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.
Thats a well used example it even got one of those useless hearse type roof racks only good for making rust holes in the roof. We didnt get Suburbans untill much later models but these early models look as if they offered genuine utility.
I have always been fascinated by old Suburbans. This is a vehicle that was such an oddball for so long, that it would never have survived anywhere else but at Chevrolet for all those years. Why 3 doors? I understand that the Travelall was a 3 door vehicle, but only for about 3 years and ending in 1960.
Imagine how much more popular these would have been with 4 doors. Maybe this vehicle was one of the reasons for the Travelall’s success, and why the Travelall died 2 or 3 years after Chevy/GMC finally offered a 4 door Suburban.
Although I love the Travelall, I must admit that this strippo version of the 3 door Suburban with the 4 speed stick (hopefully with a V8) is kind of attractive to me.
Now I’m wondering if that’s an ex forest service vehicle or if that was a factory color back in those days.
I like these old beasts because if I want an SUV I want the focus to be on the “U”.
I think this might qualify as just a UV, I don’t think there’s any “S” anywhere connected with this vehicle
My family had one that color that we drove for fifteen years. There was a version that was that color with a white roof that was really sharp looking.
Love the rear bumper! Looks like a piece of I-beam (retrofit?).
If I am not suffering from False Memory Syndrome, I believe that South Central Bell also used these back in the day as telephone repair/install units. I can recall these (and Chevy Vans) being laden with ladders and tools as they drove through our part of Tennessee in the 70’s.
Of course, the forest rangers made these ubiquitous here too.
I remember seeing at least one of these with a school-bus lever arrangement so the driver could open the front passenger door; it also had the yellow paint, all the extra flashing lights, and an aisle between the seats.
Dan, I think you’re right re Chevy in those days having a factory light green paint color that was almost the same shade as Forest Service Green.
By merely buying 6 trucks optioned exactally the same my Dad’s boss was able to get GM to paint them all the same shade of John Deere Green for his fleet. This was in 1992.
I know this is an oldie, but a few years ago I almost bought a brand-new Ford Crown Vic that was painted bright red. It had been ordered by a fire department, which for some reason didn’t take delivery. The dealer selling it said that Ford would paint any car any color (including paint-to-sample) as long as you ordered five of them.
Seems to me that there might be some “group buy” potential; I’m sure we could find five people in the world who would buy a Highland Green 2015 Mustang!
My great-grandfather (and subsequently, my great-aunt, after he passed away) had a 1969 GMC pickup in that same “hospital” green, hence my 1969 Suburban guess. The interior is a dead ringer for that truck, of course. I think that must’ve been the “stripper special” color–his truck didn’t even have a radio (but he did buy it new, not as surplus from a utility or government agency).
Edit: Upon closer inspection, I see the Suburban’s radio-free too–and with the same lack of even a delete panel to obscure the fact.
I think we’re witnessing the kickoff of Proto-SUV week. Or Ur-SUV week. Take your pick.
It’s kind of strange. Having lived through and participated in the SUV boom of the 90’s, whenever someone says ‘Chevy Suburban’, this is the model that comes to mind. And no, there will not be an Escalade doing honest work in 40 years.
When my sister lived in Oklahoma and Kansas back in the 80’s, she had then-current Suburbans as her daily drivers. One even had the 454 and dual air option. But those weren’t Suburbans. The featured truck is a Suburban. It’s big enough to BE it’s own suburb…
I don’t know if the three door configuration is cheapness of GM or the idea may have been to keep people (children especially) from trying to enter from the street side. With a passel of kiddies in back and child locks not even invented yet, this would keep kids in the car. It’s a feature, not a defect… 🙂
I think you might see the first-generation Escalade (the obviously-badge-engineered one) doing honest work in 40 years, if there’s an owner with a sense of humor. 😛
One of my childhood friends (or rather his parents) had a ’77 GMC Suburban as the family hauler–he had an older sister and twin younger sisters, and the parents were on the largish side, which made it the perfect vehicle for them. He was showing up at soccer practice in an SUV long before anyone thought of calling it an SUV. I think that was the last generation of Suburban that fit the mold of the work-truck-that-could-carry-people, instead of fashionable luxury wagon.
Was “Suburban” yet the “official,” badged-as-such model name in 1970? My understanding is that “suburban” started off as simply a generic descriptor for a station wagon body style, and it sort of gradually evolved from that into a proper GM model name over the years.
Incidentally, I have an old Kelley Blue Book that lists Chevrolet “carryalls” and GMC “suburbans” through 72, and then “Suburbans” for both from 73 on.
