With so many talented shops and craftsmen turning out exceptional vehicles one after another, it's easy to forget how many hot rodders still do it themselves. Guys like Richard Crooker, the humble and talented individual who created this one-of-a-kind creation he named No Camino. With the support of his wife, Dee, he transformed a '66 Nova wagon into this beautifully scaled hauler over a three year period. Unlike most of today's top craftsmen who began fabricating cars early in their lives, Crooker had been enjoying retirement when he decided to do what hadn't been done before.
Starting with 1/25 scale models of a '65 El Camino and a '67 Nova two-door delivery, he cut and fit various elements together, creating an accurate prototype to confirm his efforts would be in keeping with his vision. Pleased with his results, Crooker began gathering components, starting with a '66 Nova four-door wagon, another Nova four-door sedan, along with the front pillars, roof section and several doors from two-door sedans. Throw in elements from a '65 El Camino and all that remained were three years of concentrated labor and the help of a few friends to see this dream through.
Considering Nova wagons utilize unibody construction, a support structure had to be created to prevent the body from folding like a bad poker hand. Subframe connectors were scratch built and welded in along with full-length 3.5-inch by 3/16-inch steel rocker panel supports. A tubular frame was then shaped from the uppermost portion of the cowl to the top of the rear wheelhouses to fully retain the structure during the transformation.
With the roof, rear window, and door pillars removed, only the rocker panels and a portion of the hinge pillars remained, so a removable fixture was created from the four-door parts car, allowing Crooker to establish the A-pillar angle and roof location.
Next, the two-door sedan doors were fit within the pillars and roof before the El Camino window frame was positioned to determine the rear contours of the doors. This involved the use of the two-door latch pillars, as the four-door latches would not work, making this transformation even more involved and rewarding. While selling the El Camino rear window to a Tennessee rodder, further discussion turned up the hinges he was looking for, which made a good trade for the glass.
From there, the various components were united with the utmost care through the addition of underlying supports to pull off what many would have thought impossible. The same expertise extends to the extensively modified bed and the tailgate, which involved several challenges of its own to achieve the ideal fitment between the converging contours. The final touch came with the modified molding blended into the roof, bedrails and rear wheel arches.
As the body was taking shape Crooker brought change to the chassis as well, fitting a Mustang II front suspension system from Total Cost Involved. This included the power rack-and-pinion steering system along with the brake calipers and 11-inch rotors within 15x6-inch Rally rims, beauty rings and 205/60R15 Goodyear Eagles. In back, a GM 10-bolt axle housing with 3.36:1 gearing rides leaf springs and tubular shocks, positioning larger 15x7-inch Rallys were fitted along with 225/60R15 Goodyears nicely.
To give No Camino adequate go, a 290-horse GMPP crate 350 was fitted with an Edelbrock 600cfm four-barrel on a Performer intake manifold dividing a pair of vintage Cal Custom valve covers that match the air cleaner. An HEI ignition distributes spark through Moroso wires between rams horn exhaust manifolds venting spent fumes through dual exhausts. A cross-flow radiator augmented with a Spal electric fan keeps everything cool, including a GM 200-4R automatic transmission from Bowtie Overdrives, which sends power through a shortened driveshaft from The Machine Shop.
With the mechanical aspects of the car buttoned up Crooker looked to Roy Olson to apply the beautiful PPG 72060 Porsche Guards Red coating before Bill Knight finished it off with fine striping. The same red hue also adjoins Jim Mercado's subtle upholstery work covering the seating with rich gray cloth extending to the door panels displaying No Camino logos. Add in the cool breezes of Classic Auto Air, a stout audio system and a set of VDO instruments, and everything is right for road trips.
Since completing this special effort, the Crookers have logged thousands of miles in their No Camino so don't be surprised if you get to see their efforts first hand. Then you can add their names to a long list of rodding greats.