|1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS 454 LS6
|Approximately 500 (LS6)
|Original List Price:
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|On top of the dashboard on the driver’s side
|Engine Number Location:
|Passenger’s side of the block on the front edge of the cylinder head deck
|Vintage Chevrolet Club of America
|1966–70 Ford Ranchero GT coupe pickup, 1970–72 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454, 1978–79 Dodge D-150 Li’l Red Express pickup
This LS6 El Camino, Lot S166, sold for $121,900, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Kissimmee, FL, event on January 26, 2013.
In the minds of most car guys, only a few cars can compete for all-time top-dog muscle-car status. From Mopar, that nod usually goes to the Hemi ’Cuda. From Ford, it’s mostly the Shelby GT500 or Mustang Boss 429. And from Chevrolet, it’s the ’70 LS6 Chevelle. You may never get agreement from brand-loyal car fanatics over which of these was the baddest OEM muscle car ever built, but GM person or not, you have to agree that the LS6 is deserving of the reputation.
Horsepower was king in 1970, and the LS6 cars were rated at 450, although some call that rating conservative. Regardless, these A-bodies were just the thing for brutal acceleration, endless doughnuts and city-block-long burnouts. But what if you needed to haul things every once in awhile? Bigger things than would fit in that Chevelle’s trunk?
You could buy an El Camino. And you could still have your LS6 engine, too.
Party in the front, business in the back
A documented original LS6 Chevelle isn’t something you see every day. Only about 4,500 LS6 cars were built in ’70. But even more rare than that was the LS6 El Camino, like our subject car. Some sources place their build number at just over 500, and documented examples are even more scarce.
It was part muscle car and part truck. With this car, you were able to haul whatever you needed to haul during the week, and on the weekends, you could head out to the drags and run low 13s in the quarter mile. It was both completely irrational and the perfect dual-purpose machine, depending on how you looked at it.
A car with a truck bed
The genesis of the El Camino came from Australia, where there was a market need for truck-like utility as well as car-like comforts in the same vehicle. Ford brought this concept to America with the Ranchero in 1957, and Chevrolet joined in by 1959 and ’60 with the Impala-based El Camino.
When the El Camino came back from its three-model-year hiatus in 1964, it shared a platform with the all-new Chevelle. As these coupe pickups were both on station wagon chassis, component sharing was all but necessary to justify the lower production numbers of the open-back models.
While the Super Sport Chevelle existed since 1964, there was no SS Elky until 1966 — the Mark IV big-block engine carried over into the El Camino, and the SS 396 became a bona fide stand-alone El Camino model that year. However, it’s also worth noting that the 396 became a stand-alone engine option as a non-Super Sport in 1966. This continued into the restyled 1968 models. These big-block monsters had a reputation of being fast, although they could be hard to control under full throttle — drive one of these things hard without being careful and your own rear bumper will try to pass you.
For 1970, the El Camino was also available in two Super Sport models — the SS 396 and SS 454, each in two flavors of tune. And of course, the LS6 was the top of the line.
The birth of the hot truck
It can be argued that the El Camino SS started the hot-truck phenomenon. In the greater scope of things, this was always considered a truck by not only GM, but several state and province licensing authorities. As such, not only did it wantonly borrow from the Chevelle hot-rod parts bin, but with the benefit initially of lower insurance rates as a truck. In later years, this concept was also used to side-step federal emissions standards for cars (most famously in the case of the 1978–79 Dodge Li’l Red Express) to surpass the performance of most cars.
What else could you want?
This example checks off most of the boxes that anyone wanting an SS 454 LS6 (Chevelle or El Camino) would want: a popular color (Tuxedo Black), M22 “Rock Crusher” 4-speed, 4.10 Positraction rear end, Cowl Induction hood, power steering and power brakes. The only way to better it for equipment would be bucket seats with center console. And perhaps Cranberry Red paint.
For some, having the TH400 automatic behind the LS6 is preferable. However, from what we’ve seen at ACC Central, popularity and pricing between a 4-speed and an auto is essentially a dead tie. One of the things that made the LS6 a street legend is that it’s all but idiot-proof with an automatic — point it down the street or strip, plant the long skinny pedal on the right firmly onto the cowl, and hang on for dear life. In the case of the El Camino, it can be argued to some extent that it’s even easier to get better times than in a Chevelle, as it’s easier to install ballast in the back if needed (and generally it is needed).
Top option, top price
With any LS6 car, it’s almost a case of guilty until proven innocent as far as fakes are concerned. Perhaps even more so with the El Camino, as some folks still think this is a phantom that didn’t exist. While anything can be and is faked, the mortal remains of the build sheet were enough to convince the bidders that this car was the real deal. And at least two buyers bid it up accordingly.
LS6 pricing in general is starting to come back around after getting smacked around post-2008, although this selling price was a touch strong when all the factors are considered — even with the concours-quality restoration.
I’m tempted to think that this is a sign of things to come with rare, documented OEM muscle from the high point in vintage American performance — but we’re not there yet. This price could be hard to repeat in the near future, so with that in mind, this was well sold. But if the owner can hold out and keep from damaging this car’s condition by using it, this may have been a smart long-term buy.
(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)