At first glance you might assume that getting a big-block to fit into our project El Camino would be a cinch. Originally you could order a '66 El Camino with the 396ci option with stock iron exhaust manifolds and manual steering; and believe it or not, it fit like a glove. However, when you add aftermarket rack-and pinion-steering, a stock oil pan, 2-inch headers, and a Turbo 400 transmission, space becomes scarce in this A-body. Our motor swap took us a tad longer than we had expected. However, the outcome surely outweighed our efforts. If you're wondering why we didn't make it easier and drop in a small-block, we put aside those thoughts way before we ever started this project. Besides, our big-block already made serious power on the cheap and we couldn't let the motor live out the rest of its days on the dyno. If you remember in "Budget Stomper" (Feb. '08), our combination was good for 701 hp and 702 lb-ft on nitrous. In our eyes, it was a perfect match to throw into the El Camino. After all, it is a truck and it's going to serve the magazine at hauling around dyno-mules and parts, track days, and even duties around the house.
To get the big-block fitted for its new home, we started by doing a little homework on the motor mounts and frame brackets. Since our sled was originally outfitted with a six-banger that was backed by a three-speed stick, we went ahead and ordered the complete big-block conversion kit from Ground Up. As we began shoehorning the new motor in, we soon learned that the stock style oil pan was preventing us from clearing the center crossmember. To clear extra space, a new pan specifically designed for clearance on Chevelles was ordered from Milodon and swapped in. Also, the original transmission crossmember will not work for our new Turbo 400 transmission because the 400 is longer than the original. We're happy to report, though, that we're currently in the works with Monster to build a new off-the-shelf transmission crossmember for this type of application. Nevertheless, we did get the motor in with the headers and the transmission bolted right up, and that in itself was a big accomplishment. Follow along as we get this beast rolling!
What We Did
Shoehorned the big-block and trial-fit the transmission into the El Camino
This bad boy is almost ready to be fired up and driven
Our Monster Transmission Turbo 400 is no slouch, and it's built to hold up to 950 hp. Even though we won't crest that mark by any means, it's nice to know we've got some serious parts inside and won't have to worry about breakage down the road. When you add Monster's flexplate and the 3,000-stall converter into the mix, you've got a slick package for the street.