TOO EX­PEN­SIVE EVEN FOR FREE

Charles Cur­rie got the deal of a life­time on his 1965 Elco. Lord knows how much it cost him!

Chevy High Performance - - Contents - TEXT: Chris Shel­ton | PHO­TOS: Tim Sut­ton

It all seemed like a good idea at the time. In fact, it seems like a good idea each year when one of the Cur­rie brothers builds a car. They do it as a kind of pro­mo­tional tool for their com­pany, Cur­rie En­ter­prises. You know, the axle shop. “It’s sort of our way to tell peo­ple that we al­ready have a part num­ber for a prod­uct,” Charles Cur­rie ob­serves.

And the car Charles found was the per­fect can­di­date.

For starters, it nearly rounds out his col­lec­tion of twodoor A-bod­ies. “I kind of have a thing for those I guess,” he ad­mits. But more im­por­tantly, it had some­thing very fa­vor­able go­ing for it: orig­i­nal paint. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” Charles ex­plains. “I know what can be hid­ing be­low two or three coats of paint. But this thing was clean.” Add to that, he horse-traded into it. “I was into it for prac­ti­cally noth­ing,” he gloats.

Read mag­a­zines for long enough and you’ll prob­a­bly rec­og­nize ev­ery­thing that pre­ceded this as a kind of fore­shad­ow­ing. Usu­ally a car in­tro­duced that way turns out to be less than per­fect. But Charles’ find wasn’t that kind of car. “This thing was com­pletely f***ed,” re­calls builder Kev El­liott at Kev’s Rod & Cus­tom in La Habra, Cal­i­for­nia.

“You know when you send a car out for blast­ing and only part of it comes back?” he con­tin­ues. “Well, just about nuf­fin’ came back, right? (Ed. note: Kev’s a Sarf (South)

Lon­doner.) We knew it needed floors but the quar­ters were gone, the bot­toms of the fend­ers were gone, the bot­tom six inches of the wind­shield frame was gone, the front part of the dash was gone, the front wall of the bed was gone, the side of the roof was gone. The damn thing needed ev­ery­thin’.”

“It ap­pears that it was parked down­hill and lean­ing to the left,” Charles spec­u­lates, ex­plain­ing how it had to have sat un­der a tree for much of that time. And if the reg­is­tra­tion tells us any­thing, that may have been a long time. “The tags ex­pired in 1977,” Charles says.

“By that time I’d al­ready spent a fair bit of money pay­ing Kev to tear it down and hav­ing it blasted,” Charles re­calls. “I wasn’t into the car very much and I fig­ured we al­ready un­cov­ered the worst of it.” And as an ex­pert in fore­shad­ow­ing, you know what’s com­ing next.

“There was like $200 in just square tub­ing to brace the body be­fore it got cut up,” Kev points out. And it was dur­ing this cut­ting process that they dis­cov­ered a whole new level of rot. “All the in­ner struc­ture; that was gone, too,” he adds. Nat­u­rally, the

smug­gler’s box—the area cre­ated by the bed floor im­me­di­ately be­hind the cab—was toast. “And no­body makes any­thing to re­pair that area, ex­cept for the ver­ti­cal braces,” Kev notes. “At least not for the ’64 and ’65.” Nev­er­the­less, he per­sisted. “By this point we had a lot more into the car,” Charles says. “I couldn’t just back out.”

What fol­lowed was a metic­u­lous re­con­struc­tion of an El Camino us­ing Chev­elle parts. “Ev­ery­thing in the floor from the fire­wall to the rear axle is new,” Kev be­gins. “It has new Chev­elle rear arches (trans­late: wheel open­ings) but I had to fab­ri­cate the lower quar­ters ahead of and be­hind them. New driver-door skin. I also fab­ri­cated the lower A-post cor­ners at the wind­shield and fab­ri­cated the lower rear-win­dow chan­nel.” Be­cause no­body makes the bed front bulk­head, Kev made a new one from scratch.

“The smug­gler’s-box cover was bad on one side but we had an­other that was bad on the other side so I welded the two to­gether.”

And the re­lent­less process of ex­pos­ing fur­ther dam­age never seemed to stop. “It got hit in the rear cor­ner so I had to re­pair that, too. The bed looked re­ally good at first but

we no­ticed that the floor was bent like they threw bricks back there,”

Kev says. Orig­i­nal plans called for a bed­liner but the rest of the car shaped up so nicely that Charles asked Kev to straighten it out. “He made tools in the shape of the ribs and just got un­der there and worked it out,” Charles says. “It took a whole week,” Kev laments.

Enough about all that mis­ery; this pro­ject isn’t de­fined by its in­aus­pi­cious be­gin­nings. This ti­tle is all about what things be­come, and in this case Charles tapped into his roots to build a high­school dream car of sorts.

No, he didn’t in­tend the car to look the way it ac­tu­ally would’ve looked when he grad­u­ated high school in 1974. Be­cause it isn’t 1974—his in­ter­ests have changed and the car proves it. Rather, he built it with a lit­tle bit of that high-schooler phi­los­o­phy, which is ba­si­cally to lightly mod­ify what’s avail­able us­ing con­tem­po­rary stuff and avail­able re­sources.

So re­ally you could say the main thing that’s changed is Charles Cur­rie’s re­sources. Af­ter such an in­ten­sive re­con­struc­tion, one could make the case that the car Kev El­liot built is more than hand­some; it’s beau­ti­ful to its core. And that doesn’t ex­actly sound like a bad idea to us. CHP

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