Some guys, you just can't please. Marcel DeKerpel's '67 El Camino packed enough punch to make the cut for our Apr. '06 "Put to the Test" dyno thrash. The 350ci small-block that Marcel had cooked up for his orange hauler, which we listed as a 383, pumped out 297 rear-wheel horsepower, accompanied by 316 lb-ft of torque. We called Marcel a month or so afterward, looking for the full story, but the thing was already in pieces. "The paint still didn't have enough life," he tells us. And so it started. "I thought, since I'm gonna do the jambs, I'll have to take the fenders off, so the engine will be easier to get to..." Six months later, we're back to check out the new combo. Marcel has honed his skills on a number of vehicles over the years, getting a varied enough education to make him something of a jack-of-all-trades. The El Camino in question came into the picture when a friend brought it around, looking to trade for a pickup Marcel had built. "I was told it was in pretty good shape," Marcel recalls. "He said it had a 383 stroker with a small oil leak." It also had a smoothed firewall. The El Camino's imperfections actually appealed to Marcel: "It's an excuse to start taking everything apart."

The engine-which turned out to be a 350, not a 383-was junk, the victim of a faulty boring job. And that slick firewall? "Yeah, it looked smooth," Marcel quips, "'cause it was under an inch-and-a-half of Bondo-I must have taken 2 inches off the width of the car." The Elky got a 350 and a paint job, done by someone else, that Marcel didn't really care for. When the '67's tailgate got scratched at a show, Version 2.0 went into development. "One day I was playing around with the car," Marcel remembers, "and after a few hours it was all over the shop." The body came off the frame, both were painted Skittles Tangerine-by Marcel this time-and he added the hot little 383 we mentioned earlier.

Of course, bigger plans were already brewing, beginning with the 454 sitting in Marcel's shop, which was what he's really wanted to drop in to the Elky all along. "A big-block has always been my goal," he told us. "It's got the power, torque, and sound." After working out some cam break-in issues by springing for a hydraulic-roller setup, Marcel created his dream powerplant. But-stop us if you've heard this one before-he didn't stop there. As a matter of practicality, a taller hood was needed for air cleaner clearance. More important to this story, however, is the fact that Marcel could still see imperfections in the body and still wanted a paint job with more life. That was it-time to go frame-off again.