1986 Chevrolet El Camino: The 1978 through 1987 El Caminos were produced in four trim levels: Classic, Black Knight (1978)/Royal Knight (1979-83), Conquista and Super Sport, and shared chassis components with the Chevrolet Malibu. Chevrolet 90° V6 and Buick V6 engines were used for the first time. The optional 305 cubic-inch small block V8 was rated at 150 or 165 horsepower (123 kW), and from 1982–1984, the Oldsmobile-sourced diesel engine was also optional.
A new trimmer El Camino was unveiled in 1978 adopting the new, more sharp-edged Malibu styling, and a one-inch longer 117-inch (3,000 mm) wheelbase. The front end sheet metal was shared with the Malibu, the doors with the Monte Carlo, and the rear tailgate and bumper was shared with the Malibu Station Wagon. But for the first time, the El Camino had a unique chassis - it was shared with no other Chevrolet. The front end featured a new single rectangular headlight design. Base engine was a 200-cubic-inch (3.3-liter) V6 that developed 95 horsepower (71 kW).
Three upgrades could be ordered: a 231-cubic-inch V-6 developing 105 horsepower (78 kW), or a 305-cubic-inch V-8 with 145 horsepower (108 kW). Only El Caminos (and Malibu station wagons) could get the 170-horsepower 350-cubic-inch V-8. It was not available on Malibu passenger cars. Among GM makes, at least, the era of bigness was fading into history, overtaken by a new age of efficiency and economy.
The 1979 models got minimal changes following its debut as a redesigned "new-size" model in 1978. Alternations to the 1979 El Camino amounting to little more than a new divided grille. However, a "small-block" 267-cubic-inch (4.4-liter) V-8 joined the options list and slotted between the standard 3.3-liter V-6 and the optional 5.0-liter four-barrel V-8. The 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) V-8, developing 170 horsepower (130 kW) was again available. Both three- and four-speed manual transmissions had floor shifters.
The 1980 El Camino started out the decade of the 1980s with few changes, though engine choices were shuffled a little. The base V-6 displaced 229 cubic inches, up from 200 the year before. Horsepower increased from 94 to 115. Optional again were a 267-cubic-inch V-8 with 125 horsepower (93 kW) and a 305 V-8, now with 155 horsepower (down five). The 350 with 170 horsepower (130 kW) offered in 1979 was dropped. A "three-on-the-tree" manual transmission was standard, but most got the optional three-speed automatic.
The 1981 models received a new vertical grill. The 1981 engines mostly continued from 1980 but now wore GM's Computer Command Control (CCC) emission system. The base 229-cubic-inch V-6 made 110 horsepower (down from 115), as did the California-only 231-cubic-inch Buick V-6. Optional engines were the 267-cubic-inch V-8 with 115 horsepower (86 kW) and The 305-cubic-inch V-8, now with 150 horsepower (110 kW). The three-speed automatic added a lock-up torque converter to aid highway mileage.
The 1982 (through the final 1987) El Camino sported a frontal appearance with a crosshatch grille flanked by quad rectangular headlights. New under the hood for 1982 was a 105-horsepower 5.7-liter (350-cubic-inch) Diesel V-8, which was also offered in Chevy's full-size cars. Though mileage with the diesel was commendable, it was an expensive option and would eventually amass a dismal repair record. Gasoline-engine choices were unchanged, except Chevy's 229-cubic-inch (3.8-liter) V-6 was now standard in California-bound cars, replacing Buick's 231-cubic-inch V-6.
In 1983 the 4.4-liter V-8 was gone, leaving the 5.0-liter version as the only optional gas V-8. Standard engine was again Chevy's 3.8-liter V-6 with 110 horsepower (82 kW), though California cars, once again, got a Buick V-6 with similar specs. Continuing on the options list was the 5.7-liter V-8 diesel with 105 hp (78 kW). The sister Malibu sedan and wagon was discontinued after the 1983 model year.
The 1984-87 El Camino SS was offered as a conversion (completed by Choo-Choo Customs Inc., of Chattanooga, Tennessee) to include the aerodynamic front end of the concurrent Monte Carlo SS, and received the L69 engine package, which included the 190 hp 305 V8. For 1985, GM shifted El Camino production to Mexico, and the new 4.3 L was standard through 1987.