Featured Member of the Week: Kenrogers1

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I spent the last 27 years of my working career in traffic safety, eight years as a State Trooper with the Arkansas State Police, later as an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, and finally as the NTSB’s Regional Director for the Central United States. Interestingly enough, I was medically retired back in 2000 as a result of a traffic crash that occurred in 1994. Over my career, I accumulated a very diverse knowledge of automobiles, their built-in safety features, their acceleration characteristics, collision dynamics, and styling features that drew me to carefully evaluate any automobile before purchase. It was part of my job expectations that I should know which were the safest vehicles, the least safe, and the highest and lowest powered. After I retired with the accumulation of 27 years of safety knowledge, with all things considered, I knew exactly what I wanted – I wanted a muscle car from back in the ‘60s, and I wanted an El Camino! I wanted an El Camino because that’s what my father owned when I was a senior in school. My father, a carpenter, had ordered an El Camino with the then new 350 c.i. engine for his work vehicle. What he got was a fire breathing big block; the 350 HP version of the 396 c.i. engine that looked like a work of art nestled in the underhood area of his SuperSport pickup. However, except for special occasions, I was still left to my daily driver, a bright green 1957 Chevrolet pickup with a bright red tailgate. Just try to get away with anything with that color combination in a small Arkansas town, population 725 in 1968.

How did you first get interested in this hobby/passion?

I had long wanted an El Camino to drive, but I had never thought anything about restoring or showing a classic car. Not until I moved in next door to my now good friend who is a body and paint specialist. I watched him, over a 4 year period, take a somewhat ragged 1955 Chevrolet that his grandfather purchased new and turn it into a work of art. I honestly did not know before then that fine restoration work like that was possible in a home shop. He had me hooked before I ever bought my Elky!

What Rides do you currently own?

My exceptional cool ride is a 1968 El Camino SS-396. This one is numbers-matching on all components with the exception of a Comp cam and Doug Thorley headers, which were installed before I purchased the Elky from its 3rd owner. The Elky is a 2-time Best in Show winner at the U.S. GM Nationals, and also has won Best of show (1) and Best of Class (2) at the NECOA’s Texas Invitational in Belton, Texas, from a field of up to 104 El Caminos. I have owned her for about 5 years now, and have strived to continuously improve both the mechanics and the appearance. My second ride is a 1966 Mustang Coupe that I restored from a life of abandonment in a remote field. The Mustang is almost finished from a 9 month effort, and should be out of paint before Christmas.

1968 El Camino SS Engine

What do you like most about your Cool Rides?

I guess what I like best about my classic car(s) is the ability to return to an earlier time, on demand, with a stab of the gas pedal. What modern automobile can offer the same sensation created by the wind noise, the full-throated scream of the 4 barrels gulping fuel, and the song of the Magnaflows? Give me a two lane rural road leading to a car show at some place remote to the big city, and I can lose myself in the pleasant thoughts that only can come from my classic ride.

1968 El Camino SS

What is the best memory you have with your favorite ride?

Winning my first Best of Show at the U.S. GM Nationals, from 87 acres of General Motors automobiles in Carlisle, PA. The judge told me that mine was most reflective of “Showroom New” and “Factory Fresh” of any he had seen that day. I walked on air the rest of that day!

1968 El Camino SS

How do you store your ride(s) during infrequent use, and what maintenance tips can you provide for readers?

There’s really not a great deal of “infrequent use” here in Texas. There’s something going on almost every weekend of the year with the moderate climate. However, before she is stored, I always make sure the bugs are removed from our last trip, and that a good coat of polish is applied. The oil check is more habit than anything else, as the Elky has never been down on oil in the 5 years that I’ve owned her.

1968 El Camino SS Interior

What was the first car you ever owned?

My first automobile was a bright green 1957 Chevrolet pickup with a bright red tailgate. It had a 265 c.i. V8 and was rebored 0.060. I thought it was a hotrod, that is until Dad bought the ’68 SS mentioned above.

1968 El Camino SS

What is/was the BEST car ever made?

I think that the best car ever made was the 1970 Chevelle with the LS6 engine. Very conservatively rated at 450 horsepower, the Chevelle made short work of most of its competitors, even the much-acclaimed Hemi MOPARS. I would jump at the chance to purchase one of the Chevelles workhorse twins, an El Camino, with the LS6 option – if one could be found at a reasonable cost.

1968 El Camino SS

What is/was the WORST car ever made?

What I would consider to be the worst car ever built has to be the Chevrolet Vega. In the midst of the 1974 oil embargo and resultant gas shortage, I was the proud owner of a 1970 Chevrolet Impala Custom. With its 400 c.i. smallblock engine, that car averaged around 22 miles per gallon. However, with the gas shortage getting worse, and the prices growing ever higher, I made a decision to trade the Impala, in perfect shape except for the “gas-guzzling” V-8, in on one of the new gas-sipping Vegas. Long story short – my first trip in the Vega, to Illinois, averaged 17 miles per gallon with a top speed of 63 miles an hour. Nuff explained!

1968 El Camino SS

How did you first hear about the Cool Rides Online website?

I first heard about the Cool Rides website a couple of years ago when one of my Association members’ car was in competition for one of the monthly awards. Since that time, the NECOA has claimed 2 or 3 of the Cool Rides’ prizes, prizes that they are very proud to win and tell about to their peers. The prize gives them further validation of what they have known for many years – the El Camino is the Coolest Ride that you can find on the highway today.

 1968 El Camino SS

Is there anything else you’d like the Cool Rides Online members to know about you?

I am a firm believer that we should be working to save as many classic vehicles as we can. If you like what you see on the Cool Rides pages, please help us and other classic car clubs in the renovation and restoration of the classic cars – they aren’t going to make any more of them! Restore them – Don’t crush them!

 1968 El Camino SS