Our photo the past two weeks showed the front corner of a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino. It could have been one of several 1960 Chevrolets if we hadn’t specified it was a pickup; that narrowed it down quickly to El Camino, which had been introduced the year before to battle Ford’s Ranchero pickup.
Chosen randomly from the correct entries was the name of Gary Engen, of Augusta, who wrote:
“The answer to this week’s contest was just around the corner in a friend’s yard in my neighborhood. He is a Chevy fan and has a few classics to include a couple of El Caminos. This time you pictured a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino pickup. The El Camino was introduced by Chevy in 1959 as a competitor to the Ford Ranchero pickup.
“However, sales of the 1960 model were low so Chevrolet discontinued the model while Ford had more success with their Rancheros, which were now based on the brand-new Falcon compact (which was the car I drove during my college days in the early ’60s).
“The pioneering American sedan pickups just did not connect with enough car-buying Americans. Perhaps these early ‘crossovers’ didn’t carry enough passengers; in a time when baby boomer families dominated the market, three across was the best they could offer.
“El Camino’s cargo volume also did not match that of other small pickup trucks. Chevrolet continued El Camino pickup production again a few years later and continued the model until the late 1980s.”
Thanks to reader Engen for his reply. Here are the other readers who identified the vehicle. We had to trim responses for this page to get everyone in, but all the complete submissions are in the online version of What Is It? Unless specified otherwise below, our readers guessed 1960 El Camino:
AIKEN: Bob Ennis: “With the success of the Ford Ranchero, Chevy responded with the ’59 and ’60 El Camino. Your hint about ‘pickup’ was a bonus. This is a 1960 Chevy El Camino.”
Howard Jones: “It looks like it was based on the Impala body style of those days.”
Also, Ann Willbrand and Raymond Richards.
AUGUSTA: Lowell Fritsche: “You have to be looking at a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino. I am still confused about the trim on the top of the fender. It was used on the Bel Air but the Bel Air had additional trim pieces right behind the headlight on the side. The one you show does not have that trim. So unless you really got something to confuse us, I go with the El Camino.
“I had one but it was the later model based on the Chevelle frame. The word ‘pickup’ was a misnomer. You sure couldn’t haul much in them. Mine had air boots in the back that you could inflate to hold it up.”
Walker Mobley Jr.: “It is a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino, since you tell us it is a pickup. There is another possibility in body style, and that would be a Sedan Delivery. Both of these models were considered passenger car styling in that they were a low profile body style and seating (single bench type seat). These vehicles were available with a 235-cubic-inch six-cylinder, a 283 or a 348 V-8 engines.
“If my memory is correct, the first year for the El Camino was 1959. El Camino stayed in production with GM until the late ’80s; I think 1987 was the last year. Later on in the ’70s these vehicles were given the SS designation as an optional model.
“Pontiac had a vehicle on this same body style that was called the Caballero. I saw only one or two of these, one belonging to a friend of mine. I don’t know any of the facts on this vehicle at all other than my friend’s was an early-’80s model. It appeared to have the exact same body parts as the El Camino of that year, just different trim. I don’t think it stayed in production very long.
“Please keep these coming.”
Hyland Bunn: “1959 Chevy El Camino.”
John Hayes: “Second (week) around, I’m going to stick with a 1960 Chevrolet, but it could be a Bel Air or El Camino.”
Robin Kitchens: “The best guess I’ve got is a 1960-62 Chevy Impala.”
Norman Lewis: “The rear fins were slightly lowered from ’59 and the grille changed slightly. This was a truck that could be driven to church and not look out of place, then put to work on Monday. I believe the largest engine was the 348-cubic-incher from Chevy.”
Dalton Brannen: “It is Chevy’s answer to the Ford Ranchero. These vehicles were on a car platform and had the same appearance of the car of its model year in the front, but with a pickup bed where the back seat and trunk would have been on the car version. They were made from 1959-60, and again from 1964-77.”
Tom Turner: “I believe the vehicle in your photo is of a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino. Thank you for the ‘pickup’ tip or I might have thought it was a Ford Falcon, because it looks so much like one I used to have. (In hindsight, they’re all cream puffs!)
“This is a great feature. Maybe you should consider turning it into a video game, call it Virtual Car Lot, maybe? I think it’s more fun the way you do it now, though. Keep ’em rolling!”
Carolyn Ogles: 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air: “A classic car.”
Derek Snead: “Half car, half truck. … I had one of these cars. I was born that year, and my grandfather bought a brand new 1960 Impala. When he passed away and I came of driving age, I drove the car for several years. My wife and I dated in the car, and I sold it sometime after we got married in 1982. So I’ve got some connection to those 1960 Chevrolets; they were great cars.”
