Do you remember your first muscle car? Not just your first beater, but the very first project that ignited your passion for hot rods? This is typically a fond memory for gearheads. Although we can’t all keep our first modified cruiser, some people do. Most, however, end up selling their first hot ride hastily or to the wrong buyer.
We’ve spoken with muscle car enthusiasts in the past who claim they would pay anything to get their first hot rod back. If there was a hypothetical warehouse that held what people would give to still own their first muscle car, it would probably store some property titles and severed limbs because that’s how much people adore their first burnout machine.
However, young Chevy enthusiasts like 18-year-old Jake Rozelle of La Palma, California, for example, doesn’t have to worry about the fate of his first muscle car; he still gets to drive it every single day.
Savvy CHP fans may recognize Jake’s ’72 El Camino from the August issue’s inset cover image, and after some Internet buzz about the hefty ride carving the corners at this year’s Run to the Coast event at the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Base in Southern California, we tracked it down to shoot a spread. The coolest thing about this car is it’s Jake’s only mode of transportation—an all-steel ’72 Elco that gets driven all over the place with 430 hp and 22 mpg. It’s not just cruised on the nice days during weekends or to and from the track on test ’n’ tune nights, it’s literally Jake’s only wheels. Rain or shine, he races it at various Pro Touring events in California, hauls motorcycles, home improvement projects, carts groceries, everything a truck can do just much cooler. Having a 4L70E transmission allows Jake to blaze down the highway at comfortable rpm, and the LS2 underhood provides the power and torque needed to pull the Elco around the cones at meets. Jake is even known to cruise it out to Lake Havasu with his family, who are also hard-core Chevy fans. His father, Roy, owns a 550hp ’69 Camaro done in the Pro Touring flavor and his mother, Dora, also drives a handling Chevy, an ’06 C6 Corvette.
We caught up with Jake the week of his high school graduation, just before he went off to University of California, San Diego, where he plans to focus on his electrical engineering degree. And after cruising around in his driver, reminiscing about our own first muscle cars, and hearing how he planned on keeping it as long as he could (although he confessed of plans of building a Trans Am possibly one day), we felt glad that there are some who can appreciate what they have when they have it, because sometimes you don’t even know what you have until it’s gone.