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Car of the Week: 1967 Chevrolet El Camino

The number one of its kind - Uncovering Chevrolet's first 1967 El Camino.
Car of the Week 2020
OC-000000-OLSEN-01

We’ve seen it many times. Even the most compulsive of old car collectors can eventually reach a point where they (or perhaps it’s “we”) realize that it’s time to thin the proverbial herd.

Out in northwestern Montana, Bob Olsen has been collecting the classics since the age of 15. As a youngster, he received his head start into the old car hobby as his father, a minister, owned and operated a wrecking yard, well stocked with older inventory.

In the older snapshot, we see what Olsen started with. Mostly by way of dual-action sander, past paint jobs turned to dust.

In the older snapshot, we see what Olsen started with. Mostly by way of dual-action sander, past paint jobs turned to dust.

Pretty obviously, this on-frame restoration went deeper than cosmetics. The correct 396-cubic-inch big-block and Powerglide transmission still have yet to be overhauled.

Pretty obviously, this on-frame restoration went deeper than cosmetics. The correct 396-cubic-inch big-block and Powerglide transmission still have yet to be overhauled.

Today, Olsen is more than a collector. He’s an accomplished hands-on builder and restorer, as well. With occasional rare assistance from ringers with various specialties, Olsen has created a rather eclectic assemblage, which subtly reflects his personal affinity for early Corvettes — and 1967 El Caminos.

At one time, Olsen’s car barn housed a lucky seven of them. Today, that portion of the aforementioned herd is thinned down to only one, which is extremely special. According to its data plate, it’s a pilot. According to its VIN tag, it is indeed the very first of its kind. This unit’s VIN concludes with 00001.

As seen in this early stage of restoration, the VIN tag was painted over long ago. Even so, discernible digits read “00001.”

As seen in this early stage of restoration, the VIN tag was painted over long ago. Even so, discernible digits read “00001.”

For Olsen, who’d traveled to collect just another El Camino, this one’s significance came as a surprise. Somehow, its previous owners were unaware that they’d had anything special. Following his purchase, Olsen went on to do some detective work. His earliest hand-written notes date back to 1998 with names, numbers and advice from Chevelle and El Camino gurus.

During his quest for factual information, Olsen managed to determine that his surprise pilot was the product of Fremont Assembly, General Motors’ northern California assembly plant. When the pilot was eventually sold for the first time, the transaction took place at the nearest dealership, Fremont Chevrolet.

As proof of its pilot pedigree, this El Camino’s firewall-mounted data plate speaks clearly for itself. Now let’s just try to imagine this coming as a surprise.

As proof of its pilot pedigree, this El Camino’s firewall-mounted data plate speaks clearly for itself. Now let’s just try to imagine this coming as a surprise.

On the interior side, beneath the instrument panel, Olsen discovered assembly plant chalk scrawling of the word “Pilot.”

On the interior side, beneath the instrument panel, Olsen discovered assembly plant chalk scrawling of the word “Pilot.”

Around ’98, Olsen contacted the proprietor of Fremont Chevrolet, who, in ’67, was just a youngster at the family business. Sure enough, though, he remembered this El Camino’s VIN tag — and that it was white with a black vinyl top. Other details, however, weren’t as clear. The proprietor could only speculate that it may have been used as a demonstrator, or perhaps driven for a year by a General Motors executive.

At any rate, if you know your ’60s El Caminos, you might recognize this example’s telltale tailgate as from the ’66 model year. What Olsen discovered beneath stripped-away topcoats was color-wise consistent, as though it had always been right there. Since there’s no evidence of any rear-end crash damage, we believe it could, in fact, be the correct original tailgate for this pilot.

Up to current-owner Olsen’s particularly high standards, this stalled restoration is accurate. Behind original headlamp bezels, T3 sealed-beams are proper.

Up to current-owner Olsen’s particularly high standards, this stalled restoration is accurate. Behind original headlamp bezels, T3 sealed-beams are proper.

Here, on the inside, the original bench seat is restored with NOS coverings. For future reference, the worn original trim is safely preserved in storage.

Here, on the inside, the original bench seat is restored with NOS coverings. For future reference, the worn original trim is safely preserved in storage.

According to its emblem, the ’67 pilot’s tailgate is circa ’66. We might assume it’s been rear-ended and replaced, but again, there’s no evidence of impact.

According to its emblem, the ’67 pilot’s tailgate is circa ’66. We might assume it’s been rear-ended and replaced, but again, there’s no evidence of impact.

If you know your ’60s Chevrolets in general, you’ll likely know that rally wheels weren’t available until May 1967. This pilot has them. Has it had them all along? So far, we don’t know for sure.

Here among Bob Olsen’s partially liquidated collection there’s still a lot to see. For us, it may be difficult to focus on only one subject, but we’ll give it a go with this one. This, we truly believe, is Chevrolet’s first ’67 El Camino.

Bob’s Corvettes & Classics
406-270-1931
bobscorvettes@hotmail.com

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