1968 El Camino: Keep Truckin’ On

Subtle mods and a stunning paint job make this 1968 El Camino unique

By Dave Marzen Duluth, GA

Photography by Colin Date

68-elco-frontMy infatuation with El Caminos and the concept of a car-truck hybrid design started at a very young age of probably 7-8 years old. I can remember my next door neighbor in the early ’60s, who worked for the phone company, had a “work truck” 1957 Ranchero that I always loved. And then in my Hot Wheels collection as a kid, my favorite car was the burnt orange “Custom Fleetside” that appeared to be an El Camino, but was actually designed after a ’67-’68 Chevy truck front clip with an El Camino style roof line and bed.

Fast forward a number of years to the late ’70s. After I got my driver’s license I was finally able to buy my first used ’72 Red El Camino. I loved that car. Over the ’80s and ’90s, I was lucky enough to own 2 different 1960 El Caminos. One of the ’60 models had a 348 cubic-inch 3X2 engine with a 4-speed from the factory. That was one amazing ride– a high performance “winged” truck!

68-elco-interiorI went without an El Camino for about 15 years and realized I was really missing having one. I decided I wanted to find another one. I found this 1968 El Camino sitting for sale on the oval track at the Charlotte Auto Fair in the Spring of 2011 and it won me over. It was still fairly original and I liked that it hadn’t been modified over the years, with the exception of a massive sound system and 17” Cragar S/S mag wheels. I wasn’t negatively affected by the fact it wasn’t an SS model. SS models seem to be the ones restored most often. It’s nice to see a non-SS model occasionally.

It still had the original 275 hp 327 motor and a column-shifted Powerglide. It had around 100,000 miles and had never been touched. After doing some research, I found out that this El Camino has the “Custom” option upgrades like hidden wipers, factory clock, and lighted glove box. Other selected options are power steering and power brakes (drum). It came from the factory in “DD” paint code “Grotto Blue” with the blue deluxe interior.

68-elco-engineShortly after I took ownership, I began to make many improvements. The 327 has been rebuilt by my good friend and master mechanic, Mike Evans. Mike spent many years working at Year One and has been on many of Chip Foose’s “Overhaulin’” shows. The rebuild included a slightly hotter cam, giving the motor a very nice sound through the Waldron’s “driver controlled exhaust” duals. The transmission is now a 700R4 automatic with overdrive for highway cruisin’. I have added some more modern comfort and handling features such as power disc front brakes, Nostalgic Air conditioning, Hotchkis front oversized sway bar, Hellwig rear stabilizer bar. A Custom Autosound retro-looking radio with XM satellite radio keeps the variety of music coming through. I replaced the factory bench seat with a split back/ folding armrest bench seat out of a ’72 Buick Skylark for an upgraded look. The fantastic looking upholstery job was done by Tim’s Upholstery in Duluth, GA. New carpet and door panels were also added to make sitting in the car look like it has just come off the showroom floor. For a safety upgrade, a matching blue set of 3-point seat belts were installed that came out of a ’93 Blazer.

68-elco-rearI wanted to give the car a high quality new Grotto Blue finish, so I hired Mike Bowen of Spotlight Customs in Dahlonega, GA to do a total body-on restoration, including some new steel patch panels anywhere he found any cancer. He did an amazing job of body work and new paint and it looks as good as the day it rolled off the assembly line. The Cragar S/S 17” mag wheels have grown on me, so instead of swapping those out, I added some new rubber to them. I’m running 255/50 series on the front and 275/50 series on the back. I installed a Craftec tonneau cover on the bed. I love this cover as it allows the beautiful chrome bed molding to stay exposed. It has an aluminum frame to keep the vinyl looking tight and it’s very lightweight and easy to do a one-person removal.

68-elco-malibu-emblemI love to participate in the Hot Rod Power Tour and have been lucky enough to take the El Camino the last 2 years for a few days of the touring event. It’s a very comfortable and reliable ride. I get many favorable comments on the car.

One thing that I wish I would have done already is convert this car to a manual stick-shift tranny. I really miss shifting the gears myself. So, future plans will be to get a Tremec 5-speed to satisfy my needs. I also plan to get a 3.73 Posi rear end and replace the factory-installed 3.06 peg-leg rear end. And when the day comes that a 5-speed shifter is there on the tranny hump, a nice pair of ’68 Chevelle Buckets Seats will be a must.

For now, I will just “Keep Truckin’ On”