The Art of the El Camino From the moment you see her flawless lines and flowing body you realize that this was a creation of inspired Gods. Her scant vinyl top accentuates the sheepish grin that innocently hides the pulsating power inside. As with all great art, you are immediately struck with a breathless awe and stare uncontrollably as your mind tries to wrap around its inner meaning. Momentarily speechless, you struggle to find words that are worthy of description, but falling short you simply gaze at the 1971 Chevrolet El Camino ("1971 El Camino"). The beauty of her solid black panel is highlighted by the addition of contrasting chrome wheels. The dimensional texture of her outline, unrivaled in the automotive world, sets this automobile a world apart. It is a masterpiece of art, in a class of its own, and there is nothing on earth more deserving to preserve than the 1971 El Camino.
The beauty of the 1971 El Camino, a welcome addition to any art, does not in itself automatically grant it that most noble of titles "Art". It does, however, grab the viewer’s attention long enough to see beyond the surface and discover the story behind the art. Reflecting the history of the era of its creation, the 1971 El Camino pulls us back to the turmoil of the times. 1971 was a year of massive conflict and the El Camino reflects the troubled past while predicting a rapidly changing future. Is it a truck, or is it a car The El Camino suffered the same lack of direction that the American public confronted. We had lost our space age zeal and lust for aerodynamic design. We were moving into a sleeker, more refined future and the El Camino was pulling us. Refined lines, a healthier profile, and a look that gives you the feeling of impending motion even at a standstill.
Pablo Picasso once stated that, "Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth" (qtd. in "Pablo Picasso Quotes") Art forces us to imagine how things may be, and believe how things could be. It takes us to imaginary places while letting us taste the past and sample the future. The El Camino does not disappoint us on either count. The El Camino first recognized the looming fuel crisis, and 1971 was the first year that demanded all El Caminos run on unleaded fuel to save our air. They were downsized to indicate the coming of the compact car. Yet, it held power and adequately reflected what was still America’s might. A test driver from automotive magazine "Drag Racing USA" summarized its performance by remarking, "That’s the fastest we’ve ever put a showroom stocker through the traps on regular fuel !" ("Vintage El Camino Reviews"). The 1971 El Camino was more than a work of art, it offered us hope in the midst of despair.
Highbrow critics may scoff and contend that the 1971 El Camino is merely a middle class, mass produced, consumer item. They would be correct and yet it would simply reinforce the argument that it is a great work of art. It is art on par with Warhol’s Campbell Soup Can, gleaned from the magical age of cookie cutter architecture and replicating suburbia. Art is no longer for the elite, the aristocracy, or the commissioned. According to Kotkin art is experiencing a "quiet arts revolution taking place in the region’s hinterlands" and the El Camino has paved the way. In the midst of this monotony called life, a few gems would stand out from the crowd. All eyes would turn to the 1971 El Camino when she entered the room.
I believe that to be great art, the object needs to have wide acceptance. In this light, the 1971 El Camino was all things to all people. It was a car and it was a truck. It was sexy and utilitarian. It was conforming to fuel conservation while not sacrificing the muscle that gained the respect of the automotive world. It embodied the past and foretold the future. It did all this in an eye-pleasing package that will remain a classic for all of time. What more fitting piece of art could we preserve for future generations than one that holds so much of Americana in one item
"1971 El Camino." Muscle Car Club. 2006. 27 Sep. 2006 Kotkin, Joel. "Suburban Culture." Wall Street Journal 19 Jan. 2005. 28 Sept. 2006 .
"Pablo Picasso Quotes." Brainyquotes. 2006. 28 Sept. 2006 .
"Vintage El Camino Reviews." Team Chevelle. 28 Sept. 2006 .