Motors Used in the Chevy El Camino

by Dennis Hartman

The Chevrolet El Camino was produced by General Motors from 1959 to 1960, and again from 1964 to 1987. Over its 30-year run, GM offered the El Camino with a wide variety of engines and drivetrains. Those engine offerings generally changed with each of the five El Camino generations.

First Generation

The original Chevrolet El Camino was built between 1958 and 1960 for the 1959 and 1960 model years. Three engines were offered, including an inline-6 cylinder and two different V8s. The I6 featured a 235-cubic-inch displacement (3.9 liters) and was rated at 135 horsepower. A 283-cubic-inch V8 (4.6 liter) began with 170 horsepower but was re-tuned to produce 230 horsepower by 1960. At the top of the El Camino line was a 348-cubic-inch V8 (5.7 liter) that produced as much as 335 horsepower. General Motors discontinued the El Camino due to lackluster sales, but the model would return after only a few years of absence.

Second Genration:

General Motors introduced the new Chevrolet El Camino for the 1964 model year. This new car was based on the architecture of the Chevrolet Chevelle, and featured some of the same engine offerings as well. A 194-cubic-inch inline-6 cylinder engine represented the lowest powered El Camino engine from 1964 to 1966. Another 6-cylinder engine, with a 230-cubic-inch displacement and 155 horsepower, was also available. At the V8 level, El Caminos came with 283-, 327- and 396-cubic-inch engines. These culminated with the 396 V8 offered in 1966 and 1967, which was known as the "L78" and produced 375 horsepower.

Third Generation

GM introduced a larger, revamped El Camino for 1968. The 230-cubic-inch I6, 327 V8 and 396 V8 were carried over from the previous model. A new 250 I6 gave the El Camino a second 6-cylinder option. The new V8 offering was a 307-cubic-inch engine rated at 200 horsepower. The El Camino Super Sport made its debut in 1968 and included the largest V8 then available, the 396. For 1969, some 396 engines were bored to produce a 402-cubic-inch displacement. In 1971, all of GM's engines were reviewed to ensure compliance with new federal fuel efficiency standards. As a result, the same I6 and V8 engines were offered in tuned-down versions that saw power drop off significantly. In 1972, the 250-cubic-inch I6 produced 110 horsepower, the lowest of any El Camino to that point.

Fourth Generation

GM debuted the fourth generation of the El Camino for the 1973 model year. For the next five years, the El Camino would be offered with an assortment of low-output engines that helped GM meet its company-wide fuel efficiency standards. The 250-cubic-inch inline-6 cylinder engine was once again the smallest engine offering, producing as little as 105 horsepower. V8 options remained, though power was down significantly. The 350-cubic-inch V8s never offered more than 175 horsepower, and even the big block 454 was down to 245 horsepower (it had been as high as 450 horsepower in 1970). Several versions of the 350 V8, including those designated "L65" and "LM1," were available only in El Caminos sold in California, where fuel efficiency and emissions standards were higher than elsewhere.

Fifth Generation

The last refreshed El Camino was a 1978 model, sold until the model was discontinued in 1987. The El Camino would never return to its powerful roots as a muscle car, with new engine choices providing modest power at best. In 1978, for the first time the El Camino was available with a V6 engine; the 200-cubic-inch "L26" which was available in California models and produced only 94 horsepower, an all-time El Camino low. A 231-cubic-inch V6 (the "LD5") was also offered, in keeping with the trend of smaller engines. Gone were the big block V8s that had characterized the earlier generations. The largest engine offered in the fifth generation El Camino was the 305-cubic-inch V8, though some 1983 and 1984 models included a 350-cubic-inch V8 diesel engine. With its performance characteristics crippled by federal regulation and the changing buying habits of American drivers, the El Camino was discontinued at the end of the 1987 model year.

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