Joanne Darwin’s 1959 Chev El Camino pick-up

Joanne Darwin is a passionate car enthusiast keen to encourage women to work on their own rides

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

A country girl at heart, Joanne knows first-hand the joy and sense of accomplishment that comes from doing something yourself. Most recently, she’s been wrenching, prepping and doing a bit of everything else on her enviable ’59 Chev El Camino pick-up.

How’d you come across the El Camino?

I was sick of driving my partner’s cars, so I wanted one of my own. When I wasn’t having any luck finding the ’68 Pontiac that my heart was set on, my husband Anthony suggested I look at his mate’s ’59 El Camino. Although the car was pulled apart and in primer, it was love at first sight. I loved the ute style, the shape, the grille – everything! I bought it on the spot.

So it was a bit of a project, then?

Yeah, the chrome was pulled off and it was missing the rare bench seat. I did a lot of work, with Anthony’s support. Anthony also suggested that we start from scratch to make sure the car was done properly. The feeling of knowing that I’m part of the ’59 is amazing; I now know how it all works.

The paintjob is a cracker.

It’s a factory black car, so I wanted to retain that yet add Larry Watson styling. Anthony and I prepped the car, and then our mate Phil Berry helped to design and mask the scallops. Daniel Cassar painted the black with DNA candy Spilt Blood red, which complements the factory interior.

Tell us what she’s running.

It has an injected 327ci Chev with AFR heads, a roller cam and a stock bottom end. Behind is a rebuilt TH350 with factory diff and 3.08 gears. It’s ’bagged with an e-Level and Air Ride suspension, which is all engineered and mod-plated.

Cool tray!

My son Curtly suggested that the spotted gum would look good in the tray. I sanded and polished the timber; then Anthony added the stainless strips and customised the bed to allow access to the airbags. Many parts were difficult to find, so Anthony, who’s a toolmaker, made them. He’s a clever guy!

It seems like your family are mad-keen enthusiasts.

Dad had a T-bucket and a ’34 Ford roadster, and was also a speedway driver. Anthony is a car man; we clicked due to our love of cars and we’ve built a few now. Anthony’s son has an HK and I have an HQ ute that I’ll be building with Curtly. Cars are our main hobby – it’s who we are.

And you’re looking to get more women involved?

The El Camino rocks; I take pride in it being my car, though people often think it’s my dad’s or husband’s car, which is so frustrating. Women can build cars too! As an early childhood educator, I get young girls engaged in ‘tinker time’ and similar experiences so they realise that they are capable.

Girls — wanna be famous? Send pics, car details and contact details to: Iron Maiden, Street Machine, Locked Bag 12, Oakleigh, Vic 3166. Or email: [email protected].