At first glance, you might not think this "plain brown wrapper" El Camino isn't worth featuring compared to the rest of the cars on these pages. You'd be mistaken though, because beneath its Midnight Bronze paint and silver painted rally wheels lies a very unique car.
1972 was a tumultuous year for car enthusiasts. Horsepower numbers were in a freefall, a combination of revised measuring standards, increasing insurance and emissions regulation, and the dropping of compression ratios in response to the coming of unleaded gas. On the Chevelle side, it was the last year of the second generation, with an all new chassis and body in the works for '73.
Henry Fleinir wasn't your typical new car buyer to walk through the doors of Porter Chevrolet in Newark, Delaware. Unlike those who would buy one car and use it for just about everything, Henry would purchase one car for specific tasks, and alternate frequently between his various vehicles. Rick Schmidt, vice president and C.O.O. of National Parts Depot (and the car's current owner) had this to say about the original owner's odd buying habits.
"I was contacted by the son of the Elky's original owner. He lived in our area of central Florida, and had heard through other enthusiasts of our penchant for low-mileage, unrestored vehicles. His father had passed away, and left a small collection of mostly low-mileage GM cars in a concrete block garage/barn in Virginia."
"He related to me that his father was a very particular man, who had a penchant for buying certain vehicles for specific uses, resulting in limited mileage accrued on each car. In all, I ended up purchasing three cars from the son, a triple black '79 Olds Toronado with 3,500 miles, a black/white '61 four-door impala with 6,200 miles, and this car, a Midnight Bronze 1972 Chevy El Camino with 6,800 miles. All three needed a good cleaning and detailing, but miraculously transformed into almost "as-new" condition with no restoration work needed. All three cars also drove and ran just like new."
For his new truck, Henry Fleinir ordered an El Camino with some unique options. To transfer the base level, 2-bbl equipped 350's power to the rear wheels, Henry ordered the El Camino with the ultra rare heavy duty Muncie 3-speed (option code MC1), on-the-column shifted manual trans. We say rare because only 272 A-Bodies came from the factory equipped with the special 3-speed. And of those 272, it's hard to imagine very many were El Caminos.
Fleiner also checked off on power disc brakes, power steering, a posi-traction equipped differential for the truck's 8.5-inch 10-bolt rear, and factory air shocks for the back end (1 of only 621 A-Bodies similarly equipped with the option code G67 setup). Inside, he opted for the AM/FM non-stereo radio, factory tach for the dash, and power door locks (odd because the windows are still non-power).
Back to the present, one might wonder why someone would want such a non-descript survivor? It wasn't an SS, it's not painted a rare factory color, and no well known celebrity ever owned it. It doesn't even have air conditioning! But for Rick Schmidt and the crew at National Parts Depot, it has a value all its own.
"The car also came with its original Protect-O-Plate, instructions for the adjustable shocks, and warranty booklet. It still rides on its original Uniroyal tires. Storage didn't preserve the undercarriage and engine compartment very well, but otherwise the car's condition is as-new. Not only do we enjoy owning time-warp vehicles such as this at NPD, we value them as benchmarks we can use to assess the correctness and quality of our reproduction parts. It may not be an SS, but I don't think I'll ever find a cleaner and more genuine unrestored El Camino."
We got a chance to ride along with Rick for a ride in the Elky, and it was a real treat. Working the column shift for the Muncie was very different from the floor shifters we're all used to working. Despite the age though, the '72 drove just as good as a new car today. It was tight, smooth, no rattles or squeaks, and that bench seat had the comfort of a well padded sofa! And unlike most of today's modern cars, you don't blend in seamlessly with the rest of the lemmings driving their silver/white/black/beige Oldsmobuicks and similarly uninspiring conveyances.
Just after Rick took possession of the El Camino, he had a fun moment of his own. A surprise trip to get a new dishwasher sent him to the NPD headquarters for a truck to fetch it in. Since he had to move the El Camino to access said truck, he just decided to take the Elky. With a blanket in the bed for protection, he was quite the attraction for other customers as he loaded the dishwasher in the back.
While it won't win any races, and lacks the pomp and flare of its SS equipped brethren, this El Camino still rises to the top. Sitting in it, smelling the new-car-smell aroma of its vinyl bench seat, absorbing the energy from the simple feel of the car, takes one back in time, when cars were much more than just a way to buzz between work and handle the mundane tasks of everyday living. This El Camino takes you back to the twilight of the golden age, when you could order what you wanted, so your car personified your soul.