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1965 Chevy El Camino - Unmatched

A '65 El Camino In A League Of Its Own

Dan Ward
Dec 1, 2010
Photographers: Dan Ward
Say it with me, El Camino. Doesn't it just roll off your tongue? It's hard not to say it with some Latin flavor with images of blasting down a two-lane dirt road along the coast of Mexico. After looking at Travis Reif's jaw-dropping orange '65 Elco however, it may be hard to speak at all. This 10-year project was the brainchild of a man enveloped in custom cars and trucks since birth. Travis tells us, "I've been involved in this sport for a lifetime-I really was born and bred to do this." Spending a decade on and off building one truck shows dedication, but Travis told us why he stuck it out, "I wanted something different from the norm that looked super low and super bad without a body drop." We're still having a hard time speaking after seeing his El Camino in person, but thankfully we can still type-here are the details of this unmatched '65.
Photo 2/12   |   1965 Chevy El Camino left Front Angle
After scrapping his first '65 Elco because, as he described, "It got so far out of hand that I got frustrated with it," Travis found this straight example and began the decade-long journey. As the owner of The Custom Shop in Las Vegas, Travis knows what it takes to build a show-winning custom, so he and his crew immediately got to work on the El Camino's foundation. Using 2-inch drop spindles, Hotchkis upper control arms, Ride Tech airbags, QA1 shocks, and Hotchkis tie-rod ends, the front end was dumped in the weeds. Out back, The Custom Shop team used Hotchkis boxed trailing arms, Ride Tech airbags, and QA1 shocks to bring the chromed Chris Alston Fab9 9-inch rearend into the cutout bed pocket. The sheetmetal Fab9 rearend is stuffed with 4.11 gears and 31-spline Strange axles for bulletproof performance.
Used to adding unique wheels to custom rides, Travis actually has three sets of wheels for his classic Chevy-with each one creating a different look and style for the El Camino. For our shoot, he stuck with 20-inch Boss wheels that are wrapped in Nitto Neo-Gen tires, sized 235/30R20. Wilwood big brakes on each corner bring the Bow Tie to a quick halt. With the Elco ready to handle better than a cheetah on the prowl, each part was removed and sent out for chrome plating, and then the frame was filled, sanded smooth, and painted bright orange. Knowing the El Camino's structure was rock-solid, Travis looked to give the Chevy proper motivation.
Photo 3/12   |   1965 Chevy El Camino left Side Angle
Contacting All Seasons Marine, in Boulder City, Nevada, a new 350ci V-8 was fitted with aluminum fast burn heads, a GM Performance Parts hot cam, aluminum X-plane intake manifold with a Holley carb atop it, Hedman Hedders, and Flowmaster mufflers. Providing a deep and raucous rumble, Travis added a March serpentine pulley setup, custom plug wire looms, and Fesler billet hood hinges for eye candy. Sending the 450 hp to the Fab9 rearend is a new 700-R4 trans equipped with a 2,200 rpm stall converter. Smoky burnouts were now as easy as blipping the throttle, but Travis had more in mind that just a low-slung, tire roaster.
Rolling the Elco back into The Custom Shop's bay doors, the body underwent a cosmetic makeover worthy of any Hollywood reality show. Forever sacrificed to the welder are the door and tailgate handles, emblems, hood and side trim, mirrors, rain gutters, and fuel door. Arrow-straight and ready for a vibrant hue, Chris Shelton, of Shelton Designs was called in for his steady and even paint strokes. After some time to cure in the Vegas sunshine, the paint dried to reveal the eye-popping House of Kolor Tangelo Pearl topcoat. Sunglasses required.
Inside the Elco's tight confines, the interior plays tricks on your eyes like beer goggles. Open the doors and you see what looks like a cavernous cabin, but in your head you know there shouldn't be that much room in a two-door car/truck. Careful planning and perfect execution of a killer audio system provides the CliffsNotes version, but the truth is in the details. Glide Engineering seats have been cut down and reupholstered in tan leather and suede, the dash has been painted and fitted with Dakota Digital gauges, and Vintage Air A/C keeps the cabin cool during the blistering Vegas summers. On the way to the photo shoot driving in a truck behind the Elco, we heard a thunderous, booming sound and wondered if maybe we had bad weather coming at us, but we quickly realized it was just Travis having some fun with his Rockford Fosgate audio system. With the volume up to 11, two 12-inch Rockford subs pound occupants into submission, and multiple sets of 5 1/4 and 6 1/2-inch components, both in the doors and in the back enclosure, provide the mid and high frequencies. Two Rockford Fosgate amps power all of the mayhem, and installed in the custom center console, an Eclipse AVN 6620 controls the audio input signal. Two Optima batteries, in a hidden bed compartment, are charged by a chromed Powermaster alternator. Other custom interior touches include billet 'bag and window switches in the console, chrome ididit steering column capped with a LeCarra steering wheel, and an Ungo alarm that also serves as the door popper controller.
As we all know, this truck will never officially be "done," but Travis is very pleased with the outcome of his El Camino. Cruising down the highway in Henderson, Nevada, Travis couldn't stop smiling and we can't blame him, after all, in our opinion his '65 Elco is unmatched. Sun setting in the rearview, yellow lines on the pavement blurring by... just another day in paradise.
Travis was quick to thank his talented team at The Custom Shop, his wife Tori and his two sons, Tanner and Tyler, for all of their support and understanding.