1969 CHEVROLET EL CAMINO BACKGROUND Chevy had been completely reskinning the Chevelle every 2 years religiously. And of course, the El Camino was based on the Chevelle platform and body shell, so whatever happened to the Chevelle also happened to the El Camino. The 1969 Chevrolet El Camino was the second year in one of these 2-year cycles, having started with the ’68 model year, so the ’69 was mostly a carry-over from ’68. The basic body shell remained largely unchanged, but the front and rear facia changed, cleaning up the look considerably. In my humble opinion, the ’69 looks better than the ’68, the same way the boxier ’67 Chevelle looks better than the ’66. It’s like it took them a year to get their bearings, then refine the look. Or, they held back the first year, to give themselves somewhere to go, the following year. Who knows? Of course, this is all a matter of opinion, and if you own one of these ‘first-year’ cars, you’ll probably disagree with me. It’s like art, there’s no right or wrong, it’s all in what you like. 1969 would be the final year of this look, then it would be on to the radically-different, bigger, heavier-looking 1970 Chevelles. The 60s were ending, and the 70s were almost here!
1969 CHEVROLET EL CAMINO – SS BECOMES A PACKAGE
For the 1968 El Camino (and Chevelle), the Super Sport line (all called SS396) was actually a stand-alone model on the order sheet. But starting with the 1969 Chevrolet El Camino, the SS ceased to be a separate model, and instead became essentially a trim package that was available on any V8 El Camino or Chevelle. So, from 1969 on, you could have an SS with a 2-barrel 350.
1969 CHEVROLET EL CAMINO ENGINE CHOICES
The 1969 model year started out carrying over the same engines as 1968, largely unchanged. But as smog regs tightened, Chevy found it necessary to rework the Mark IV big block 396 in an effort to ‘clean it up’. In the process, it got bored out slightly to a new displacement of 402 cubic inches. Today, we call these engines 402s. But back then, they just kept calling them 396s, presumably to get around GMs rule about not allowing any engine larger than 400 cubes into any midsized GM car (with the exception of the Corvette, of course). GM dropped that edict in 1970 and opened the floodgates, and big blocks of every type poured forth. 455s from Pontiac, Oldsmobile, and Buick, and of course, the ultimate muscle car engine, the 454 from Chevrolet. But, for the 1969 model year, we had to do with 402s disguised as 396s. Not that that’s all bad, the top-rated engine made 375 horsepower and produced 415 pound-feet of torque at just 3600 rpm. You’ve gotta love those big blocks!