The Studebaker Club of America magazine ad called out, "Don't you wish you could drive your vintage Studebaker to work everyday? Well, here's the next best thing. You can convert any '78-'87 Chevelle El Camino two-door, Chevelle Malibu, or Chevelle Malibu station wagon in less than a week."

Man, that was right up "Studebaker Phil" Freitas's Makawao, Maui alley. Hawaii collector Philbert or Phil, as he is known to his closest friends, owns no less than a dozen vintage Studebaker cars and trucks. You may remember, CCT featured his '57 Studebaker pickup in the Apr. '03 issue. However, there's a downside to owning such an impressive collection of the Ft. Wayne, Indiana-produced machines. "I hardly ever get to drive the things," says Freitas." I'm always worried about some tourist with a rent-a-car bumping into them."

With magazine ad hot in hand, Philbert telephoned Michael Chiappone at Orlando, Florida's Retro Trucks and placed his order. Then Phil went out and found a nice, low-mileage '84 Chevrolet El Camino over on the Big Island of Hawaii and delivered everything to Makawao's Clifford "Figgie" Figueroa, one of the island state's finest street-rod builders.

Of course, the first order of business was making sure that the El Camino's chassis and running gear were ship-shape. In the process, Figueroa installed a set of Belltech 2-inch drop spindles in front and KYB gas-charged shock absorbers. Once completed, the modified El Camino, "Studefaker," was also equipped with a set of 15x7-inch and 15x8-inch Weld Racing Pro Star wheels rolling on a set of Mickey Thompson Sportsman pro-wide street rubber.

Powering this beauty is a mildly warmed-over '78 Chevrolet 350ci V-8 equipped with a GM Performance Parts engine dress-up kit, an Edelbrock 4V intake, and 650-cfm Holley carburetor. Other upgrades include an ACCEL-equipped GM HEI ignition, Hedman Hedders, and Flowmaster mufflers. Backing all this up is a B&M Holeshot-equipped GM TH-350.

So much for the steak, now for the sizzle. The Retro Trucks-produced '50 "Studemino" restyling kit consisted of a set of bolt-on-fiberglass front fenders, a splash apron, and a hood which replaced the stock El Camino sheetmetal. Also included in the kit was a set of fiberglass rear fender flanks that were grafted to the side of the El Camino's existing coachwork using sheetmetal screws and industrial-strength adhesive.

Also included in the kit were fiberglass facsimiles of the very distinctive '50 Studebaker bullet nose and headlights. However, being that old Philbert is such a stickler for detail, he went to the trouble of installing a set of New Old Stock '50 Studebaker headlights equipped with a pair of Bobby Juliano's Flat Lens halogen headlights, along with a Genuine Studebaker Parts bullet nosepiece. Also included in the makeover was a Sir Michaels roll pan, which considerably cleaned up the lines along the rear of the El Camino, or Studemino, if you prefer. Once all the bodywork was completed, Ted Cabos sprayed the truck a two-tone with PPG Candy Purple and Driftwood Silver.

In the interior, James Yip Chow installed a Renee Harger's Street Stuff white vinyl interior and a Grant wood-rim steering wheel. Then, sound technician Phillip Chang installed a powerful Nakamichi audio system.

Completed in late spring 2004, the Freitas' Studefaker won the People's Choice award at the Seaberry Hall Fair in June 2004 and Second Place at the 1st Annual Hawaiian Isles Autofest held August 20, 2004.

"One of the most important things to remember when attempting a project like this is to get your hands on an El Camino in good condition, so you don't have as much work to perform on the engine and drivetrain. This makes building the car much easier," commented Philbert. Sounds like excellent advice from a man with experience.