1971 Chevrolet El Camino SS - Suitcase Job

Mike Saiki & Pat McNeil Build One For The Street

Ro McGonegal Jun 10, 2010 0 Comment(s)
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These cats are no strangers. We've displayed their race cars before-functional, fast, eye-catching examples of the ideal. They did up this particular '71 Elco as an SS lookalike and they did it on the cheap. They are connected car-builders and know where all the good stuff is and how to get it.

1008chp_01_o 1971_chevrolet_el_camino_ss Rear 2/7

Mike: "First plan was to build the El Camino as a shop truck [for Mike and Pat's Motivational Engineering in Carson, California], and maybe later flip it and make some money. A couple of weeks into the project Pat decided he wanted the El Camino for a driver." Between the two of them, they had enough parts to turn it into a respectable car in appearance and style as well as performance, at once, something that vibe both hemispheres of the brain with equal resonance.

Pat kicked in the 350 engine, the radiator, and the 12-bolt; Mike anted up the transmission, suspension, and the SS dashboard conversion. Then the familiar refrain "somewhere along the line, things got carried away." They ended up with a complete Edelbrock suspension; disc brakes; all-new interior; gas tank; moldings; taillights; SS stripes; wiring harnesses; alarm; power door locks; air conditioning; and larger, wider rollers all around.

They admit that the conversion cost an estimated $20-large, partly because they got real lucky and found a roller that already had outstanding refinishing and paint. All it needed were some guts that worked constant and some loving care for the rest of it. They cleaned and painted the engine bay and installed the new suspension and front disc brakes. The drivetrain was pieced out to well-known vendors who already contribute to their race car addiction.

Remember now, this isn't any kind of Pro Touring, Pro-Parking Lot, or drag race suppliant, it's a street-only, layin'-back, driver without pretense (save for its blaring red blazer), meant only as a conveyance from point A to B, and with the occasional crankshaft or cylinder block rocking in the bed behind Pat's head.

Forever the racers, Pat and Mike could not refuse the allure of forged internal engine parts. Though Motivational does its racing with nitrous oxide, Pat refrained from pairing it or any other popular power-adder with the El Camino's 355. Its atmospheric engine puts out as much grunt and horsepower as an air-only big-block crate so they didn't see the need for redundancy or the unneeded fuel attrition, and they did it at a bargain-basement price. Though an all-aluminum LS would have been in keeping with the current trend, it would have increased the budget for no real cause.

Since funds were far from unlimited, they made the only feasible choice: mostly go and very little show. These guys weren't interested in changing the direction of the earth's orbit. No. They just wanted to have a little fun and make some noise while they did it. They used a lot of stuff that could just as easily have been factory parts, so in a sense, the build was still a budget-oriented deal. There was no waste. They made the most of what they had.

And you know that California cars have always been known for incorporating a specific trend or "look" before the rest of the hot rodding world has recognized or implemented it. Though that trend is slowly bleeding out (mostly because of the direct connection, vastness, and immediacy of the Internet), look what a simple thing McNeil has done to boost his Elco. If that torch red under stripes weren't enough, it clicks down the avenue twirling monstrous chunks of polished aluminum. See this car one time and you're not likely to forget it-and everything it implies.

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