El Caminos are actually cool rides. Considered by many to be the Minotaur of the car world, they offer a unique and timeless design that makes them an important part of Americana. Their half-car/half-truck design is something many car manufacturers have attempted, but none have stood the test of time-or earned the respect and nostalgia-as the El Camino.
But the mystique of this creative platform also has a complicated history filled with plenty of models and engine options. It wasn’t that long ago when Chevrolet began downsizing its midsize and fullsize lineups; along with it they shrunk the El Camino back in 1978. Even with the smaller footprint, the fifth-gen El Camino was offered with a wide range of Chevy and even Buick V-6 engines, as well as a comparatively anemic small-block V-8-an engine with an inherently low-rpm torque-thus making the El Camino a competent hauler. Diesel fans will also be quick to point out that Chevy even offered the ill-fated 350ci diesel V-8 starting in 1983.
Specialty models of the El Camino include the Super Sport, Black Knight, Royal Knight, and Conquista. The Black Knight was a 1978-only offering, and shortly thereafter was renamed to Royal Knight in 1979 due to a copyright infringement.
Although 1987 was officially the El Camino’s last year, 420 examples were produced and sold as 1988 models, and the sale of its last production model brought with it the end of an American icon.
Now a quarter-century after it went out of production, the El Camino remains a polarizing yet popular part of automotive culture-and a lowrider favorite, especially with a set of 14s and laid out. So as we continue with our three-part series on our project 1978 El Camino, we’re going over some of the latest products we used from Original Parts Group Inc. (OPGI).
Celebrating 35 years of excellence and dedication, OPGI has been manufacturing and retailing the highest quality restoration parts and accessories for classic GM-brand cars. Offering the widest selection of interior and exterior parts, OPGI offers the widest selection and best service on everything from interior and body parts to engine parts, sheetmetal, bright trim, and everything in between.
Being “car people” just like you they understand the need to get your classic looking and performing just right, so just recently when we started up on a project 1978 El Camino that needed a complete interior, weatherstripping, and a few cosmetics replaced on the exterior we pulled up the OPGI catalog/encyclopedia and were blown away by the way they pride themselves with offering premium quality and precise reproduction parts that exceed original GM specifications. To say they have a massive amount of El Camino products is a downright understatement!
Here are just a few parts for our Lowrider Elco, giving us hope in completing our sympathetic restoration on this timeless classic. Here’s the breakdown of the parts:
Steering Wheel (1978-1988 El Camino Classic Chevrolet, PN CH28115)
As part of their “Classic Series” steering wheel collection, this steering wheel here brings back the nostalgia of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Featuring a black foam cushion grip, supported by brushed metal spokes, the precisely crafted steering wheel measures in at 15 inches in diameter with a 2 3/4-inch dish. The steering wheel comes complete with a mounting kit and will breathe life back into your ride while eliminating the once-worn and now-sticky-or crumbling-unit that’s been beat to hell and back.
Center Grille (1978 El Camino and Malibu, PN KM00988)
Look at any car and one of the first things we analyze is the front end. It’s the nose cone that breathes life-or death-into any car design, which is why having a cherry front grille is mandatory. So if the grille on your El Camino is weathered or in bad shape, why repair when you can replace using this fine unit from OPGI. Made to OEM specifications, this is an identical reproduction unit that’s ready for immediate shipping. Priced dramatically lower than its original GM counterpart, this OPGI grille for the El Camino is a dead ringer for the original, and a very necessary upgrade to any quality restoration.
Door Panels (1978-1980 Sierra Grain Vinyl Front, PN L240922)
Sagging, torn, or sweat-soaked door panels are a common sight in just about any old car, but now thanks to OPGI you can find replacement panels for many classic cars, including the El Camino. Using top-of-the-line Sierra grain vinyl, which has dielectrically sealed horizontal pleats, their door panels are authentically reproduced and wrapped around a rigid backing board. Combined with the correct Mylar trim make these panels ideal for any restoration. They are available in several factory colors, while the front panels also come with the correct top rail, lock ferrule, and Windowfelt-brand weatherstripping to make installation a breeze. Rear panels are standard style and must be assembled using some of the vehicle’s original components. Available in black, camel tan, carmine, light blue, navy blue, or white.
Now that these parts were all installed effortlessly and to perfection, we’ll be moving onto phase two of our build, so stay tuned as we start getting ready for a complete interior makeover as well as fresh new weatherstripping and a few other cosmetic products that we’ll be picking out from the OPGI catalog. Stay tuned and stay up to date because this build is one that’ll take you down memory lane!