Curbside Classic: 1970 Chevrolet Suburban – Third Door On The Right

This old Suburban, like the old house behind it, has escaped the jaws of the wrecker and is still hard at work. It’s got a yard of topsoil in the back, as its owner gets ready to do a bit of landscaping around this old house he recently moved to this location. Will forty year-old Escalades be hauling top soil?

This generation Suburban in my files conveniently picks up where the prior one (1966 Suburban CC here) left off. The new for 1967 versions made the biggest transition in the whole long history of the Suburban: it jumped from the short wheelbase (6.5′ bed) pickup chassis to the long (8′ bed) frame. Well, that was obviously reflective of how everything was growing in the late sixties: houses, cars, hobbies; even people’s bodies. But the odd thing about this vintage Suburban is that they all lack one of the rear doors. This is a three door! Typical GM bean counter mentality or brilliant compromise?

Yup; there it is, the third door on the curb side of the big wagon. Passengers hadn’t yet achieved proper status. I guess it wasn’t the worst idea in the world; minivans got along like this for quite a while. Sliding one’s ass across the seat is such hard work; nobody should have to abuse themselves like that anymore today.

One of the advantages of moving to the longer chassis was that now a 3/4 ton C20 version was readily available. Chevy made 3/4 ton long-bed panel trucks similar to the old Suburbans, but not in actual regular passenger versions. For folks wanting to tow a big(ger) trailer, the C20 Suburban was the ticket. And also new with this generation of Chevy trucks, the four wheel drive versions weren’t so gnarly and tall anymore. It was the beginning of the era when 4WD became civilized and increasingly popular.

Chevy offered a huge range of engines in these trucks, everything from the 250 six up through the big-block 396/402. The new Turbo-Hydramatic was a welcome relief from the tedious two-speed Powerglide. And the longer body allowed true nine-passenger seating, as the middle seat was split, the seat back folded down, or did that whole section fold forward? Anyway, this was the hauler of choice for really big families who still needed luggage room behind the third seat.

Or any other group needing to be hauled. These used to be fairly common in remote areas as school buses; even with a version with an aisle down the middle for the kiddies, and four rows of seats. Now it makes a convenient covered pickup truck. The Suburban came with a choice of tailgates: a conventional fold down-flat tailgate version, or these barn doors, preferred by many, especially delivery drivers.