More recently, the aftermarket has followed suit and even offer complete, drop-in front and rear sections for early ’62-65 model years. While full-tilt packages for suspension upgrades can easily run through any builder’s budget, not all is lost. Most aftermarket manufacturers are continuing to supply these platforms with affordable bolt-on performance parts for the factory subframes and their costs are dropping. Since drivetrains on these models varied, you’re bound to find one with an aftermarket or rebuilt unit. Typical sellers of these models have probably already swapped in a beefier, TH350 transmission. If you’re a great bargain hunter, finding a six-cylinder or small-block–powered Nova is a steal. This makes upgrading on these platforms not only easy, but affordable too. Small- and big-block or LS swaps are extremely popular and parts for such a job are readily available for little cost.
|’73-77||El Camino (A-body)|
|’78-87||El Camino (G-body)|
|Expect to pay|
|expect to pay|
Possibly considered one of the stepchildren of the muscle car bunch, the ’70-87 Monte is anything but. Monte Carlos are easily one of the most underrated two-door coupe performers that came from GM. With the early Monte models sporting a rear-drive setup and either a small- or big-block, and anything from a manual (three- and four-speed) or automatic (two- and three-speed) right from the factory, their potential for a cool hot rod is obvious.
Although some later Montes (’73-87) suffered from an underpowered small-block (305 ci), there is still room for improvement for the street/strip minded. Upgrades, like a set of cylinder heads, camshaft, and larger carburetor can quickly morph any of these variants into a great performer. Not good enough, still? The entire Monte Carlo lineup, A- or G-body variants, will accept nearly any powertrain combination. Moreover, replacement parts are easily found, too, and will support nearly any rearend upgrade.
Whether an A- or G-body variant, all were supported on full frames that made them strong and allowed them long lives on the road, making them available today with little rust. Factory suspension components would suffice, too, to an extent. Having a four-link rear suspension will support any duty and still leaves room for big tires.
|Expect to pay|
Is it a truck or car, or could it possibly be GM’s very first crossbreed SUV ever built? Produced between 1959 and the late ’80s, the El Camino saw a ton of model changes before it was discontinued in 1987. The good news is the early ones were essentially the same as a Chevelle wagon, and shared that frame, which makes upgrading the suspension simpler. Although the more popular mid- to late-’60s El Caminos are still available, even as a straight roller, they’re getting harder and harder to find at an affordable price.
What’s next? The later fifth-gen (’78-87) El Caminos are the same as any G-body. What’s more, running platforms for these years are only commanding $1,000-$2,000. That’s great news for prospective buyers who still want to build a solid performing platform. Even though most came with the milder 305ci (150-165hp) small-block, simple aftermarket upgrades like cylinder heads, manifold, and a free-flowing set of headers can really turn these bland bodies into affordable performers. Some came equipped with 350ci small-blocks; we’ve even seen some with crate big-blocks with zero fitment issues. For California buyers, the upgrades can become more difficult because of smog limitations, but some creative thinking, like an LS swap, can transform these into the perfect hauler.
Since the El Camino bodies all share the same platform as their Malibu cousins, suspension upgrades are also abundant and nearly every aftermarket company offers complete front-to-rear components. Worried about replacement parts? If you weren’t aware, Original Parts Group (www.opgi.com) now carries a complete line of OEM components like the hard-to-find plastic interior trim to bring these back to life.