Highly Modified 1972 Chevy El Camino

By Nick Licata   –   Photography by Jason Matthew

Growing up, Eddie Gunder and his core group of friends would do the typical neighborhood kid stuff that went down in the ’70s—riding bikes, taking part in football and baseball pickup games—all the things considered normal in the town of St. James in Long Island, New York. One thing from the old neighborhood that stuck in Eddie’s mind over the years was a gold ’72 El Camino SS. The hauler belonged to a local plumber and was used as his everyday work truck. At the time, Eddie didn’t think too much about it, but that Elco was a staple of Long Island for many years.

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005 Detailed Front End View of 1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS

Read More: Nelson Banuelos’ 1967 Camaro

As time went by Eddie found himself in the muscle car and hot rod scene due to his dad and uncle’s interest in vintage muscle cars. “Growing up, I was always around cars, being that my dad and uncles were always wrenching on and had hot rods around,” Eddie remembers. “So, that’s where it all started for me.”

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Early on, Eddie considered himself a sponge when it came to soaking in car knowledge as he spent time hanging in and around hot rods and race shops, conscious to stay in the background until he was called upon to help out. Keeping a good balance of learning while not getting in the way of progress worked well for him and led to an extensive education in performance cars. He even spent a few years working at a hot rod shop in Phoenix in his early teens and later struck up a friendship with Pro Stock racer Scott Geoffrion back in the ’90s where he hung around and learned a lot about the team aspect and inner workings of a successful high-end door slammer. Through years of learning multiple aspects of cars, he carried that knowledge into building his own cars—a few Chevelles among other muscle rides became his street bruisers of choice.

006 Tail View of 1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS Showing Chrome Bumper

That love for vintage cars and the proficiency Eddie built over time led to him opening a hot rod shop of his own in 2008–Eddie G’s Muscle Car Garage in Long Island, New York. “I was working at my dad’s commercial construction company and running a hot rod shop all at the same time,” Eddie notes. “It was, and still is, a lot of work, but I love being around and working on cars, it’s like therapy for me.”

So, getting back to the plumber and his gold El Camino. Back in the early ’00s the plumber hung up his tools and put his “very used” work vehicle up for sale. Eddie caught wind of it being on the market and wanted it badly, but so did his friend Don Coady. “Don and I grew up together; he was my best friend and he was also owner of Don’s Machine Race Engines, so we did car stuff together. He was the kind of guy who always bought and sold stuff–never held onto anything, so I didn’t put up a big fight over buying the Elco because I knew he’d end up selling it to me at some point, which is exactly what happened,” Eddie laughs.

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With the weathered El Camino in Eddie’s hands, his idea was to restore it with some mild upgrades, but that went out the window when Eddie’s highly influential group of friends had other ideas for the vintage truck; it was overwhelmingly suggested that he build it into a totally badass street beast. With no valid argument in keeping the old-school hauler stock, Eddie agreed to build it as a tire-frying, head-turner.

007 Open Hood Showing Engine of 1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS

Over the years, Eddie had built solid relationships with local engine builders and racers, which led to replacing the original small-block with a nasty 615ci big-block underhood. The short-block came from Shafiroff Racing and the top end was provided by Tony Mamo at Mamo Motorsports. “The engine is a combination of two giants of the performance engine industry,” Eddie says. “We all work together and help each other out when it comes to working on our hot rods, so I’m proud to have both of these guys and their legendary companies contribute to the build. The engine is an absolute monster that puts out 1,006 hp and 848 lb-ft on E85.”

010 Top Down View of Engine Detailing in 1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS

Read More: Dana Pruhs’ 1970 El Camino

“I also have a great relationship with Nick at American Racing Headers,” Eddie mentions. He’s another one we work with regularly and was a huge help when it came to building a custom set of headers, mandrel-bent 4-inch exhaust system, and mufflers. The sound is incredible and complements the car’s vicious personality.”

A G-Force transmission and Long V-Gate four-speed designed for straight-line high jinks and in conjunction with the McLeod RXT twin-disc clutch enables lightning-quick shifts. All that grunt spins a Dynotech 4-inch driveshaft, then feeds a bulletproof DTS Dana 60 rearend packed with 4.10 gears, Eaton Detroit locker, and Strange 35-spline axles.

019 Undercarriage and Exhaust of 1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS

For the chassis to handle that big-block power, Eddie modified and stiffened up the frame using 1 5/8-inch chomoly tubing. The rear framerails required narrowing to accommodate the mini-tubs and fat tires. Nick and Chris Montana at Montana Race Cars welded in the NHRA 7.5 certified rollcage, as well as the engine plates.

021 1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS Wheel Close Up with Mickey Thompson Tires

Accompanying the necessary chassis mods, Global West Drag Race tubular control arms were used up front and are joined by QA1 coilover shocks, which take up residence on all four corners, as do a set of Wilwood disc brakes. RC Components Hammer-S Street Fighter wheels roll up front wrapped in Mickey Thompson Sportsman S/R rubber while a pair of Weld Racing Vitesse with beadlocks sheathed in Mickey Thompson ET Streets do business out back.

