El Caminos, love 'em or hate 'em, are a unique piece of the
American landscape. With decades of tradition behind it, this 1981
Chevrolet El Camino Conquista is a cool street cruiser from the
early '80s and presents in good condition. If you've been looking
for one that hasn't been worked to death or modified beyond
recognition, this final year rear-wheel drive A-body might be your
last chance, because their values keep rising.
El Caminos really were trucks, and most of them were used like
trucks and left for dead when they gave up. Fortunately, this
preserved original example has most likely been a cherished toy for
most of its life, and thanks to life down south where the roads are
warm and dry, it doesn't suffer from the dreaded tin worm, either.
The original two-tone paint scheme is tasteful and actually quite
handsome, which, considering the age in which it was built, is
remarkably all by itself. It shows some signs of use and age, with
the driver's side front fender looking the worst, but fit and
finish are above average, especially for a GM product of this era.
And most importantly, it still looks great down the road. With a
Conquista you got two-tone colors, and the gold and beige on this
Elky really looks of the era. And if you want to haul stuff, just
take a look at the bed, which looks like it hasn't carried anything
more substantial than a few sacks of groceries since it was neatly
covered in black spray-on bedliner.
The plush fabric interior is a fantastic reminder that this is no
ordinary pickup truck. Upscale luxury was a sharp contrast to the
working-class pickups and from behind the wheel, it's almost
impossible to tell that there's a bed out back. It's all new inside
and therefore extremely nice, with no signs of wear on the seating
surfaces, which also look very correct for 1981. The matching door
panels are equally sharp, with no UV damage or cracking like you so
often see on cars from the '80s, and the same story goes for the
dash - quite a remarkable feat if you're familiar with GM cars from
this era. The El Camino was a bit sporty inside, too, with a full
array of rebuilt factory gauges anchoring the cab, just beyond the
original steering column mounted atop a tilt column that makes it
easy to get comfortable behind. Other options include power windows
and locks, factory A/C that's blowing nice and cold thanks to R134a
refrigerant, along with a newer Alpine AM/FM/CD/AUX head unit that
handles the entertainment. This is definitely a great place to
spend some time.
Full-sized cars mean full-sized engines, and this El Camino packs a
smooth 305 cubic inch V8 that runs superbly and looks very well
maintained. You could spruce things up a bit with some further
detailing, but a little dirt does nothing to diminish just how well
this car runs. It's mostly unmodified save for a few bolt-on
components and basic upgrades, so that means all the factory
reliability and drivability remains intact. Up top you'll find an
Edelbrock carburetor, intake, and air cleaner, long-tube headers
feed a new dual exhaust below, and there are signs of service parts
throughout to ensure that it's in top shape and ready for the road.
A TH350 3-speed automatic transmission was the only one offered
(this one has an added torque convertor as well) and it turns a
10-bolt rear end with comfortable gears inside, so it's not geared
like a truck and you can drive it all day without feeling weary.
The underside is very solid and someone has upgraded it to a true
dual exhaust system that surely frees up more than a few
horsepower. American Racing Torque Thrust wheels look very sporty
for 1981 and carry 235/60/15 front and 255/60/15 rear BFGoodrich
T/A white-letter radials that look right and have lots of life left
So, El Camino fans rejoice, this clean, final-run square-light Elky
has been preserved for your enjoyment and is ready to go today.