The Chevrolet El Camino was first introduced in 1959. This was Chevrolet’s response to Ford’s 1957 introduction of their very successful Ranchero model. General Motors would relish in the fact that they had the reputation of being first to introduce a particular concept or model style. But they fell short and were in the back seat here. Both the El Camino and the Ranchero were the first automobiles that are considered the same as todays modern “crossovers “. The El Camino is a “sedan pick-up” with all the versatility of a passenger sedan and a pick-up truck. The cargo box is seamlessly molded into the cabin and is the key to its design. Built on a passenger car chassis, the cargo box was able to carry an adequate amount of items and weight. Considering that the Chevrolet truck design studio had been exploring with the idea of a sedan style pick-up since 1952 and Ford’s introduction of their Ranchero in 1957, the El Camino’s first generation only lasted two years until 1960. The El Camino used only one exterior body trim and only came in the Bel-Air level. The interior was trimmed only as the low-end Biscayne. This was your only options.
The 1959 El Camino used the “Safety -Girder” X-frame design with full-coil suspension. This enabled the El Camino to have a payload rating from 650 pounds to 1,150 pounds with a gross vehicle weight rating from 4,400 to 4,900 pounds. This “soft” style “passenger-car-like” suspension allowed the El Camino to have a level stance even when empty. The “Level Air” suspension option was listed but hardly ever ordered. The El Camino was the first Chevrolet pick-up style body to use an all steel bed floor. The floor was constructed of corrugated sheet metal secured with 26 recessed bolts. Beneath it was the floor pan from the Brookwood two-door wagon, complete with the foot wells.
The Turbo-Thrust 348 cubic inch engine with either a single 4-barrel or the Tri-Power carburetor with solid lifters could be had with up to 335 horsepower. When this was mounted to the 4-speed transmission the El Camino had a top speed of about 130 miles per hour and quarter mile times around 14 seconds. This was attainable with a suitable rear axle ratio for drag racing.
The 1960 model was very similar to the more flamboyant 1959 model. Once again, the exterior resembled the Bel-Air model. The bright metal “jet” applique and narrow trailing moldings were used to accent the rear quarter panels. On the inside, the Brookwood/Biscayne model appointments persisted. A new seat covering, with a striped-pattern in both cloth and vinyl, came in shades of gray, blue and green. The floor coverings were in medium tone’s of vinyl. A steering column mounted engine tachometer with four round gauges would complete the sporty look. Even though the El Camino’s first year’s production was over 20,000 units the following year was substantially less. It is not sure why, but it was probably do to the fact that the cabin was restricted to three passengers only. So Chevrolet discontinued their production of the El Camino until the 1964 models arrived, basing the El Camino on the Chevelle model platform.