Junkyard Find: 1974 Chevrolet El Camino

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Chevrolet El Camino reached its largest size in the 1973-1977 fourth-generation version, while engine power decreased at about the same rate as its bumper size increased. Still, these cartrucks are somewhat sought-after today, more so than the later, smaller G-body-based ones.

Since you won’t see many of these vehicles in self-service wrecking yards, I thought this California example was worth including in this series.

The truckified Chevelle was based on the Malibu Wagon chassis, and this one still has its Chevelle-style hood ornament. The coin-style reeding is extra-classy.

I didn’t feel like getting dirty and checking casting numbers on this small-block V8, but it’s probably a 350 (a 400 would have been yanked within days of showing up in the yard, and the 350 is both the base engine for 1974 and the most likely size to have been swapped in later).

Cars don’t rust much in California, but the rainy winters coupled with indifferent GM weatherstripping can make water collect in some areas and cause some rot.

The vinyl upholstery on the seats and door panels has held up remarkably well in the harsh petrochemical air and thermonuclear rays of coastal California.

800 pound payload! Optional captain’s-chair swivel buckets!

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • SaulTigh SaulTigh on Mar 13, 2016

    A kid I worked with at my first job circa 1993 had a 1976 El Camino. White and red with a camper shell! He kept a complete selection of automotive fluids in the back and frequently had the hood up adding them in the parking lot (mostly coolant as I recall). His dad drove a '78 Firebird that you had to lift the doors to get them to close as they sagged several inches after opening. Mom drove an Astro van. The whole family was a sucker for rolling GM abuse.

  • Cmholm Cmholm on Apr 21, 2016

    Since relocating to Oz for a spell, in the automotive department I feel like I've stepped into an alternative history, where Falcons never went out of style, and car-based utes still grace the showrooms. My understanding is that the current Holden Ute was destined to follow the Monaro/GTO into Pontiac showrooms, until the GFC caused GM to have its come-to-Jesus moment. Too bad, because the GM-Holden (and to a lesser degree Ford) utes can be optioned into very sporty, Mustang-eating road warriors. There is an outfit in the US that will Federalize one for you, causing pulled necks among the Elkey worshippers wherever you go.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Lou_BCsame here I grew up on 2-stroke dirt bikes had a 1985 Yamaha IT200 2-strokes then a 1977 Suzuki GT750 2-stroke 750 streetike fast forward to 2002 as a young flight school Lieutenant I bought a 2002 suzuki Hayabusa 1300 up in Huntsville Alabama. Still have that bike.
  • Milton Rented one for about a month. Very solid EV. Not as fun as my Polestar, but for a go to family car, solid. Practical EV ownership is only made possible with a home charger.
  • J Love mine, but the steering wheel blocks dashboard a bit, can't see turn signals nor headlights icons. They could use the upper corners of the screen for the turn signals. Mileage is much lower than shown too, disappointing
  • Aja8888 NO!
  • OrpheusSail I once did. My first four cars were American made, and through an odd set of circumstances surrounding a divorce, I wound up with a '95 Nissan Maxima which was fourteen years old and had about 150,000 miles on it.It was drove better, had an amazing engine, and was more reliable than any of my American cars. This included a new '95 GMC pickup that went through five alternators in under two years while the dealership insisted that there was no underlying electrical problem while they tried to run the clock on the warranty.That was the end of 'buy American'. I've bought from Honda and VW since, and I'll consider just about anything except American now.