A 1990s interpretation of the car/truck hybrid

1992 ASC-Chevrolet Lumina Z34 El CaminoChevrolet ended a 25-model-year, five-generation run when they cancelled the El Camino in 1987.

Two years later, almost as if anxious to get back into the segment, Chevrolet teased us with the XT-2 concept (to be covered in a forthcoming post). That sleek concept retained the original vehicle’s traditional rear-wheel-drive layout but was hardly production-feasible. By 1992, still showing interest in the car/truck combo, they had prepared another concept. Only this one was front-wheel-drive, and seemed quite feasible and logical for the time.

Concerted effort
ASC building on PicoFor this particular concept, Chevrolet teamed up with Michigan-based customizer, ASC. Founded in Los Angeles in 1965, the acronym originally stood for American Sunroof Corporation, which was fitting since they mostly specialized in opening up vehicle tops.

Within a couple of years they expanded their business into Detroit and moved their headquarters to Warren. Over time, and after turbulent chapters in their business history, ASC began teaming directly with auto manufacturers to create not only factory roof-related options but also complete show cars and concepts. (By 2004, the company changed its name–while keeping the familiar acronym–to American Specialty Cars, in order to better reflect their expanded capabilities.)

Not just utility but also some sport
ASC-Chevrolet Lumina Z34 El Camino frontThere is no doubt that the Chevrolet Lumina Z34 El Camino concept ruffled some purists’ feathers. As with any vehicle with a history behind it, there are fans and fans usually have their reasons for standing behind a nameplate. Being a quasi-truck, El Camino had always been RWD which, of course, had its performance benefits. This new concept was FWD.

ASC-Chevrolet Lumina Z34 El Camino motorHowever, despite the last generation of El Camino (1978-1987) offering both six- and eight-cylinder engines with displacements ranging up to 350-cubic inches, none produced more than 170 HP. A rather inglorious legacy for a model that once included 375 and even 450 HP variants in the early 1970s.

Although the 1992 concept shares its FWD layout with a mainstream sedan, its engine was sourced from the performance model and sported a dual overhead cam, 24-valve, 3.4-liter V-6 which was capable of producing 210 HP and 215 pound-feet of torque.
ASC-Chevrolet Lumina Z34 El Camino interiorAdding an extra element of driving engagement to the concept, that power was fed through a five-speed manual transmission, as can be seen in the photo to the right.
Because the concept was based on a production Lumina Z34, it received its tuned suspension and upgraded handling components.

ASC-Chevrolet Lumina Z34 El Camino front three-qtr

Apart from its custom wheels and unique slotted grill, it wore most of the production Z34’s visual enhancements such as the ground effects, heat-extracting vents on the hood, and dual exhaust outlets. They even managed to tastefully apply a spoiler to the tailgate.

Speaking of tailgates, the Lumina Z34 El Camino’s swung out, rather than folding down like most every truck and all of the El Caminos before it. The advantage was that it reduced the reach into the bed when opened.

Almost street legal
The Lumina Z34 El Camino was considered to be very close to legally road worthy. It was no quickie hack job. The bed was created by removing the rear seats and hollowing out the structure but the fabrication was done completely with metal. The concept retained the production car’s unique B-pillar-mounted door handles while the flank behind the door stayed true to El Camino shapes of yore.

ASC-Chevrolet Lumina Z34 El Camino rear three-qtrLending probably the most historically familiar element to the concept is the rear window; that part was interestingly salvaged from a 1979 El Camino and seems to have fit perfectly.

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