It is my understanding that GM was never all that consistent in naming these, which were called at various times – Carryall Suburban, Carry-all Suburban and Suburban Carryall. Even more curious, Plymouth station wagons were almost always called Suburbans after the 1949 steel versions. This is why I always wanted a 60s Plymouth wagon, so I could tell everyone that I drove a Suburban.
The state of New York started issuing special license plates for station wagons in 1931 (or maybe even earlier), and they were called suburban plates, with an SU or SUB prefix until 1957, when SUBURBAN was spelled out on the plate. So the “suburban” name for such dual-purpose vehicles was out there in the early 1930’s.
“Suburban” was the name given, to both Chevrolet and GMC versions. When I was a kid, these were common with utility companies; and “SUBURBAN” was in fact cast into a nameplate on the Chevrolet for at least some years of this body style. Can’t say about the GMC version; although they both shared the name – Popular Science once commented on that in a test of these proto-SUVs.
In any event, the name of these things wasn’t important at the time. They weren’t marketed the way a passenger car was marketed; it’s target buyers were contractors and fleet managers. Names were unimportant to their non-existent advertising plans.
In any event, GMCs were in those years, a smaller part of a much-smaller market. They were priced higher then Chevrolets; dealers were scarce; engines were different – and therefore likely to be foreign to Chevrolet-dealer mechanics. So most retailer buyers stayed away; the fleet managers were more likely to be impressed with GMC’s more-hardy versions and less fearful of their singular drivetrains.
1935 was the first year Chevy used the “Suburban” name
The three door layout was used on IHC crew cabs and early Travelalls, plus I think some Dodge crew cabs were also three door so it may have been convention rather than stinginess. I think Chevy also made a panel truck version with no windows and no third door for a while.
I also rode a school bus conversion Suburban a few times in the 70s when our usual Dodge van conversion was down, although my bus route was so small they used an Olds Vista Cruiser sometimes.
I used 1972 C-20 (white roof/blue body) several times pulling a 26-foot trailer on a several thousand mile trip from Illinois to Wyoming. I carried a diesel generator in the cargo area for powering the radio equipment in the trailer parked in remote locations.
The clam-shell doors were desired because I could move the generator out onto the ground on ramps from the cargo area. I used a “come-along” winch attached to the rear seat frame to pull the generator back into the cargo area.
This was a very rugged rig for pulling the trailer (load equalizing hitch) – I think it had a 350 V-8 engine. One of the concerns at this time was gas mileage (not very good) because we recently had the first gas embargo.
When I worked as a forester in Western Oregon in the mid sixties, these things were known as “crummies”.
Because the work site was often as much as an hour away from the in-town office, the work crews would ride out to their daily job in one of these things.
Despite the near daily rain or mist than infects Western Oregon for nine months of the year, road dust was a real problem. The old timers would complain bitterly: “up to your arse in mud, choking on the dust!”
Rear door weatherstripping on these rigs was terrible. The dust would creep in through the back doors whenever the truck was in motion and cover everything.
That’s why they were known as “crummies”.
Will 40-year-old Escalades be hauling topsoil? I dunno. However, I recently saw a Porsche Cayenne Turbo towing a trailer full of mowers and lawn care tools on I-10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. You don’t have to believe me–I find it a little hard to believe myself.
The above Suburban’s color was a factory stock shade for GM trucks of the ’67-’72 bodystyle. I had two friends whose dads drove trucks this color, including one who had the dead ringer for this one.
As far as the 3-door arrangement goes, I have a ’98 Suburban, and I could have welded the left rear door shut and noone would have noticed. The kids always climbed in the passenger side and slid across. Heck, it was the same situation in the ’96 Voyager mini-van (with dual sliding doors) I had before that. It’s the same with my ’05 Avalanche: get in on passenger side and slide over. As I recall, when I was a kid, we did the same thing in dad’s ’58 Impala, and Uncle’s ’70 Kingswood wagon. No kid ever wanted to climb in behind dad. Wonder why that was?
I have always liked Suburbans.
When I was a kid, one friend’s family had a ’70s-something 4×4, and liked it so much they later bought a loaded-up ’90 or ’91 Silverado 1500 4×4, the one with the more modern looking grille on the old chassis. This truck is two tone red and cream, has really only been used as a yuppie pheasant and duck hunting rig, and to this day is PRISTINE. He used it to tow a 30′ Jayco travel trailer, and for a time, a ski boat behind the travel trailer. He probably should have gotten the 3/4 ton model, but he didn’t.
