El Camino

One of my dream cars, has always been an El Camino. A mass produced affordable vehicle was my dream car? Yes. I remember seeing one on the way to King's Island as a kid and I was obsessed. It's like, a sports car engine, with a truck body and a station wagon frame. Suddenly, they've become collector's items during COVID. Prices have jumped up to 15K for a poorly cared for vehicle, and I've seen some going for over 50K. Another issue is a lot of them have been suped up to race and run into the ground.

Well, I periodically search for them, just to see what's up. I saw one in the city going for 10K in January but the photos weren't right and I had some questions. Milage listed is "1" and the dealer is like "It's an 88, no 88 has a working odometer," but there were no 88 Ep Caminos. Against my better judgement, I go check it out. The paint looks magnificent, beautiful tasteful rims fit for a classic, 5% tint so you can't see up in the windows. The interior is nothing short of, fucked up. Radio ripped out, holes in the seats, steering wheel missing the padding, just fucked up. Dealer won't let me start it, says "it is what it is means as is," his words. Despite wanting this car for over 20 years, I said "no." It's still sitting on that lot.

Early May, I see one in Ohio for sale from a private seller. Now, working at a credit union and doing hundreds of car loans a year, private sellers can be a gift, or a curse. On top of that, this one is selling for 7000. What's the catch? Well, it's got 141,000 miles on it, which is insane for some modern cars. But, a well taken car of V6 will run forever. It was purchased 2nd hand by a couple and they kept it for years. In 2020, the husband died. It sat in the garage for 3 years. It's had 2 accidents. It's had some "unique," modifications. It's also not the base model, or the popular SS, super sport, not nazi. It's the Conquista model. The interiors a little more luxurious, built for cruising not racing. Upside is it has power windows and locks. A basic feature now, but witchfraft for most back then as all El Caminos didn't come with those. The engine has had some upgrades, it's now dual exhaust, and I shit you not in the smuggler hatch, a hidden area behind the seat that's technically between the truck bed and frame, there are three house stereos. As in, these came straight out of someone's home. 

I can't go to Ohio, but I speak to the son of the couple. Sounds like an honest guy. He sends me photos, videos, but there's one problem. It doesn't start. He promises me a white man's promise of, "for $1000 I'll get it running, and get it to you." Against my better judgement, I wire this white man $8,000. You know why banks and credit unions send checks? Because once a wire is sent, it's damn near impossible to get it back.

Two weeks go by, I don't hear anything from this man. I start to panic, my money is gone. This is the stupidest shit I've ever done. I stay on my family's ass about not falling for scams. I've taught a class on not falling for scams. I write the scam alert section of our newsletter at work. And I got gently fucked out of $8000.

The end of May rolls around. I get a call from some random number. Guy on the other end is super country, and says, "Connor got in some trouble with the law, but he wanted to make sure I got this truck to you." 2 days later a Tiny Lister looking fellow pulls up to my house while I'm cutting grass, says "some construction in the way, I got your El Camino at the church around the corner." Against my better judgement I get in the car with this complete stranger, Jesse. He big, I'm big. If he tries something, it's gonna be two big meaty men slapping meat in a construction zone. We pull up to this church, and his trailer is sitting there with my motherfucking El Camino. He tells me to go start it up and back it off the trailer. I never did that before, but fuck it. I hop my ass up on that trailer like Bobby Lashley in 2007. I'm tall, gotta duck a little to get in, but once I'm in, there's plenty of leg room and head space. The seats are mad comfortable, wheel feels good in your hands. It smells old, but the carpeted dash is plush. 

I turn the key and the car doesn't start. I try again, nothing. In the way only an old Black man can, Jesse says, "you young boy's don't know shit about cars but rims and going fast," and laughs. 

I know these cars don't have fuel injectors. But I never considered what that meant for starting it. He tells me, gas peddle to the floor, hold for 3 seconds, and turn the key as you slowly release. I'll be damned, that engine roared to life. Loudly, not messed up car loud, but there's a lot of power loud. I must have had the most pure look of joy on my face that a 31 year old man could have. Jesse starts smiling and laughing as and I find myself smacking the dashboard in celebration like I just won a race with the car. I put it in reverse and ease off the trailer. I attempted to pay Jesse for delivery but he said it was a favor to Connor who can't leave the state of Ohio.

Without a doubt, the car needs work. The power steering is gone, but that hasn't stopped me from driving it. There's some oil leaks but nothing where it's leaving puddles. It cost me $70 to fill up on gas. But dammit, I've been having a lot of fun with it. The paint is chipping, but it still gets plenty of looks and conversation. They had me stressed, but I'm really grateful for Connor, Jesse and even Connor's dad for taking care of the car for a very long time before his death. 

When driving a car that old, the experience is just different. You really feel when it accelerates and slows down. There is no accidental speeding. It very much feels as if you're piloting a ton of metal through the streets. Corners are just smooth even with no power steering; it's as if you just float as you turn. I promise I'm getting the power steering fixed next week, I'm not going to Kevin Hart myself but for the last few weeks I've been taking little drives. Haven't gone further than 15 minutes away or over the speed of 45, but it's been so damn fun.