The Chevrolet El Morocco story begins with one Ruben Allender, a millionaire Detroit industrialist and car enthusiast. In late 1955, he reckoned that a market existed for a low-priced lookalike of the Cadillac Eldorado convertible he'd just purchased, a car at the top of most everyone's "dream" list.
Aware of the customizing craze then sweeping the nation, he decided to do what thousands were already doing: restyle a Chevrolet -- only he would build copies to special order.
It was a great idea, and Allender was singularly well-equipped to pursue it. Besides having lots of money, he just happened to own a big war-surplus warehouse on Van Dyke Avenue in Detroit, near Jefferson Avenue, filled with leftover hardware that could be used to create his automotive illusion. It could even serve as a shop for making it.
And he got a little unexpected help from General Motors, of all places, which made the 1956 Chevrolet look more like a Cadillac than the 1955 model he initially planned to use.
Allender needed a prototype design, so he went to Creative Industries, an independent Detroit specialty styling and fabrication house that had built the Ford Atmos and Packard Panther show cars under contract. The result was a handsomely customized 1956 Bel Air convertible that looked like a scaled-down Eldorado Biarritz.
He also needed a production engineer and a shop manager. Quite by accident, he found both in the person of 28-year-old Cyril Olbrich, who'd been experimenting with tools designed for that new wonder material, fiberglass.
Once the nearby Don McCullough agency agreed to supply factory-fresh Bel Airs at about $50 over dealer cost, the third floor of Allender's warehouse was cleared for converting everyday Chevys into imitation Caddys.
But Allender didn't stop there. Deciding that his cars should have their own name, he went looking for something that sounded a bit like "Eldorado" but not so much as to invite trouble from Cadillac. Ultimately he picked "El Morocco," and managed to pull a few strings to get it recognized by the law. Thus the Chevrolet El Morocco was born.
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