In fact, there is nothing on the car that any one of us could not do. Since the aftermarket has responded so well with parts and pieces unique to the second-gen Chevelles (including the El Camino), all Mike had to do was bolt them in place (the seats were custom-built, though). Regardless of the fact that custom work wasn't necessary to build the dream, the process consumed big dollars.
George cruises the same streets he worked as a detective, but now he does it with a smile on his mug. And being a retired dude, he's free to drive his El Camino whenever he likes, which is every day of the year. The rest of us can only hope.
The idea was to provide good low-end torque with the utmost in reliability and drivability. Mike Saiki's Motivational Engineering in Carson, California, sent the '70 454 cylinder block and the rotating assembly (stock steel crank, connecting rods, and Speed-Pro 9.5:1 forgings) to Team C in nearby Bellflower for the massage. Team C bored, decked, and honed the block, then dynamically balanced the internals. With the cylinder case on the engine stand, Mike assembled said rotating parts within, and slid in an Isky 270-HL 'stick (270 degrees duration, 0.510-inch lift, 114-degree L/C). In its entirety, the valvetrain is composed of stock GM items. A double-roller timing gear connects it to the crankshaft. Mike finished the bottom end with the stock oiling system and capped it with a stock pan. For street chugging, Mike looked no further than stock oval-port (with a little clean-up work) cylinder heads fitted with stock valves. Fuel is imported the old-fashioned way with an Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor on a matching Edelbrock Performer intake manifold. The lid is a Billet Specialties piece. Jolt issues furiously from an MSD HEI distributor with 36 degrees total, and crispy critters are extracted by Doug's Headers and thence into a 3-inch custom exhaust system amplified by Flowmaster 40s. Mike used ARP fasteners throughout, many of them polished by George. For the back half of the powertrain, Mike enlisted his local agents: Steve Sharp, in Torrance, built the Turbo 400, matched it with a TCI 10-inch converter (2,800-stall speed) and a B&M Quick Silver shifter, and hooked it to a B&M cooler. The stock driveshaft links to a 12-bolt axle as amended by parts (Eaton limited-slip differential and 3.08:1 gears) from Tom's Differentials in Ponderay, Idaho.
Comforts for the creature? Ah, yes. George puts hands on a leather-wrapped B.A.D. billet steering wheel and Auto Meter gauges sunk into a Covan's Classic instrument panel, all of it underwritten by an M&H reproduction wiring harness. A Hot Rod Air HVAC system blows temperate on those sizzling September nights, and most every part of it has been deftly tucked out of sight to diffuse the clutter factor. George has a bent for modernity and remade the seats to look more like the ones in late-model cars. That steering column is an ididit tilt-wheel number. George's aural satisfaction alternately wafts and bangs hard through Kenwood components: AM/FM/CD player, bass amp, 61/2-inch speakers, mid-range, and tweeters. The system is capped by a 12-inch woofer and George likes to crank it!
Since this is the second go-around with the Camino, the paint and body had been completed more than a decade prior and was therefore unmolested. "The car is a driver. It has some minor chips. The paint still looks good as is," offered George. And he's right. Can you see those flaps from here? So the metalwork was really beneath the skin. George flattened and smoothed the firewall and hid as much of the wiring as possible. All air conditioning and heater hoses were run up under the fenders. For safety's sake, he also applied LED taillights and HID headlights so he could see the road better as the sun goes night-night.
For its mission as a happy remembrance and a joyful place to be, the El Camino got some mild but pertinent chassis upgrades. Classic Performance Products provided 2-inch drop coil springs all around and KYB gas-charged shock absorbers at every corner. Body roll is tempered by Hotchkis tubular antisway bars (13/8-inch and 15/16-inch) and the corresponding rear lower control arms. George pirated a quick-ratio steering box from a '69 Camaro and called it quits.
For the stopping proposition, George put CPP Big Brake kits (13- and 12-inch rotors) at either end of the Camino. Those five-spoke Torq-Thrusts were welded into George's memory decades ago, so he would do with nothing less for his hot rod. At 17x8, the modest Americans take the "just-right" Falken 245/ZR45 and 275/ZR50 skins.