Almost exactly one month ago, I took my first walk through my neighborhood on what had been the warmest Sunday afternoon of the year, up to that point. One of my happiest and best discoveries of last year was how much I enjoy simply taking a walk in the afternoon or early evening around Edgewater in Chicago’s north side.
I realize I have written about this before (here and here), but my stroll at the beginning of this past May was especially significant in that it was my first since the current COVID-19 pandemic had been recognized domestically. I did a little reading beforehand in order to establish proper safety protocol, but there was nothing there I hadn’t already been made aware of, so I donned my face mask, put on a sweatshirt, and headed out the door, leaving the movie I had been watching on “pause”.
It was glorious. I had decided to leave my SLR camera at home, as I didn’t feel like messing around with disinfecting its surfaces should I have felt the need to manually adjust its controls or click the shutter button, but I did have my phone which has a pretty decent camera on it. Within maybe ten or fifteen minutes of leaving the house, I was rewarded for doing so by seeing this lovely, non-pampered 1980 El Camino parked on the street. It felt almost like it was waiting there to greet just me, saying, “Welcome back to the world outside your condo. Enjoy your afternoon.”
I was crushed when I had learned of the passing of singer/songwriter/musician Bill Withers earlier this year. I am a huge fan of his work, and of his blunt, no-frills, truthful, and yet elegant way around a song lyric. He also had an extraordinary gift for melody. Seeing the empty bed of this El Camino, some of the lyrics to a verse from his classic “Lean On Me” came to mind:
If there is a load
You have to bear
That you can’t carry
I’m right up the road
I’ll share your load
If you just call me.
There seems to have been an unusually high concentration of troubling events recently, including the catastrophic flooding in my home state of Michigan due to the bursting of the Edenville dam (which had occurred on May 19, 2020, just before I had written this article), which led to the displacement of thousands of people. There are a lot of folks who need help carrying a load right now, whether that means with literally hauling their personal possessions, or providing other forms of support.
This ’80 El Camino has a payload probably in the neighborhood of 1,000 pounds, about half of what an average, regular-bed, half-ton pickup could haul. Does that mean its usefulness would be significantly less to the friend or loved one of the owner who really needs its services? I would guess not. It may not be able to haul what a big truck would, but that’s beside the point I’m trying to make.
Each of us has the ability to help others right now in some way, regardless of anything else that’s going on. Though we may not view our own gifts as being as potentially impactful as those that others possess, the truth is that we can’t know what our offer to help deliver groceries or even just making a phone call to someone else can mean right now. Simply showing consideration for others in whatever form that may take would be hugely appreciated by most recipients.
Even if we as individuals aren’t doing the extremely courageous and livesaving work of our health care providers and other essential workers, with all the heavy lifting – physically, emotionally, and professionally – that they’re doing right now, there’s plenty we can still do, even if only with our funds. Some of us may not be able to “haul” like a dually, but if we are the proverbial El Camino, let’s be exactly that with great gusto and help others bear the loads we can.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, May 3, 2020.
There’s a lot of crazy in the world right now – I’m ready to quarantine 2020.
We’ve all had our particular challenges this calendar year. While my professional and personal challenges so far this year are hardly the worst imaginable (far from it in all reality), I have noticed as per the human spirit we’ve all adapted and kept going. Some people are less enthusiastic about adaptation, but we all do it.
While the rear quarter panels of this El Camino appear to have adapted to the Chicago environment, this is a fine looking specimen of Chevrolet. Are those wheels or hub caps? I suspect hub caps; either way, these really provide some pop to this old hauler.
I had the same thought about the wheels, and while I haven’t checked with oldcarbrochures or another source, I think they’re very well styled plastic covers. GM had some really nicely fashioned wheel covers in the late 70’s and early 80’s that looked very convincingly like road wheels. I’m amazed this El Camino has held on to 3 of them, as the similar polymer wheel covers on my mother’s ’75 Monza 2+2 had a nasty habit of taking flight whenever we met a railroad crossing, etc. Every time I see this generation of El Camino lately I like it far more than I ever did when they were newer. It’s just a nice tidy package.
