How do you change gas tanks in a 1959 El Camino?
Note: this is best done if there are two people doing it! There
may be other, better ways, but this is how a friend and I did
Empty the gasoline first if you can by syphoning. There was no
drain plug on my 59 El Camino.
You'll need to remove the hoses from the filler tube (one 2"x5"
hose and a smaller vent hose). We found it easier to get to these
by dropping the tank a small amount first.
You'll also need to disconnect the fuel sending unit's
electrical wire. Again, we waited until we dropped the tank a
The tank is attached via two steel straps. Use a deep-well
socket to loosen (NOT REMOVE) the nuts on these. Then, get an axle
jack and place it under the gas tank to support it. Then you can
remove the nuts on the bolts holding the straps to the tank. The
bolts will later be removed for cleaning and reuse.
Lower the tank slightly to get at the filler tube hoses.
Disconnect the clamps at the tank end and try to pry off the hose.
We found the small one came off easily but the large one didn't
want to budge (after 60 years). So we just got a sheet-rock saw and
cut it in half.
On the other side of the tank is the sending unit. We chose to
cut the wire at the filler tube side of the car near the existing
junction between the sending unit and the wire loom. We left about
6" of wire to put on a new junction after replacing the sender and
the 60 year old wire.
With the filler tubes disconnected and the sending unit wire
free, you can lower the jack to bring the tank to the ground. Dump
any remaining gasoline into a container for recycling.
We had a tough time removing the sending unit because ours had
special headed screws. We used a vise-grip first to loosen the
screws before using a Torx 15 driver to back them out. We'll
replace the original screws with Phillips head 10-32x 1/2"
Our sending unit was shot - if you're going to replace yours,
there are several on the market so choose the one that looks most
like yours. Also note that some use a 3/8" gas line; others use a
5/16" line (like mine did.) Measure well before you purchase.
I brought the tank to a radiator shop to have them clean it out.
They estimated it would cost $400. So I'm looking for a better tank
- as of 2010, there aren't any being reproduced - and the ones for
1959 passenger cars won't fit.
I haven't reinstalled my tank yet, but I'll just reverse these
Rick in El Paso Texas