1956-1957 Chevrolet El Morocco

1956 Chevrolet El Morocco

The prototype for the 1956 Chevrolet El Morocco convertible.
The prototype for the 1956 Chevrolet El Morocco convertible.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1956 Chevrolet El Morocco was a bit of a Frankenstein. Mechanically, it left Allender's shop just the way Chevy had built it. The styling, of course, was something else: engineered by Olbrich and professionally crafted, but as much a "junkyard jumble" as any 1950s custom.

According to Olbrich, many of the pieces came straight from Allender's warehouse. The prominent "Dagmar" front bumper guards, for example, were actually 1937 Dodge truck headlamp shells reinforced with fiberglass.

A modified Kaiser-Frazer horn button became a substitute hood medallion, the "saddle" door top trim was made from 1955 Willys dashboard pieces, and 1955 Ford body moldings were used atop the fins.

The stock Chevy hood ornament was shorn of its wings and given little Plexiglas fins to mimic the Cadillac mascot, Olbrich castings faithfully followed 1955-1956 Eldorado side trim, and aftermarket wheel covers were chosen to ape Caddy's "Sabre-Spoke" wheels.

The major changes naturally showed up at the rear. A portion of the Chevy fenders was cut away and Eldo-style fiberglass fins were bolted on, then finished with epoxy resin to create a smooth seam that would be invisible when painted. Completing the illusion were 1955 Dodge taillamps mounted horizontally above dummy exhaust ports.

The El Morocco's lower lights and exhaust ports were dummies. The El Morocco's lower lights and exhaust ports were dummies.
The El Morocco's lower lights and exhaust ports were dummies.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1956 El Morocco made quite a splash in the automotive press. As one Motor Trend writer, Don MacDonald, predicted in the magazine's September 1956 issue:

"There should be ready acceptance. The public is already brainwashed into the belief that Cadillac's, and particularly Eldorado's, fins represent the epitome of motordom. Unfortunately, many believers can't afford the real thing; Eldorado sales do not reflect their true popularity. We can't help but agree with Allender that a Chevrolet-based miniature at $3,250 complete . . . should be a hot seller."

But it wasn't. Though Allender had envisioned building up to 10 a day, only 20 of the 1956s were completed: two hardtop coupes and 18 convertibles. Most were fitted with a continental kit in true 1950s style, which brought the advertised retail price up to around $3,400.

And that, of course, was the problem. While the Chevrolet El Morocco cost only half as much as an Eldorado, it was expensive for Chevy, about $1,000 more than the stock 1956, which was a lot of money in those days. Moreover, many of those who could afford the ersatz Cadillac styling could just as easily buy the real thing.

Allender's makeshift production facilities didn't help: Working conditions were so crude that he had to run an extension cord up from the first floor -- on the outside of the building -- to get power to the shop. This was a bad omen.

Keep reading to find out about the 1957 Chevrolet El Morocco.

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