Is Hyundai Santa Cruz A Tease Like Chevy XT-2?
Hearing how Hyundai seems so much closer to producing its Santa Cruz car/truck reminiscent of the Chevy El Camino/Ford Ranchero pickups of decades ago, we are reminded of when we were Camino-teased in the past. How concepts like the 1998 Chevy XT-2 meant Chevy was building more than exercises, it was signaling it saw a market. That putting the time and money into a concept El Camino proved it was but a short time until production.
What was the XT-2, anyway? It was more than just a concept car, but not in the way many hoped it would be. It was created as a pace car for the 1998 CART PPG Indy World series.
PPG is a supplier to the auto industry, so it has connections. Since it was sponsoring the Indy car racing series, it wanted exciting cars not just racing but pacing. And there had to be PPG product involved to tie it all together.
The XT-2 was a ground-up build based around a tube frame including a roll cage. In case of something going wrong at the speeds the pace car would be traveling, its integrated roll cage made sense.
XT-2 Windshield Was Largest PPG Ever Created
The windshield tied right into PPG and its reason to exist. It was hinged, with gas struts that aided in lifting it. That’s how the driver got in and out. The chunk of glass showed PPG’s manufacturing capabilities as it was the largest windshield ever created by PPG.
So, the XT2 was a showcase for Chevy, PPG, and the Indy car series. And it performed. A 4.5-liter 90-degree V6 utilized Chevy Bow Tie pieces including the block and heads. They were derivative of the unique racing engines used in Trans-Am racing. It cranked out 360 hp and 315 lb-ft of torque.
That power was transferred to the rear via a six-speed manual transmission. Corvette independent suspension front and rear were built into a modified F-body Camaro platform.
PPG Also Dreamed Up The Special XT-2 Paint
PPG also manufacturers paint, so the body of the futuristic El Camino had to put its best finish forward. A three-stage blue with blue mica-chips over a red base would flop around between a royal blue and purple depending on the light. It defied description.
Many concepts were floated around before this one was given the green light. Chevy stated, “Given the consumer preference to small, sporty trucks the evolution of the Chevrolet PPG XT-2 Pace Truck was natural.” We’re not quite sure exactly what that means.
Too Busy With Cimarrons and Topazes For Production XT-2
Though we don’t know internally what was motivating this and if it went beyond this one concept, the outcome was this and then nothing. Both GM and Ford sold car/truck “Utes” Down Under. They were just way too busy making Cimarrons and Topazes in the US to mess with a car/truck.
Ford and Chevy could see the pickup truck market heating up, but neither could prove a link between that and an all-new El Camino. At least enough to satisfy the bean counters to green light El Camino development.
If there’s a silver lining in all of this it’s that the XT2 still exists. It pops up occasionally for shows and some PPG promotional adventures. But as a beacon for GM to approve another herd of El Caminos possibly based on the F-body platform, we’ll never know how illuminating it ever got.