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I could be drummed out of The Vintage & Veteran Club for this! Perhaps my eclectic tastes are to blame for what many in the club might say is a heinous crime.
I have an enquiring interest in music, from Baroque to Classical to free jazz.
I loved spinning a disc on the jukebox in the varsity common room, and thatʼs where the trouble began.
That beast of a Wurlitzer gobbled up my sixpenny pieces and thundered out All shook up from Elvis at full volume.
Jukeboxes of the 1950s changed the landscape of pubs and clubs.
No more sedate wooden boxes, these flashy automatons wore chrome, bright plastics, bubble tubes, grinning grilles and fins, and wore them spectacularly well.
So well, in fact, they lent a legacy to another icon of the time. And here it was; I had to have it.
It greeted me with the wide grin of a toothy chrome grille.
Its long, sweeping body was a clear signal that the American steel industry of the day was in rude health, happily rolling out acres of metal for one car!
This was a one-off Chevrolet El Camino, born in ’59 and made for only that year in this outrageous style.
And, as the ads of the time boasted: ‘The most beautiful thing that has ever shouldered a load.’
It hauls and hustles like no other, living up to the legend that a farmer’s wife wrote to Henry Ford (originator of the mass-produced car/truck with the Ranchero), saying: ‘We want a car that can carry us to church on Sunday, and the pigs to market on Monday.’
I couldn’t imagine pigs in this gleaming, red-suited, low-slung machine. Low-slung? Oh yes, did I mention the few modifications?
This El Camino could find its way down a bumpy farmer’s field with a basket of eggs on the bonnet and not break a single one
Press a button and, with a quiet hiss of the air suspension, it will rise – or fall – to the occasion. Put it on low, head out on to the highway and boy does it fly!
And so it should, because the original engine has been replaced by a 540cu in (a gas-guzzling 8.8 litres) V8.
This fuel-injected beast drives a smooth five-speed auto, sending its 650 horses to the 335mm rear tyres.
It seems right, somehow, that she can fly, with those beautifully curvaceous swept-back jet wings on the back.
Beneath, she sports wide, cats’-eye lights. She sneaks up on the opposition and, with a broad wink of those lights, she shakes her tail as she blasts, blats and jets past the traffic of today.
And the big, fat tyres are a breeze to steer, with a Detroit Tru Trac power-assisted set-up taking the heave-ho out of the steering.
It’s very different to my Ford Model A but, as I explained, I have eclectic tastes, and have always been fascinated by cars of any period or persuasion.
Iconic and rare, it has all the mod-cons I was looking for and can handle a trip to Cape Town in comfort.
The chromed wheels and fat tyres give the game away that this car is a full-blown restomod, yet great care has been taken inside to preserve the original look
The restorer imported new seat covers from the States. Replica electronic gauges pop out of the dash, there are hidden electric windows and retrofit vintage air-con.
Even the period-correct radio hides a concealed CD player, which can be loaded with a bit of Elvis… I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone!
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- Owned by Aubrey Malden
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