger. Something that can haul a 1/3 of a yard of dirt or bark mulch from the landscape yard. Hauling bulk materials is one of the very few justifications for a truck, and even then a utility trailer works almost as well.

    Just about anything that would fit in the back of a modern Camino would fit just as well in the back of a Subaru Outback. If not, rent a truck or borrow from someone.

  • avatar
    dean

    Read my lips: no new caminos.

    Won’t happen. Guaranteed. If it does, no one will buy them.

    A proper, compact pickup truck with body-on-frame construction, and a small gas or diesel engine is a better choice. Something the size of an ’80s Ranger. Something that can haul a 1/3 of a yard of dirt or bark mulch from the landscape yard. Hauling bulk materials is one of the very few justifications for a truck, and even then a utility trailer works almost as well.

    Just about anything that would fit in the back of a modern Camino would fit just as well in the back of a Subaru Outback. If not, rent a truck or borrow from someone.

  • avatar
    tony-e30

    I’m sorry, but I should have asked this question earlier; Was this article written tongue-in-cheek as Mr. Altoids asked way back at 4pm? A new El Camino? Really?

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    If I were running Ford, I would scrap the Grand Marquis, and use the assembly line to make modified Crown Vics – heavy duty suspension, transmission, etc., and make it a half-truck. Basically, a cop car but with a pickup bed.

    But, if I were running Ford, they wouldn’t be in such a predicament, Mullaly wouldn’t have a job, and I’d be rich…

  • avatar
    ejacobs

    OK, it’s a fun fantasy. Those 60’s Falcon-based Rancheros were bitchin’ as hell. But in today’s world, this type of vehicle is as popular as a Subaru Baja, Suzuki X90 http://www.theautochannel.com/media/photos/suzuki/1997/97_suzuki_x90_2.jpg, or Chevy SSR. All of the other models listed in this thread are proof positive that these vehicles don’t sell (Rampage, Rabbit pickup, BRAT, etc.), and will certainly not dig any domestic brand out of the grave.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    I thought the Ridgeline was the pickup version of the Aztek ?

    Sorry – my mistake.

    An ElCaminoish car would be nice but that was just a niche product and just another sofabed.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    A real station wagon would be a far more reasonable thing to reintroduce than an ElCamino type vehicle.

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned the VW Rabitt Pickup of the 70s and 80s. It was another variation on this theme.

    In some ways the Chevy Avalanche is an ElCamino like vehicle, except that it starts life as a truck.

    With modern trucks having all the interior comforts of cars there is simply no reason to built an El Camino or a Ranchero.

    However, there is a market for a tough rear wheel drive minivan to replace the aged and discontinued Aerostar and Astro minivans. I also think there could be a great market for real station wagon versions of sedans. A Fusion wagon would be an excellent combination of versatility and economy.

  • avatar
    BlueBrat

    Gentlemen, may I present, the BMW El Camino Pickup Turd:

    http://germancarscene.com/2006/11/19/bmw-m5-pickup/

  • avatar
    windswords

    If anyone wants to see today’s “El Camino” and Ford “Ranchero” see the links from Adrian Imonti’s post of the Holden UTE (GM) and the Falcon UTE (Ford).

    Obviously someone’s buying these vehicles in Australia. So I think there could be a market for them. But it has to be done right. Here’s what I mean:

    1.) The car, err… truck, err… car/truck – ok the *vehicle* has to be inexpensive. No Chevy SSR’s need apply. This means it has to be built off an existing platform. The front clip should be exactly the same as the car it’s taken from with minor cosmetic differences (remember – inexpensive). The interior should be the same as well with a couple of easy changes to differentiate. I would make one substantial change in the interior, see #4 below.

    2.) The vehicle has to be minimally functional. Again no SSR’s need apply. It needs to have all the requisite tie downs for cargo (like dirt bikes, ATV’s, kayaks, etc.). Tonneau covers and caps should also be available from day 1 of production. It needs to be able to tow a boat or trailer. Someone more knowledgeable than me can come up with an appropriate weight.

