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1960 Chevrolet El Camino - Keystone Camino

Ben Jorritsma took his basket-case batwing Elky and transformed it into a head-turner

By , Photography by The Author

What is it about El Caminos? Are they the equivalent of the hot chick who is also great at sports? Is it the novelty of having utility with stylish looks that makes El Camino owners rabidly loyal? There’s no black-and-white answer, just a lot of cool-looking car/truck hybrids that we see at shows and cruises all over the country.

This story’s particular subject almost didn’t come to be. Owner Ben Jorritsma had bought his ’60 in 1991. The car originally came from Texas and was in pieces in Sussex County, New Jersey. Fortunately the owner had tagged and bagged said pieces, so what Ben ended up hauling back to his Pennsylvania farm was a rusty, disassembled, but complete batwing Elky.

Inside a barn the ’60 would sit through the Bush I, Clinton, and first term of Bush II’s presidencies. In 2005 Ben traveled down to North Carolina for a Goodguys show. Seeing all the great Bow Ties at the show, combined with a latent urge to build a car, ignited inspiration to pull the El Camino out of the barn and get it back on the road. Ben had built a ’55 for a friend previously, and now wanted a Chevy of his own to enjoy at shows and cruises.

The entire build took five years, a lot of sweat, and a lot of patience. Because parts and parts cars are scarce for the ’59-60 El Caminos, Ben ended up doing a lot of fabrication and metal repair work himself to rid the car of all its malignant metal cancer. To give the project direction and ensure it turned out like he wanted, Ben sought design help from friend Ed Flanagan. The door handles were shaved, the bumpers and valance panels cut and then tucked in tighter to the body, the tailgate saw some trimming. Finally, the bed moldings were cut down and welded from three pieces into one. Once the body was ready, Ben’s son Benjamin media-blasted the entire car.

From there Ben took the ’60 to Johnny’s Collision in Hampton, New Jersey. Johnny provided a lot of help with the project, and before painting the car went over it top to bottom, front to back, and made sure all of Ben’s work was right and nothing else needed to be done before paint. Then the spray guns were prepped and the car’s new two-tone Galapagos Green/Olive Silver hue was sprayed on.

The Elky’s chassis was fully retrofitted for modern cruising by Andy O’Hagan at Chassis Specialties in Blairstown, New Jersey. Up front, Ridetech tubular control arms and Shockwave dampers handle suspension duties. Underneath the carrier-deck-size bed, a Ridetech triangulated four-link welded onto a 9-inch rearend was installed with Ridetech adjustable shocks. The brakes are Wilwood, 12-inch rotors and four-piston calipers at every corner. Finishing off the chassis is a set of Budnik wheels, 17x7 up front and 17x12 out back, wrapped in Nitto rubber.

To move the truckster, Ben went with a GM Performance Parts RamJet 502 crate engine with a Richmond six-speed trans and Zoom clutch backing up the fuel-injected Rat motor. A Street and Performance dress-up kit was installed for some added bling. Inside, the factory bench seat was pitched, a pair of buckets from an SLK Mercedes taking its place, with a fabricated center console in between. Classic Instruments readouts keep tabs on the big-block, and an Alpine stereo unit provides enough volume to drown out the rumble of the 502.

After half a decade of work, the Elky hit the streets once again. The only thing Ben says he looks back on and would’ve changed is the motor. Instead of a Rat, the choice for engine would’ve been a 409 with Hilborn injectors and equally impressive stacks. Otherwise the car is just what he intended it to be. c

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