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1966 Chevy El Camino - Handbuilt

This '66 Is A Machinist's Dream

Tony Kelly Nov 1, 2002
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Discovering that the project car you just bought has a ton of plastic filler and several inches of old paint is an experience many hands-on enthusiasts have been through. That doesn't mean most car builders have done what John Bedenbender of Mount Vernon, Texas, did to his '66 El Camino. Look closely and you see that all of the trim has been made satin finish and many parts have been handmade of billet aluminum. That satin finish is accomplished by sanding and hand-finishing. Pot metal turned out to be the most difficult as flaws often did not show up until all the old plating was removed (by hand). Bedenbender went through eight outside mirrors before he was satisfied. John is a mechanical engineer, but he depended on wife Mary Sue for help and design inspiration. The air cleaner, for instance, is the result of building several models before they settled on the final shape.

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When John first dragged the car home, he found eight layers of paint (.03 inch thick) and enough rust damage that it required him to use more than 200 body patches. Eventually, Bedenbender made more than 1,000 custom parts, some from aluminum, some from stainless. The "smuggler's box" is an example of a compartment that won't get seen except at shows, yet it is pristine and unique.

While there is no chrome on the car, the machined and customized parts that replaced the bright stuff represents thousands of hours of painstaking handiwork. Even after carving components out of solid stock, Bedenbender massaged each and every one into its finished condition. This is a one-of-a-kind project, and we don't expect to see anything close to it again. It became an instant inductee into Super Chevy Show's Gold Class at its first show, where there was always a huge crowd over, around, and under it trying to take in all the handmade details. Building it was a mammoth task; appreciating it is, too.



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