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Old 11-25-2007, 01:32 PM   #1
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Suitability of Chevy El Camino

Pick up trucks seem the most popular TV, but how about an early to mid-70's (pre-California smog inspection) El Camino? I don't know a lot about cars, but I assume these would have a 350 V8. I assume auto trans most popular, and I read somewhere that towing capacity depends on type of trans, but the author didn't say if manual or auto results in a greater towing capacity. Axle ratio also comes into play. I would probably like a light weight,moderate height shell of some sort (don't know much about shells, either) for the truck bed. Thanks for any insights.
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Old 11-25-2007, 01:52 PM   #2
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The pre-smog requirement cars should be adequate for towing the lighter weight vintage Airstreams of that era. We have the 455 '71 Buick for our 24' 1966 TradeWind and with the TH400 transmission it tows very well. I also have a '73 Buick 455 in a '75 Jeep 3/4 ton. Now I don't need to smog it anymore but it is set up for smog as a '75. The horsepower does suffer considerably. If you consider a 22' or under vintage you should be ok but with our summer heat and the mountains here be sure you have adequate cooling. Down the road think about perhaps a GM 454.
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Old 11-25-2007, 03:40 PM   #3
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i have seen several mid seventies airstram advertisements w/ full size cars of the era as tv. such as toronado, station wagons and cadillac.
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Old 11-25-2007, 04:22 PM   #4
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Marty...

The stability of that vehicle is totally dependant on how it is set up, modified, and upgraded to modern standards.

If you use the basic stock vehicle, bolt on a basic hitch and hook up a trailer it won't be story worth talking about.

But on the other hand if you modernized the vehicle by
installing a quality braking system
upgrading the wheels and tires with an appropriate type
installing quality gas shocks and maybe a spring upgrade
get a HD receiver and appropriate WDH, brake controller, tranny cooler, etc

then you are on your way with a vehicle that could safely tow a variety of different Airstream models and lengths
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Old 11-25-2007, 04:30 PM   #5
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I used to have that El Camino! They have LOTS of torque and with rear wheel drive and no weight over the rear tires they aren't a lot of fun on snow or loose gravel. Every time it snowed I'd make seven or eight biggish snowballs and toss them in the bed before leaving the house. The extra rear end weight would melt when no longer needed.

Hooking up a trailer might just improve performance in that regard!

I yield to the expertise of others who've advised you to upgrade the brakes, tires and oil cooling. They are still striking looking vehicles. I say go for it.

Paula
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Old 11-26-2007, 12:30 AM   #6
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Suitability of Chevy El Camino

Thanks, I figured that perhaps tow packages weren't so common in early-mid 70's, but modifications more extensive than I realized. Braking upgrade to four wheel disc, or to anti-lock? Generally, what kind of wheel/tire upgrade would be more appropriate? Finally figured out WDH meant weight distributing hitch! I've been considering a '64 Safari 22', but may very likely be out-bid. I'd probably like to stay around that size and weight maximum, with a axle weight rating of about 4,000 lbs, I believe.
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Old 11-26-2007, 06:54 AM   #7
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Ideally better brakes will greatly shorten your stopping distances with and without the trailer connected. Modern performance sport vehicles can stop from 60 to 0 MPH in around 120'. Your stock vehicle would do well to do it in 180' to 200'.

A number of years ago I was into these kinds of mods, see link for example... http://www.airforums.com/photos/show...500&userid=682 but do not have specific details on the El.

If you can't find info from this site try a GM forum for vehicles such as yours. I'm sure there is a lot of info out there on how to improve the handling and braking.

This link features Vintage TV's. No doubt you would find it interesting.

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f238...les-16089.html
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Old 12-03-2007, 05:06 PM   #8
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Marty

In general the El Camino is an Station Wagon. That means the brakes and suspension is an notch higher than an like year non station wagon car.

