What Were the Battle Lines Affecting the El Camino?
In anticipation of the 77 model year, Chevrolet was feeling the pinch between developing more fuel-efficient vehicles without losing the glamour of its muscle car reputation. The gas shortages of the oil embargo a few years before were still very much in the minds of everyone, mostly the EPA. In addition, the government had mandated catalytic converters a couple of years before, which made cars more cumbersome but less polluting). The years following the Viet Nam war turned many flower-powered young people into focusing their anti-war powers on things like gas-guzzling and heavily polluting muscle cars.
In addition, many families responded to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars embracing higher mpg standards. For a time, the government entertained an additional tax on families who continued to drive large vehicles or offered tax incentives for buyers of more fuel-saving cars. There was a lot of fear about energy dependency and the power over the economy that was prevailing through the newscasts Americans were watching every evening.
To address these societal concerns, the auto manufacturer tweaked the 77 Camino by scrapping the 400 V8 in favor of the pitiful 350. (The powerful 454 V8 - four-barrel had been tossed in 1975). In addition, the width of the El Camino was widened, and the car was made heavier to help it ride firmer on the road. The result is that owners expecting the El Camino to streak down the highway were sorely disappointed by the pitiful 350 V8. They could ride in style but wouldn't enjoy any muscle car power they were used to experiencing.
What Are the Specs of the El Camino?
The 1977 El Camino came in three models - the base El Camino, the El Camino Classic with an SS option, and the El Camino Conquista. (The Conquista trim level accounted for almost 55% of all El Camino sales in 1977. It also sported two-tone paint, which looked pretty cool).
The engines were downsized to make them less powerful and make it appear to the government that Chevrolet was a socially responsible auto manufacturer. In 1977, over 90% of Chevy's Caminos were equipped with V-8s. The American public simply didn’t want to drive an El Camino that couldn’t perform.
If you bought the El Camino in California, it was even worse. The 305 wasn’t even offered. (You had to drive out of state to purchase one).
Engine - Transmission Combinations
The weight of the 1977 El Camino was nearly 3,752 lbs which were considerably heavier than previous models.
The El Camino sported 15 x 7 radial tires.
There were three transmissions, a three-speed manual, a four-speed manual, and an automatic transmission Chevrolet sold as its Turbo Hydramatic.
At least the folks at Chevrolet offered a lot of exquisite colors. Black; Dark Blue; Light Blue; Dark Blue-Green; Brown; Light Buckskin; Buckskin; Cream Gold; Firethorn; Medium Green; Orange; Medium Red; Silver and Antique White.
What are Some of the Features of the 1977 El Camino?
The El Camino shared many features offered in the Chevelle and Monte Carlo.
- Custom body moldings
- Power steering
- Dual horns
- Locking differential rear axle
- Tinted glass
- Heavy-duty radiator
- Tonneau cover—black or white
- Cargo box side rails
- Cargo tie-downs inside box
- Resilient strips give added protection to bumper.
- five mph impact bumpers
- Six-way power seat
- Color-coordinated floor mats
- Electric clock
- Vinyl or cloth bench seat
- White or black tonneau cargo box cover
- Some Models had a 90-degree driver's seat (the seat turned toward the door to make getting in and out so much easier).
- All Weather air conditioning
- Full-gauge instrumentation
- Power door locks (the toggle was located on the driver door, not the armrest)
- Power Windows (toggle located on the door)
- Vinyl roof cover in nine colors.
- Double-wall construction means a more sturdy exterior
- The double wall helps wall inner wall cargo dents
- Doors, hood, and roof are also made of two sheets of steel
- Every fender has an inner fender
- The inner fender keeps the effects of water, salt and road dirt from damaging the exterior
- Large rear fenders offer protection against road splash.
- Concealed storage compartment located behind driver's seat (it was perfect for holding jumper cables or small tools
- Spare tire stows behind the passenger seat.
- air-adjustable shocks are standard (allowed owners to adjust for heavier loads)
- The valve adds air to the shocks and is located near the rear license plate.
What is the History of the El Camino?
For the model year 1959, in response to the Ford Ranchero, which had come out two years before, Chevy decided to produce the El Camino. The company slapped a Spanish name on the vehicle, meaning “The Way.”
The car sold for two years, doing reasonably well the first year, but its soft suspension and base interior made it look like a quirky Bel Air. Built on a car platform with limited cargo capacity, the initial offering did not connect with the car-buying public. The new car/truck was discontinued in 1960, and it would be four years before Chevrolet decided to resurrect it.
The subsequent years saw a lot of refinements year to year, as the El Camino shifted to the A body of the Chevelle, one of Chevrolet’s most popular muscle cars. This time, the car/truck resounded with the buying public because it was more significant, more stable, with a variety of big v8s that could haul things like surfboards or hay bales on the farm but still look good enough to drive to church on Sunday.
The third generation (1968 - 72) is probably the most sought after by collectors and fetches the most money at auctions. The fourth-generation (1973 - 77) started very strong, but as pressures mounted, Chevrolet was forced to decide to reduce the muscle car image the El Camino had become known for.
Chevrolet would come out with the fifth generation in 1978, redesigning the El Camino, making it shorter and smaller. While sales remained steady for the first couple of years of the redesign, after 1980, sales tapered off until the last year, 1987, the factory was putting out only 13.743 units.