I remember the first time our youngest daughter saw a Chevy El Camino. She was about three years old, and even though the very last El Camino was built at least three years before she was born, she literally started bouncing with joy and kept exclaiming, "look, a car truck!, look, a car truck!". OK, she is my kid, but that genetic defect aside, I have found that people in general have a great fascination with this relatively obscure automotive niche.
Even though there were examples of these vehicles in the 30's and 40's, with Hudson being the most notable, the genre really took off with Ford's introduction of its very handsome Ranchero for the 1957 model year in December of 1956. It took Chevrolet a couple years to catch up, but the El Camino was introduced for the 1959 model year and the car-truck wars were on. Over the next twenty years, cheros and minos appeared in all shapes and sizes on various platforms with Ford and Chevy jockeying for an edge. In 1979, with the elimination of the Torino/LTD II platform, Ford finally gave up on the Ranchero. They did briefly consider building a car truck on the new Fairmont (Fox platform) chassis but, after just 212 pilot "Durango" vehicles, decided that the investment in tooling was too much. GM soldiered on for several more years producing Chevy El Caminos and badge engineered GMC Caballeros before giving up production in 1987.
For the past twenty years, Americans have been left to create their own car-trucks to feed their fascination for these fun and useful vehicles. Many are masterpieces of backyard engineering but many of the big name custom shops have created wonderful and wacky examples. Keep an eye out for them on ebay, craigslist and your local classifieds. Ironically, both Ford and GM continue to do a brisk business building and selling "utes" in their foreign operations, particularly Europe and Australia. In fact, GM has confirmed that they will be importing a ute built by Holden in Australia to be sold through Pontiac dealers in the States. Unfortunately, they have chosen not to resurrect the El Camino name.
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