Buh-bye, Twenty-Sixteen, and don’t let the screen door hit you. Git. SHOO. Out! You were like the drunk party guest who refused to leave quietly, breaking many, many things in our house right up until the very moment your taxi arrived. Let us now attend to the infant New Year that’s crying and screaming its head off from its playpen. There, there, now. It has been almost a year since I spotted our featured vehicle in a residential neighborhood in Las Vegas which seemed to be the perfect habitat for this two-toned beauty.
This setting, for many, is the real Las Vegas – far removed from the neon, clanging bells, glitter and boozy decadence of The Strip. Walking to the High Roller Ferris wheel at The Linq from downtown to meet up with friends, I had chosen to walk through this residential area as I like to imagine what life would be like in environments different than my own. Real people live here – folks who have mortgages and carports and barbecue grills and pet dogs (thankfully, none of which started chasing me). This is the good life.
The El Camino had also represented the good life for some, ostensibly combining the utility of a pickup truck with the sporty looks and creature comforts of a popular passenger car – first the full-sized Impala for 1959 – ’60, and then the middleweight, A-Body Chevelle-turned-Malibu starting in ’64. Born in an era of United States history that seemed fascinated with the Old West, the El Camino brings (to my mind, anyway) connotations of cattle ranches, lassos, Marlboros and dust, Pardna. Even modern day Las Vegas seems to have more than just a touch of the Pioneer Days in its aura, especially having been home to two different El Ranchos, The Frontier, The Western, Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Casino, and other Western-themed establishments, many of which are all gone like so many tumbleweeds blowing in the hot, desert winds.
Looking at this El Camino within the setting of this residential side street, it occurred to me that even though this neighborhood is worlds different than my own on Chicago’s north side, there are similarities between the two. I hope it’s obvious that I’m not referring to the architecture, but rather to the things to which many of us universally aspire. To borrow a lyric from the live version of Janis Joplin’s “Ball And Chain”, “…everybody in the world wants the same damn thing.” This is true. Outside of the context of that song, it’s true that so many of us want a nice ride, a nice home, nice things, and to be loved – regardless of where we’re from or how we personally identify ourselves. It gets tricky when we, as individuals or collectively, start to feel that there just might not be enough of the good stuff to go around.
Speaking of getting around, our featured truck is likely powered by a 115-horse Chevy 4.4L small-block V8, though a 3.8L V6 (also Chevy-sourced) with 110 hp came as standard equipment. The base price for ’82 squeaked in right under $8,000 (about $20,000 in 2016), though this was without necessary options. Base weight with the V6 was roughly 3,300 pounds. I have no firsthand experience with any El Camino, but I can imagine that driveability with the 4.4L and its 205 pound-feet of torque was a tangible improvement over the 170 lb./ft. of the standard 3.8L V6. Australian “utes”, which were basically the same types of vehicles, have always seemed to me to have gotten a lot more use as actual cargo haulers than I ever remember seeing in the U.S. when El Caminos freely roamed American roads. Is my perception an inaccurate one? About the biggest, heaviest thing I remember seeing in the back of an El Camino was a dirt bike, but then again, I was a city kid who grew up in a Midwestern industrial factory town.
The base-model version of the very last iteration of the Elky was a good-looking truck, in my opinion. It wore its quad-headlamped “Malibu” face very well, and it looked much more natural and organic without the Monte Carlo-sourced rubber-ducky front fascia featured on the SS models. Why even try to be aerodynamic? You’re a truck. I actually have no idea if our featured vehicle is an ’82, as this frontal styling lasted all the way through swan-song ’87 with no notable changes, so please pardon my assumption. As for 2017, which marks the thirty-year anniversary of the last El Camino rolling off an assembly line, let’s try to be deliberate in making it a great year as we look at the road ahead.
Las Vegas, Nevada.
Monday, February 8, 2016.
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