As far as the crazy in the world, well…yeah. I too have fared quite well through it all thus far, having worked from home at full income and then some, and only now getting back to the office daily, with all requisite precautions of course. But this period has certainly brought about a new mindfulness of the struggles of others, which is welcome. As we continue navigating the pandemic, and now watch and worry over the injustices and social unrest we’re living in the midst of, yesterday was the first day of hurricane season here in Florida, which only adds to the proverbial load for those of us in the profession the author and I share. The load doesn’t seem to be getting lighter. But even 1000lbs of capacity can certainly be a help.
MTN, like your mom’s Monza, my ’88 Mustang LX four-cylinder also had composite wheels that had a polymer molding to look like styled steel, but wasn’t. Those were hard to keep clean. After a while, I simply took them off and resprayed them in silver, and then they looked new again. For a while.
I also appreciate the last El Caminos far more than I did when they were new. I seem to remember them being the targets of jokes when I was an elementary school kid when they were new. I’m not laughing at them now, as I quite dig them.
As far as your last paragraph, thank you for that. All of it. And now it’s CAT season, and there hasn’t been serious CAT activity for a while. I’ve been incredibly moved to witness and read about genuine acts of help and concern for other human beings this year – here in Chicago, back home in Flint, Michigan, and all over. To your very last sentence (which basically encapsulates the gist of my entire article), any help is welcome. Especially now. Well stated, friend.
Those wheels are actually solid real wheels, no hub cap. I just had to throw this in there. Sorry for such a late response. Lol. Have a great day.
Well said. Lots of little lightweight trucks can do a lot of good work.
As for the Elky, I have come to like these a lot. This one has stood up to the harsh conditions of Chicago quite well.
I am particularly impressed by the quality of (at least) the forward-facing side of the hood ornament. Red doesn’t do particularly well when exposed to UV but this ornament looks great!
It is possible that it is a replacement though.
I always liked these cars… and they of course were cars, not trucks.
As to the 1000lb load, I can attest that as being beyond their capabilities. Back in the 80’s a plant I managed had a customer come by in an El Camino to pick up an order… a 2,000 lb pallet of product in bags. The shipping folks did not want to load the pallet onto the bed but the customer insisted, so I was asked to rule. I said no, despite the customer insisting he’d take the responsibility. Instead I had our folks hand-load half the order into the bed, bringing the car down to its stops and the front end seemed like it would rise off the ground.
We reduced it some more, and though still overmatched the EC made it in three trips.
Timely piece, since just this past weekend I saw a El Camino hauling a load, and I thought to myself “When on earth have I ever seen that before?”
I spent much of Sunday doing yardwork, and I spotted a blue ’82+ El Camino drive by my house (I live on a busy road, so there’s seemingly always something interesting driving by). About an hour later, I saw the same Elky come back the other way, but with its bed full of boxes. Undoubtedly well within its payload capacity, but still an uncommon sight.
In the past few months, my daily walks and aimless drives have been immensely helpful from a mental health perspective, and like your El Camino here, the occasional interesting car sighting gives hope that there’s light at the end of our tunnel. Just yesterday I saw a teal ’93 Probe… you know you’re living in rough times when a teal Probe cheers you up!
Oh, man. I liked my teal ’94 Probe a lot. It wasn’t a masculine ride, but it was a good car. https://i2.wp.com/www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/With-my-Ford-Probe-1998.jpg
It’s hard to believe that Probe would be as old now as a different non-Mustang from Ford, the Capri II, would have been at the time that Probe was new.
Well, this should make your day then! I’d forgotten that you’d owned one.
I photographed an ’89 Probe last year too (also in-motion), so now I’m tempted to put together a short Probe article.
Eric, you should. That car in your picture could be my ’94 – down to the wheel covers. I choose to think of that color as “tropical”, as I lived in warm climates when I owned it.
