Category Archives: 1969 Chevrolet El Camino (2012)

The owner of the Austin-Healey Sprite is back for another go. Where the Healey was restored to as built condition, the owner is having fun with this El Camino build.

Just a trim please

2012.12.06 - El Camino (1)

2012.12.06 - El Camino (2)

2012.12.06 - El Camino (3)

2012.12.06 - El Camino (4)

2012.12.06 - El Camino (5)We made good progress on the El Camino today. Excepting the interior, which I won’t be doing, the car is very nearly complete.

Today was all about installing the glass and trim. In the first photo you can see the windshield is installed and I am installing the lower molding. In the second photo the remainder of the trim is install and the windshield is complete.

In picture three the rear glass and all it’s trim is installed. I don’t do glass work anymore … and after watching the glass guy work on this car for four hours, I am reminded why I don’t do glass work any more.

In the fourth photo the tail-gate and rear section of the car has it’s moldings installed.

In the fifth and final photo you can see the rest of the bed trim, with the exception of the front piece, is installed. We didn’t have clips for the front piece so we are going to have to track those down before that can be installed. Also in the fifth photo Chris is installing the rear bumper brackets so the bumper can be installed.

We still have the front bed trim piece, along with a few trim pieces on the hood to install, but the bulk of the trim is on the car. And I’m glad it’s done. I have been dreading it for a while now because installing all 427,362 trim clips is time consuming and tedious.

OK, maybe it wasn’t really 427,362 clips … but it sure felt like that many.

Coming through in a clutch

2012.12.05 - El CaminoIt doesn’t appear that we’ve gotten a lot done on the El Camino these last two days. After all, the only visible progress is the installation of the tail-gate. But as the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving.

Tuesday we finished testing the electrical systems on the car. Except for mounting the battery, which we will do tomorrow, the car is wired and fully checked out.

Today we spent fooling with the clutch because the transmission was missing the slave cylinder. An annoyance but not a show stopper since the part was available from the local parts house. However … when trying to install it something just didn’t look right. A quick study on the internet revealed that a spacer was missing between the slave cylinder and the transmission. A spacer discontinued by GM. After that sinking feeling of impending doom passed we dug around on the internet and found one. Whew … how did we get anything done before the internet?

Replacement slave cylinder … $50
Replacement slave cylinder spacer … $90
Having a working clutch … Priceless.

Three’s company

2012.12.03 - El Camino (2)2012.12.03 - El Camino (1)2012.12.03 - El Camino (3)Another day, another day of progress on the El Camino. We killed the electrical gremlin that was preventing the fuel gauge from working properly so we began to test fit the instrument cluster. You can see that in the first photo.

The new throttle pedal was delivered today. This is the second one for this car, the first one selected wouldn’t work because of the exhaust system being in the way under the car. You can see the three pedals installed in the second photo.

We have also gotten the fuel rail covers properly installed on the engine, as you can see in the third and final photo. It’s a nice little custom touch for the car.

We are in the final push to have the car ready to go to the interior shop next Friday. I think we can make it, but it’s going to be tight.

It’s custom

2012.11.30 - El Camino (1)2012.11.30 - El Camino (2)2012.11.30 - El Camino (3)2012.11.30 - El Camino (4)2012.11.30 - El Camino (5)2012.11.30 - El Camino (6)2012.11.30 - El Camino (7)2012.11.30 - El Camino (8)2012.11.30 - El Camino (9)While Chase toiled away wet sanding the Plymouth, Chris and I spent today working on the wiring of the El Camino. Not so much installing the wiring as testing.

The first thing this morning Chris took an hour or so to hook up the horns. The car didn’t have horns when we first got it so the first order of business was to find out where the horns go and how they attach. There was no obvious way or place to mount them but after a few minutes of digging on the internet he found a picture and discovered what he needed to know. You can see him installing the horns in the first photo and the results of his handy work in the second. What I want to know is how did we do anything before the internet?

The owner of the El Camino wanted a lot of light inside the car to eliminate dark corners. To that end we mounted a pair of LED bulbs inside the smuggler box that come on with the interior lamps. A clever idea if I do say so myself.

The third and fourth photos show Chris mounting the LED’s in the box. The LED’s mount flush in the top of the box as you can see in the fifth photo. After the wires were tied together we slipped the box into place and hooked them up to the interior lamp circuit as you can see in picture number six. The LED’s aren’t dazzling bright, but they do throw a nice amount of light into the interior of the box. Just another of those little custom touches that will surprise and delight the owner.

