1981 Chevrolet El Camino - $19,900
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There’s a snap-on tonneau cover and a set of chrome bed rails, which are actually quite practical, and please take an extra moment to examine the bed itself, which doesn’t look like it has ever had to do a hard day’s work.

Clean 1981 El Camino. Mid-80s Camaro LB9 TBI 5.0-liter V8 and 4-speed automatic transmission. SS-style body kit. Spotless bed, bucket seats, extensive recent service. A cool El Camino that’s ready to play.

It’s a shame the versatile El Camino is out of production, because there seems to be a pretty strong market for trucks that can work yet off the advantages of a car. Guys are cutting up Chargers and VW Beetles to make neat little pickups, so it’s clear that the idea has staying power. Maybe that’s why we aren’t able to keep El Caminos in stock for very long—they remain eminently popular today. We expect the same for this 1981 Chevrolet El Camino, which offers a neat blend of customization, upgrades, and practicality. Dressed in white, it has a clean ‘80s look that makes us nostalgic, and it has been enhanced by an SS-style body kit from Choo-Choo Customs (you know, the guys who actually built the early El Camino SS for GM). The kit does a great job of making the formal El Camino look sporty, ditching the chrome grille and bumper for a one-piece unit with a deep chin spoiler, adding those side skirts, and finishing the rear with a custom roll pan with Corvette-style taillights. The whole car was repainted, and we’d guess that the work was probably done in the 1980s when it was fairly new. It’s holding up extremely well and aside from a few nicks from debris coming off the tires, the finish is in great shape. There’s a snap-on tonneau cover and a set of chrome bed rails, which are actually quite practical, and please take an extra moment to examine the bed itself, which doesn’t look like it has ever had to do a hard day’s work. It’s really nice.

Exterior notes: Really nice paint for being 40 years old. Body kits fits well. Tonneau cover uses snaps and is tight when cold. Bed in nice condition. No signs of bad bodywork. A few nicks on the rockers behind the front wheels.

The bucket seat interior is likewise a nice upgrade from the original bench seat, and when they were pilfering parts from the Camaro, they added a center console and shifter for the 4-speed automatic transmission underneath. Clue cloth buckets are in very good condition and the carpets are surely newer than the rest because they’re in great shape. Original door panels are quite nice with none of the usual cracking that you see on the armrests, and the dash hasn’t been baked in the sun. A custom 3-spoke steering wheel frames a complete set of gauges, all of which are operational. An aftermarket AM/FM/cassette stereo takes the place of the original Delco unit, but the installation is clean and it sounds decent. And we have to give it to the guys who did the swap—they even kept the A/C functional. The original headliner is in excellent shape with no tears or sagging and there’s a bit of storage behind the seats.

Interior notes: Nice seats and carpets, headliner not sagging or torn. A/C works but blows mostly out of defroster ducts. Cracked dome light lens. Non-original wiper switch. Storage areas behind seats solid with no rust issues.

Most of these El Caminos came with a wheezing 305 with a 2-barrel carb, but someone has cleverly swapped in a 5.0-liter LB9 V8 from a mid-80s Camaro. That means Tuned Port electronic fuel injection for great manners and more than 200 horsepower on tap, which is a nice jump from stock. The TBI engines are famous for their torque production, and this is no exception, making the El Camino feel like a proper muscle car on the street. The installation is very clean, using OEM equipment wherever possible and keeping factory functionality. Power steering, power brakes, A/C, and all that is still intact and working properly—if you didn’t know better, you’d swear this was the factory engine. There’s a big aluminum radiator up front to keep it cool and the A/C system has been converted to R134a refrigerant for easy maintenance in the future. The same Camaro donated its 700R4 4-speed automatic transmission, and with an overdrive gear, this El Camino is just effortless on the highway. We believe there are 3.08 gears out back, so it’s just effortless and the fuel injected small block pulls down decent (if not great) fuel economy. The front suspension and brakes have just been fully rebuilt, including new brake calipers, A-arms, and ball joints, so it rides and handles great. It uses a factory-style dual exhaust system with a nice rumble, and there are air shocks out back to help handle heavier loads. There’s no sign of accident damage or rot and the floors themselves are quite clean. And the stance is exactly right on those 15-inch Corvette aluminum wheels, which wear staggered 245/60/15 front and 255/60/15 rear BFGoodrich T/A radials.

Mechanical notes: Engine starts, runs, and drives great. Seamless transplant. Transmission shifts properly. Rides and handles nicely with new front end. Exhaust sounds good. Light rash on wheels, probably from old wheel weights. Lots of life left in tires.

This isn’t a show car or a car to preserve for the future, but rather a cool custom with some upgraded hardware that makes it a lot of fun to drive. Someone obviously was sweating the details when it went together and worked hard to keep OEM levels of functionality. If you like the ‘80s vibe from the paint and body kit, then you’ll love the way this thing goes down the road. It’s clean, solid, and the bed is in great shape, so it has clearly led an easy life. Just a cool all-around truck/car with a reasonable price. Call today!

Harwood Motors always recommends and welcomes personal or professional inspections of any vehicle in our inventory prior to purchase.

Vehicle: 1981 Chevrolet El Camino
Price: $19,900
Stock Number: 121004
Odometer Reading: 56,981
VIN: 1GCCW80K1BR441582
Engine: 305 cubic inch V8
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Gear Ratio: 3.08
Wheelbase: 117 inches
Wheels: 15-inch aluminum wheels
Tires: Front: 245/60/15, Rear: 255/60/15 BFGoodrich T/A radials
Exterior Color: White
Interior Color: Gray cloth
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