You’ve got to have dedication and perseverance in this hobby to see a project build through to the end; and anyone who actually gets a full-blown project on the road rather than advertising it for sale as an unfinished project deserves some kind of recognition. With regular life, career, and budgets, it’s a small wonder that though the average build time is somewhere around three years, five- or even ten-year projects are not unusual.
“Disco” Dave Wright has owned his El Camino for some 25 years, and though you can’t tell now, it was his daily driver for the first couple of years, and somewhat of a beater, running around on cast-finish American five-spokes. It was even the recipient of a rattle can black ’n’ flame paintjob at a rod run by a bunch of his friends in the early ’90s, and by the time he decided to take it off the road for a redo in 1994, the tops of the rear fins were rippled and wavy from the amount of people who’d sat on them, feet in the pickup bed, as rod run cruise transportation.
Dave had an extremely nice, and very low ’58 Impala to drive while he planned the El Camino’s ’60s show car–style rebuild, though that was sold midway through the project, leaving him without rod run transportation. However, Dave is fortunate in that his wife, Sue, is as mad about cars as he is—maybe more—and has owned a number of different cars herself. Car shows were attended in Sue’s magazine-featured, Tiki-themed slammed C10 Suburban, amongst other vehicles.
Parts were gathered, money was saved, and the El Camino slowly came together with Dave tackling the work, before coming to the realization that it’d be quicker to pay someone to get the bodywork in shape. Mike Wareham at South Coast Kustoms not only repaired the floors and one rear quarter, but removed the parking lights and grilles from the front fenders and hood, radiused the hood corners, shaved the emblems and handles, and modified the front end to accept a ’60 Mercury grille and lights. This was found by Dave in a junkyard in Tucson, Arizona, and taken back to England as hand luggage! Yep, that’s right, this El Camino lives on the south coast of England, which makes the fact that Gene Winfield painted the pickup all the more amazing.
The late Larry Watson and Winfield are heroes of Dave’s, and after meeting the latter at a few shows while on vacation in the United States, he finally plucked up the courage to ask if Winfield would paint a car for him. Winfield agreed immediately, and it wasn’t long after that, with the El Camino prepped and waiting in a spray booth, that Dave and Sue picked the painter extraordinaire up from the airport in London. “We were planning on going to dinner, but Gene insisted on going straight to the paint shop,” Dave says. Bearing in mind Winfield was 79 at the time, and had just deplaned from a 10-hour flight, we’re not sure there are many people who could match his stamina. He arrived with a spare set of clothes, two spray guns, and a bunch of metalflake in his case, and just went to work!
Starting with the dash, which was painted Snow White Pearl, the whole exterior of the car was sealed with a base primer, tinted with Spanish Gold and Kandy Tangerine Koncentrates (all House of Kolor) before Sunrise Pearl with more of the tinters over the top. Faded up from the rocker panels, and under the fins, Winfield sprayed a darker shade, mixed with a black and yellow tint. Pagan Gold and Sunrise Pearl then went over everything, with Snow White Pearl highlights fogged in for the finishing touch. The roof is dark gold ’flake. Even the clearcoats saw some of Winfield’s original ’60s ’flake added. “I wanted Pagan Gold from House of Kolor,” Dave says, “and showed Gene some of my ideas for the car, but I’m not sure he took it in. I remember thinking, ‘How do you tell someone who started this style of painting what to do?’ Watching him work was amazing, and I love the end result.”
A boring black interior wasn’t going to cut it after all that, so a pair of ’65 T-bird seats were mounted on swivel bases, using VW Vanagon parts that lock them in place. Dave also made a floating center console based on an Alexander brothers version he’d seen. With all the moldings chrome-plated, the seats, door panels, and headliner were upholstered in pearl white vinyl, the pleated sections in the seats and headliner lining up perfectly with those on the tonneau cover.
The drivetrain consists of a 350/350 combo, replacing the stock and tired 283. Sixties customs never laid frame, but the El Camino sits pretty low, thanks to notching the ’rails front and rear, and the addition of dropped spindles. RideTech suspension was used at each corner, with 3/8-inch lines and dual compressors and tanks. Power steering and brakes, and front and rear sway bars improve driveability. And driving it is just what is planned now, having been off the road for over 16 years, though we’re sure it won’t be hauling a bunch of “mates” around the showground this time!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
“Disco” Dave Wright
1959 Chevy El Camino