Gerald Byrd: “Pretty good little hybrid car-truck deal. I thought they were fairly popular but apparently not during the early years. My pastor’s mother mother has one … It has the 348, the big motor, and he says it will really haul the mail or whatever you’ve got in the back.”
Willie Thomas: 1960 Bel Air or Impala: “The only year they made that design. It seems like they were changing the designs every year.”
BEECH ISLAND: Moswen Bonner: “I’ll guess a 1960 El Camino. I buy the Friday edition just to read this article every week!”
CANTON, GA.: David Anderson: “This week’s What Is It? is easily recognizable as a 1960 Chevrolet, and the truck clue further identifies it as El Camino. El Camino was Chevrolet’s response to the Ford Ranchero that had debuted in 1957. The El Camino debuted in 1959 and, as it turns out, 1960 was its swan song – at least on the full-size frame.
“In 1960, Ford moved its Ranchero to the new smaller and lighter Falcon. I am not sure what Chevrolet’s reasons were for discontinuing El Camino after 1960, but it reappeared in 1964 on the new smaller, lighter Chevelle.
“El Camino, however, had the last laugh because it was also marketed by the GMC Trucks division, first as the Sprint and then as the Caballero, and remained in continuous production through the 1987 model year. The Ranchero lasted only through the 1979 model year.
“The first-generation El Caminos were based on the two-door Brookwood station wagon and even had the steel floor of the pickup bed bolted directly over the floor pan of the station wagon. It was marketed as the first Chevrolet pickup to have a steel, instead of wood, bed.
“There has not been an El Camino in our family’s past, but both a great-uncle and one of my grandmothers had 1960 four-door Chevrolets. I do not remember if they were the ‘porch roof’ or the more popular six-window models. The porch roof, of course, was the flat roof with the huge wraparound rear window.
“I love being given the opportunity to reflect on this era. Some of the very things that eventually led to the American manufacturers having to change their ways were the very things that made them unique to the world. I cannot imagine any manufacturer today essentially offering a choice of different rooflines for your four-door sedan. It certainly would not be from those same manufacturers that give you a choice of only maybe six exterior colors and two interior colors! Big sigh of lament.”
DURHAM, N.C.: Joe Adams
EVANS: Glenn Frostholm: “Last week’s and this week’s ‘car’ is a 1960 Chevy. The styling is similar to the ’59 model but with less flamboyant tail fins and a cleaner nose treatment. With your latest clue, I’m also concluding that it is the El Camino model – a ‘cowboy Cadillac’ pickup version of a two-door station wagon.”
Larry Heath: “This was a full-size Chevy car with a truck bed from the front door back. It was introduced in 1959 as an answer to the Ford Ranchero. The concept was a sporty truck, and all options available on the car could be had on the El Camino. Engines were available up to the 348-cubic-inch V-8 with the three two-barrel carb option. This model was a slow seller and was available only for the 1959 and 1960 years.
“El Camino did return in 1964 and was based on the midsize Chevelle. It continued in production up until the ’80s. During the muscle-car era it was available as an SS version. It was actually a good performance vehicle because of the lighter weight. The down side was a lack of interior room.
“An individual in my small Georgia town owned a 1960 white Impala convertible with red interior. The car had the 283 engine, automatic, whitewall tires and fender skirts. This was a really desirable car for this time period.
In my case, it was an inspiration for higher education so that one day I could afford a cool car like that.”
Scott VanEssendelft: “The ‘pickup’ pictured in July Fourth’s paper is a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino.”
Jerry Paul: This week ‘It’ appears to be a 1960 Chevy El Camino.”
Bill Harding: “El Camino was Chevy’s answer to Ford’s Ranchero. The trucklet’s engine choices included a 235-cubic-inch inline six and 283- and 348-cubic-inch V-8s. Transmission choices were a three-speed manual (close-ratio with the 348s) and two-speed Powerglide automatic.”
Wayne Wilke: “El Camino debuted in ’59 to compete with the Ford Ranchero, which debuted in ’57. The ‘sport ute’ concept was developed in the ’30s in Australia when it filled the need to ‘have a vehicle that looked good enough to drive to church on Sunday and still haul pigs to market on Monday.’ ”
Paul Perdue: “This week’s car is actually a car and a pickup combined. It’s a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino.”
GROVETOWN: Chuck Bissell: “1961 El Camino. Best as I can tell, that was the last year they made it for a couple of years. Could be a ’60.”
