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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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
Owner: Edith Shrum, Pea Ridge, Arkansas
Vehicle: 1968 El Camino
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
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
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)
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
Upholstery: Oz Custom Upholstery (Columbus, KS)
Seats: Chrysler 300
Steering: Flaming River column and wheel
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
Bodywork: Matt Bigelow, Hack Shack
Paint By: Ken Bar, Hack Shack
Paint: PPG Punalu’u Stone
Trim: H&H Classics
Photography by Grant Cox