FOR 1971, the Chevrolet El Camino carried a modest front restyle with new grille and single headlamps.
The majority of optional equipment remained the same as 1970 and the Super Sport package was available, along with the big-block V8 engines.
Chevrolet built a total of 41,606 El Caminos for 1971 and of those 9,502 were the SS model. Built on the same 116-inch wheelbase frame as the midsize Chevelle station wagon, the El Camino was a versatile vehicle, ready for everything from hauling light loads to making trips to the grocery store.
Garry Wazny of Cooks Creek acquired his 1971 El Camino in the early 1980s. While he wasn’t really looking for that particular model, a friend told him where there was one for sale, so he decided to take a look at it. Used as a daily driver, the truck had seen better days and was in rough shape.
Wazny passed on it, but a week later the owner called Wazny and offered the vehicle for a very low price. With the purchase behind him, Wazny was now the El Camino’s fourth owner. He put the truck into storage and over the next decade began looking for parts to rebuild the vehicle.
A friend of Wazny’s, Trevor Boyce, was the parts manager at Shaw Trucks at the time and was able to order new rear quarter panels, grille, tail lights and many of the chrome trim pieces that were still GM-stocked items. That good fortune at finding parts and the acquisition of a 1971 Chevelle station wagon as a donor car gave the restoration a brighter outlook.
After taking the body off the frame in 2003, the real work started. Corrosion had taken most of the rear bed supports out and Wazny had to find the appropriate metal and fabricate those from scratch. Next came the inner wheel tubs and rear quarter panel installation, all of which took plenty of time devoted to measuring, cutting and welding to get everything lined up properly.
Final body preparation and paint of the bright blue and black cowl hood stripes was a shared effort between Tod Gowenlck and Arnie Bukowski.
Bumpers were replated at North Star Fairmont Plating and the stainless steel straightening and polishing was done by the Chrome Pit. In keeping with the factory equipment list, a new black vinyl top was also installed.
Next came the rebuild of the suspension, steering and braking systems followed by the powertrain. Machined by Ken Murray and built by Wazny’s brother-in-law, Danny Panchyshyn, the original LS5 454-cubic-inch V8 was treated to a full performance rebuild.
Originally rated at 365 horsepower at 4,800 r.p.m and producing 465 lb/ft of torque at 3,200 r.p.m., the big-block V8 was the top performance option for the ’71 El Camino. Bored 0.030-inch over and fitted with 10.4:1 compression forged Keith Black pistons and performance camshaft, it’s a few horsepower north of the original figures, thanks to the addition of an Edelbrock Air-Gap RPM aluminium intake manifold topped with an 850 cfm Demon four-barrel carburetor. Ignition duties fall to an MSD 6AL distributor and coil while the exhaust gasses are expelled through a set of Hooker Super Comp 2 1/8-inch ceramic-coated headers, leading to a 3-inch diameter aluminized custom dual-exhaust system with Magnaflow mufflers from Extreme Performance Exhaust.
Backing the potent big-block V-8 is a Centerforce 2 ceramic clutch leading to the factory-equipped Muncie M22 rock crusher four-speed manual transmission, putting the power back to the 3.55:1 geared 12-bolt posi-traction rear axle. Cooling duties are handled by a four-core custom built radiator from City Rad.
Rolling stock has kept that factory look with the 15-inch, five-spoke GM rally wheels, shod with 60-series B.F. Goodrich T/A raised-white-letter radial tires, sized at 255 up front and 275 in back.
Inside, the El Camino was treated to new cream white vinyl interior upholstery, black carpet and headliner from National Parts Depot. Equipped with strato-bucket seats, centre console, Hurst shifter, tinted glass, dual sideview mirrors, power steering, power disc brakes, air-conditioning and AM/ FM radio, it’s safe to say this is one loaded pick-up.
Finished in 2006, Wazny and his wife, Louise, have taken the El Camino to several local shows and made annual appearances at Beausejour Shades of the Past and the Fabulous 50’s Ford Club’s Flashback Weekend Show at Garden City Shopping Centre. With a scant 2,300 miles on the odometer since the restoration was completed, the El Camino still looks like it just rolled out of the showroom.
With Wazny rescuing this vehicle more than 30 years ago, it’s hard to imagine there would be more than a handful that still exist today. The SS 454 option, along with the four-speed manual transmission, puts this El Camino solidly into the muscle car category and you’d be hard pressed to find another in any condition. While the term rare is something often bantered about today, I’d say take a good look. This is one of those vehicles where you’ll likely never see another like it.