1987 Chevrolet El Camino: Path Of Perseverance

CJ Brown of Las Vegas envisioned an El Camino unlike any other, and he overcame every obstacle in his path to have it built.

Story by: Reynald Fries
Photography by: Jordan Shiraki

The custom-car world thrives on innovation, and since there are only a few people who build cars that are truly “different” from the rest, the car game advances only when major builds break tradition and set trends. The main obstacle for innovation is making things fit together and work. The owner of this El Camino, CJ, broke the barriers of its design and never let anything prevent him from making it the most innovative Elco yet—further advancing custom-car culture.

CJ’s inspiration for this project sprouted from deep-dish wheels. He knew he wanted to combine his El Camino with 24×15-inch rear rims, and thus his project began. “I bought the wheels first,” CJ recalls, as he wanted to make the car fit the wheels instead of the other way around. After putting in an order for Forgiato Azionis, he set out to find an engine for it. He attended a car auction and bought a 1999 Camaro Z28 for roughly $3,300, removed the LS1 motor and transmission, then sold what was remaining of the car for $1,700. After installing the six-speed manual transmission and LS1 engine in his ’87 Elco, he was off to a tremendous start, turning it into something never done before.

The Elco was restored from the frame up and tubbed to make the 24x15s fit in the rear. The frame is entirely powder-coated red, and CJ had a Ford nine-inch rear end with posi-traction installed to carry the massive wheels. The entire car is hardlined with tubular stainless steel lines throughout the frame, as well.

The bed of the vehicle is heavily modified yet fits together seamlessly. CJ had the floor completely cut out and put a box under it to make two 15-inch subs fit inside. Then he took it to another level by displaying the masterfully crafted undercarriage throughout the bed floor. “I wanted to be able to look through to the ground, through plexiglass that would be lit up, to show all the work underneath the car,” he explains. “You can see the backside of those deep wheels I got, just to see the framework.”

One thing CJ is particularly proud of is his idea for the dashboard. “I wanted a metal dashboard in the car. I didn’t like those old box dashboards they did in the ’80s. I’ve always liked that ’59 Impala dash,” he says. Not many people are brave enough to make things like a six-speed transmission and metal dashboard fit in an ’87 El Camino, but CJ never settled for the “that won’t fit” mentality. He kept going for the win from start to finish. The final result is a single ride that propels the entire custom-car game forward with its innovative concepts and ideas.

Spec the Technique

Performance: 1999 Camaro Z28 LS1 engine and six-speed transmission; MSD ignition, starter; MR Performance headers; 2002 Corvette engine cover; drilled and slotted Wilwood brakes with 13-inch rotors, four-piston brake calipers, master cylinder; upgraded radiator with chrome reservoir; TREO Engineering battery; added custom 300-amp alternator with custom bracket; Air Zenith air compressors; Slam Specialties airbag system; all brake lines, air lines and gas lines hardlined with 3/8-inch stainless steel tubing; Ford 9-inch rear end with posi-traction 45 inches from end to end to carry the wheels; 3:78 gear ratio; custom gas tank; RCI fuel cell to load gas through bed of vehicle; Painless Performance wiring kit; two Flowmaster mufflers with 2.5-inch pipes; tubbed

Exterior: PPG white paint with red pinstripes; black trim with metal flake; Tiarra luxury grille; clear 1/2-inch plexiglass in bed to see frame and wheels underneath; 2-inch cowl-induction hood; everything under bed and wheel wells smoothed and painted to match car; complete frame-off restoration; entire frame powder-coated red; LED headlights and taillights

Interior: Custom pedals; full fiberglass interior; Forgiato Azioni steering wheel; custom center console; red leather-wrapped seats with red suede; red carpet; original bench seat cut and reformed into custom bucket seats

ICE: Pioneer double-DIN head unit; eight TREO Engineering 6.5-inch speakers, eight tweeters, two 15-inch subwoofers, one 2,300-watt amplifier, two 800-watt amps

Wheels/Tires: Forgiato Azioni wheels, 22×8.5-inch front, 24×15-inch rear; Pirelli P Zero Nero tires, 235/30/22 front, 405/25/24 rear

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