Eric, let me know if you need some additional first-generation Probe pictures. I found a base model a few years ago. Generating enthusiasm for it has been a challenge.
Thanks Jason, I will let you know. I’m just waiting for a bolt of inspiration to strike me so that I can write something about the Probe that hasn’t been written a zillion times before!
Those are wheel covers. They were optional on El Caminos, and Malibu’s, and standard equipment on Malibu Classic Landaus. Depending on the year, they also were available in gold. The 79 Malibu brochure shows a two tone tan over brown Landau with the gold units. I have a set of very similar ones that came off my 80 Caprice and can tell you that the plastic mesh parts get brittle and crack, causing them to break away from the outer metal ring. I’m surprised three of these have survived on this Elky, considering it’s seen hard use.
That color seems to have been so common on El Caminos of the early 80s era. Six years ago I had a 90 year old patient, ex-Navy, who drove his on a daily basis. He took care of his wife who suffered from dementia. He would always be at my office door at 9 am even though I open 10 am. Asked why and he said he is up at 5 am each day, heads out for doughnuts and coffee, then goes food shopping and is done. Old Navy stayed with him all his life even down to paying in $2 bills.
When we talked about his El Camino he told me people drove him crazy always asking if he would sell it. Only over his dead body he said. Sadly he passed at 93 due to cancer, with his wife still alive, and who knows what happened to his treasure. The top picture brought him to mind immediately.
My neighbor has two El Caminos. When I was shopping for this place a year and a half ago, there was another one on Google Street View in front of his condo. The looters have come within a couple hundred feet of this place in the past few nights. Hopefully his cars won’t get destroyed by vandals like so many of our local businesses that were already struggling under the shutdown have been.
I bought my first and last pickup a 1996 Chevy 1500 and still have it. But last year I fell in love with with this. A 1984 El Camino. Every day it’s a tough decision on which one to take. What a tough decision lol
I have good memories of my ’68 el Camino, I wish I’d been able to afford one of these when new or when they were just an old vehicle.
Here is a pic of my 82. I have it since 97. I use it only in good weather, no winter driving. I do haul things with it when needed. comes in handy when doing work around the house.
“This ’80 El Camino has a payload probably in the neighborhood of 1,000 pounds, about half of what an average, regular-bed, half-ton pickup could haul.”
A half-ton is 1,000 lbs, so the difference would be … what, exactly? I’m talking about an old school F100 versus a newer F150, which would properly be called a three-quarter ton truck.
Great point – “half-ton” should have come out on my last edit.
Old Car Weekly cited the payload capacity of an ’86 as being 1,250 pounds. The last time I wrote about an El Camino, there was some weigh-in there (and to Jeff O’Neill’s point, above) questioning the hauling capacity of this generation of El Camino.
I guess I was referring to the hauling capacity of one of these El Caminos as compared with (your example) an F-100 ,F-150, or Chevy C/K.
The capacity of an old school 1/2 ton pickup varied quite a bit, and even more so for the 3/4 ton versions. Depending on springs and tires, my ’66 f100 is rated to carry (passengers and load) between 1200 and 1700 lbs, assuming a bare bones truck (like mine).
The F250 version had a load capacity (pass and cargo) of between 1255 and 3955 lbs, again depending on springs and tires. The typical configuration with 1950lb rear springs and 6 ply tires was 2455 lbs; with 8 ply tires it was 3155lbs. So quite a bit more than actually 3/4 ton.
The “1/2” and “3/4” ton designations were really more as a way to identify them than to actually indicate their load capacity. With the right springs and tires, the f250 could carry 2 full tons (3955lbs).
Which is not surprising as my Promaster 2500 is rated to carry 4000 lbs.
Very useful info for future reference. Thanks, Paul. Keep that awesome ’66 running.
Those El Camino’s were really great vehicles. I bought one new in 1981 and loved it. I sold it (regrettably) ten years later and bought a new GMC S15 that wasn’t so great.