And speaking of custom touches, here is another one. The owner asked that the intake be painted black, to match the rest of the engine and engine bay, but then he wanted to sand the black off the top of the strakes to reveal the aluminum underneath. To be honest, my first thought was “Why?”, but it’s what the customer wanted so we did it. It is hard to tell, but picture seven shows the intake after the paint was sanded off. In person you can easily see why he wanted it done … it looks great and helps ties the look together.

After seeing the intake we decided to set in place the fuel rail covers we painted way back at the start of this project. The covers were the first things painted as a color check, and we have been saving them for this moment. The engine is quit dirty, something we will take care of before the car it turned over to the owner, but you can get an idea of how the engine is going to look in the last two pictures, numbers eight and nine. We are going to have to modify the right cover just a bit to get it to fit, but I think they look good and will set the engine, once it is cleaned up, off rather nicely.

I wouldn’t call this El Camino a custom car, it is still basically as GM built it in 1969. Having said that, it does have enough subtle customization to make it a true one of a kind.

So maybe it is a custom car after all.

Let there be light

Today we applied power to the car … and their wasn’t a firetruck in sight.

The first picture shows the head-lamps on. Well, three of them anyway. How annoying to have a bad bulb right out of the box. At least I hope it is a bad bulb. I will get a new one tomorrow and put it in to make sure but that is the most likely problem.

We also verified that the tail-lamps, brake lamps and all the interior lights work. The engine turns over, though we didn’t actually try to start it because the radiator isn’t installed yet. Even the wipers work. As we do further testing we may uncover an electrical gremlin or two, but energizing the car and have everything appear to work, and no fires … it was a good day.

The other two pictures show the right side fender on. The right fender is on because I no longer have to be in and around the engine working on the wiring. Just another example of the end, or nearly the end, of the wiring.

I have wired many cars in my career and never had a fire, or even a near fire. I make fun about first applying power to a car after I wire it … but truth be told, every time I hook the battery up for the first time I hold my breath.

It may be nerves … but it also prevents smoke inhalation you see.

Are we coming or going?

Today we worked on both front and the back of the car.

In the first photo the head-lamps are installed in the car. These head-lamps are the same unites that were sold in BMW’s for years … but with a bit brighter bulbs installed. If you look closely you can just see the blue bulb in the right most head-lamp. The bulb appears blue, but when energized it will light with a brilliant white light.

The second photo is of the back of the head-lamp. We had to modify the head-lamp bucket just a bit to let the new lamps fit.

The third photo shows how you get the power from one side of the car to the other. We will tuck these wires up out of sight once the radiator arrives and we get it installed.

The fourth photo is of the high-low head-lamp switch. This is actually a starter button that is functioning as a momentary switch. The wiring harness has a few optional extras in it, one of which is a flash-to-pass feature activated by the momentary switch when the lights are off. The switch is ultra-heavy-duty for this function, and nearly silent in it’s operation, so no more click-clunk when dipping the head-lamps.

The fifth photo shows where we are dividing the rear wiring harness from one loom that carries the wires from the fuse block to the back of the car into two looms to service various functions. The bottom of the “T” that runs into the grommet feeds the fuel pump, fuel gauge and the right side lamps. The left side of the “T” goes to the left side tail-lamps. The larger loom on the right side goes back to the front of the car to the fuse block.

In the sixth photo, we are further sub-dividing the harness. In the extreme upper right of the photo you can see the same grommet shown in picture five. The loom is threaded though the factory supports and then divided again for the fuel system, lamps and other functions.

In the seventh picture you can see another section of the harness fed along the extreme back of the car. That single little wire is for the backup-lamps.

The last four photos, numbers 8-11, show the tail-lamps going in. We actually were able to test these today … and I took pictures of them all lit up … but they were so blurry from camera shake that I didn’t want to use them. Trust me, they work just fine.

Another few days of progress like the last two and we are going to be ready to begin systems testing on the car. You know … to make sure the horn doesn’t turn on the wipers … things like that.

Wired up

We have made good progress on the wiring the El Camino since returning from our Thanksgiving holiday. The cabin is now completely wired and we have moved on to the external wiring.

The first photo shows a bundle of wires, some engine harness, some not, but all neatly wrapped in wiring looms routed tidily around behind the engine. In wiring, neatness counts because it reduces the likelihood of problems and makes troubleshooting, if there are problems, so much easier.

The second photo shows the engine wiring harness neatly bundled in a wiring loom. The looms, while not strictly necessary, certainly tidy up the engine bay.

