Erich Monteith wanted to be different in building a Pro Touring machine, and what better way than a corner-carving El Camino? He'd been jonesing to have a '66 Elky, and combining the two desires seemed a match made in heaven.
This car is actually Erich's second '66. The first was an eBay find that looked good over the Internet, but when the deal was done and the car in his garage, Erich realized he had a nightmare on his hands. Rather than throw good money after bad, he located another '66, this one an original A/C car, that was solid and ready for building. He swapped over the good parts from the basket case Elky, sold that one to recoup some dough, then started enjoying his good '66.
After a year though, Erich got the itch to improve things. A 350 with overdrive automatic was dropped in for motivation, and the suspension refreshed at all four corners. Three years after that, and it was time to really re-do the suspension. A call to Speed Tech Performance netted Erich one of Speed Tech's Track Time packages, designed and optimized to get an A-body tip-toeing through autocross cones with grace and ease. To make the most of the El Camino's new handling abilities, he went to A.R.E. Performance in Simi Valley, California, for a built 383 Mouse cranking out almost 400 hp. A built 200-4R sends power to a Coast Driveline (Oxnard, California)–prepped rear.
For driving comfort, the interior has Procar Elite-model bucket seats in tan vinyl, National Parts Depot black carpet, Auto Meter readouts, and a B&M Quicksilver shifter for the slushbox. Corbeau five-point harnesses keep both driver and passenger secured safely while doing the autocross hustle. On the outside, the Elky is sprayed in Arctic White.
Driving Impression—On the Autocross
Years ago when I got my license to drive and dirt was invented, one of my friends had an Elco. We used it a lot … it hauled people, parts, junk to the dump, and yes, a lot of the aforementioned dirt. While it was a suitable substitute for its big-brother pickup, changing direction even a millimeter brought out the personality of its sibling, the dump truck. Fast-forward a few (dozen) years and a few Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenges later, and within the herd of Camaros, Novi, and Chevelles, the last thing I expected to see was an El Camino. Shades of the past for sure. And while this little nondescript white two-seater didn't sport monster meats or mega horsepower, it put its performance where it counted: in the suspension, brakes, and steering.
In Monday's pre-testing sessions, I drove the El Camino through a few shakedown runs. While the handling was just about perfect, power was lacking. A quick fix returned full throttle capability, and when Tuesday's competition rolled around, I couldn't wait to give this Chevy some frisky lovin', threading through the orange maze. Sporting Nitto NT555s, I welcomed the broad traction threshold that gave me excellent balance and manageability throughout the autocross course. This car was classic “point and shoot,” and at the apex took power quite well. I absolutely loved the brakes, as they were easy to modulate with good initial bite that got the El Camino slowed to precise corner entry speed.
Entering the slalom found the tail predictably working the dog, but this was expected with minimal weight in the “trunk.” Out through the offsets and into the higher-speed section, the big Wilwood binders got the El Camino slowed and easily positioned for the turnaround. Back through another series of offsets and into the “Chicago Box,” I loved that I had the ability to rotate the car at will. The Speed Tech “Track Time” system keeps the tires planted and front end turning; there's minimal body lean but lots of movement that maintains compliance and makes the car so friendly to drive. Through the final short offset slalom to the finish found the Elco handling everything I could throw at it, and each run finished with grins and giggles.
Of all the cars (and trucks) I tested that day, the Speed Tech El Camino was the one I felt the most at home with. Every single part on this car melds with the others—the 383 cubic-incher doesn't blow off traction, while the steering kept up and allowed the suspension to shine with absolute textbook handling. Like the other Chevrolets Speed Tech has presented us for our testing, this El Camino definitely did not disappoint. –Mary Pozzi
Driving Impression—On the Street
Speed Tech has attended the last three Super Chevy Suspension & Handling Challenges, and each time has brought a vehicle so completely different than the others that they defy comparison. In 2009, it was a big-block '69 Camaro. I mean, you better have your ducks in a row if you're bringing a fat-block-powered anything to a suspension comparo—and Speed Tech did. Our event in 2010 saw a stunning LS-powered third-gen Nova that was definitely on the cutting edge, and it performed just like that.
For this go-round, it went old school in a sense. Climbing into the '66 El Camino, I was reminded of the hot rods we all used to build (and some still do): a tach mounted on the steering column behind a wooden wheel and clean under-dash gauges. The aftermarket seats both helped achieve a desirable driving position and were comfortable. The B&M automatic shifter on the floor was like an old friend.
But there was nothing old-fashioned about the way this car drove or handled. Like the Nova from the year before, it was a strong competitor with few, if any, weaknesses. Sure, having 53 percent of your weight on the nose doesn't help, but apparently no one told the car this (see Mary's previous comments).
In our street drive, there was no sense of the El Camino's work-vehicle roots. Perhaps the steering was a little slower than some of the other entries, but I prefer this to it being too quick and darty. The suspension was smooth and compliant. As we noted in the logbook, “It doesn't rub you the wrong way.”
Over the rough patches of pavement we sought out, the suspension rarely got upset.
In the autocross you have to marvel at its ability to run way beyond the 2011 Camaro SS bogey car. The Elco was nearly 8 seconds quicker than GM's state-of-the-art ponycar. That's a testament to the design prowess of the parts used. They're simple and effective. That's always a great combination. –Jim Campisano
Speed Tech El Camino Specs
Engine Type: 383 small-block
Block: GM iron with 3.75 Scat stroker crank
Fuel Delivery: Holley 750-cfm carb, Edelbrock Air Gap intake, AFR heads, and Holley mechanical fuel pump
Transmission: Bow Tie Overdrives 200-4R
Converter: Bow Tie Overdrives 2,200-stall
Rearend: Factory 12-bolt, 3.73 gears, Eaton limited-slip differential
Front Suspension: Speed Tech Track Time kit, including tubular arms
Steering: AGR 12:1 box
Springs: 550 lbs/in
Spindles: AFX Tall forged aluminum spindles (7/8-inch drop) with C5 hubs
Shocks: QA1 coilovers
Sway Bar: Speed Tech 1-1/4-inch hollow
Brakes: Wilwood Superlite, 6-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors
Rear Suspension: Speed Tech Track Time with adjustable upper and lower Articulink arms
Springs: 350 lbs/in
Shocks: QA1 coilovers
Sway Bar: 1-inch hollow
Brakes: Wilwood Superlite, 4-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors
Total Cost of Suspension: $8,855 (total includes brakes)
Wheels & Tires
Wheels: Rushforth Livewire, front-18x9 (4.75 bs), rear-18x10 (5.5 bs)
Tires: Nitto NT555, front-255/44R18, rear-285/44R18
LF: 1,000 lbs., RF: 978 lbs.
LR: 855 lbs., RR: 885 lbs.
F = 53.2 R = 46.8
'66 Speed Tech El Camino
Slalom: 44.7 mph (average of the best five runs)
Autocross: 45.44 sec. (best lap)
2011 Chevy Camaro SS
Slalom: 44.10 mph (average of the best five runs)
Autocross: 53.28 sec. (best lap)