    3.) The vehicle has to be rear wheel drive with a live axle since an IRS would make it heavy (less MPG) and more expensive.

    4.) The vehicle has to offer the right options. Whatever the trim lines available, all vehicles in the lineup should be available with AC, choice of auto or stick, all radio entertainment options from the base radio up to satellite and everything in between, and an available bench seat/shift on the column for those that want to sit three across. These options cannot be tied to other option packages forcing the buyer to take things he doesn’t want/need.

    5.) The vehicle has to be built at the same plant that makes the car it is based off of, preferably in a flexible manufacturing facility so that the line can be switched in 15 minutes or less from one vehicle to another, to keep costs down.

    Ok, so there are the parameters. Let’s see who is best situated to make such a vehicle:

    GM is in the worst shape. They have the Holden UTE in Aussieland, but it would be too expensive to ship over here. Installing the tooling somewhere stateside would too expensive and would break requirement #5 above. If the Aussie UTE is based off the Holden Commodore which will become the basis of the Impala and G8 we have a possibility.

    Ford is in a better position. The same situation applies with the Aussie Falcon UTE in regards to cost. The Mustang platform would be the only choice. It already has the live axle. I’ not sure how it would be received because it would look like a Mustang from the front (Mustero!). At least it shouldn’t cannibalize Mustang sales.

    Chrysler is in the best position. They have the Magnum. It doesn’t sell in large numbers so cannibalization shouldn’t be a concern. The next gen (LY) is being developed now to replace the LX so it would be easier to create the “MagnuPage” from a cost standpoint than to do it after the new generation is brought out. The live axle would have to be developed and although it’s cheaper to make, the engineering costs to develop it might be prohibitive. I don’t know if Chrysler has a live axle that they can shorten to fit the Magnum.

  • avatar
    windswords

    NickR:
    February 6th, 2007 at 4:04 pm
    … I would be delighted to see a manufacturer come out with lights resembling a 71 Cuda’s, a 69 Chevelle’s, or a 66 Satellite’s.

    Just wait for the new Dodge Challenger. The headlights are almost exactly like the original 70 – 74 Challenger and the ’71 Cuda’s.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I’m with Martin Albright. The El Camino made sense 30 years ago as a gentleman’s pickup, because trucks of the day were so uncomfortable. Now that pickups have become so plush, there is no need for the vehicle, except nostalgia.

    But one correction, Martin, on the Liberty CRD. It actually sold well – 10K units vs. DCX’s expectation of 5K, and was only dropped due to tightening emissions regulations.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    Sean: Thanks for the input on the Liberty CRD. I remember it being introduced with great fanfare and then it just sort of disappeared, which struck me as odd. One of these days some enterprising company will wrestle with the issues of emissions/mpg/cost and get a reliable diesel into a small truck/SUV. I thought DCX had it down but apparently the Liberty CRD was a one-trick pony.

    It’s still somewhat baffling to me that nobody has put a small diesel into a truck. In other parts of the world small trucks with diesels are the most common vehicles on the road. True, we couldn’t import those trucks directly (because they don’t meet US emissions or safety standards) but it’s not like the manufacturers would be completely reinventing the wheel, either.

    It just seems to be a case of automotive myopia. It seems to me the market is there (at least it will be when gas prices hit $3 again this Summer), and the engineering problems (primarily regarding emissions) are solvable. What seems to be lacking (among all of the companies selling cars in the US, not just the big 2.5) is the desire to take a risk and do something different.

    So, instead we keep getting retro-mobiles that are designed to tap into some deep seated longing of car fanatics. While that’s OK, the vast, vast, vast majority of people who buy cars in the US are not car fanatics and don’t give two hoots about whether the “new” Challenger is a faithful replica of the 1970 version or not. They want a transportation appliance to get them to and from work and out to the golf course on weekends, without draining their wallets at the gas pump or nickel-and-diming them out of repair costs. And those of us who are truck people want the same thing plus the ability to haul lumber or furniture back from Home Depot, and maybe the ability to make it up to that rugged camping spot in the mountains.

