I’ve promised to share with my El Camino project details every Tuesday morning, so let’s start by reviewing the factory installed options it came with. To help guide us through the process, I’ve pulled up the ’87 El Camino options page for the base model. The blue boxes indicate available options, and the green boxes indicate the features on my truck (reviewed in the following section).
First up is the four speed overdrive automatic. Although it is a base truck with the base motor, the presence of a transmission upgrade gives us the promise of better things, and as we’ll see there’s other nice features on board.
Such as factory air conditioning. While I possess the skills necessary to add factory air to any car, it’s not a project I’d take on casually. The under-hood parts pretty much bolt up, but the under-dash air box and ducting requires complete dash removal, and may require a new dash skin with additional face ducts in the center. Therefore, getting AC from the factory is a big score.
Next is the gage package with trip odometer. In GM speak, “gage” refers to the dash gauges. Early 5th generation base cars used a ribbon speedometer with a serious sixties look (Top image). Along the way, they replaced the ribbon speedometer with a round speedometer, fuel gauge and “idiot lights” (Lower image).
Thank the Lord, my car shipped with this gauge option, putting a couple of orange pointers in the gauge cluster. However, there is still a blanking plate in the tach opening, reminding me the buyer cheapened out on some features.
The auxiliary lighting option shown in the chart refers to interior foot well lights, a headlight buzzer and an engine compartment light. Both the buzzer and under hood light were missing on my car. I’m not sure what the story is- Either the factory screwed up, or the parts disappeared over time.
At this point I’ve fixed the headlight buzzer, and here’s a hot tip for anyone with an A, B or G-body GM – This is a “plug and play” modification. You can either comb the junkyards for the part, or pick one up on E-Bay. With the upgraded part in hand, pull out the seat belt buzzer and plug in your new part. Done.*
*No guarantee is expressed or implied- User assumes all risk
At a minimum, the sport mirror option added a joystick in the driver’s door panel to remotely adjust the driver’s outside mirror. The option may also replace the base chrome mirrors with aerodynamic sport mirrors but the available information is not clear on this point.
On a side note, the ’86 and ’87 El Camino use the same sport mirror housing as the Camaro and Corvette. As you’ll see in a later post, I took advantage of this fact to improve driver convenience.
The car came with a mid-level radio, which remained in place when I took possession. Delco actual builds a pretty decent radio, and I don’t like to chop up the factory wiring harness, so I planned to stick with this factory radio.
BUT, my buddy Paul had a top of the line cassette player unit out of a 1992 Bravada. As it was just “Sitting on the shelf,” I got it for nothing. A few illumination bulbs were burnt out, so I disassembled the unit and replaced the bulbs (kinda complicated- lotsa screws and one bulb required me to break out the soldering iron). Thanks to this gift, I now have a graphic equalizer and a working tape deck!
I mentioned the last two options in my initial posting. The first is comfortilt (tilt wheel), and while I could install this option, used GM steering columns aren’t cheap, so I much prefer having one on the car. The second option, a 22 gallon tank appears on my RPO Tag (build sheet), but I’ve yet to put more than 14 gallons in the tank.
I suspect the tank may have been replaced at some point, but I may be able to address this issue without buying a new tank- I’d like the extended range of the 22 gallon tank, but I’ll take this project on some time in the future.
Now that we know what came on the car, let’s talk about what I want on the car. I’ve identified these desires using yellow boxes in this chart. I’ve already added some, and plan to add all of them moving forward. A given upgrade may be straightforward and very inexpensive (such as my free tape deck), or it may require extensive time, effort, or money. I’ll explore those issues for each desired option in this section.
First up is electronic speed control. On most GM vehicles, adding this feature is quite simple, and that was true for my truck. I bought the needed parts in the junkyard, and installed the system over a long Saturday afternoon. I’ll cover this installation in a later post, along with some advice for people who would like to put this improvement on their own classics.
Next up is a limited slip axle, which I don’t really need here in SoCal. However, my long-term plan is to move back to Denver, Colorado, so it’s a desired feature. How to accomplish this? Drive it to a shop and write the guy a check. While I understand the process, I’ve never actually set up rear end gears, so best to treat this modification as vehicle maintenance and let a shop handle it.
I can handle an upgraded battery a similar way- When the current one fails, I’ll spec out the biggest one I can fit in the space provided.
The car does not have a center console with a floor gear selector, so I’ll have to fabricate the mounts to install one However, we’ll also have to pull out the bench seat and install buckets. Currently, the time line for this change out is “someday.”
Much like a better battery, everyone wants an upgraded cooling system. After my purchase, the original radiator did not keep up in mountain driving, so I replaced it with a heavy duty V-8 unit. At the same time, I replaced the fan on the water pump with a pair of electric fans, both for better cooling control, and for improved Air Conditioning performance during idle. Look for more details in a future posting.
I want the sport suspension, but the change out involves many parts. However, outside of a rear sway bar (which my car did not have), the project only requires upgrading existing parts. I’ll review this process when we take a look under the car.
As you saw when I reviewed the gauge package, the car came with a metal plate where the tach goes. I’ve modified a V-8 tach to work, and we’ll review that next week.
My truck did not come with bed tie downs, but I went to an aftermarket part to address this oversight. After installation, the “T” bars all rattled in their mounts, which I could hear in the cab. To fix it, I found some stick on rubber cushions at a hardware store which eliminated the annoyance.
Finally, the car needed intermittent windshield wipers. I spent quite a bit of time researching this option. You can install intermittent wipers on some Fords by simply swapping out a new wiper switch that has a control box built into the switch harness. Not so much for Chevys, so I’ll dive deeper into this modification in the future.
This final chart showing my overall plan with all desired options in green. Most of the blue boxes (options I don’t want) are appearance items, but there are two options I don’t intend on installing- Power Windows and Power Locks.
In both cases, I think the added convenience does not justify the added complexity, and both require me to cut or replace the inner door panels, an expensive prospect. For now, don’t expect any articles covering the installation of these features.
So that’s all. I hope you enjoyed this review of the El Kylemino’s features and some of the work I’ve completed to this point. Next week, we’ll take a closer look at that tach installation, along with repairs and changes I made in the gauge assembly while I had it torn apart.