Chevrolet El Camino is a coupé utility vehicle that was produced by Chevrolet between 1959–60 and 1964–1987. Unlike a pickup truck, the El Camino was adapted from a two-door station wagon platform that integrated the cab and cargo bed into the body.
Introduced in the 1959 model year in response to the success of the Ford Ranchero coupé utility, its first run lasted only two years. Production resumed for the 1964–1977 model years based on the Chevelle platform, and continued for the 1978–1987 model years based on the GM G-body platform.
Although based on corresponding General Motors car lines, the vehicle is classified and titled in North America as a SUV. GMC's badge engineered El Camino variant, the Sprint, was introduced for the 1971 model year. Renamed Caballero in 1978, it was also produced through the 1987 model year.
Ford Australia was the first company to produce a coupé utility as a result of a 1932 letter from the wife of a farmer in Victoria, Australia, asking for "a vehicle to go to church in on a Sunday and which can carry our pigs to market on Mondays". Ford designer Lew Bandt developed a suitable solution, and the first coupé utility model was released in 1934. Bandt went on to manage Ford's Advanced Design Department, being responsible for the body engineering of the XP, XT, XW, and XA series Ford Falcon utilities. General Motors’ Australian subsidiary Holden also produced a Chevrolet coupé utility in 1935, Studebaker produced the Coupé Express from 1937 to 1939. The body style did not reappear on the American market until the release of the 1957 Ford Ranchero.
Both the coupé utility and the similar open-topped roadster utility continued in production, but the improving economy of the mid- to late-1930s and the desire for improved comfort saw coupé utility sales climb at the expense of the roadster utility until, by 1939, the latter was all but a fading memory.
1957 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier
The mid-1955 introduction of Chevrolet's Cameo Carrier pickup truck helped pave the way for the El Camino. Although it was a model variant of Chevrolet's Task Force light-duty pickup, the Cameo offered an array of car-like features that included passenger-car styling, fiberglass rear fenders, two-tone paint, a relatively luxurious interior, as well as an optional V8 engine, automatic transmission, and power assists. As always, there was a GMC version offered during the same time, called the GMC Suburban Carrier with the same features offered on the Chevrolet. In 1957 a special version was made for GMC to be shown at national car shows called the Palomino, which had a Pontiac 347 cu in (5.7 L) V8 installed, borrowed from the 1957 Star Chief.
Other pickup truck producers, including Dodge, Ford, Studebaker, and International, began to offer flush-side cargo boxes on some of their 1957 models, such as the Dodge C Series, and the Studebaker E-series Deluxe. However, Ford also introduced the 1957 Ranchero, and established a new market segment in the U.S. market of an automobile platform based coupé utility. In 1959, Chevrolet responded with the El Camino to compete with Ford's full-sized Ranchero. The original El Camino and Ranchero would compete directly only in the 1959 model year.
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