For tyres just call up three differant tyre shops in the SF area and say, "... I have an 19___ El Camino and I want to tow an RV Trailer with it, what size and type of tyre is best for this vehicle. Do shop around.

You may want to jump on I-80 and go over the hill to Reno's "Hot August Nights" in this combo-nation. Just add an Aux Transmission Cooler to what the vehicle already has.

An good top speep with the trailer is 65 MPH tops. And since you are not the type of driver that "tail-gates", why worry.

Rodger & Gabby
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Old 12-08-2007, 08:49 PM   #9
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I intend to add our 70 SS Chevelle to the towing duties as soon as the restoration (frame off) is done. Factory disc's up front, drums on rear, it has the F41 suspension package that came with the big blocks, and everything is brand new as per 1970. I towed with the one I bought new without problems and roads were a lot crappier in those days, and I drove a lot faster. I'm towing a 21' Flying Cloud with the '57 wagon and have had zero issues. We tow all through the mountains of BC, WA and OR. The front suspension, including disc brakes, are from a 77 Trans Am, rear stock drum brakes. My wife has become the primary driver and she has no issues with this combination and finds it is comparable to when she uses our GMC sierra truck.

Barry
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Old 12-09-2007, 10:55 AM   #10
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The El Camino was adaped from the Chevelle Malibu. I knew two couples who pulled 19' "some other brand" trailers with their Chevelles in the '70s. The El Camino should do at least as well.

One thing you need to be alert for is the axle ratio. Many of these units had 2.56 or 2.73 ratios-which weren't very good for towing. They're relatively easy to change, however. I think the El Camino would make a nice tow vehicle for a 19' Airstream, especially equipped with a 5.7 four barrel engine and 3.08 or greater ratio.

I remember pulling a rental 16' Shasta with a Chevy Nova 283 w/ 2.73 axle. No problem even with the 2.73.
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Old 12-09-2007, 12:38 PM   #11
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One other thing to consider is the way the rear end is installed in these GM cars. They are a trailing arm with coil spring suspension. A anti sway bar should be installed for safe towing.
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Old 12-10-2007, 02:57 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MartyK
Pick up trucks seem the most popular TV, but how about an early to mid-70's (pre-California smog inspection) El Camino? I don't know a lot about cars, but I assume these would have a 350 V8. I assume auto trans most popular, and I read somewhere that towing capacity depends on type of trans, but the author didn't say if manual or auto results in a greater towing capacity. Axle ratio also comes into play. I would probably like a light weight,moderate height shell of some sort (don't know much about shells, either) for the truck bed. Thanks for any insights.
El Caminos were, as others have pointed out, basically
adaptations of mid-size GM station wagons. In the years
1973-1977, these were basically full size cars, albeit not quite as large as the Caprices of their time, with 116"
wheelbases and full frames. I wouldn't tow a 34 Excella
with one, but they can be adapted for 24' and smaller.
They were rated factory for up to 6000 lb. 350 would be
most common engine; 396 and 402 big blocks were common in the earlier model SSs; you may find a few 454s in these model years. Nearly all will have 350 or 400 THM automatics. If you're doing your own custom one, parts will interchange between the ElCo and
the Buick Regal, Olds Cutlass, Pontiac LeMans, and Chevy
Malibu of the same period: you'll find rear sway bars commonly on Cutlasses, many heavy duty parts on police package LeManses, alternate interior and trim parts, etc.
And the aftermarket has lots of stuff - Wilwood and Baer oversize brakes and rear disk conversions, etc. And Chevy
isn't the only big block that will fit - you could install a
455 Olds on Cutlass mounts, or a 455 Pontiac or Buick for that matter. 1975 and up will have catalytic converters.

Avoid the 1978-1984 "downsized" El Caminos. The frames don't have the integrity for the job beyond 3500
lbs.

Good luck finding an ElCo in good shape. If you can find one, it could be modified/adapted to be a very nice tow rig. Much more comfortable interior than the pickup trucks of its time, too.
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