Oldsmobile El 442

Buick X-Camino

I stumbled a cross this Buick long time ago and haven't really thought about it until I started blogging this Other El Camino series, Caminofication. I searched all over the internet and finally I found the man who made it. I contacted him about writing blog post about it and here's his story:

My friends and I are into Buicks; we talk, breathe, and sleep Buicks. This has progressed to such a point that my wife refers to our annual trip to the GSCA Nationals as “Buick Camp”. For years one of our recurring topics was why Buick never built an El Camino, and if they had, what would it have looked like.
I have always liked the 1970 to 1972 Skylark based Gran Sports, especially the GSX’s and thought that an El Camino version would look great. With this in mind I took photocopied pictures of GSX’s and El Camino’s and pasted them together. The resultant car, actually a truck, looked wonderful. I showed this picture to my friends and they all agreed that it should have been built. The more I looked at the picture the more I wanted to make one. Finally, after years of thinking about this, I told my friends that if one didn’t show up at the next Nationals I would make one. Needless to say I was stuck.
One thing that everyone agrees about me is that I am an “originality nut.” I know this sounds strange, because here I am preparing to make a custom car, but that’s how I am. The goal I set for this project was to make a “stock appearing” custom car. I wanted to create a vehicle that could have been built in 1970 and was so correct in detail it would look “factory built”.

I bought a nice El Camino shell from a junkyard and started fabricating the doors. I took Skylark Sport Coupe doors and grafted El Camino inner panels and window frames into them. Once this was done I mounted them on the car and then assembled the front-end sheetmetal. El Camino’s have a wheel base that is 4” longer then 2 door Skylarks, therefore the distance between the back of the doors and the rear wheel opening is 4” longer. To fill this space, the front portion of a pair of quarter panels from a rusty GS were cut out and welded onto the shell, thus creating my own door gaps. Next, a pair of reproduction rear quarter panels were welded on. This left a space of approximately 1 foot at the rear of each quarter panel that required hand fabrication.

At this time the car took its first trip to the body shop. At Iron Hill Auto body the shell and major front-end sheetmetal was plastic media blasted and everything from the rear wheels-forward was epoxy primered. Next, the front-end sheetmetal was painted, “cut in,” and reassembled onto the shell.
Once the car returned from the shop I turned my attention to finishing the rear quarter panels. I figured if El Camino’s used Chevelle Station Wagon taillights then a Buick version would use Skylark Sport Wagon taillights. The taillights and bezels came from a 1970 Sport Wagon that was in a junkyard. I altered the housings and then hand fabricated the pieces to finish the quarter panels. Another thing I noticed was that Skylark wagons had the backup lights in the rear bumper. To do this I removed the backup lights from the tailgate and welded the holes shut. Next I found a pair of 1968 El Camino backup light lenses with housings and installed them in the rear bumper. To keep the GSX stripes clean and unbroken the gas tank filler neck was relocated to the interior side access panel inside the bed area.
While this was being done I cut out the Chevelle dash and upper firewall and replaced it with a dash from a junked 1970 Buick GS 455 Sport Coupe. Next, the firewall was painted and the entire dash assembly installed. Years before I sold a GSX “look-a-like” minus the drive train, so the Stage 1 spec motor, Turbo 400 transmission, and 323 10 Bolt Buick positraction rear were incorporated into the project. With the major body panels completed and the car now in running condition it was ready to go back to the body shop for final painting.
This time, at Brandywine Coachworks, the rear of the shell was plastic media blasted and epoxy primered. Next came the bodywork on the rear quarters, quarter panel extensions, and tailgate. My friend Tim Garland then sealed, painted, and striped the entire car.
At this point it was 6 days before the Nationals and I was determined to take the car with me. The car had no glass, headliner, carpet, seats, door panels, dash pad, exterior chrome moldings, bumpers, lights, grille, hood tach, light wiring harness, etc. However, with the inexhaustible help of my friends Rich Garland, Jeremy Sprang, and Bill Jennings the car was finished in time to leave for the Nationals.

That year at the Nationals it rained, and rained, and… you get the picture. Well the first night there every time we looked out our hotel room window we saw people standing in the rain looking at the car. We have a Restoration Clinic and try to bring in different vehicles every year. For me the highlight of that trip was when my friend Brad Conley talked me into bringing my car into the Restoration Clinic to sit along side his 1970 GSX Prototype. I said it was not a restored car, but he said, “Tonight we’ll have Prototype Night.” I thought it was a very nice gesture for him to place his piece of “Buick History” next to something I pieced together in my backyard from 6 different vehicles, but that’s just the kind of guy he is.

I call the vehicle the “X-Camino.” This name does double duty because it looks like a GSX-Camino while parts of it were an “Ex” Camino. Once the work was finished it came time to title the beast. With such heavy modifications it became necessary to title it as a reconstructed vehicle. With a Buick GS 455 Coupe VIN number and truck rear end it was registered as a 1970 Buick GS Truck. At car shows I hear comments like, “It looks Factory.” or “I didn’t know that Buick built a truck.” but I explain that it’s not a factory vehicle and that I built it. Once, a professional Street Rod builder looked at the car, and told me he knew the amount of work that was involved and was impressed with the fact that it looked untouched. But the finest compliment I ever received was when a friend of mine asked me, “How does it feel to drive a sculpture?” I looked at him and said, “I never thought about it like that, but it does feel pretty good.”

He also told that it was supposed to be a tow vehicle: "The X-Camino was originally built to be the tow vehicle for my 70 Yellow GSX, but I had so much fun with it I decided to sell the real one and keep the truck. I certainly don't want the same thing to happen again, as it took me 10 years to chase my 71 down before I could buy it."

There is a reason that you don't see these kind of custom jobs so much: " Its a ton of work to do, plus the vehicle ends up looking real "hippy", as in having full hips, due to how far the 70-72 GS style wheelhouses stick out from the quarters. (I could probably put 10" or 12" rims underneath it.) El-Camino quarters are flat, GS bodies are "coke bottle" shaped if you look down the sides.

I got away with that due to 2 things,
1. I had to cut the quarter and build my own body line behind the rear wheels. This forced me to pivot the bottom part of the quarter panel "up" behind the tire, and made the wheelhouse opening look more rakish/sporty, and
2. The stripes force your attention to them and not to the bulging quarters."