As we close the book on Forzalopnik Week, it's time to reveal one last machine: The Jalopnik editor's pick. Half of it is a car. Half of it is a truck. Could it really have been anything else?
Predictable though our answer may seem, we did not take the decision lightly. When Turn 10 Studios approached us with the opportunity to create a Forza Motorsport download car pack, we were wary. The good Jalop name carries a lot of weight in the world, and we had no desire to attach it to something that sucked. We wanted an ace in the hole. We asked for a small piece of sure-thing awesome, and because the Turn 10 crowd is a friendly bunch, we got it. In fact, they have this to say:
"It's been a long week of very short nights, too much coffee and not enough sleep. It was a sacrifice well worth the results - the commentariat triumphed and a truly Jalopnik car pack has been chosen by the masses. We at Turn 10 are nothing if not giant car nuts like yourselves, and though we accept the results, great cars did fall off the ship (no Alfas?!). Some of you will be overjoyed at the final list, some of you might be crying foul as your favorite car dropped off in the earlier rounds - rest assured weary travelers, your cries did not fall on deaf ears. Stay tuned..."
Although the Internet came in and got all HARHARVOTEStuF in the polls, your hissing and stomping repelled the invaders. And while you may not believe the list of cars that resulted is perfect, it's still pretty damn good. And it needs one more addition to make it great.
Say hello to your 2010 Forzalopnik Editor's Choice: the 1970 Chevrolet El Camino 454 Super Sport. This is what we stand for.
Jalopnik latecomers may not understand the community's fascination with all things -amino. Truth be told, at one point, I didn't either. I started reading this site in the long-ago days of the Uphill Both Ways in the Snow Prehistrionic Internet. Spin was king, Wert was still in Detroit and the Bumbeck/Johnson duo ruled the West Coast. Jalopnik was a small, vibrant community of freakheads with a hard-on for automotive Weird. I loved the bare-knuckle passion of the early days, and while I didn't get the whole car-truck thing at first, the true meaning soon set in: Simply put, the El Camino makes no sense. And that's why it makes enormous sense.
To most of the world, the truckcar is a silly thing. (Australia, with its ute-happy car culture, is the shining-star exception.) It's the automotive equivalent of the spork — it combines two unique tools but offers the full talents of neither. The truckcar is an acquired taste, and while redneck yabbos and slobbering meth queens have done their best to dim its luster, it still shines brightly for a select few.
The 1970 El Camino 454 SS is the high point of Chevrolet's car-as-truck endeavors, but it was not the first of its kind.
The model was introduced in 1959 as a response to the strong-selling but nerdy Ford Ranchero. It was based on the outlandish-looking Chevy Impala, and while the Impala was a success, the El Camino was not. It was pulled from the market shortly after.
When the El Camino returned in 1964, it was a wholly different car. The flash-and-dazzle approach was gone, replaced by a slab-sided, functional aesthetic. Curb weight was down, and the chassis, taken from the period Chevelle, was more oriented toward work. Sales picked up. As the Chevelle's styling matured, so did the El Camino's. By the time the Age of Muscle rolled around, Chevrolet's compact pickup was a solid member of society. 1970 was inarguably the El Camino's peak. Styling reached a pre-Malaise pinnacle that year, and for the first time, the bow-tie boffins gave the model the biggest engine in the Chevelle lineup: the 450-hp, 454-cubic-inch LS5. (The 375-hp 396 had been available for two years, but it was never GM's sharpest stick.)
The LS5 was a monster. It spit out an ungodly 500 lb-ft of torque, enough to catapult the SS to 60 mph in just over six seconds. The quarter-mile arrived in just 13.4 seconds. If that doesn't sound appealing, then you are a dishwater chowderhead and the world will piss on your grave.
Still, the 454 SS's appeal goes beyond mere speed. As our man in Detroit once said, "this is a car you get into trouble with. It's a leather-jacketed, chain-smoking, knife-wielding "screw you" to proper society." It represents an America that we desperately long for, an America where laws are merely rules, rules are meant to be broken, and music is played loud enough to explode small birds. It is a beer-stained Gibson Les Paul in a world of soulless Korean Fender copies. It is early Led Zeppelin, Jawbreaker, the GC5, and every Social Distortion record that sounds good while drunk.
El camino is Spanish for "the road," but the word encompasses more than that. Witness what pops out of SpanishDict.com when you plug in the name:
1. path, track (sendero); road (carretera)
2. way (ruta, vía)
3. journey (viaje)
* nos espera un largo camino -> we have a long journey ahead of us
* ponerse en camino -> to set off
* abrir camino a -> to clear the way for
* abrirse camino -> to get on ahead
* van camino del desastre/éxito (figurative) -> they're on the road to disaster/success
Could a definition be more perfect? That last expression — van camino del desastre/éxito — offers a bit of remarkably appropriate humor: We are disaster. We are success. We are a road to nowhere, a long journey begging to be taken. We go everywhere and nowhere all at once, driving for the sheer hell of it, and we do it gladly.
We are big-block muscletruckcar. We are Los Jalops. And we demand to not be taken seriously.
Photo Credit: Flickr/RichardSmallbone, JackSnell, ASurocca, Feedmeshow