History Outtake: The First Suburban

The name “Suburban” has of course been appropriated by Chevrolet, but it used to be used generically. Plymouth used it for their station wagons for decades. But this is almost certainly the first use of the term, and a somewhat cryptic one. Just what distinguished this 1907 Pierce-Arrow Suburban from the Town Car version (below) is subtle at best, other than an extra side window, and perhaps a flat roof instead of a rounded one. And the target buyer: “American men to be driven over American roads…” Is there something subtly masculine about it I’m not quite picking up on?

Here’s the P-A Town Car, from 1905. And applying my handy little ruler to it, I can confirm what my eye was already seeing: the Suburban body is a bit longer. I suspect it may very likely have a couple of jump seats or such to accommodate more of those American men, whereas the Town car was for taking Sir and Madam out…on the town.

I stumble into this doing some research for an article coming soon, and this confirms that in the early days of the enclosed automobile, terms and definitions hadn’t yet quite gelled.