HEPHZIBAH: Ralph Whitton: “Pictured is a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino. I’ve owned several of this-type vehicle over the years. I can’t recall not having one until the last week of the swap shop. I had a GMC Sprint (corporate version of the El Camino) that I advertised, and it sold about two hours after the show, and six months later a Ford Ranchero I had sitting in front of my house. Haven’t had one since. Hard to find one in decent shape or price any more. They are always a conversation starter.”
Eddie Cleaves: “I thought it was a Falcon truck and had to call on my 78-year-old uncle, who said it had to be a 1960 or ’61 El Camino. Its lights, grille and bar say it’s the 1960 El Camino.”
Herman Keith: “That is a 1960 El Camino, and the Impala looks the same.”
Also, Ollie Key Jr. and John Williams.
KEYSVILLE, GA.: Glenn Widner: “1960 was the second year of the El Camino. Camino in Spanish means ‘road’ or ‘path.’ El Camino was Chevrolet’s answer to Ford’s Ranchero, which was introduced in 1957. After two years of production, Chevrolet suspended production till 1964, and this time on a smaller Chevelle body. 1959-60 El Caminos were actually built on Impala bodies, but some call them trucks.
“A six-cylinder engine was standard, and a 283-cubic-inch engine with up to 290 horsepower with fuel injection was available. A big-block 348-cubic-inch W-head was optional with solid lifters, but it was not happy past 5,000 rpm.”
MCBEAN: Robert Lamb
MARTINEZ: Jeff Keevil: “Many will argue on the term ‘pickup,’ but this is the 1960 Chevrolet El Camino. El Caminos were essentially station wagons with the back end turned into a pickup-type bed. Although sealed up and hidden under the bed during manufacture, my El Camino has the space for the rear seat of a station wagon!
“These types of vehicles are popular in Australia, where they are known as ‘utes.’ Although El Caminos were discontinued in 1987, they were nearly resurrected in 2008 when GM was considering importing the Holden Ute to America as a Pontiac G8 ST (Sport Truck). Like the Pontiac G8, that Ute is based on the Holden Monaro/Commodore two-door/four-door cars.”
Joe Bert: “Beautiful. Thank you for emphasizing that it was a pickup. Chevy produced these fancy pickups in ’59 and ’60 and then stopped production for about four years. My first student car was a ’60 Chevrolet Impala two-door hardtop, the same color. Brings some fond memories for me.”
Cheryl Cook: “This one I immediately thought: 1960 Chevy. Thanks for letting us know it’s a pickup. So, it’s a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino. My husband couldn’t believe I’d ever heard of an El Camino!
“We had a ’60 Chevy, little darker blue than the one in your picture, in the early 1970s, three-speed on the column. I thought it was a great ride, but I don’t think we had it very long before my husband blew out the engine speeding down Interstate 20. Yep, he wanted to see what it would do, and I guess it showed him what it didn’t want to do!”
Also, Forrest Holler and Travis Starr, who could tell by the grille.
NORTH AUGUSTA: Ernie McFerrin: “I’m not sure if this was the debut year for the El Camino option, but it may have been. I believe it would have been powered by either the inline six-cylinder or V-8 engines of either 283 cubic inches or the 327 option. I believe most people ordered these with the two-speed (Powerglide) transmission but there were probably a lot of die-hard fans who still preferred the manual shift. I believe this ’60 model enjoyed only a small amount of popularity but is highly sought-after today.”
Bob Blake: “Ford’s competitor was the Ranchero. Car-based light-duty trucks were a great concept. I wish we had them now.”
Carroll Camp: “At first glance, the photo looks like a 1960 Chevy Impala, but that’s a car. My second thought was to check and see if Chevrolet made an El Camino in 1960. That is the vehicle in the photo. It looks like an Impala or Bel Air in front but has a pickup body. My family had a ’60 Impala the same color.”
Also, Peggy Jones and Wayne Leslie
PERRY, FLA.: Larry Anderson
TIGNALL, GA.: Gene Wilson: “I first thought it was a Ford.”
WARRENVILLE: Al Atkinson and James Covar
NO CITY LISTED: James Lewallen: “The car pictured is definitely a 1960 Chevrolet El Camino, which was the second year of production. Ford beat Chevrolet with their Ranchero by a few years.”
Robert Davis: “That’s easy for me; I’m from the era. I’ve owned a couple of the El Caminos.”
Also, Lisa Shelton, Jack Williams, Reggie Ferguson and Len Jenkins
Zelmon Holmes: “1962 or ’63 Ford Fairlane or Galaxie 500.”
Henderson Roberson: 1961 El Camino
Scott Van: 1964 Ford Ranchero