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This 1968 El Camino Will Knock Your Socks Off

Edith Shrum’s dedication does not wane

Ro McGonegal Mar 22, 2019
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As we keep reminding ourselves, a car feature is ostensibly about the humans that nurture it more than the metal encasing it and the parts that drive it. Sure, we want to know what makes it tick and what makes its wheels turn, but the thing is to know how and why it got that way. When the caretakers are a married couple it often becomes their projection—a joining of two-are-better-than-one. Will they bicker? Certainly they will bicker. That’s what husbands and wives do. But their inevitable accord is what cements their distinct halves together and sustains their life together.

Edith Shrum is retired. She hails from Arkansas and was encouraged by local “enthusiasts” to move on, a hotbed of them actually, ready to do the bidding. When her husband, David, passed on July 18, 2013, she felt she could do no less than complete the El Camino. After all, they were both in on it from the beginning. Perhaps, then, Edith had no say in the matter, but she went along to please her mate. Now she would be pleasing her own sensibilities … and she was adamant.

002 1968 Chevy El Camino Restomod 2/49

“David previously owned Chevelles and Novas, but he always wanted to be different. He picked the El Camino for that reason. It was a different style and one that he knew would stand out in a crowd. We spent a lot of days at the car shows and the dragstrip looking at colors and looking at designs. David turned down lots of offers on it and often spoke of selling it. But even at his brokest moment he would not sell the car. That’s what inspired us to fix it up for him,” she said through a telephone line somewhere in Pea Ridge.

“The car was meant to see big upgrades, a big-block and a dragstrip, and he wanted to run a low quarter-mile but slow enough so he wouldn’t need to have all the safety gear. We often talked about color; it was always meant to be silver or gray looking,” she sighed. “He bought it for $1,800 in 1994 in Rogers, Arkansas. The engine was a 350 and David paid a performance shop to build a 383 for it but the motor only ran right for about 500 miles. Due to this issue, he parked it for the time being. Along the way he invested in another motor and was slowly choosing stuff for it as we went. But for David it was about family being put first and often he left his self last … so progress on the El Camino was non-existent. It sat in the shop for years after with no motor and some bad rust damage and a damaged fender.

006 1968 Chevy El Camino Restomod 3/49

“David was always a do-it-yourself kinda guy,” she said. “Once we lost him there was no way we could do the work needed but we wanted to complete his dream even though we had lost him. Sort of a tribute, if you will. Luckily, we found Gary Hagar at Hack Shack. It wasn’t far from our house at all and we liked being able to go see the car whenever and watch the progress. We gave Gary the info and he worked with us to make the dream car come to life.”

With Edith in charge, the plan changed: a modern V-8 with a hefty automatic behind it. She wanted something good, reliable, and easy on the bucks. She found a 6.0-liter LQ9 that would have powered a 2006 Silverado SS. The mavens at Texas Speed left the rotating assembly as it was, concentrated instead on a Precision Race Components cylinder head swap and a bumpier Texas Speed hydraulic cam to go with it, bumping output of the mild-mannered engine by 75 horsepower and 60 lb-ft with no chance of hurting anything inside.

044 1968 Chevy El Camino Restomod 4/49

She was looking for a solid-handling piece but not particularly one with all the jingle bells, just enough to get what she wanted. Hack Shack dropped in 2-inch drop spindles as well as control arms from tubular stock and braced it all with the appropriate antisway bar. From Edith’s vantage, the interior became a favorite, not a homemaker’s favorite, but a driver’s favorite. Hack Shack’s Brian Tripodi laid down the Hush Mat, put up the sound wall, and added the comfort of a Vintage Air HVAC system. A little later, up in Kansas, Oz Custom Upholstery did the seats and custom-built the panels surrounding.

There was no custom sheetmetal involved but Matt Bigelow changed out lots of rusty sheetmetal. And Hack Shack’s Ken Bar revived that “silver or gray looking” notion from the early days with two-time Ridler winner Charley Hutton’s Color Studio PPG Punalu’u Stone paint.

004 1968 Chevy El Camino Restomod 5/49

Then what happened? “Upon entering the very first car show,” Edith said, “We won a First Place trophy in its category. I do believe David would have been proud and overjoyed. Chevy High Performance mags have always been around our house. I can’t believe the El Camino is gonna be in an issue. I’m happy about that.”

So are we, Edith, and when you tire of sitting with it and you want to talk to David about it, you get in behind the wheel, boil off down the road and drive the dang tires off it, hear? CHP

Tech Check

Owner: Edith Shrum, Pea Ridge, Arkansas

Vehicle: 1968 El Camino

 

Engine

Type: LQ9

Displacement: 364 ci

Compression Ratio: 10:1

Bore: 4.000 inches

Stroke: 3.622 inches

Cylinder Heads: Precision Race Components cathedral port, 2.020/1.575-inch valves, 62cc combustion chambers

Rotating Assembly: Nodular iron crankshaft, powdered metal connecting rods, hypereutectic pistons

Valvetrain: OE 1.7:1 rocker arms, PAC beehive springs

Camshaft: Texas Speed 224R hydraulic (0.600/0.600-inch lift; 224/224-deg. duration at 0.050; 112-deg. LSA)

Induction: 2004 LS6 intake manifold, 75mm throttle body, Spectre Performance air cleaner

Ignition: OE

Exhaust: Hedman headers, 1 3/4-inch primary pipes, 3-inch system, MagnaFlow mufflers

Ancillaries: Griffin radiator, SPAL fan, 170-amp Powermaster alternator, American Autowire loom, Billet Specialties accessory drive, Tanks, Inc. 20-gallon fuel cell

Machine Work: Texas Speed (Georgetown, TX)

Assembly: Brian Tripodi, Hack Shack (Rogers, AR)

Output: 420 hp at 5,400 rpm, 440 lb-ft at 5,400 rpm

 

Drivetrain

Transmission: 2006 4L65E, stock torque converter

Rear Axle: 12-bolt, limited-slip differential, 3.56:1 gears, Moser 31-spline axles, Larry’s Driveshaft prop shaft (Lowell, AR)

 

Chassis

Front Suspension: Performance Online 2-inch drop spindles and tubular control arms, Hotchkis Sport shock absorbers, Detroit Speed antisway bar

Rear Suspension: Hotchkis Sport shocks

Brakes: Master Power 11-inch rotors, two-piston calipers front; Summit Racing 11-inch rotors, single-piston calipers rear; Summit proportioning valve; Master Power master cylinder and booster

 

Wheels & Tires

Wheels: Billet Specialties Legends Series Mag 18x8 front, 18x10 rear

Tires: Hankook V12 Evo2 225/40 front, 275/40 rear

 

Interior

Upholstery: Oz Custom Upholstery (Columbus, KS)

Material: Leather

Seats: Chrysler 300

Steering: Flaming River column and wheel

Shifter: Lokar

Dash: Classic Dash insert

Instrumentation: AutoMeter Pro-Comp Ultra-Lite

Audio: Kenwood head unit, Rockford Fosgate amps, Focal 6.5-inch speakers, 8-inch subwoofer, installed by Brian Tripodi

HVAC: Vintage Air

 

Exterior

Bodywork: Matt Bigelow, Hack Shack

Paint By: Ken Bar, Hack Shack

Paint: PPG Punalu’u Stone

Hood: OE

Grille: OE

Bumpers: OE

Trim: H&H Classics

Photography by Grant Cox

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