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Concept ‘Camino

Unveiled in New York, Unearthed in Wisconsin, Under Reconstruction by Hot Rods & Custom Stuff


Storytellin’ by Rotten Rodney Bauman

Photos by the Author and Chick Koszis



The story of this project begins like any other, and ends like none-other, as crumblin’ rust turns to solid gold.



Hot Rods & Custom Stuff customer, David French had been desirous of a ’59 El Camino for fifteen or more years. For the final five of the aforementioned fifteen or more, the search was serious. After a thorough scouring of the greater United States area, the search concluded in Wisconsin—not in a dilapidated barn at an old abandoned dairy, not on the front line at Honest Guido’s abused car lot, but maybe, just maybe, buried at the bottom of a stack o’ soon-to-be-crushed salvage at Junkyard Johnny’s—as this version of the story goes.     


Those who’re familiar with the earliest of El Caminos already know they’re vulnerable to rust, especially so in their floor pans and bed floors—and ‘the one’ that made the cut was no exception. In certain instances well-hidden issues can escape even the well-trained buyer’s eye. Here in fact, an excellent cover-up job had been done. The ugly truth was first uncovered by HR&CS media blaster, Zach. Once the El Camino was stripped of its multiple layers o’ deceptive sin, you could say we were in deep. Serious reconstructive surgery would be required before any of Mr. French’s planned, subtle modifications could begin—and from that point, there’s been no turnin’ back.


During the disassembly of this seemingly-ordinary, production El Camino, the keen eyes o’ the crew picked up a clue or two, which indicated that this particular El Camino may not be so ordinary after all. The rust-encrusted VIN number was like none we’d ever seen. When a 3M Clean & Strip Disc-equipped die grinder revealed (roughly) the characters: H590000000, suspicions were raised. Upon further investigation, a weathered assembly line build sheet was thought to have been discovered—still wedged ‘tween the springs ‘n’ stuffin’s of the El Camino’s ‘lectric headrest-equipped seat cushion. That build sheet may have listed options which were absolutely unheard of at the time of the El Camino’s manufacture, like a fuel-injected 327 (rather than a 283 or 235), 4-wheel-power-disc-brakes, micro-computer-controlled pushbutton emergency brake, automatic/overdrive transmission and so on.


Okay, y’all grab your hankies ‘cause this next part’s kind o’ sad. Now I’m tryin’ to remember how it went for sure, but I seem to sort o’ recall that the billion-dollar build sheet crumbled and vaporized into thin air when it was disturbed in the upholstery department. So, we’re lackin’ the conclusive documentation necessary to corroborate the rest o’ the story—and y’all are goin’ to have to just take our word for certain things. That said; we have reason to believe that David French’s ’59 El Camino is not the ’59 El Camino that saw production, but rather the ’59 El Camino its designers had in mind—a prototype if you will—perhaps the celebrated Concept ‘Camino, which likely graced the turntable at the General Motors Motorama in late-1958.


Motorama was General Motors’ annual promotional extravaganza. It was a travelin’ show, kickin’ off in New York City, then proceedin’ to Miami, then Los Angeles, then San Francisco, and wrappin’ up in Boston. This was how the new models were debuted, and although prototype concept cars were exhibited as well, very few survived beyond those tours. Just how the Concept ‘Camino managed to slip away to sanctuary in Wisconsin is unknown to this day. However, here at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff, we’re honored to have been selected to bring this obscure automotive icon back to its former glory. Yes, indeed.         


Welcome to Wisconsin, and welcome one ‘n’ all to Junkyard Johnny’s! Do ya see it? Then take a closer look, deep in the dark spot, at ground level, just under the blue DeSoto.


Once delivered to HR&CS, teardown and inventory chores commence. In the early teardown stages, there’s nothin’ obviously out of the ordinary. Somewhere ‘tween Motorama ‘n’ Junkyard Johnny’s, the prototype injected 327 might have been replaced with a run-o’-the-mill 283, and wherever the 4-wheel-power-discs, automatic-overdrive and micro-computer-controlled pushbutton emergency brake components got off to, is anybody’s guess.


This is where the crew first became intrigued. Here still visible on the frame, as y’all can plainly see; H590000000 would be a rather unusual VIN number.


As previously stated; we’re all pretty sure the build sheet crumbled and vaporized into thin air when it was disturbed in the upholstery department, so this photograph might be all that remains o’ that. For the skeptics amongst y’all, let this shot dispel your doubt.  


4-wheel-power-disc-brakes, automatic-overdrive transmissions, micro-computer-controlled pushbutton emergency brakes and so on are easily obtained nowadays—from HR&CS’ own parts department in fact. Here at this stage, the Concept ‘Camino’s chassis is Motorama-worthy once again.


At the time o’ this report, painter Andy (he’s also responsible for this story’s lead rendering), has all the body panels refinished in misty blue metallic. Back in the Concept ‘Camino’s glory daze; the premium finish was lacquer. Here at HR&CS, we don’t do that, and if General Motors would have had access to PPG’s modern-day Envirobase, waterborne basecoat/clearcoat systems back in the late-‘50s, that’s what they’d have used too.


Well, from here y’all may consider yourselves teased. Don’t be surprised if ya see certain technical procedures involving Mr. French’s Concept ‘Camino on newsstands, and of course, the build coverage will continue in the ‘Projects’ section of this ‘site.