This truck has received the finest of everything. The hitch for the Jayco is one of those rare units that has a huge half-moon shaped channel under the rear of the truck so the ball mount can pivot maybe 50 degrees through an arc for enhanced manuverability. It wass retrofitted with true custom leather seating. He at one point several years ago put a ZZ4 Chevy crate motor in it, installed by the dealer. He actually called me after not having spoke to me in some years because the new engine was eating I think the #7 spark plug, and I was a mechanic of some repute at the time. I gave him some ideas, but I never did hear what the problem turned out to be.
Sometimes, when I drive past their place en route to the house I grew up in, and their pole barn door is open, I can see the nose of the most awesome Suburban ever (to me) there in the shade, peering out at me.
I’ve always liked this body style, in either the Suburban or pickup bodies and especially this grill of the lot.
I’ve not had much experience with Suburbans as we didn’t know anyone with one other than one friend I had who’s parents had, I think a 70 Suburban in a darker green (pea green if I recall) and I got to ride in it once.
However, I’ve gotten to ride in a similar shade of green as this subject, 68 Chevy C20, I think 4×4 truck with the manual as it was owned by very good friends we knew (wife died some 15 years ago at least, hubby is in his 90’s, stone deaf and lives with his daughter and her family in Sacramento) when we needed to make a large dump run full of yard debris. I remember Dad having the clutch come back to bight him in the ankle as it was totally missing its rubber pedal pad while at the dump.
This back when you used to drive well into the dump on dirt roads and just dump your trash and yard waste and the bulldozer would just cover it up and leave it be. Not any more.
As to this subject vehicle at hand, love that shade of green and I’m not much of a green guy to begin with and while it may not have a radio now and it may have been a delete option, if so, its blanking plate may well have gone AWOL long ago. But I suspect it prolly had one, it quit working and was for some reason removed. Who knows though, really.
Forty year-old Escalade? Paul that is an oxymoron! I do like the look of those year Suburbans, my favorite ones. But I would rather have a late 50’s Travelall or Town Wagon. As far as the door goes, I always figured that as a good safety option.
Given that the ‘Sclade is a GM Truck platform with marginally different sheet metal and a Caddy crest on the front I can see them being around 30-40 yrs from now in places where corrosion is not an issue.
Back when, my wife’s uncle Gus sold Oldsmobiles. Over the years, we ordered a few cars from Gus, and he always had this huge 4″ thick binder that described ALL the options in great detail. Along with the arctic wiper blades, block heaters, and “Vista Vent” delete were a hand-full of special hues, such as U.S. Forest Service Green, CalTrans orange, and other signature colors. You want it … you got it. May delay your order a little.
There’s a lad up the road that wrecked the front of his 2002 Chevy pickup. Needed new from the doors forward. He got a complete front clip from an Escalade and a Wreath & Crest for the tailgate. It looks great … always catches my eye. Best of all, it’s still a ranch truck.
Now that’s great timing. A 1970 model was just listed on NZ’s trademe site, and as I read the ad I was wondering why the heck it was missing a door…but now I know it was deliberate I’m still stumped why the designer thought it was a good idea! Interesting article though, thank you! If anyone’s interested the 1970 for sale is here: http://www.trademe.co.nz/motors/specialist-cars/hot-rods/auction-397020888.htm
The link will expire after a month or so.
The single rear door isn’t without precedent, as stated elsewhere here. The current Mini clubman has essentially the same arrangement, I believe marketed as a safety feature. Ridiculously, RHD markets do not swap sides for the rear door, so the rear passengers have to exit into traffic!
The truck in this photo is actually the GMC version (also called a Suburban — the name was originally more of a body style designator than a model name), or at least it has a GMC grille. I notice that it’s wearing Chevrolet hupcaps, so who knows….
Once proud owner of a 69 chev. Bought it 2 years old and it looked just like this from the doors forward (exact same color). As much as I liked it (hauled my bike and anything else), it wouldn’t pass a gas station. Hard to justify at todays prices but I guess the prices then were just as bad if you look at inflation.
Did not like that swingarm type suspension on all the half tons back then. When I bought my first Datsun (1981) I quit missing it. If I could have bought it as a suburban I would have.
I used to own a1971 with straight 6 automatic trans put over500,000 miles on it used it for work camping ect…that truck was the best. Now I own a1992 sub 4×4 its a good truck, but I’d rather have aold one. I have a 1971 chevy pickup with a 6 3sp. on the tree that truck runs and drives perfect, but I would trade both of them for a “71” straight 6 auto or stick. Over the years I’ve owned around 6 or 7 of them, but my ’71’ was it best multi purpose vehicle ever made. If anyone finds one let me know firstname.lastname@example.org thank you kindly Tom KEEP ON ROLL’N IN YOUR SUB. Or the short bus.
