Things got worse toward the 1980s when the fifth-generation El Camino debuted. A brick on wheels based on the fourth-gen Malibu, the El Camino was also rather slow, with the range-topping 5.0-liter V8 making only 150 horsepower. As a result, these coupe utility cars aren’t exactly classics nowadays, at least not when compared to El Caminos from the 1960s and early 1970s.
But go with the right upgrades and you can turn a Malaise-era Chevy into the ultimate sleeper. This 1981 El Camino is a fine example of what you can do. Assuming you’re into big-lip, donk-style wheels that is!
This pickup rides a bit higher above the ground thanks to a set of 24-inch rollers, but it doesn’t look all that bad given its utilitarian purpose. Apart from the wheels, the car seems to be mostly stock on the outside. I’m not entirely sure about the color though. This brown hue appears to be similar to the Sandstone colors that Chevy offered back in the early 1980s, but it could also be a repaint. Whatever the case, it suits the car really well.
The cool thing is that the El Camino sports a matching interior, with brown upholstery covering almost every surface. A quick comparo to a factory-stock 1981 El Camino reveals that the owner did his best to keep the cabin original, but we can see a handful of modern features in there, including the steering wheel and a display in the center stack.
But it’s what’s under the hood that turns this El Camino into a special hauler. These pickups were terribly slow in 1981 with output ranging from 110 to 150 horsepower, but this specific El Camino stands out from the Malaise-era crowd thanks to a procharged LS V8.
We don’t know how powerful this thing is, but knowing what the folks over at ProCharger are capable of, this pickup likely packs more oomph than any factory-spec El Camino ever built. Yeah, we’re looking at more than 500 horsepower. This V8 is quite the growler too, and, as you’ll see in the video below, it spins the rear wheels with just a light touch of the gas pedal.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to see a procharged V8 in every Malaise-era car. No more lemons!