1960 Chevrolet El Camino: Smooth Jazz07/31/2019
A lot of different ideas had to meld together in order for this 1960 Chevrolet El Camino to come together.
Alvin Hilliard, of Inglewood, California, had ideas of what his first complete body-off restoration would be like. He had ideas for paint, ideas for stance, and ideas for what the finished car would be like when it emerged; however, ideas rarely become a reality, and if they do, they are usually preceded by struggle. Hilliard’s dream took a lot to come to life, and like many builds, it almost didn’t happen. Only by meeting the right cast of people was his dream car finally able to come into existence
Hilliard bought the 1960 Chevrolet El Camino in 2001 from his brother. The car was a mess at first, “When I got the vehicle, I wanted to assure myself of what was going on under the paint. When I had it sand blasted, I found out that the floor boards were bad, all the water channels, part of the door framing, the bed underneath was rust—rust—rust. I had to cut out all the ulcers, re-finish everything, and put new floor boards in to get the car back to being solid,” said Hilliard.
He took the car to Bobby Cottrell of Cottrell Racing. “I meet Bobby; he was fresh out of high school. I let him complete the engine and fabrication work,” says Hilliard. Cottrell took on the car and built a 427 big block Chevy, with a custom-ground roller cam, rectangle-port heads, a BDS 8-71 blower on, and dual 850-cfm carburetors. The combination should make around 850hp on 6-7psi of boost,
Cottrell Racing also designed an eight-point rollcage that conforms to the front A-pillars. They also made the 2 1/8-inch headers that flow into a dual 3-inch mandrel bent exhaust system with Magnaflow mufflers. The car has a pro-touring mixed with Pro-mod drag racer inspiration, and that was by direction. Cottrell races nitro funny cars for a living, and he wanted this car to reflect his shops direction, so they infused that spirit into Hilliard’s El Camino. Cottrell ordered custom Aerospace Components brakes made for the car with red anodized billet aluminum calipers, and they perform as well as they look.
The color of a car can make or break a build, and the color that mesmerized Hilliard, he happened to walk by. “I saw a nice Harley Davidson sitting,” says Hilliard “and I’ve always been fascinated with the color burgundy. I saw the Harley, and I went over and asked the gentleman about his bike, what year it was. I then started looking up the color charts for that year of Harley [Davidson].”
Armed with the paint code information, Hilliard took his car to a few shops to get his El Camino painted, but his dream shade of burgundy was never right. “The color was too muddy,” decries Hilliard as it never mirrored the shade he saw on the Harley. Hilliard had the car painted two times, and still he was unhappy with the paint. Despite it not being correct, he kept the project moving, taking the car to the next shop to have tin work fabricated.
He then sent the car to his friend Rudy Cereceres’ shop, Tin Works, in Oak Hills, CA. “I met him when I was at a high-performance shop in Whittier, California, and our friendship just took off. I sent the car to his shop so he could work his magic,” says Hilliard.
“I did all the inner fender panel work, and all the engine bay metal work,” says Cereceres, “I cut the hole out of the hood, built the framework around the hole. I had to move in the hood hinges, relocate them, because the wheels he originally wanted for that car, when he aired it all the way down, would hit the hood hinges in the factory location. I also built the fuel tank, the basket that holds it, and plumbed the fuel system.” Rudy also referred Hilliard to fellow builder and local Oak Hills shop owner, Osvaldo “Oz” Asencio of Wasp Auto, to finish the car.
Asencio says his original plan was just to perform paint correction and polish the finish, but once underway, he realized the paint was more damaged that he had originally observed. “I was supposed to polish on it, but there were a lot of nicks and scratches. I told him that if I re-sprayed the car, the finish would clean it up a lot more. We painted it and cleaned up the color and brought the paint up to a different standard,” said Asencio.
Still, the car’s ideas had not meshed into one overall vision, as Ascencio noted: “They had a lot of work done overall, but it didn’t have a theme” that tied the whole car together. After the paint the conversation of wheels came up. “I didn’t think we were going to see eye to eye. I said pick out a few wheels and I’ll help you, figure out what you like, and I’ll help you from there. The first two weeks I couldn’t see the vision, and then little by little it started forming into something I could see. Then he threw the Forgelines at me. I thought it’s kind of wild, but I think we could pull it off,” recalls Ascencio.
“Once we decided to go forward with those wheels, I could start to connect the dots,” says Ascencio. At first Ascencio and Hilliard did not see eye-to-eye on how the project should go. The car originally had a black cherry paint job with a tan interior, and that color combination did not work for Ascencio. He suggested a new theme of a color matched exterior and interior, something that was inspired by 1960’s cars that he idealized. Once the car had a theme and a much more cohesive idea, Ascencio focused on dealing with any remaining craftsmanship issues, remaking those areas and bringing them to a higher standard.
The distinctive headlights came after Hilliard’s previously installed HID lights started showing problems. “Oz is the one who came up with those lights. I cried when he told me what those lights cost,” says Hilliard. Ascencio recommended J.W. Speakers LED lights to replace the HIDs. They were pricey, but they solved the lighting issues and give the car a unique and modern look.
Hilliard said that he “just broke down and paid for them,” but was surprised with the result, “When I saw them on the car, I couldn’t do anything except stand there and smile.”
Late in March 2019, a beautifully painted 1960 Chevy El Camino rolled out onto the street with big block power, air suspension, unique Forgeline wheels, a roll cage that mirrored the bend of the A-pillars, and two Demon carburetors on a chromed BDS 871 supercharger. Alvin’s dream had finally become a reality, and all of the many of ideas have come together, blending into a perfect car. It was a struggle that is now fondly looked by by Hilliard and Ascencio. “We started working, and then we started meshing. Then it was like we were making smooth jazz. That’s what the car should be named,” said Ascencio, “Smooth Jazz.” Hopefully, the car keeps on jamming for many miles to come.
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