"I don't even know if I took a second look at it," says Keith Anderson of the old drag car he often passed as it sat in a driveway a block from his childhood home. No matter-Keith had occasion to get very well acquainted with this El Camino when his father, Allan, brought it home the day it went up for sale. That was 25 years ago, and the car that didn't rate a second look has now been re-created as a kick-ass, take-names-later performance machine, as proficient in the twisties as it is tearing down the straightline.So what's new? LeRoy "Sonny" Green ordered his '70 El Camino SS with RPO L78 and the 375-horse 396 big-block option, and promptly went racing. That lasted until one of the Rat's rods violently exited the side of its block. Sonny ordered up an L88 as a replacement but never got around to dropping it in. Fellow Minnesotan Walter Peterson picked up the erstwhile racer, installed the L88 and a rollcage, raced a bit-then decided he needed something faster.
That's where Allan Anderson came in. He jumped when the "for sale" sign went up, but until that point, Keith can't recall his dad showing any interest in musclecars. "To this day," he tells us, "I don't know what got into him." In any case, Keith was the recipient of one project car, sans engine and tranny and showing a ridiculously low 6,034 miles on the clock.
In retrospect, Keith realizes that the spring and summer of 1981, spent reassembling the Elco SS with his dad, was a life-changing time. "The El Camino opened the door to all things automotive for me," is how he sees it now. Back then it was an old car with a 305ci replacement motor and mondo 5.38:1 dragstrip cogs. "It didn't take us long to change that," Keith laughs.
The thing went into mothballs when Keith joined the Air Force. When he returned to civilian life, Keith experienced a bit of automotive schizophrenia. The El Camino, as both a valuable musclecar and a sacrosanct reminder of the father he unexpectedly lost in 1986, became a numbers-matching resto, right down to a date-coded L78. On the other hand, Keith was out playing with turbo'd imports at various Texas dragstrips, his weapon of choice an Eagle Talon, a ride that got him into the 12.0s.
Oddly enough, it was a snake bite that turned Keith on to the possibilities inherent in his El Camino. When the then-new Viper GTS rolled out on the cover of Motor Trend, Keith saved his pennies and brought one home. He ventured onto the road course, and it wasn't long until he was swept away by the rush.
"I made up my mind that the El Camino was gonna be a hot rod again." The transformation may not have been instantaneous, but everything else in this beast is. "The first time I took it to the road course, it blew me away," Keith reports. Yeah, running a buck-and-half on an open track can do that to a guy. And lest you think Keith has neglected the straight-line discipline, he's made it into the 11s, with more to come. One mission, however, is accomplished. "I think my father would approve of what I've done with it," Keith observes. We'd bet on that.