Ralph Carle came by his '59 in 2006 after his good friend Dave Estep died. The car was totally disassembled, and Dave's widow, Cathy, originally wanted Ralph's help to finish the car so she could sell it. While Ralph was looking everything over, Cathy made an offer to sell it to him as-is. After some brief convincing from his son, Ralph was loading up the various pieces of the El Camino to take home.
By the time Ralph purchased the car, the floors and other sheetmetal had been replaced, and the prep work for painting had begun. Dave had just started rebuilding the El Camino's chassis before his death, so Ralph continued by replacing all the suspension bushings and steering pieces, then adding some KYB shocks for more cushion and control. Out back, the car's stock rear was replaced with a 9-inch-style third-member to handle the extra power of the planned motivation for the Elky, and 2-inch lowering springs were installed. Rolling stock is a set of painted steel wheels and dog dish hubcaps wrapped in BFGoodrich rubber.
After the chassis was complete, the next task was paint. The original plan had been for the El Camino to be sprayed in a dark metallic red, but Ralph didn't feel this did the car justice, so instead DuPont's Blue Mood was selected, and white with a blue pearl mist for the roof. Skunkwork in Columbus, Ohio, handled all the painting duties.
The El Camino was turned over to JB Upholstery in Circleville, Ohio, so a new interior in matching white and blue could be installed. The plain factory El Camino steering wheel was tossed in favor of a much more attractive '59-60 Impala wheel, and the stock AM radio was replaced with a Custom Autosound unit that Ralph installed with upgraded speakers. The factory gauges were left intact and checked out to make sure all were in full working order.
For Ralph, the centerpiece of the car, and what he's most proud of, is the engine with its triple deuce carburetion system. No everyday small-block or later big-block Chevy propels this hybrid. Open the hood, and one is greeted by the sight of bright, Chevy orange, W-shaped valve covers, with a massive 3x2 induction system on top. The 348 came with the car, and was sent to Beech Engines in Johnstown, Ohio, for a full rebuild with a 0.030-inch overbore, 10:1 compression pistons and Crane hydraulic cam. The factory heads were freshened up and treated to new parts, and Ralph tracked down an original 348 tri-power intake and matching carbs to really make the engine stand out. A set of two-inch Doug's headers handles exhaust disposal. Keeping the massive amount of GM iron from blowing its top is a Be Cool two-row aluminum radiator and stock-type fan.
Backing up the 348 and sending power to the rear is a sweet-shifting Muncie four-speed with Hurst shifter that he had laying around.
It took Ralph about three-and-a-half years to finish putting the El Camino back together, and the car had only been on the road for a couple of weeks when we photographed it at the 2009 Columbus Goodguys show. Since then, the odometer's racked up an additional 1,200 miles as Ralph drives it to shows and cruises almost every weekend when weather permits. He also enjoys every chance he gets to open the hood and show off the three two-barrels and W-engine to everyone around.