    Toyota, Nissan and Honda are on top sales-wise because they provide just what I described above, and they provide it at a decent price. For US manufacturers to think that they’re going to be able to come up with some “blockbuster” model that will lift them back into prosperity seems a little irrational to me. After all, they’re not Harley Davidson, selling a niche-market luxury item to a small market.

  • avatar
    nutbags

    My favorite version was the VW based on the Rabbit. Small and slow but efficient.

  • avatar
    NickR

    A local dealership made an El Camino like vehicle out of a Chrysler Cirrus. I posted a picture of it a long time ago at Moparchat. It was hideous.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Martin,
    I think the problem with a small diesel pickup is the cost. All the technology to get diesels to perform well and cleanly — turbocharging, piezo injectors, urea addition, catalysts, etc. — is pricey.

    Most carmakers don’t expect buyers to pay an extra $3,000 to save $500 a year in gas. Maybe the success of the Prius and Jetta TDI will change their minds.

    My guess is that if it comes to market, it’ll wear an H on the grill.

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    I think the problem with a small diesel pickup is the cost. All the technology to get diesels to perform well and cleanly — turbocharging, piezo injectors, urea addition, catalysts, etc. — is pricey.

    I’ve no doubt that money is the sticking point, but it seems to me that once the hard work is done, economies of scale kick in to make it affordable.

    If the small turbo diesel was available across the car line, not just in the trucks, wouldn’t that allow the manufacturer to spread the costs out more evenly so no one segment was hit harder than any other?

    The key, of course, is finding the “break even” point where the additional costs to purchase are offset by lower fuel/maintenance costs. Being neither an engineer nor a bean counter, I have no idea where that point is, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.

  • avatar
    Luther

    Oh No……

    http://blogs.edmunds.com/Straightline/.ee981bd

  • avatar
    FunkyD

    The recent experience with the GTO will pretty much preclude listening and/or catering to the “enthusiast” RWD advocates as an untenable business model. In the days of profit- maybe. Today- no way.

    So then, how do you explain the Mustang, one of the very few bright spots in Ford’s lineup?

    Of course, if nobody else will listen to us RWD “enthusiasts”, BMW is just down the road…

  • avatar
    nino

    The recent experience with the GTO will pretty much preclude listening and/or catering to the “enthusiast” RWD advocates as an untenable business model. In the days of profit- maybe. Today- no way.

    So then, how do you explain the Mustang, one of the very few bright spots in Ford’s lineup?

    Of course, if nobody else will listen to us RWD “enthusiasts”, BMW is just down the road…

    Who are you refering to as “enthusiasts” when you talk about the Mustang.

    I’m sorry, but the Mustang is a pick-up truck chassis with a pick-up truck motor. It has lousy brakes and less than stellar handling. On top of that, the interior looks and feels cheap.

    The GTO was a better car.

  • avatar
    gfen

    The El Camino works for some because its a ridiculous example of a bygone era. An automotive monstrosity that’s so ugly that it turns heads and makes desire flutter.

    I want a real El Camino not because of its perceived usefulness, but the sheer uselessness of the thing.

    I wouldn’t look twice at a “new El Camino.” I’d scorn it, like the Subaru Baja, as a stupid answer to a question no one asked.

  • avatar
    MOVAIR

    Some of us grew up with El Camino’s and Ranchero’s everywhere, before SUV’S. I own a El Camino and I use it as a Truck, and It Drives like a car…My Jeep Grand Cherokee can’t even come close…So us Mullet wearing 70’s loving people still are out there, and If they brought back the El Camino or even the Falcon from Australia, we would buy it….Besides pulling up to a honda and the kids revs his toy eng, and my 454 takes off,,,What can you say….Movair

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