You know that time in the ’60s where the dealer could order a car any way you wanted it? Yeah, here’s how that usually went down:
Customer: “Can you order an El Camino with an L88?”
Customer: “But it already comes with the SS39 …”
Customer: “Aren’t they the sam …”
In a nutshell, that’s what happened when Tom Mattingly asked a Chevrolet salesman if he could get the 427 in an El Camino in 1967. It really didn’t matter anyway; Tom was just a teenager when he went with a financially endowed friend who was ordering his graduation present. But a guy can still dream, right? So you can’t really blame him for asking.
A few curious things have happened in the 49 years since the salesman said no, though. Tom grew up and started a successful business all the while thinking of that stinging rejection on the showroom floor. So he decided to do something about settling that 427-powered El Camino score. He went to the most logical place to build a hot Chevy: West Coast Restoration (WCR), a restoration shop in Snohomish, Washington, that deals primarily in Ford muscle cars. Owner Zac Thureson rose to the occasion—and of course set aside his biases—and found a car.
The finished product is a sleeper in the sense that its simple outward appearance belies a highly modified car. For example, you’d have to know to look for driprails to see that these have been shaved, or the absence of the wipers from the cowl.
Nor would you notice the notched firewall so you don’t bump your toes against the Vintage Air climate-control unit. You’d probably never miss the fuel filler door, but you might spot the slightly tubbed rear wells. But you’d have to go to fuel the car up to notice that the filler lives in a sophisticated box that hinges out of the inner bed wall. Even the color is one of those things the dealer wouldn’t get for your ‘Camino (Lynndale Blue was an exclusive 1967 Corvette color). Chevrolet wouldn’t make your El Camino an SS that year, either. Instead of doing the obvious thing and hanging a bunch of badges on the car, the WCR crew interpreted the SS stripes as one big panel and left it matte black.
The interior largely resembles stock right down to the door panels. Grazzini’s Upholstery in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, installed the restoration-grade carpet and headliner. Hoglund’s Top Shop in Everett tweaked the stock seat frames with covers that bring a little of the modified outside into the cabin. The ididit column is basically a re-creation of a GM part, but the Lecarra steering wheel perched atop it, of course, isn’t. Zac Thureson fabricated the insert for the Auto Meter gauges and Mike Price at Laz Tool in Snohomish CNC-machined the dash insert and sill plates. But again, it’s what you can’t see that makes a big difference: the Vintage Air climate-control system (hidden by notching the cowl), the A-pillar modified for climate-control plumbing, Electric Life power windows, AutoLoc switches and one-touch start, and an American Autowire harness that links it all together.
The deeper you go, the more intense the car gets. Early in the game, the WCR crew divorced the body from the frame and literally drove the running chassis onto the grounds of the nearby Monroe Swap Meet. “I wish we would’ve gotten photos of that,” Mattingly laments. They replaced it with a complete Roadster Shop chassis, one with C5 steering knuckles, double-adjustable QA1 Proma-Star coilover dampers, and Baer 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers. It’s also the four-link model with a Ford 9-inch axle with a 3.91:1 gear on a Trac-Lok limited-slip carrier. The chassis rolls on 18-inch Raceline GT2 wheels; the fronts measure 8 inches wide, but the rears were widened to 12 inches. Both ends ride on BFGoodrich G-Force hides, the fronts a conventional 245/40. The 335/30s out back are nothing if not gigantic, but the real-world stance and grown-up wheel finish sort of play down the extreme width.
And now for the crowning jewel, the reason for this car’s existence: the 427. Only instead of going the predictable route by cloning some L71 or L88, Tom chose a 427 designed by people who were probably still in grade school when those engines came about: an LS7. Turnkey Powertrain prepped this one and it wears a Billet Specialties Tru Trac accessory drive and Stan’s 1 3/4-inch headers. Stan’s also built the 2 1/2-inch exhaust with MagnaFlow mufflers that exit through cutouts in the rear bumper. The engine couples to a TREMEC T-56 with Viper gear ratios from Silver Sport Transmissions.
Modified cars are, by their definition, exceptional in some way. This one’s exceptional for two.
One, it’s a wonderful example of a sleeper—you’d never know how much of an iceberg this car really is. “I call it my gentleman cruiser because nobody knows what’s under there,” Mattingly says, explaining why he went with the smaller exhaust to reduce the noise, among other things. “You know, I go down the highway getting 20 to 22 mpg,” he adds.
Two, and probably more important, this car is a dream fulfilled. A car that may as well have been a Pegasus unicorn as far as the factory was concerned. It just goes to show that sometimes you have to wait. And it might not hurt to have a Ford guy build it, too.
|Owner:||Tom Mattingly, Sitka, Alaska|
|Vehicle:||1967 El Camino|
|Cylinder Heads:||GM LS7 aluminum, 2.20/1.61 valves, CNC-ported, 70cc chambers|
|Camshaft:||GM LS7 hydraulic roller 211/230-deg. duration at 0.050, 0.591/0.591-inch lift, 121 LSA|
|Exhaust:||Stan’s 1 3/4-inch headers, 2 1/2-inch system, MagnaFlow mufflers|
|Output:||505 hp at 6,300 rpm, 470 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm|
|Transmission:||TREMEC T-56 six-speed (Viper ratios) from Silver Sport Transmissions (Rockford, TN)|
|Rear Axle:||Ford 9-inch with 3.91:1 gearset on Trac-Lok carrier, 31-spline axleshafts|
|Front Suspension:||Roadster Shop unequal-length tubular arms, C5 Corvette knuckles|
|Rear Suspension:||Roadster Shop four-link, Panhard rod|
|Brakes:||Baer 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers|
|Wheels & Tires|
|Wheels:||Raceline GT2 18x8 front, 18x12 rear|
|Tires:||BFGoodrich G-Force 245/40 front, 335/30 rear|
|Seats:||Rebuilt buckets covered by Hoglund’s Top Shop (Everett, WA)|
|Upholstery:||Headliner and carpet installation by Grazzini’s Upholstery (Mountlake Terrace, WA)|
|Gauges:||Auto Meter American Muscle|
|Steering Wheel:||Lecarra Mk. IV Double Slot|
|Bodywork:||Shaved driprails, wipers eliminated, cowl notched to relocate climate-control unit, fuel filler relocated to inner bed wall, mini tubs|
|Paint:||Lynndale Blue Poly, urethane|