It's been some time now and we've been toying with the idea of finally getting the big-block between the framerails for good. Along the way we have hit some snags here and there for sure. Our initial trial fit revealed fitment issues with the headers and valve covers, and there was no means of fastening the transmission to the factory crossmember.
Traditionally, Chevelle frames (including convertibles) have an open design which makes for an easier transmission crossmember swap or modification. On the flip side, our El Camino's frame is boxed which makes for any modifications to the crossmember more difficult. Currently there are no aftermarket crossmembers available for an El Camino. Additionally, our RHS 320cc aluminum cylinder heads have a raised exhaust port (0.500 inches) creating a different angle once the headers are installed. Add in the larger set of 2-inch primary headers from Doug's Headers and you can see the fit is a squeeze.
Luckily though, we got in touch with Fab-tech in Chatsworth, California, and these welding pros are responsible for the likes of Al Jimenez's hustling 7-second second-gen Camaro. They design and build a lot of heavily modified street machines, so it seemed only natural to get them involved to line up our drivetrain with precision accuracy and design the perfect transmission crossmember to hold everything in place.
To get the job handled, we hauled our El Camino over to their neck of the woods and brought them everything they needed to drop in the drivetrain. First, we bolted up the engine to the transmission and fastened the torque converter to the flexplate. Once we positioned in the engine/tranny combo, owner Jaime Voorhees checked measurements for the new crossmember. We polished off the install by adding polygraphite engine and transmission mounts from Performance Suspension Technology and secured the bulk of the components in place with fasteners from Totally Stainless, including bolts, washers, and nuts. We also installed our Doug's Headers and to finish off the install, the Fab-tech gang made sure to measure up for our Denny's driveshaft. We'll illustrate a full "how-to" in an upcoming issue.
With everything all ready to go and the El Camino on the racks, the install took a better portion of the day. In fact, the Fab-tech team had the motor and transmission installed with the new crossmember before noon. Once the motor and transmission were set, we even show what to look for when measuring for the perfect driveshaft. Tag along as the gang from Fabtech gets our big-block and TH400 combination to fit our A-body El Camino.
What We Did
Fitted the El Camino with a complete drivetrain and measured for a custom driveshaft
We get the big-block and Turbo 400 to fit with a little fab work
$250 and up