Reader’s Hardcore Project: Jim Roberts’ Big-Block El Camino

There is a lot to be said about the raw power provided by even a mildly built big-block engine. Many people prefer the torque they offer, and some people wouldn’t drive a car with anything else. Jim Roberts of Poulsbo, Washington, belongs to the latter category, and puts a big-block in just about everything. A Bow Tie guy through-and-through, he’s had about every Chevy car or truck you can imagine, and he’s got quite the impressive stockpile of parts.

It was a little green when it first showed up at Jim's house, but a little water and a good washing sure cleaned it up nice!

When Jim started working on this 1967 El Camino, it had a 283 cubic-inch small-block engine and a Powerglide transmission. When complete, it will have a big-block 396 cubic-incher for motivation and a Turbo 400 transmission for optimum power and smooth cruising. The final build will be a nearly stock-looking rendition of how the car began, other than the big-block and a few other minor changes we’ll get to later.

This is the big-block that will soon fit snugly between the El Camino's fenders.

“I have a bad habit of putting a big-block to everything I get,” Jim explained. “I have about 15 big-block engines, and I decided to use one.” The small-block it came with was wore out, so he faced the decision, “Do I rebuild the small-block, or drop in a big-block?”. To him, the answer was obvious.

This is how the El Camino sits today. A lot of work has been done, but there is still a lot of work to still be done.

Why the El Camino? Jim has lived in Poulsbo, his entire life, and he is closely connected to the north Kitsap county area. This El Camino was purchased new at Tide Chevrolet in Poulsbo, and has never lived outside the area. It’s almost as closely connected to the area as Jim.

The original owner was a man named Harold Fisk. He lived in Hansville, which is a few miles from Jim’s current, and childhood. Harold sold it to a close friend of Jim’s, Jeff Uberuaga, who then sold it to another local guy. He then sold it to Colin Marks, who sold it to Jim.

Jim had his eye on the car since Colin got it, and has offered to buy it several times over the years. “The thing was sitting in an open-wall barn. It had a roof over it, but it was green and moldy,” Jim said. “I’d been bugging Colin about it for a few years. I’d always liked the car.” Eventually, Jim was able to get it, bring it home, and start the process of restoring it.

“I just want it to be a nice car,” Jim told us. “My goal was to just throw a, engine in it and drive it to and from work. The project started as a simple scuff it and shoot it project, but it snowballed from there.”  All of the body repair and paintwork is being done by Jim’s close friend, Allen Kenney. “Allen is a perfectionist,” Jim explained.

They know the car will be gold, but they can’t settle on the exact tone. Here are a few of the swatches they’ve looked at. Some are too dark, some too light, and they just don’t have the right mix of metal flake.

So far, Jim and Allen pulled the car apart, tore out the interior, and removed the drivetrain for Jim to get to work on the car’s motivation. Allen has done some rust repair in places like the bed and the quarters, and there have been no surprises or severely rusted areas. Allen has also made a lot of progress getting the car ready for paint. “Allen’s goal is to have the car done for the Goodguy’s show here in July,” Jim said.

To get the car done by then, there is still a lot of work to complete. Jim needs to finish building the engine and get the drivetrain in place. The transmission is built and ready to go, and the 12-bolt rearend is still in the car. He still has suspension work to do, and he is adding disc brakes to the front of the car. He’ll also be using an Edelbrcock Performer intake, and he is also adding power steering as well. “I have the correct power steering and alternator brackets for the big-block,” Jim said. “Everything will appear stock, right down to the kick down solenoid that bolts onto the corner bolt of the carburetor.”

When it's done, the tan interior will be replaced with a black interior.

We’re going to keep our eyes on this one, and we’ll keep you posted as Jim gets the project done and on the road. It’ll be interesting to see if they can meet Allen’s goal and have the car done by July. What do you think of Jim’s project? Would you do anything different or keep it simple and big-block powered as Jim is doing? Let us know in the comments below!

It’s come a long way since Jim bought it, and we can’t wait to see it done!

About the author

Kyler Lacey

A 2015 Graduate from Whitworth University, Kyler has always loved cars. He grew up with his dad's '67 Camaro in the garage and started turning wrenches at a young age. At seventeen, he bought his first classic, a '57 Chevy Bel Air four-door, and has since added a '66 Plymouth Valiant and '97 Cadillac Deville to his collection. When he isn't writing for Power Automedia, he's out shooting pictures at car shows, hiking in the forests of the beautiful Pacific Northwest, or working on something in the garage.
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