Dave Wright's 1959 Chevrolet El Camino - The Golden Idol
Dave Wright's 1959 Chevrolet El Camino of Poole, United Kingdom, is a distinctive custom that originated from Wright's admiration for Gene Winfield and Larry Watson. Named The Golden Idol, Wright's El Camino manifests his vision and the expertise of these celebrated car customizers.
The journey of Wright's El Camino began in 1989 when he became its proud owner. In the initial years, the vehicle saw several adventures, including an eventful drive home from Florida alongside Wright's friend Billy Roe, marked by unexpected hiccups like running out of fuel and a broken half shaft. The vehicle was primarily used as Wright's daily commute for the next few years.
In the early 1990s, Wright and his buddies gave the car a black and flaming makeover at a gathering in Hayling Island. By 1994, Wright decided to upgrade the vehicle to a '60s show car-style, which led him to his long-standing idol, Gene Winfield.
The Gene Winfield Touch
Wright, who had previously encountered Winfield at several shows in the United States, decided to approach him to paint his El Camino. Despite the significant geographical distance between Winfield, based in Mojave, California, and Wright in Poole, Winfield promptly agreed to contribute to the project. This led to Wright arranging for Winfield to be flown over to the UK in 2007, a decision more economically viable than having the car painted locally.
The Golden Idol
Upon Winfield's arrival, preparations began immediately, with the veteran customizer bringing his own set of spray guns and flake paints. Wright had envisioned a specific color for the car, House of Kolor Pagan Gold, but allowed Winfield to utilize his creativity, resulting in a unique blend of colors and an artistic custom fadeaway paint job, a classic example of Winfield's skills. "I had all these books and magazines to show him," Wright told Mike Pye when he made a story on the car for Custom Car July 2011. "He glanced at the books, but didn't really seem to be taking in what I was saying. I was starting to get a bit worried at this point, but thought, 'how do you tell someone who started this style of painting what to do?' In the end, I just let him get on with it, and to watch him work was just amazing. He had a measuring stick for the paints, but I'm not entirely sure he used it. It was like watching a mad scientist at work."
The dash was done first in Snow White Pearl. Then a base primer sealer tinted with Spanish Gold and Tangerine Kandy Koncentrates was laid over the whole car. Over this went a mix of Sunrise Pearl with more Tangarine and Spanish Gold, while the darker fade up from the bottom and under the fins involved a mix of black and Trans Oxide Yellow tint. Further coats of Pagan Gold and Sunrise Pearl went over this before the Snow White Pearl highlights were fogged in. On top of that, the clear coats were spiced up with Gene's own mix of original '60s flakes. The roof was done in Old School Flake Dark Gold, and the whole paint job took about three days. The name of the car is a nod to the famous Jade Idol custom '56 Mercury that Gene re-styled and repainted for Leroy Kemmerer in the late '50s. Meil Melliard painted the car's name on the dash.
Custom Modifications and Repairs
Before the painting process could commence, the El Camino required significant repairs and modifications. The car's rear passenger quarter and floors needed mending, and Wright had a few modifications in mind, including incorporating a 1960 Mercury grille that he found in an Arizona junkyard. Additionally, Mike Wareham from South Coast Kustoms was instrumental in enhancing the aesthetics by removing factory indicators and grilles, deleting handles and badges, and preserving only the dynamic side trim. It was dressed up with Lucas headlights and Lee taillight lenses.
Wright made alterations to the car's mechanical components, replacing the original 283ci motor with a 350 and revamping the Turbo 350 gearbox. The suspension was adjusted to lower the car, involving notching for clearance and fitting Air Ride Technologies shocks. In addition, power steering, power front disc brakes, and anti-roll bars were installed.
The tires were outfitted with Radir Tri-Ribs and 205/65 x 15s thin white wall tires. In the engine bay, forged pistons, a sportier cam, and ported and polished heads were added alongside a full stainless exhaust. The custom detailing was lavish with chrome and Pearl White contrasting flake finishes.
The interior saw a significant upgrade by incorporating 1965 Ford Thunderbird seats that Wright purchased from eBay. The seats were re-padded and re-trimmed with pearl white vinyl imported from the United States. All interior moldings were chromed rather than painted, and a custom floating center console was installed, influenced by the console that the Alexander Brothers made for Mike Budnick's 1960 Pontiac. All the tiki parts were hand-carved one-offs commissioned by a German guy Sue and Dave met at the S.I.N.S. show in Belgium. Jimmy Hibberd made the bed cover for the car.
The dashboard was kept stock, with the air ride controls concealed behind the cigarette lighter panel. A vintage-looking stereo by Custom Auto Sound was fitted, giving the vehicle a retro vibe while still providing modern audio quality. The headliner was finished in pearl white pleated vinyl.
Magazine Features and Appearances
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