Monday, 15 June 2020 16:14

MN Man’s 1959 El Camino Has a Chance to Be Turned Into a Hot Wheels Car

Written by John Wagner, County News Review
Chris Walker and his "Hulk Camino." Chris Walker and his "Hulk Camino." Submitted photo


When he was young, Chris Walker’s love of cars got him in trouble with his mother.

“I would always play with Hot Wheels, and I would steal my mom’s fingernail polish,” the North Branch, MN, native explained. “I would use it to paint my Hot Wheels. I always wanted something that was different from everyone else’s---I would customize my bicycle, my wagon, everything. I had a pedal car that I would constantly take apart and put back together. I’ve always been messing around with this stuff.”


That love of rebuilding cars was rewarded when the 2020 Hot Wheels Legends Tour honored one of Walker’s cars in May.


His 1959 El Camino was selected to compete for the chance to be turned into a Hot Wheels car.


Walker and his car, which he has dubbed “Hulk Camino,” plans to travel to the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show held in Las Vegas this November to earn this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


The award is a tribute to the creativity and persistence of Walker, who after high school jumped from job to job while searching for his passion.


“I was a cook at a restaurant, I cleaned carpets, I waxed floors in the evening---I did anything I could find,” said Walker, who eventually graduated from Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis in 1992. “But I’ve always had gasoline in my blood and oil in my veins.”


After graduation, Walker worked for 12 years in a body shop in St. Paul, but he did not find much satisfaction in that job, either.


“People weren’t ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ after you did your job,” he said. “In fact, if you did your job correctly, no one would even know you were there.”


So Walker started building hot rods. Or, more specifically, he started building “rat rods.”


“In my eyes, I would describe a rat rod as typically a lower-budget car that you put a natural patina on,” he said. “You’re not refinishing it or restoring it. Most of the time you’re using parts that are scavenged off junkyard cars.


“In fact, some guys are taking shiny paint and making it look old, as if it’s a ‘barn find.’ And I have a friend in France who is turning Lamborghinis into rat rods. It’s still evolving, and we’re not sure where it’s going.”


Walker and his custom automotive shop, ITW---which stands for In The Weeds---competed in the Rat Rod Tour and Build-Off in 2013 and 2014. That competition tasks builders with creating a car in 30 days, using a budget of $3,000, then driving that car for 3,000 miles.


In 2015 he started working on the Hulk Camino, a car Walker said is aptly named.


“I asked my son to help me push the car outside,” Walker said. “He asked if I wanted help pushing the ‘hulk’ of the car outside. And it dawned on me: The Hulk Camino. It’s green, and I planned on putting an 800 horsepower engine in it, so it’s going to have some muscle.”


He finished his initial work on the Hulk Camino in roughly 60 days. Among the modifications Walker made to the car were to narrow the back of the car by 10 inches and the front of car by 6 inches, to shorten the car 4 feet overall, and to shorten the back bed of the car from 8 feet to 2 feet.


Another modification was to place the car’s shifter on the ceiling instead of the floor.

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