BY CODY FACTEAU
All right ... Pop quiz time. Let's see if you know your muscle cars. What muscle car bridged the gap between passenger cars and trucks, offered loads of horsepower and could carry your loads anywhere, and was originally called an SUV? That would be the El Camino, right? Ah, ha ... That's only half the answer. The correct answer is Chevy's El Camino and GMC's Sprint.
You're probably saying, "Whoa ... Wait a minute, Cody. What's a GMC Sprint?" That's just what I said, until I saw one. On Saturday, July 30, I attended the NEK Iron Pride & Polish Car Show held at the Fairgrounds in Lyndonville with my best friend, Alex Cope of Brighton. Stunned and amazed by the variety of gleaming cars, I walked right past what I thought was a '71 El Camino. I mean, I looked, but to the untrained eye, it looked just like an El Camino. Later, after trying my hand at taking off a NASCAR tire on a simulator at the National Guard booth, (and failing miserably by getting my butt kicked by a 9-year old who did it in half the time), I decided to play it safe and take another look at the cars.
To my amazement, I discovered that the front of what I thought was an El Camino said, GMC. It was a sporty 1972 GMC Sprint in a flaming red that really caught my eye. The car is owned by Allen Murawski of Danville and was being shown at the car show by his son, Tim Murawski of Burke. Allen is a long-time muscle car enthusiast and race car driver that just recently picked up the Sprint. So, what is a Sprint?
The GMC Sprint was produced from 1971 to 1977, and is a little known variant of the Chevy El Camino. There were two types of Sprints offered. The base model called the "Standard" Sprint and the upgrade model called the "Custom" Sprint. It was available with an inline L6 rated at 250 horsepower all the way up to a V-8 with 454 horsepower. The Sprint could be had with all the same options that were available on the El Camino. There was even a Sprint "SP" version which was similar to the El Camino "SS" The SP was an option package added to a "Custom" Sprint, with the SP standing for Special Performance, that's according to the parts books. Finding an SP today is pretty rare, as few were made with this custom package.
Another trivia question for you ... What does El Camino mean? The name means "The Road" in Spanish. Envious of the success that Ford was having with its car/truck Ranchero that debuted in 1957, Chevrolet struck back with its new El Camino model in 1959. Originally based on the Impala, the half car, half truck with its trademark "cat's eyes" taillights and wings survived for only two years, but reappeared in 1964 based on the Chevelle. This new El Camino shared most of its underpinnings and power trains (including high performance engines) with the Chevelle. SS versions would debut in 1968 and firmly establish the El Camino as a muscle car/truck. These "Chevelle" generations of the El Camino would be produced from 1968 to 1977, and from '78-'87 the El Camino would be based on the Malibu.
When comparing the GMC Sprint to the Chevy El Camino as far as production goes, more El Caminos were made in 1971 alone than all GMC Sprints from all production years. So, finding a Sprint could prove to be a serious challenge for the muscle car collector today.
El Caminos and Sprints were a unique class of vehicles, a hybrid cross of car/truck that filled a special niche in our history as car owners. And perhaps, just perhaps they are in some way responsible for the hybrid type vehicles we see on the road today. I only have one question for Allen Murawski, the owner of this rare, legendary '72 GMC Sprint ... "I got a check ... What number do I need to write in it?"
Cody Facteau is a 15-year old homeschooler from East Burke. He enjoys anything to do with cars, particularly the Classics. He loves Le Mans racing, his favorite TV show is Top Gear (BBC), hobbies are Legos and PlayStation. Career goals? What else, cars!