Cochise County Classic Car: 1977 Chevrolet El Camino

Is it a car? Is it a truck? As Jack Williams, owner of a truly cherry 1977 Chevrolet El Camino in Cochise County (Arizona) puts it, “It never was either a really good car or a really good truck, but….”

Our conversation had started when I spotted the classic Chevy parked two slots over from my 1996 GMC Sierra half ton pickup at a local gas station and convenience store. The owner of the El Camino was heading for his vehicle just as I was heading for mine. With an instant grin, I called out, “I always wanted one of those!”

1977 Chevy El Camino with topper, owned by Jack Williams of Cochise County, Arizona.  My truck is in background.

1977 Chevy El Camino with topper, owned by Jack Williams of Cochise County, Arizona. My truck is in background.

My unrequited love affair with the El Camino (I’ve never owned one) started at the District High School Rodeo in Ronan, Montana, circa 1959. That was my first year as a rodeo contestant and also the El Camino’s first year in production. It was truly love–or at least lust–at first sight. Not that there weren’t other happenings to keep my attention occupied, such as the fellow contestant who was sound asleep in his sleeping bag on the ground beside his vehicle, behind the bucking chutes, when a hard-partying cowboy pulled in after a night on the town…and ran over the sleeping cowboy’s legs.

Fortunately, many of us had bones made of rubber at that age, but the bruising was severe enough to keep the victim from competing that weekend. It was not enough to keep me from noticing Chevy’s shiny new half-car, half-truck, though.

Back to the Williams El Camino. When Jack told me the 1977 vehicle had just 77,000 miles on it–on a twenty-nine year old truck, mind you–I was impressed. He’d acquired it from the previous owner, who obviously hadn’t driven it much.

“About the only thing you had to deal with was the carbon,” I observed. Any old gearhead knows a “softly driven” vehicle that never gets to really stretch its legs is going to have a lot of carbon buildup in the engine.

“I took care of the carbon right away,” he observed. “It runs really well. I took it to Missouri and back not long ago.”

Missouri and back. And still just 77,000 miles? This I had to see. Jack obligingly opened the driver’s side door so I could snap a photograph of the speedometer so our readers could see, too.

77,029 original miles on the '77 El Camino. Wow.

77,029 original miles on the ’77 El Camino. Wow.

We talked about our first cars. Mine had been a 1952 Chevy. Jack’s had been a 1950 Chevy. Basically the same car, those, two, except for minor body design changes.

“Only ongoing problem I had with that ’52,” I told him, “was the clutch linkage. It would hang up every now and then, and I’d end up having to stand on my head, stacking BB’s with my ears, to get it freed up.”

He’d had the same problem with his ’50, but he’d come up with the perfect solution. “Took a beer can, cut it open, and wrapped a shim around that loose rod,” he explained.

I busted out laughing. “Shame on me! I should have thought of that. Certainly had enough beer cans to experiment with, back in the day!” True, I quit drinking a long time ago, but in my teens I was a veritable alcohol sponge on quite a few weekends.

Jack Williams with his cherry 1997 Chevrolet El Camino.  Back in the day, Jack  found a way to fix a shift linkage problem on his first car, a 1950 Chevy...with the metal from a beer can.

Jack Williams with his cherry 1997 Chevrolet El Camino. Back in the day, Jack found a way to fix a shift linkage problem on his first car, a 1950 Chevy…with the metal from a beer can.

1977 Chevrolet El Camino, Cochise County, Arizona.

1977 Chevrolet El Camino, Cochise County, Arizona.

1977 Chevrolet El Camino, Cochise County, Arizona, owned by Jack Williams.

1977 Chevrolet El Camino, Cochise County, Arizona, owned by Jack Williams.

In closing, I found it interesting that Jack and I both started out with Chevies…and many decades later, we’re still fans, though both driving truck versions. Okay, so his is a half-car, half-truck El Camino, and mine’s technically a GMC, but close enough for company work.

4 thoughts on “Cochise County Classic Car: 1977 Chevrolet El Camino

  1. I have not seen that one running around town. I am also impressed with the lack of miles on it. I think I have put that many on the old Chevy Astro van in the 2 years we have had it. I drive about 600 miles a week since Dennis is in Tucson. Jiffy Lube employees seem to be impressed by that and that the old girl is doing so well. One of the employees comes running up to me when I go get the oil change and asks me if anything has gone wrong with it yet. It just keeps on going and going. I do make sure I keep the servicing up-to-date. Lack of oil changes has ruined more engines than anything else. All I have changed on that old Chevy van is the brakes, and a belt. I am going to have to get the valve cover gasket changed, but it is not critical yet and I just make sure it has plenty of oil. That is just another maintenance thing anyway.
    My brother had a ’76 El Camino that he totaled. He did that to a lot of vehicles. You would think he would have been better at paying for his auto insurance after the first one. He also totaled a ’69 Camaro, just after finishing restoring it. Had the primer coat on it and was saving for a good paint job when he rolled it. I never could see the use of an El Camino though. If you’re going to own a truck, own one that can haul something. If you are going to own a car, own one that will hold some passengers.

  2. Hah! Exactly, Becky; Jack summed it up well (the El Camino) as being “neither a very good car nor a very good truck.” Although with the topper he has on this one, he could certainly haul as much or more as any normal station wagon.

    Don’t forget; when I fell in love with the El Camino, I was in my middle teens and still trying to figure out how I was going to come up with my own first car–and the ’59 had those ultra cool fins, too, doncha know. 🙂

    Good to hear the Astro is still chugging along. And yes, regular oil changes do most certainly make a difference.

  3. I’ve always liked El Caminos, too. They have smooth, sleek lines, unlike the Ranchero, which is more box-y, in my opinion. However, I think they’re much more attractive without the topper.

  4. I liked the Rancheros as well, but yeah, the lines of the El Camino (especially the early ones) were what hooked me in the first place. As for with-or-without topper, it seems to be a matter of individual taste more than anything. I like this ’77 better WITH the topper, but like the early models much better WITHOUT. Go figure.

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