"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.
Attack Speed, Now
Keith Anderson's '70 El Camino SS was born with a 396 under the hood, and a ride in a '69 Chevelle SS convinced him that the car should be reborn with big-block propulsion. West Covina, California's Speed-O-Motive assembled a 496ci short-block based on a 0.060-over two-bolt main 454, starting with an Eagle forged crank working a 4.25-inch stroke. Reconditioned Chevy rods, 6.135 inches long, are topped by Speed Pro hypereutectic pistons fitted with Sealed Power moly rings. Keith took over from there, assembling the rest of this Rat himself. He started with an Ultradyne 288/ 296 F10 cam that provides 0.612/0.630 inch lift, along with 255/263 degrees duration at 0.050. It's synched to the crank with a Summit Racing True Roller timing set; Summit provided the cover as well. Keith rounded out the lower end by fitting a Melling high-volume oil pump drawing from a stock 454 oil pan; up top, he port-matched a set of GM Performance Parts aluminum oval-port heads and fitted Comp Cams Pro Magnum 1.7:1 roller rockers nudged by Comp pushrods. Joined to the block, the compression ratio comes in at an even 10:1. Keith's creation started with a carb, but his dalliance with drag-racing imports provided plenty of experience with EFI, not to mention leftover parts. The working version consists of a Holley 950 Commander Pro fuel-injection setup: 42-lb/hr injectors are fed by a Walbro 225-lph inline high-pressure fuel pump, drawing from a repro tank fitted with a homemade sump and spraying into a Holley EFI single-plane high-rise manifold. An Aeromotive EFI regulator moderates the fuel pressure, while the requisite Commander 950 Pro ECU runs the works. Fire comes courtesy of MSD: a 6A box, a Digital E-curve distributor, and a Blaster 3 coil. Waste disposal is handled by DynoMax, specifically a set of Pro Series ceramic-coated headers joined to Ultra Flo mufflers by an owner-built 3-inch exhaust with an X-pipe. Cooling? Keith employs a Weiand high-flow water pump and a Universal Products aluminum radiator with twin Spal electric fans. Inspired by the Vipers he's owned, it's only fitting that Keith backs up his potent powerplant with an '03 Viper-spec T56 six-speed built by D&D Performance using a 26-spline GM input shaft and bearing retainer, among other beefy goodies. D&D also provided a custom steel adapter place and cast housing, allowing use of the Elco's factory trans mount and mechanical speedo. The shifter is a billet aluminum Triax short-throw arm; the clutch an 11-inch Centerforce Dual-Friction set shielded by a Lakewood bellhousing and worked by the original El Camino linkage. Keith called on Denny's Driveshaft for a Nitrous Ready steel shaft-on the other hand, he took care of the diff himself, rebuilding this original '69 GM 12-bolt with 3.73:1 gears and an Eaton posi. Put it all together, and it comes out at 490 rwhp at 5,560 rpm, along with 513 lb-ft at 4,050 rpm on the LSE Performance (Plymouth, Minnesota) Dyno Dynamics Dynamometer.
The bulk of the interior is original, remarkably intact for a car that has seen its share of race duty. The carpet is a repro rug from Original Parts Group, but you're looking at the original dash, gauges, and factory AM radio with mono speaker, supplemented by Auto Meter mechanical oil-pressure and water-temp gauges in an underdash pod. The steering wheel is by Grant; Keith incorporated an SS wheel center cap into the horn button. Pilot comfort is handled by Arizen Racing Sports custom leather seats with SS logos, safety by Simpson five-point harnesses anchored to the reinforced sheetmetal behind the seat. Keith moved the factory four-speed shift "hump" back 5 inches to accommodate the T56 shifter, which he fitted with the car's original four-speed shifter bezel and boot. The wiring harness is stock; the Racepak G2X data-acquisition system hiding behind the passenger seat is not, but very cool.
Keith's Elco may be Viper-inspired, but the polished Detroit Wheels ZR1 replica rims he runs bear a closer resemblance to one of Chevy's best. These rollers are appropriately ZR1-sized at 17x9.5 and 17x11 inches, front to back, and they wear Sumitomo HTR Z rubber, 275/40ZR17 and 315/35ZR17. Braking prowess comes via Wilwood Superlite six-piston front calipers clamping down on 13-inch drilled and slotted two-piece rotors; the rear binders are Dynalite four-piston calipers grasping 12-inch two-piece rotors. The system is actuated by a Wilwood master cylinder and proportioning valve assisted by a Hydratech Hydroboost hydraulic power brake assist unit. And lest we forget the straight-line, this Elky's also sporting a Hurst Line-Loc.
Looking to get the most bang for his buck, Keith thoroughly researched his suspension options, digesting every piece of info he could find. The final combo, attached to the Elky's original frame, goes something like this: Pole Position Racing adjustable upper A-arms team with Global West tubular lowers to surround fabricated steel '71-76 Impala-spec spindles; Coleman Racing designed them for asphalt oval track combat. Coleman was also sourced for billet-aluminum steering arms and Impala hubs. The shocks are QA1 double-adjustable coilovers with QA1 progressive-rate springs, but dig this: Keith runs the original '70 El Camino 151/416-inch sway bar. Rearend action is handled by a set of Wolfe Race Craft adjustable lower control arms, teamed with Edelbrock adjustable uppers. Keith dealt with the dreaded suspension bind issue by utilizing spherical bearings and rod ends throughout, including Wolfe Race Craft pieces in the rearend housing. Damping duties are fall to QA1 Stocker Star 12-way adjustable shocks teamed with Original Parts Group 2-inch drop springs. Directional control happens through an AGR quick-ratio power steering box, linked to the El Camino's original steering shaft and column.
This El Camino SS may be more than a quarter-century old, but its drag-racing life left behind a straight body, excepting a few dents on the tailgate. Rods & Restos of Fridley, Minnesota, sanitized the stripped shell by shaving and filling the lower side, tailgate, and driprail moldings along with the door guards and fender emblems. A mirrorlike coat of PPG Tuxedo Black accentuated by Arctic White hood stripes completed the transformation.
This one's easy. Keith's '70 El Camino SS busts the quarter in 11.85 at 118.30 mph, has warped through a circuit of Brainerd International Raceway in 2:02:67 with a top speed of 148 mph, and completed the Power Tour Long Haul in 2004. What else do ya want? CHP