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El Camino Real

A Husband-Wife Bonding Experience

Ro McGonegal Nov 30, 2004

Forgive us for taking the cheesy route and titling this story after a Spanish I text entitled El Camino Real ("ree-AL"), Espanol for "the royal road," that we stumbled through (at least twice) in high school. From this, you could deduce that El Camino loosely translates as "the road," which it was built to travel. Like most project cars, there will probably never come a day when Herb and Carol Lumpp lay down their tools and their pioneering spirit and proclaim with certainty that their '66 El Camino is finished and ready for an ever-loving life on the road as the consummation of their dream in its complete and final form, but this is the story so far.

Says Herb: "A friend sold it to me because he was getting divorced. This car was never my dream car, but over the years we've become pretty close. Being on active duty in the Coast Guard has made this a difficult project financially and logistically. Thanks to my wife Carol's support and understanding, I was able to turn it into something special." Indeed, Herb's been toiling on the El for five years, most of that time spent in Virginia rather than his home state of Arizona.

Though Herb tackled all the mechanical, electrical, suspension, and engine work solo, he's still managed to sink more than $50K in the passenger truck and knows that it's still not done. That's what we like to see at CHP, an owner-built, maintained, and driven street machine that'll chug to the moon and back and run as smoothly as baby's hiney. The El is Herb's fourth old car, having paid his dues on a '67 Camaro, a '72 Vette, a '73 Camaro, and a '76 Vette that still commands real estate in his garage.

When you look for a cover-car image, you want something red, orange, or yellow--the strobe-flash colors that pop a little fire in the corner of your eye as you walk past. You don't even know what it is, but the color draws you like the image of a comely female. Then you look for something that'll appeal to most readers' sensibilities and pique their interest and prompt them to take the book off the rack for all the details. Lumpp's '66 did just that, beckoning us like a laser from one hundred yards. When we finally saw Lumpp, he was spiffing the El and was a little surprised that we'd landed on him like a clutch of killer mosquitoes.

A quick once-over confirmed that we'd found a good one, one with the right combo of suspension, brakes, drivetrain, and engine. Lumpp explained that he'd done most of the car himself, another quality that tends to capture our black hearts. When someone can recount by memory how each part was made or how it was fitted into place, he is infused with it and he becomes a part of that entity as its creator, not simply the name on a pink slip.

While the Lumpps could have easily halted the transformation with the paint, rolling stock, and drivetrain, they appreciated the concept of active avoidance as a margin of safety. The El features Global West Negative Roll tubular control arms and a hefty 1.25-inch antisway bar and mates them with heavy 850-lb/in Coil Spring Specialties units that coerce the sticky Nitto 555 rubber to turn in (or away from an obstacle), plant it firmly in the sweep after the transition, and keep the back end straight when the loud pedal goes down. Likewise, the brakes. Big handling and lots of torque need a braking system matched to the handling capability. Dinner-plate-size Baers all around are consistently and positively engaged by a booster and braided lines.

While in the calm, Herb and Carol ply their subjective side with a kick-ass Kenwood system that Herb designed and installed. With the A/C cranked and the tranny in OD, and wrapped up in the surround-sound stereo, they have made several-thousand-mile sojourns to the Power Tour, the Bristol Bash, and Chuck Hanson's Chevellabration. And no, they're not done yet.


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