014 Racing Harness Detail in 1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS

Read More: Chris Decker’s 1967 Chevrolet El Camino

The interior is a basic approach that maintains a somewhat stock appearance using Alcantara suede and leather accented with gold stitching over the factory dash, bench seat, and custom-fabricated door panels. The black Mercedes-Benz–style custom-fitted carpet jives well with the whole ensemble created and installed by Global Aircraft out of Long Island. A Holley 7-inch EFI digital dash accompanies the stock gauges for additional engine vitals.

Being the Elco was used as a work truck for decades, the sheetmetal had seen more than its share of dings and dents. “When I got the truck, there were empty beer cans scattered throughout the bed,” Eddie reveals. “The bed was also full of dents, I spent what felt like thousands of hours straightening it out.”

With that original gold pigment stuck in Eddie’s head, he stayed true to the truck’s factory color and laid down a gorgeous hue of PPG Placer Gold only after the Eddie G’s crew fussed and finessed the vintage sheetmetal to perfection. The driprails, factory door handles, grille, and bumpers were all retained to keep some of the work truck’s original vibe.

020 1972 Chevrolet El Camino SS Bed with Roll Bar

“To me, this El Camino is a piece of history, and I felt it was my responsibility to preserve it and keep the memories alive,” Eddie reflects. “It is also a continual reminder of my best friend, Don Coady, who died of cancer during the build. The car took six years to finish and building it in his honor helped keep me going. Every time I drive this car/truck I think of my buddy Don. I’m really happy with how it came out, and I know Don would absolutely approve.

“This project was built by the hands of great friends and coworkers, all of whom are the best at what they do. From the paint and body and all the custom fabrication to one hellacious engine underhood, without their help, influence, and dedication, this truck wouldn’t have come out as the baddest ’72 Elco on the planet,” Eddie says. “Had it ended up in someone else’s hands, it may have been neglected or even sent to the crusher. I wasn’t about to let that happen. This truck means way too much to me.”

018 Hood Detail with COWL INDUCTION Script on 1972 El Camino SS

Owner: Eddie Gunder, Rocky Point, New York
Vehicle: 1972 Chevy El Camino SS

Type: Chevrolet big-block
Displacement: 615 ci
Compression Ratio: 12.5:1
Bore: 4.600
Stroke: 4.625
Cylinder Heads: Mamo Motorsports aluminum
Rotating Assembly: Manley Crank, K1 Tech rods, Diamond pistons
Valvetrain: PAC valvesprings, T&D shaft mount rockers, Trend pushrods
Camshaft: Comp (0.804 /0.782 lift, 281/290 deg. duration at 0.050)
Induction: APD Dominator 1450 E85 carburetor, BMP Merlin X BBL 4500 intake manifold, custom stainless screen air cleaner
Assembly: Shafiroff Racing (Bohemia, NY)
Machining: ASM Motorsports (Castaic, CA)
Exhaust: American Racing Headers headers, 4-inch exhaust, and mufflers
Ancillaries: Jones Racing accessory drive system, Jones Racing alternator, Meziere water pump, SPAL fan, Moroso valve covers, MSD ignition, Ron Davis aluminum radiator, CVF Black Daimond hood hinges, Rick’s Tanks 21-gallon fuel tank, Aeromotive in-tank pump
Output: 1,006 hp at 7,000 rpm, 849 lb-ft at 5,900 rpm

Transmission: G-Force four-speed
Clutch: McLeod RXT twin-disc
Driveshaft: Dynotech 4-inch
Shifter: G-Force Long V-gate inline shifter
Rear Axle: DTS Dana 60 rearend, Eaton Detroit locker, 4.10 gearset, Strange 35-spline axles

Chassis: Stock/modified
Front Suspension: Global West tubular drag race control arms, QA1 coilover shocks, manual rack-and-pinion
Rear Suspension: Modified framerails, QA1 coilover shocks
Brakes: Wilwood disc, Wilwood master cylinder

Wheels & Tires
Wheels: 17×4 RC Components Hammer-S Street Fighter front, 15×10 Weld Racing Vitesse with beadlocks rear
Tires: Mickey Thompson Sportsman 28×6-17 front, Mickey Thompson ET Street 315/60R15 rear

Upholstery: Alcantara suede with gold stitching
Carpet: Black Mercedes-Benz style
Door Panels: Custom
Dash: Factory with leather wrap
Installation: Global Aircraft (Long Island, NY)
Seats: Factory with leather cover, gold stitching
Harness: G-Force
Steering: Ididit column, stock leather-wrapped steering wheel
Shifter: G-Force Long V-Gate
Rollcage: Montana Brothers Race Cars 7.50 NHRA certified (Long Island, NY)
Instrumentation: Factory/Holley
Pedals: Clayton Machine Works
HVAC: Nope
Entertainment Nada

Bodywork: Eddie G’s Muscle Car Garage (Holbrook, NY)
Body Mods: Mini-tubs, custom bed
Paint By: Joe Mercuri, Tremian Lucas, and Nelson Medina of Eddie G’s Muscle Car Garage
Paint: PPG Placer Gold
Grille: Stock
Front Bumper: Stock
Rear Bumper: Stock
Headlights: Grote LED
Taillights: Stock
Glass: Pilkington tinted
Plating: Paul’s Chrome (Evans City, PA)

Click on this issue’s cover to see the enhanced digital version of Highly Modified 1972 Chevy El Camino.acp march 2024

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