The third picture shows an example of how we tie wires, which would tend to move around if not secured, to more solid objects so they are neatly routed and stay where they belong. Nothing will ruin your day faster than having a wire abrade or burn through the insulation and begin shorting against something.

The starter is hooked up in the fourth pictures. Let’s fire this baby up! Oh wait … I still have to hook up the computer and the rest of the engine harness. Never mind.

The last two pictures, numbers five and six, show the rear harness. The harness snakes through the inside of the left quarter panel from the fuse box mounted against the firewall to the back of the car. Not an impossible task, obviously since we did it, but it wasn’t much fun either.

Another few days with this kind of progress and we will be ready to try to start this beast for the first time.


This afternoon we jumped into the wiring on the El Camino hot and heavy. We have a deadline we are trying to meet and the wiring isn’t doing itself.

In the first photo you can see me working with the wiring, in this case trying to determine what goes where.

In the second photo Chris (left) and I are puzzling over the cruise control. Though it was an option in 1969, this El Camino was not equipped with cruise. Not that it matters. Because of the engine swap to an LT1 with all it’s computer controls the old vacuum operated cruise control wouldn’t have worked anyway.

The third photo shows the fuse block for the engine mounted to the fender. This puts the block out in the open for easy access should the need arise.

The last photo shows the air conditioning with the power hooked up. This aftermarket system by Vintage Air has fully computerized controls so when the time comes it is simply plugging two sets of wires together to fully activate the system. That will be much easier than trying to get the old fashioned sliding levers with their physical connections all hooked up and properly adjusted.

Even though we only worked on the El Camino a half-day today we made good progress. We have the cruise installed along with the engine fuse block and part of the air conditioning.

I like going into the holiday on a positive note.

Measuring for new shoes

Yesterday we continued the assembly process on the El Camino … and we measured it for some shoes.

The first two photos show us using a tool for measuring the clearance for the wheel and tire combination. What I thought was going to be a quick and simple job has turned into head scratcher.

The problem is the fender opening on this car is huge … so it requires a large wheel and tire to fill it up the way the owner wants. But … a tire that fills out the wheel well rubs on the anti-roll bar at full lock. What complicates the matter is the owner has a very clear picture of the look he wants and the wheel he has picked out offers few offset options to work with.

Offset, for those who don’t know, determines where the hub mounting surface is in relation to the width of the wheel. Positive offset means the wheel tucks more under the car with the mounting surface closer to the outside of the wheel, negative offset pushes the wheel farther out from under the car with the mounting surface closer to the back of the wheel. Zero offset means the mounting surface is right in the center of the wheel.

Anyway, we are going to take another look at the clearance problem today to make sure we didn’t overlook something yesterday, and see what options we have.

Also yesterday we got the tailgate assembled and ready to mount on the car. You can see that in the next two pictures, numbers 3 and 4.

We also got the left fender mounted up, as you can see in the last picture, picture number 5, because we needed it to measure for clearance for the wheels and tires.

We still a ways to go to finish, but if you crouch down a little and look at it from the left side, it looks pretty good.

Mount up!

Friday, when the El Cartrucko arrived back at the shop we didn’t have much time to do anything other than snap a few photos. But today we started hitting it hard. By the end of the day we had both doors mounted and aligned, one of the the inner-fenders mounted and aligned and the fuse block installed.

The first three photos show me mounting and aligning the left hand door. The doors on this car aligned pretty easily because they came off the car, but that isn’t always the case. The third photos shows some of the really nifty hex drive stainless steel bolts that we will use to assemble the car. Not only do they look nicer than phillips-head bolts, they don’t slip as easily when tightening. Less chance of slipping means less chance of scratching that beautiful new paint … and that will delight any paint and body man’s heart. I approve of these bolts … but then I should since I’m the one that told the owner what to buy.

The fourth photo gives you an idea of what the side of the car is going to look like. The fender is only gently attached, temporarily in place so we can fit the inner-fender.

The last  photo, number five, show the fuse box mounted in place. All those wires in the photograph will be run throughout the car to power various lights and other electrical devices. It’s not hard work, each wire is labeled, but it is tedious work and attention to detail is critical. You’ve seen the movies where the driver turns on the headlights and the wipers start? Yeah, that’s only funny in the movies.

Tomorrow we hope to have the fenders mounted and aligned, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get the hood mounted and aligned as well. Then it will start to look like a car, or truck, something, instead of collection of parts.

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