It all seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, it seems like a good idea each year when one of the Currie brothers builds a car. They do it as a kind of promotional tool for their company, Currie Enterprises. You know, the axle shop. “It’s sort of our way to tell people that we already have a part number for a product,” Charles Currie observes.
And the car Charles found was the perfect candidate. For starters, it nearly rounds out his collection of two-door A-bodies. “I kind of have a thing for those I guess,” he admits. But more importantly, it had something very favorable going for it: original paint. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” Charles explains. “I know what can be hiding below two or three coats of paint. But this thing was clean.” Add to that, he horse-traded into it. “I was into it for practically nothing,” he gloats.
Read magazines for long enough and you’ll probably recognize everything that preceded this as a kind of foreshadowing. Usually a car introduced that way turns out to be less than perfect. But Charles’ find wasn’t that kind of car. “This thing was completely f***ed,” recalls builder Kev Elliott at Kev’s Rod & Custom in La Habra, California.
“You know when you send a car out for blasting and only part of it comes back?” he continues. “Well, just about nuffin’ came back, right? (Ed. note: Kev’s a Sarf (South) Londoner.) We knew it needed floors but the quarters were gone, the bottoms of the fenders were gone, the bottom six inches of the windshield frame was gone, the front part of the dash was gone, the front wall of the bed was gone, the side of the roof was gone. The damn thing needed everythin’.”
“It appears that it was parked downhill and leaning to the left,” Charles speculates, explaining how it had to have sat under a tree for much of that time. And if the registration tells us anything, that may have been a long time. “The tags expired in 1977,” Charles says.
“By that time I’d already spent a fair bit of money paying Kev to tear it down and having it blasted,” Charles recalls. “I wasn’t into the car very much and I figured we already uncovered the worst of it.” And as an expert in foreshadowing, you know what’s coming next.
“There was like $200 in just square tubing to brace the body before it got cut up,” Kev points out. And it was during this cutting process that they discovered a whole new level of rot. “All the inner structure; that was gone, too,” he adds. Naturally, the smuggler’s box—the area created by the bed floor immediately behind the cab—was toast. “And nobody makes anything to repair that area, except for the vertical braces,” Kev notes. “At least not for the ’64 and ’65.” Nevertheless, he persisted. “By this point we had a lot more into the car,” Charles says. “I couldn’t just back out.”
What followed was a meticulous reconstruction of an El Camino using Chevelle parts. “Everything in the floor from the firewall to the rear axle is new,” Kev begins. “It has new Chevelle rear arches (translate: wheel openings) but I had to fabricate the lower quarters ahead of and behind them. New driver-door skin. I also fabricated the lower A-post corners at the windshield and fabricated the lower rear-window channel.” Because nobody makes the bed front bulkhead, Kev made a new one from scratch. “The smuggler’s-box cover was bad on one side but we had another that was bad on the other side so I welded the two together.”
And the relentless process of exposing further damage never seemed to stop. “It got hit in the rear corner so I had to repair that, too. The bed looked really good at first but we noticed that the floor was bent like they threw bricks back there,” Kev says. Original plans called for a bedliner but the rest of the car shaped up so nicely that Charles asked Kev to straighten it out. “He made tools in the shape of the ribs and just got under there and worked it out,” Charles says. “It took a whole week,” Kev laments.
Enough about all that misery; this project isn’t defined by its inauspicious beginnings. This title is all about what things become, and in this case Charles tapped into his roots to build a high-school dream car of sorts.
No, he didn’t intend the car to look the way it actually would’ve looked when he graduated high school in 1974. Because it isn’t 1974—his interests have changed and the car proves it. Rather, he built it with a little bit of that high-schooler philosophy, which is basically to lightly modify what’s available using contemporary stuff and available resources.
So really you could say the main thing that’s changed is Charles Currie’s resources. After such an intensive reconstruction, one could make the case that the car Kev Elliot built is more than handsome; it’s beautiful to its core. And that doesn’t exactly sound like a bad idea to us. CHP
Owner: Charles Currie, Anaheim Hills, California
Vehicle: 1965 El Camino
Type: Gen I L79 (clone)
Displacement: 331 ci (327)
Bore: 4.030 inches
Stroke: 3.250 inches
Cylinder Heads: GM 461
Camshaft: Comp Cams 12-106-3
Induction: Edelbrock Performer manifold, 600-cfm carburetor
Ignition: Small-cap MSD
Exhaust: Hedman 1 5/8-inch intermediate-length headers with 2 1/2-inch exhaust by Muffler Man (Placentia, CA)
Output: 334 hp at 5,500 rpm, 362 lb-ft at 3,800 rpm
Transmission: GM 4L60E with TCI trans controller and speedometer driver
Rear Axle: 58-inch-wide Currie Enterprises F9 with 3.89:1 gears and Detroit Truetrac, Currie 31-spline forged axleshafts
Steering: Reproduction steering box
Front Suspension: Savitske Custom and Classic tubular control arms, SPC Performance springs, Varishock dampers, Hellwig antiroll bar
Rear Suspension: SPC Performance springs, Hellwig antiroll bar, Varishock dampers
Brakes: Wilwood 13-inch rotors and four-piston calipers
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: E-T Classic V 17x8.5 (5-inch backspacing) front, 18x9.5 (4.5-inch backspacing) rear
Tires: BFGoodrich g-Force Sport Comp-2 245/40 front, 275/40 rear
Dash: Stock with shaved pad
Audio: Custom Autosound head unit and speakers
Upholstery: TMI restoration-grade by Roddie’s Auto Upholstery (La Habra, CA)
Instrumentation: OEM SS gauges driven by TCI speedometer cable converter
Shifter: Factory tilt column with Kugel Komponents shift linkage
Bodywork: Kev’s Rod & Custom (La Habra, CA)
Paint: GM Arrival Blue (code WA815K)
Paint By: Twins Custom Coaches (Pomona, CA)
Photos by Tim Sutton