BK Auto Auctions Proudly present a rare documented Royal Knight with a very rare four-speed manual transmission originally built for the Canadian market! Only 544 El Caminos in 1980 were four speeds, and how many of them were Royal Knights?!
Chevrolet introduced the El Camino for the 1959 model year in response to Ford’s Ranchero that had entered the market in 1957. Like the Ranchero, the El Camino was derived from modifying a station wagon body (in this case the newly-designed Brookwood) to create a vehicle that was not quite a pickup and certainly not a passenger car earning the industry designation of “coupe utility”.
The concept was not new, dating back to the roadster utilities of the 1920. Variations of the coupe utilities came on the scene in the 1930’s but did not catch the American public’s interest. Famed GM designer Harley Earl supposedly began throwing around the idea of producing a coupe utility in the early 1950’s, several years before the El Camino was introduced. Coupe utilities were all the rage in Australia in that era and US automakers were quick to jump on the bandwagon.
After selling over 22,000 units in the introductory year, sales for the 1960 model dropped by more than one-third and GM executives dropped the El Camino from the 1961 Chevy lineup. In response to Ford moving their Ranchero to the new compact Falcon platform in 1960, Chevrolet’s coupe utility offering for 1961 was based on their Corvair van.
The El Camino nameplate was resurrected for the 1964 model year, with the coupe utility now based on the mid-size Chevelle/Malibu platform. That continued through the 1987 model year, which marked the last time an El Camino rolled off a GM assembly plant line in the United States.
GM’s coupe utility concept proved popular with the American motoring public and since 1964 was offered in a number of trim levels over the years. The El Camino could be optioned with both appearance and performance packages. Powertrain options over the years spanned the gamut from small six cylinder to massive big-block V8’s with three and four speed manuals and two, three and four speed automatics backing them. From 1979 through the 1983 model year, the Royal Knight was the top trim level of the Super Sport (SS) package. It was the predecessor to the 1978 Black Knight package, offered for only one year when the threat of a lawsuit over ownership of the name caused GM to make the change.
This very rare 1980 Chevrolet El Camino Royal Knight has been a part of the present owner’s portfolio for almost three years and presents as a great example of combining sportiness and luxury. Built at the Kansas City, MO Leeds assembly plant the fourth week of July 1979, the vehicle’s VIN indicates it was built with the 305 cubic inch V8 (the largest engine option available for the 1980 model). That fact is confirmed by the build sheet, which also indicated this to be one of only 544 El Caminos built with the M20 Muncie four speed manual transmission. While the vehicle at some point has obviously been treated to a basecoat/clearcoat repaint from the original laquer, the original exterior (Code 75 Claret) and interior (Code 79 Dark Claret Red) interior colors indicated by both the cowl tag and the build sheet remain. Power options include power steering, power brakes, power windows, power door locks and tilt steering wheel. The car was built with factory air conditioning but is missing the compressor and other pieces and is not operational at this time. The factory radio has been replaced with a JVC unit. The El Camino’s factory Rally wheels have been replaced in favor of aftermarket chrome wheels. The build sheet confirms that the car was ordered with the Royal Knight package (RPO Z16), one of 2,598 such vehicles according to the GM Heritage Center.
Another rarity of this vehicle is the build sheet’s verification it was manufactured for the Canadian market and was shipped from the factory to the GM terminal in Edmonton, Alberta. The car retains its’ Canadian instrumentation with the speedometer and odometer reading in kilometers and a 1996 Canadian inspection sticker remains on the driver door jamb. The El Camino was imported to the United States sometime after 1996, as it had a Nevada title when purchased by the present owner.
The vehicle is presently powered by a small block 350 cubic inch Chevrolet engine of unknown displacement as the block pad is blank. It has an aftermarket intake manifold and Holley carb, headers and aftermarket chrome valve covers. While we have no reason to believe the odometer reading of slightly over 44,600 kilometers is not correct, in accordance with statutes governing licensed Missouri auto dealers the vehicle is sold “mileage exempt” due to age. The owner holds a clean Missouri title to the automobile. When you add up the documented provenance of this vehicle being a four-speed Royal Knight built for the Canadian market, this becomes a rather obscure vehicle worth of a spot in any collector’s portfolio.
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