In a small manufacturing plant by the shores of the Great Southern Ocean in Adelaide, South Australia, General Motors Holden is still building El Caminos. In Australia they are called Holden "utes," and they have been popular since the '30s when an enterprising Aussie farmer put a pickup bed on the back of the family car.
The idea caught on, and by 1940, GM Australia was building its new "coupe utility" as fast as farmers could drive them away.
The "coupe utility" has moved on from its hayseed beginnings. Both GM and Ford are now building rear-drive "performance utes" that owe more of their heritage to modern musclecars than vintage farm trucks.
GM's latest coupe utility is a real barn-stormer. Earlier this year Holden Special Vehicles (HSV)-Holden's factory backed hot rod shop-released the 380hp LS1-powered Maloo R8, which sells for 57,000 Aussie dollars or about $40,000 US.
The Maloo's El Camino styling is not lost on GM Australia's publicists who say their car recalls the 'timeless lines of the sporty US Chevrolet El Camino models"
Performance is brisk. Under the hood, the Maloo is almost the same as the new Aussie-built Pontiac GTO, and like the new "Goat," it goes from standing to 60 mph in around 5.7 seconds; runs the quarter mile in high 13s; and has a top speed of around 150 mph.
The Chevy small-block drives through a slick shifting T-56 six-speed manual with a 3.73:1 limited slip diff, or a four-speed Turbo HydraMatic running through a 3.07:1 rear.
The car is comfortable in traffic, with sports seats, power windows and all of the accessories you would expect in an up-market Tudor. The LS1-powered Maloo R8 has wheel spinning grunt and head turning street appeal. Press the pedal to the metal and rubber burns under the light tray back. When you do get traction, the Maloo runs out of legal speedometer range in a few powerful seconds.
It is also a very good driving package. With fast steering, big ABS equipped disc brakes front and back, fully independent racetrack flat suspension and wide "bitumen biting" Bridgestones on 18x8 five-spoke alloys, this pickup sticks like smaller, less powerful sports cars in the corners.
But will this Aussie El Camino ever make it onto US streets? It's hard to say. Early indications were that it would follow the Pontiac GTO onto the American market, but GM has gone quiet on the subject of export El Caminos, which means it may be some time before the (Aussie) El Camino rides again on American streets.
Perhaps you should lobby your local Chevy dealer