Here’s your chance to drive a mean, green high-MPG celebrity-owned collectible machine. But you need to act fast. Daryl Hannah’s flat black biodiesel-powered 1983 Chevrolet El Camino just went up for auction on eBay (where you’ll find a healthy assortment of photos).
A stroke of fate allowed us to catch up with Daryl just before her primered pride and joy hit the block.
Bring up the topic of diesel-powered Cowboy Cadillacs with most gearheads and they’ll only tilt their heads and look at you funny. Chevrolet produced diesel El Caminos for two brief years in the early 1980s. Only true aficionados know that a tiny percentage of 1983 and 1984 El Caminos were equipped with Oldsmobile 350 diesel engines. Alas, Chevy’s experiment was not a sales success … largely due to the fact that the Oldsmobile 350 diesel fitted in the El Camino limped by with a rating of just 105 horsepower and 200 foot pounds of torque … rather anemic, when compared to a strong Chevy V-8.
It was the remarkable mile per gallon (MPG) ratings that created the diesel El Camino’s appeal, of course. 22 city / 33 highway MPG was nothing to sneeze at. All you need to do is take a look at the mile per gallon ratings of today’s pickup trucks to realize … it still isn’t.
While just over 24,000 El Caminos were sold in the 1983 model year, only 2.5% were equipped with the 350 cubic inch diesel engine. That number shrunk to nearly zero for the 1984 model year, with merely 0.4% of 23,000 or so El Caminos fitted with the diesel. (Source: a post on elcaminocentral.com, referencing John Gunnell’s Standard Catalog of Chevelle 1964-1987, shares some El Camino production data.)
With only hundreds built, authentic numbers-matching diesel El Caminos are collectible vehicles. The Oldsmobile 350 diesel’s lack of longevity adds to the allure, by thinning the herd. Only hundreds of these beasts rolled off the assembly line, back in the day. Just how many numbers-matching diesel El Caminos survive today is anybody’s guess.
Daryl found her rare 1983 diesel El Camino about seven years ago, after an exhaustive search. “When I saw it I just knew it was the perfect car for me,” said Daryl. “It could fit my surfboard and bike and get great mileage on fuel from waste grease.”
The black Bio ‘Mino runs on 100% biodiesel, pulling down a very respectable 33 miles per gallon on average. Daryl usually fills up the the truck from a tank at her house, but relies on biodiesel service stations when she’s out on the road. She plans to start brewing her own fuel soon.
Daryl’s El Camino is still running on its original engine and has not been rebuilt. Other than fuel lines, no mechanical modifications have been made. “None are necessary,”said Daryl. “The car runs cleaner and better on biodiesel.” A handful of aesthetic upgrades have been made, however: custom tinting, body work, and a great stereo … not to mention that menacing flat black paint.
Since Olds 350 diesels are known to be light on horsepower, we had to ask the question: How much grunt does it have? “Lots of torque,” Daryl replied. “It’s a diesel. It does get up and go.
So why is Daryl putting her pride and joy up on the auction block?
“I found another diesel El Camino,” she told us. “And I’m going on SVO (straight vegetable oil).” Not one to stand still, Daryl’s all about eco-innovation and alternative fuels. “We ran all day today on 100% hemp oil.”
January 15th, 2008
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- CNN’s Biodiesel Road Trip
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- Diesel Mileage: 1985 – 1987
- Drill, Baby, Drill? Pffffft.
- 1982: A Banner Year for High MPG Cars