Family Affair – 1970 Chevrolet El Camino

Family Affair – 1970 Chevrolet El Camino

Story and photos by Cam Hutchins

This 1970 El Camino is certainly a family affair and a tribute to the value of great customer relations. Cameron and Gary Grant have made names for themselves as master restoration experts of primarily Chevelles for Cameron, and Camaros and Impalas for Gary. Where they meet is this El Camino. Gary bought this car for himself but was too busy with customers’ cars to build it, and Cameron had previously restored a GM of Canada documented 1970 LS6 454 M22 El Camino.

Before Cameron’s son Matthew was dabbling in JDM tuner cars, as a 14 year-old it was decided they should build a project car together. For every hour Matthew worked on the car, Cameron would work an hour as well. This El Camino was right up Cameron’s alley as he had personally had many LS6 Chevelles as well as three COPO 427 Chevelles. Curiously, Cameron’s true love is the first-gen Monte Carlos, and he has personally had 29 of them. Deciding which car to buy was a challenge, as you don’t want to throw tons of time and money at a car that has limited appeal, so Matthew’s budget of $4,000 was a challenge.

Uncle Gary came through in spades, offering his unrestored bench seat small-block four-speed El Camino for what he had into it, $3,500. He also threw in a pile of parts he had for the project as he was happy to see his nephew get into the restoration game. In the bed of the El Camino was a complete big block dual exhaust set-up. Cameron was concerned with Matthew putting too much money into a small-block El Camino, and the decision was made to make a recreation or clone of a SS 454 El Camino.

The El Camino started as a “Fathom Blue” 300-hp 350 cu. in. with a Muncie M20 four-speed transmission and a 3:31 12-bolt rear end. The interior code was 755 for the black bench seats. Matthew decided to keep the interior black, and chose Cranberry Red (paint code 75) with black SS stripes. All the small-block chrome was deleted, and the SS badging was added. An SS dashboard was used instead of the small block’s “Sweep”-style dashboard. For looks, a vinyl top and non-functioning cowl induction hood were added.

For the last 15 years, Cameron has been doing frame-off rotisserie nut-and-bolt restorations to either 1970 Chevelle 454 cars or 1969 COPO 427 Chevelles. Borrowing uncle Gary’s rotisserie meant Matthew could work on his car while Dad still worked on his own projects. Matthew was quick to learn all the tricks Dad could show him. This is where Cameron’s strong ties to the suppliers and tradesmen in the auto restoration businesses really paid off.

Upon hearing of Matthew’s project, the first person to step up was Travis Brown from Sharp Touch Restorations. He donated a free paint job, including the disassembly, removing the fenders, doors, hood and tailgate to paint all the pieces individually and also spray all the jams. It also took extra time as he had to lay out the hood stripes and paint the black on the tailgate.

Parts were donated by Uncle Gary and Richard of Hot Rods and Classics in Chilliwack. Al Stoltz went through the M20 Muncie transmission and rebuilt what was necessary at a budget price to help my son out. Then there was Randy Hillier from B & W Metal Cleaning who does Cameron’s media blasting. Randy allowed Matthew to come in after hours and blast his frame, rear end and the chassis on the rotisserie as well as all the other small parts in the cabinet. Randy also offered all of this for free. A special thanks to Roberto Testani who helped with providing storage in his garage.

At first glance the car looked like an easy candidate for restoration, and they tried to unbolt the fenders to take the car apart. All the fasteners were quite rusty and it was very challenging. Luckily it came with one NOS quarter panel and an NOS outer wheel house. The frame was quite solid but had the usual rust pitting. After media blasting the frame was skim coated to look better cosmetically.

Matthew was taught everything he knows about bodywork from Cameron and he was amazingly quick to pick up the skills it took Cameron a considerable time to learn. Taught how to weld by Dad, Matthew welded up all the small holes from the small block trim and small block emblems. Matthew also welded the quarter panels on and the outer wheel houses, and he also welded patches into the bottoms of the original fenders.

The frame was also detailed and sprayed in primer and then hot rod black by Matthew. He also installed the springs and all the ball joints and bushings in the A-arms and trailing arms. With the car back from paint, Cameron taught his son how to wet sand and polish. Once again, Matthew was very good at this too. The paint, PPG single stage, code 75 cranberry red, turned out extremely well as do all of Travis’ paint jobs.

Richard of Hot Rods and Classics also helped out big time with the engine, as he knew of an older El Camino running a 402 cu. in. with 1966 Big Block heads that was about to get an LS stuffed in her. Cameron and son went to see Bob Saunders and got to see the mill run perfectly and it was not burning or leaking oil. Technically a 402 (often referred to as a 396) it looks just like a 454, and with the addition of a high-rise manifold and a new Quick Fuel Technology SS-780-VS 780-cfm Street Carburetor, it performs as well as an LS5 454.

The interior from the El Camino came together on a low budget thanks to Richard of Hot Rods and Classics in Chilliwack, who threw in the door panels and carpet. The seat came from one of Cameron’s customers who wanted to switch from a bench seat in his LS6 convertible 4 speed to a bucket seat set-up. Welding in the new seat tracks and four-speed shifter hump was traded for a really nice bench seat already trimmed in black.

The SS dash was also from a customer who wanted a pristine dash instead of the one he had with the big ’70s cut-out for the stereo. The old dash and massive stereo stayed with Cameron, and upon installation in the El Camino got a period correct-looking AM/FM with disc. A tach was also added and that along with many other parts were from Cameron’s big stock pile of Chevelle parts.

The car got all-new suspension pieces and new brakes including discs up front. The only change for this clone, other than the non-454 engine, was the upgrading of the wheels. They upgraded to a wider 14×12-in. wheel on the rear and 14×8 on the front, but they looked the part being the typical Magnum 500 style.

Matthew started this project at age 14 and it took three years to complete. He actually was hesitant to drive the car too much, as it looked so good underneath and he hated parking it in the school parking lot! He had proven himself to be able to get past project burnout and complete an awesome build despite all the other activates high school students get up to, including playing Rep Hockey. He would be an asset at any restoration shop, but for a long time he wanted to follow in his Grandpa’s footsteps and become a Doctor.

Finished in March 2018, it was just in time for the April B.C. Custom Car Show held at Tradex in Abbotsford. At the show, the El Camino ended up winning second place for best restored 1970s muscle car, and a very interested party wanted to buy the car. Matthew was hesitant to sell but realized the money would go a long way to paying for Med School. Unfortunately, this El Camino is never going to go on any house calls, but in a way is making house calls possible for this young man.

Categories: Features, Muscle Car Plus