1969 Chevy El Camino - Doin' It His Way

Tom Evans' '69 El Camino is Quick, Clean, and Irresistible

Mike Ficacci Jun 1, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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Most of us don't choose which of the Big Three we support. We end up loving the cars our father kept in the garage. Not so Tom Evans, who grew up in a house full of Mopars. He didn't fit the mold of your stereotypical teenage gearhead. By the time he was 16, he made a bold decision and saw a future full of Chevrolets.

Prior to turning into a proud Chevy owner, Tom wheeled a Dodge Charger, but that was obviously just to keep Pops happy. He then traded in his hemispherical ways and moved to Bow Tie country, never looking back. After an assortment of 4x4 trucks and Camaros, he began searching for the automobile he wanted since he was a young boy, an El Camino. He searched long and hard in classified ads, Internet sites, and newspapers until he finally saw the beat-up hunk of metal that would later turn into his dream ride: a '69 Elky with 75,000 miles, faded paint, and rusted body panels.

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One thing Tom never lacked was vision. After getting it home and stripping it down to the bare, tattered frame, he realized the potential of what he had in front of him. Most people would have looked and saw what once was, but there are a select few, like Tom, who can see what could be again. Staring at framerails in his garage, he envisioned the finished work of art in all its glory.

His first task was to decide on a look. He wanted a street vehicle with a powerful rumble, sleek curves, vibrant color, and head-turning appeal. The combination would ultimately deliver the best of both worlds: show-quality looks and enough power to lay a strip of Bow Tie rubber down the California coast.

Every gearhead goes about building a car his own way. Some start with four wheels and work up, while others build a few hundred horsepower and wing the rest. Tom started with the exterior and worked inward. Being a family man, Tom knew the importance of consulting his wife and two girls before introducing a fifth member into the home. His wife persuaded him into coating the El Camino in Gun Metal Silver, though he'll probably tell you he modeled it after his buddy's '06 Vette.

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Over the eight-month-long build, Tom spared no expense. He went to Rich Bernal Auto Body in Hayward, California, for paint and bodywork. The goal was to create as clean a car as possible by eliminating all the unnecessary lights, holes, and fender gaps. Once buffed and smoothed, three coats of color were applied, followed by four coats of clear.

Steam for this monster is provided by a 10.5:1 pump-gas 383ci small-block built at Cylinder Head Dynamics in Tracy, California. It produces more than 525 horsepower and 495 lb-ft of torque, all thanks to fully ported and polished Dart heads, a Comp Cams roller valvetrain, an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold, and a Holley 750-cfm carburetor. Backing this power is a Turbo 350 and an Eaton Posi wrapped in a 12-bolt housing with 3.73 gears. As Tom said, "It will barely get me to and from the local car show without filling the tank up, but I can get there in a hurry."

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Power is put to the ground by American Racing Torq-Thrust wheels (18x7 front, 20x8 back) and Yokohama ES 100 tires (235/40ZR18 front, 275/30ZR20 back). The breathtaking low-ride look was achieved with CPP spindles and OPG springs providing a 3 1/2-inch drop in the front and a 3-inch drop in the back. The proper combination of drop length, wheel choice, and tire size is essential for a stealthy sit from front to back, and Tom succeeded in every way.

To complete the ride, the interior was painted matching Gun Metal Silver. The bench seat and panels were all recovered in black vinyl and rest on top of a black cloth carpet. To keep with the subtle, clean feeling around the El Camino, the radio was removed, along with the factory air-conditioning unit.

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"Driveability and comfort were important because I wanted my family to be able to enjoy the car as I do," he said. Because of that, Auto Meter Ultra-Lite gauges were installed in a Covan's Classic instrument panel, and per the wife's request, a Vintage Air A/C unit was concealed under the dash.

It's always a thrill when someone gets to build his lifelong dream car. Tom Evans stepped up to the plate and took a dying El Camino out of the grave and restored it into show-winning quality that he can enjoy at 2 mph or 120. In the words of Tom, "The El Camino is now the car I've wanted since I was 16, and let me tell you, it's everything I dreamed of and more."

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