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Forget the Ferrari—Today Is an El Camino Day

The 1985 Chevrolet El Camino owned by Chuck Grantham, a book publisher from Raleigh, N.C. Mr. Grantham has owned El Caminos for 32 years.
The 1985 Chevrolet El Camino owned by Chuck Grantham, a book publisher from Raleigh, N.C. Mr. Grantham has owned El Caminos for 32 years. Photo: Alex Boerner for The Wall Street Journal

Chuck Grantham, a book publisher from Raleigh, N.C., on his 1985 Chevrolet El Camino, as told to A.J. Baime.

I never had any kids. I worked, I raced cars, I jumped out of airplanes and I guess I ran out of time. Today, my cars are like my kids. I would not call myself a big-time collector, but I have a Ferrari F430, a Mercedes-Benz AMG, a Porsche and a Cadillac Eldorado. Every morning I come into my garage and I say to myself, “What am I going to drive to work today?”

The El Camino is the car with which I have had the longest connection. It started 32 years ago, when I bought my first one. I drove it for 15 years and it died, so I bought a second one and drove that one for 15 years. It was a fire-breather with loud mufflers. I loved the shape of it, and I loved the functionality.


Photos: This 1985 El Camino Is a ‘Fire-Breather’

A North Carolina book publisher shows off his favorite vehicle, a Chevrolet halfway between a car and a pickup truck

Chuck Grantham in his 1985 Chevrolet El Camino. Chevrolet first launched the El Camino in model year 1959 with an original base price tag of $2,352, according to the General Motors Heritage Center website.
Alex Boerner for The Wall Street Journal

Was it a car? A pickup truck? It was both. In fact, when Chevrolet launched this model way back in 1959, the sales line was, “More than a car—more than a truck.”

Chevy built this model for roughly 30 years. Today it is a cult classic. There are not that many of them left, but you can buy good ones for pretty cheap if you look around.

The car you see here I bought two years ago. My second El Camino was on its last legs, and I found a small dealership about 50 miles from where I live that specialized in these cars. I drove down there with my business partner.

When I walked into the dealership, I saw about a dozen El Caminos. The first one I laid eyes on was an exact replica of the beat-up one I was currently driving, only it was in better shape. So I traded my old El Camino for it, plus $5,000.

After three decades of El Camino ownership, I decided to make this one a celebration of all the work I did over the years with my other ones. I replaced the chrome, got new carpet and did some work on the engine.

You know how people have idiosyncrasies—the things they love that do not always make much sense to others? El Caminos are mine.

Mr. Grantham puts descriptive license plates on his cars. His Ferrari’s says ‘FASSST.’ His El Camino’s is self-explanatory.
Mr. Grantham puts descriptive license plates on his cars. His Ferrari’s says ‘FASSST.’ His El Camino’s is self-explanatory. Photo: Alex Boerner for The Wall Street Journal

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