Falling victim to the charismatic charm of a certain car happens; the allure that vehicle possesses either in shape or sentimental value can be strong. Mike Alleman was hypnotized by the Chevrolet El Camino after owning one over 25 years ago, so when it came time for a new ride it was on the top of his list. The 1969 El Camino SS Alleman has created is a stunning example of what can be done with a pump gas street machine.
Alleman’s fascination with the automobile was cultivated in his early teenage years. The mechanics of how vehicles worked struck a chord with him and he was obsessed with learning more about them and what made them function. Armed with an understanding of how a vehicle operated it became obvious to Alleman how to improve the performance of a car in every way possible.
“Once I knew what made them work, it was easy to figure out how to make them better or faster. I honestly can’t think of one performance-based vehicle I’ve ever owned that I didn’t do something on it at some level to make it better or faster — they’ve never stayed stock for long. Once I felt that some real improvements were made by modifying them, I’d head to the drag strip to see what they would do,” Alleman says.
Alleman’s attraction to the El Camino is rooted in the first one he owned: a 1972 SS model that he stuffed a nasty 396 cubic-inch big-block Chevy into. At the time the car and engine were the perfect combination for him: it had both ‘show’ and ‘go’. The car ran in the 12.60s at the track and could still be driven around without any issues. Soon, the desire to go faster was knocking at Alleman’s door and he wanted something that fell into the Pro Street category.
But that put Alleman in a difficult spot with his El Camino.
“Back then if you wanted to go fast you had to have an engine too radical for the street. Another option was to run nitrous, which was still in its infancy and didn’t interest me. The final avenue was to go lightweight, and a 4,100-pound El Camino wasn’t lightweight. The ’72 was so clean and nice I couldn’t convince myself to cut it up, so I pulled the engine and sold the rolling chassis,” Alleman explains.
With the El Camino gone, Alleman picked up a Pro Street Vega that had a nicely built small-block Chevy under the hood for power. After he grew tired of the Vega, he jumped into the import world and built a 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse that ran a best of 11.45 at 125 mph … very respectable for a 3,500-pound import on 93 octane pump gas.
Both the Vega and Eclipse were great cars, but Alleman was yearning to get back into another muscle car. Admittedly missing his El Camino, he made a promise to himself that that if the opportunity ever presented itself to own another one he’d pull the trigger without hesitation. Little did he know how quickly he would get the chance to do so.
“About four years ago I was just messing around on the internet looking at El Caminos for sale, and there it was. It already had been converted to a back half Pro Street car. At the time, the car had a 468 cubic-inch big-block Chevy on nitrous in it. That engine wasn’t exactly as described by the previous owner, so I learned a lesson there. Since that time the car been a work in process, making it better and faster along the way,” Alleman says.
Alleman has been working to make the El Camino his own ever since he took delivery of the car. Because it already had a roll cage, Alleman installed a set of Global West control arms up front and matched them to an AFCO double-adjustable shock and coilover conversion kit. In the rear, Alleman added to the Chris Alston Chassisworks four-link set up an AFCO coilover conversion kit to match the front, along with an S&W Race Cars diagonal link and torsional anti-roll bar kit.
Powering the El Camino is a nasty 582 cubic-inch Scott Shafiroff-built mill that uses a Dart Big M block as its base. Inside the engine is a Callies Dragon Slayer crank, Manley connecting rods, and Mahle pistons. A Merlin X intake works with the Dart Pro1 heads and a BRE 1250 Dominator carburetor to bring air in. For some extra kick, a Pro Flow fogger system has also been plumbed into the intake but hasn’t been used yet. Alleman says the engine makes almost 820 horsepower and 760 ft-lbs of torque naturally-aspirated.
The goal for Alleman was to have a nice and healthy street car that could run in the low 10-second or maybe high nine-second range at the track. With a small 980 cfm carburetor, the El Camino ripped off a 9.86 at 136 mph with just 93 octane in the tank. When the new carburetor and ported intake are tested at the track he expects the car to run deep into the nine-second range.
“The thing I enjoy the most is that it’s still a street car that I can drive when and where I want to on 93 pump gas, but I do trailer it on longer trips to be practical. I have taken it to Crusin’ The Coast for five days at a time and drive it everywhere when I’m there. It actually rides and drives much better than you would imagine from the looks of it,” Alleman says.
While Mike Alleman enjoys drag racing, it’s not the primary reason he has built any of his cars. The track has always been his proving ground for modifications and a way to validate what he has done. The main focus for anything he has built is to keep it a street car that performs at the highest level possible.