COAL: 1985 Chevrolet El Camino – Life Finds A Way

When one door closes… Open it. That’s how doors work.

I can’t remember who said the above line but it makes me laugh at how true it is. Just because a door is closed, doesn’t mean it’s locked. Sometimes life will surprise you with things you never expected and this is one of those times.

I have a confession to make. In the past few weeks I had become very bitter about classic cars. I would still take pictures with plans to write about them, but it felt that the passion had gone away to be replaced with petty anger. It all started with a kid in his 1976 Cordoba. Every day for about two weeks, his triple black land yacht would pass by me on my way to work. At one point, he and I were stopped side by side at a red light. I could hear his exhaust bumble rumble away, and could see that he was driving something so instantly recognizable and beautiful. I used to be like that! It planted a seed of jealously that reared its ugly head one night a couple weeks later.

Drunk on heartache, I wrote what was probably the worst, least professional thing I have ever dared to put my name on. It was a letter to the 1987 Plymouth Fury I had chosen to sell almost a year ago. Unable to sleep that night, the stress from work, home, and the sight of that Cordoba all swirled around inside my mind like a thunderstorm, the sound of that Cordoba’s V8 beating inside my ears like the telltale heart. It was something that never should’ve gone to print, and one admonishing email later, the article was pulled from this site less than an hour after it had gone up.

I felt devastated. Not that my article had been pulled down… it deserved that. I felt terrible because I’d let a thing like that go to print in the first place. I wasn’t so much writing that night, as I was making a big mess with a keyboard. As a writer, I should’ve known better. I love writing for this site, it’s allowed me to share my passions with a community I have great respect for and am happy to be a part of.

I didn’t touch my laptop for a week.

I attend a writer’s club every weekend, and at the start of every meeting, the club president asks us if we’ve had any submissions or rejections. Most of the people in the group are already published authors in some way, and everyone looked surprised when I raised my hand. I told them about my rejection on this site, but felt that I had grown better as a writer because of it. I wasn’t going to let a mistake keep me from doing what I love. When we all went on break, I was approached by a member of the club (let’s call him Jay), who had been to a couple meetings and had an offer for me. He was in possession of two late model El Caminos that his wife would be very happy if he got rid of. I felt hope swell in my chest, but told him I didn’t have the money right now to buy another car. He said that wasn’t a problem and we started e-mailing back and forth.

After a couple weeks of this, he shared the picture that is at the top of this article, saying it was a 1985 Conquista that was purchased by him for his son who was going to use its frame for a drag car build, using the body of the second El Camino he had but that never came to pass. His son lost interest, went to college, and had given up on both cars altogether. Jay has no interest in working on them, feeling he isn’t in the best shape for such an undertaking, and wants them to go to a good home. I told him the ’85 Conquista was something I was very interested in, and he said the car was mine to have. He wanted to see it go to someone with a passion for cars who might actually be able to get it on the road. I went to go see it last weekend. Inside the cabin was a wealth of parts I was allowed to keep. A box of brand new carpet, new side mirrors, a box of spark plugs, a set of long tube Hooker headers, and a four barrel Edelbrock carburetor!

Just like that, I’m the proud owner of a 1985 El Camino. It’s a bit of an odd duck, as it was owned by a kid who worked at a Toyota dealership before Jay bought it. It has the wheels from a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, and the 350 from a 1980’s Chevy C-10. It’s a project, for sure. It hasn’t run in two years and was last on the road in 2014. I have started to keep a journal of my time with it, calling it Operation: Mighty Mouse, because that was the name hot rodders gave to the small block when it first came out. I intend to build this car in the traditional hot rod style. That is to say… I’ve got the budget of a ham sandwich. I will use as few new parts as possible with as many vintage ones as I can find. I already have the steering wheel and rack from a 64 C-10 given to me by a friend who wanted to get rid of them. I don’t know how this project will turn out, but I am so excited to share this process with my readers and fulfill a dream of mine. I’ll keep everyone posted as I go. The first goal is to get it running!