The story of Herb Lumpp's '66 El Camino is not one in which an exhaustive search was undertaken to located a specific make and model. Herb didn't happen to stumble across a killer deal on a mint El Camino either. Instead, this Elky found Herb and when it showed up on his doorstep in Phoenix; it was far from pristine. "A friend of mine was going through a divorce and he didn't want his wife to take it," explains Herb. "I didn't even want the car, but I bought it from him with the intention to sell it back to him when the divorce was final."
That day came and went, but the El Camino remained in Herb's garage. Herb's passion for cars runs deep, but he had no interest in keeping the spent El Camino, especially when he had a perfectly good '76 Vette to enjoy. "I tried selling it, but nobody wanted it because it was so beat," admits Lumpp. Then Herb came to the realization that even a ragged farm truck deserved a good home. The problem shifted from finding a buyer willing to take the truck to finding a body shop willing to restore it. Herb is pretty handy with a welder, but he knew the rusted window frames and floorboard were beyond his capabilities. What was left of the original white paint was coming off like chalk and the interior was trashed.
"Every body shop I went to said they would paint it, but none of them wanted to repair the sheet metal," says Herb. Finally, he came across the Cobbler's Shop in Apache Junction, Arizona and they agreed to take on the project. Like many of the cars featured in these pages, Herb's basic restoration quickly escalated into a more in-depth project. "It became one of those cases where I kept saying, "As long as we've got this apart, I can fix this while I'm at it," says Lumpp. Those little fixes kept adding up until Herb realized six bolts were the only things left connecting the body to the frame. Taking that final step kicked Herb's plans into overdrive.
Herb knew the stock six-banger wasn't going back in, but the choice between going with a small block and a big block was not easy. Ultimately, fond memories of the 429 from his first car (a '70 Torino GT) made the difference and Herb decided to go big. A lead on a local LS6 crate engine from the Chevelle mailing list allowed him to bring home a complete 454 for $1,500. The previous owner had spun a rod bearing but all the components were there, including a cross-drilled steel crank, forged 7/16 rods, a four-bolt main and square port heads.
Since the engine was in pieces when he bought it, Herb had King Balancing in Glendale, Arizona do some machining which increased the displacement to 460 cubic-inches. Lumpp also went with Speed-Pro's 9.6:1 compression forged pistons in an effort to keep the engine happy on pump gas. Lumpp is a big fan of fuel-injection, but he wanted the engine compartment as clean as possible. To avoid a gaggle of wiring harnesses, he opted to stick with a 750-cfm Demon carb, mounted on an Edlebrock RPM Air-Gap manifold, tucked neatly underneath a K&N filter.
Midway through the project, Herb's career in the Coast Guard sent him off to Florida for Officer's Candidate School. The El Camino stayed behind in Arizona, where Tony Cobbler's crew finished off the flawless body work. Since he was building the car to drive, Herb had originally planned to go with a bargain basement paint job, but decided against it for fear of insulting the craftsmen at the Cobbler Shop. Tony Cobbler's crew sprayed the Elky in a yellow hue, originally available on '96 Ford Probes, but kept the bed area functional by applying a simple spray-on bedliner. Once the body work was complete, Herb was forced to tow the Elky to Florida, as it was not yet drivable; one of only two trips the El Camino has ever made on a trailer.
When Herb completed OCS, he was transferred up to the D.C. area and the Elky came with him. By this time, Lumpp had outfitted the interior with tons of modern upgrades, including a Dakota digital dash, Vintage Air, a Kenwood stereo with MTX speakers and bucket seats from an '85 Vette. Herb's plans may have exceeded the scope of his original intentions, but he still wanted to enjoy driving the car and that meant rowing through the gears of a manual transmission. Lumpp explored the option of going with a Tremac unit, but since he was doing all the wrenching himself and the fit with a Richmond was much easier, that decision was a no-brainer.
Herb's project wouldn't be complete without making sure the stance and handling of his Elky matched the high standards found throughout the rest of the truck. QA1 shocks were installed on all four corners and Herb sourced front spindles from an '85 Pontiac wagon, which came with 12-inch rotors. The rotors fit perfectly with the Global West upper control arms, but the bolt pattern didn't exactly match up with Lumpp's application, so he had the rotors re-drilled to fit. The lower control arms were boxed and reinforced to guard against cracking and the Explorer disk brakes out back were an option Herb chose when he picked up the 9-inch rearend from Currie.
Herb has spent the last two summers enjoying the fruits of his labor, but the car is still a work-in-progress. After bottoming out one too many times on the Power Tour long haul, he gave up some of the Elky's aggressive stance by installing a set of big block springs from Global West. The 17-inch Foose Nitrous Thrust Wheels were a favorite of Herb's but those are also on their way out, as they won't fit over the new Baer brakes he is installing during the winter break.
While Lumpp's base of operations may have changed several times in the last few years, we always manage to find him at the biggest automotive events in the country. Whether he's collecting awards at the World of Wheels or timeslips at No Problem Raceway, the Elky is constantly turning heads and getting noticed. The show judges appreciate the subtle touches, including the smoothed firewall and the shaved drip rail and bumper bolts. Accolades roll in from the racing crowd too when they see him pull out of the show field and into the staging lanes. Lumpp takes it all in stride as his El Camino proves that going fast and looking good are not mutually exclusive traits.