CC Capsule: 1980 Chevrolet El Camino – Party In The Back

If you’re fortunate, you have, at some point in your life, had friends-of-friends-of-friends morph into those you consider part of your inner circle.  It’s a life-affirming thing when you realize that origins of some of your closest friendships began once- or twice-removed from another, original friend you may not see quite as often anymore.  My friend, Christina, is one of the former – a once friend-of-a-friend with whom I am now very close.  It’s been said that making friends in Chicago isn’t easy and takes time, and that was my initial experience when I moved here almost fifteen years ago.  It was on a night of one of Christina’s parties that I spotted our featured El Camino.

Today, for whatever reason, I almost can’t bring myself to refer to the El Camino as a “truck”, reminding me as it always has of a two-door station wagon with the rear section of the roof lopped off.  I’ll concede that it is technically a truck (also known as a “coupe utility” or “ute” in other parts of the globe), but it has always seemed to me to be caught between two worlds.  Most times when I have heard someone describe the El Camino as being “business up front, party in the back”, it has made me smile, reminding me of a similar description of a certain haircut.  Yes, the El Camino may be the visual, automotive equivalent of a mullet, but I say that not like it’s a bad thing.  (Hey, if that haircut was good enough for MacGyver and Lionel Richie, it’s good enough for the rest of us.)  The ‘Camino is, unmistakably, what it is, and quite a bold statement.  Much like black licorice, either you like it, or you don’t.  I dig it.

Back to Christina’s, our group of friends (of maybe fifteen to twenty of us) tries to get together at least twice a month – sometimes more often in the summer months.  There seems to be a bit of friendly competition among us to see who gets to host the next, informal gathering.  On this balmy, September night last summer, Christina hosted, and she doesn’t not do anything fancy.  (Caviar, anyone?)  You know how it is when the night is still young, everybody has been hanging out for a while and all are acquainted, and it’s time for the next activity?  After we were all feeling ready for the next thing, we decided to head a few blocks west to Beauty Bar for some dancing.  This El Camino was parked outside of a nearby establishment.

It can be a tricky thing to take pictures of a vehicle at night in an area with a lot of bars.  With the escalation in crime in some areas, I know I’m a little more vigilant these days whenever walking at night.  I can imagine that if I had parked my classic El Camino on the street near the bar, I’d have one eye out the window pretty much at all times.  Depending on how good one’s eyesight is, too, I could see how it wouldn’t necessarily be immediately apparent that the person crouched down on the ground near the front of a vehicle had a camera and was taking pictures, versus attempting something dodgy.  Also, when I think of the stereotypical owner / driver of an El Camino, I imagine it would be someone who has little time for foolishness or explanations, however clearly or eloquently expressed.

That’s just a generalization, though, and the air and mood of this area felt just celebratory enough to where I felt comfortable snapping a few frames and getting on my way.  Given the great apparent condition of this survivor, I’d like to think it’s powered by a 155-hp Chevy 305 V8, mated to the three-speed Turbo Hydramatic.  So equipped, it would have weighed about 3,200 pounds and had a cargo hauling capacity of about a half-ton.  I like the restyled grille of the ’80 El Camino (and Malibu), and I like that from the first year of this downsized generation for ’78, through ’82, there actually were minor detail changes with each successive model year.  In general, researching yearly changes becomes a colossal pain after the early ’80s.  This example is one of just under 41,000 sold for 1980.

Back at Beauty Bar, knowing my train ride home would take a while and wanting to make the most of my Saturday the next day, I bid an early farewell to Christina and our group after some busting of moves on the dance floor.  She responded with a big hug and her trademark “Filakia!“(“kisses” in Greek).  Spotting this El Camino on the way to the northbound train back to my neighborhood was the perfect coda to a Friday that had started with “business up front” at the office, and had ended with a “party in the back” of the evening.  Opa!

West Town, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, September 16, 2016.

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