Here is the same 1970 3 door Suburban. It was made that way to secure the kids. There is a jump seat in the back that can be removed to allow access to a third seat in the rear. Some came from the factory that way. Mine has the jump seat installed and the rear is carpeted. There is more room in the rear of the 3/4 ton model than in most modern pickup trucks. This one is for sale, by the way, for $2000.
They didn’t make it a 3 door to secure the kids. When conceived the Suburban was for hauling workers to the job site not for hauling kids to cub scouts. It was made a 3dr because it was cheaper. Sure some people bought them for hauling kids but the primary choice for hauling kids was the still the car based station wagon by a long shot.
The three door configuration also seen on the Hyundai Veloster
“The Chevy Suburban holds the record for being the longest-running nameplate in production. The first Suburban was produced in 1935 and has been in continuous production since, even through World War II because of its use as a military vehicle. GM estimates total production of more than two million units. We got a chance to get behind the wheel of eight vintage Suburbans, most from GM’s historical collection and we’ve listed them in this gallery. One thing is certain: If you’ve never driven a vehicle from the 1930s, ’40s or ’50s, you have no idea how much progress has been made. ”
The above courtesy of Popular Mechanics
(clockwise from left), 1936, 1946, 1951, 1966, 1972, 1990, 1999, 2002 and 2010 75th Anniversary Diamond Edition (center)
This vehicle is one of my favorite Curbside Classics. The closest I have come to riding in one of these is a mid 90s ‘Burban basic edition being used in hurricane relief work down in the Gulf.
Another great find. I’ve always wanted one, but never had a shot at one that wasn’t completely rusted away.
I did come close once, though. It was a Wyoming truck that looked identical to the above (even the same color) that someone had started a resto on long ago, which ended up in a local junkyard. It was basically solid, and the bodywork was properly started, but there was a LOT left to do. I just couldn’t afford the time or money at the time, so I had to leave it behind. Over the past eight or so years, it has rotted its way down to a more typical Minnesotan state.
Not to deny it the possibility of a Junkyard Outtake feature or anything (I’d actually been planning on it for mid-January) – but here’s one shot, taken a few weeks ago, to give you an idea.
This is a great find. It is unusual to find an original old truck. Most of them have been modified in some way or another. This body style has always been a favorite of mine. I currently have a ’70 pickup, and have previously owned a ’69 and two ’72’s over the past 38 or so years.
The lack of any engine emblem indicates it has either the 250 six or the 307 V8. The original radio antenna mount is on the right side of the cowl. This one has two antennas, but both are add ons. In fact, I only see two options; the four speed and a cigarette lighter. It doesn’t even have the gauge option, which is somewhat unusual.
What is that red car in the background of the interior shot? I can’t tell if it is a Volvo or an Audi. Perhaps we will see it in the future.
Volvo 240. This town is crawling with them, and we’ve done a bunch already. But I’m sure we’ll do more 🙂
This is the version I like most…
IINM, ’70 was the last year for panel trucks. Not a common sight!
Had one of these growing up – my parent’s first “new” car, a ’72. I was it’s final driver in 1985 when I was in high school, where it turned 200k miles and the transmission finally went. Sold it for $50 to a friend, who put a used powerglide transmission in it and drove it for several more years. Unbelievably dependable. Ours was a 9 passenger, but there was no seats folding or anything. The second row didn’t come all the way to the door, giving a passageway to the third row – where the seat actually sat between the rear wheels. 3x3x3 (although only the first row actually stretched the full width of the vehicle). Seats were heavy and bolted to the floor. A handful of times my Dad and I removed the third row, unbolting it and lifting it out.
I’d still like to have one of these, were I ever to have a collection.
As a musician, this vehicle would be ideal not only for hauling but also storing musical equipment like PA speakers, etc. That curbside rear door would help access the things up toward the front without having to climb over everything else. If I could find one of these, I’d want to convert it into a panel truck by removing the side glass and covering with sheet metal, as well as removing the back seats. I’ve always preferred manual transmissions, and one of these with a big six engine and air conditioning would suit me to a “T”.
It does surprise me that this generation of the Suburban had only 3 doors while its Brazilian equivalent, the Veraneio, had 4 doors since ’64.
I live in Oregon. I believe my father owned this very vehicle back in the early ’80s – sold it in the early ’90s. We lived in the hills of West Salem and needed a vehicle to get fire wood. He bought this for $600 but it had a bent axle and would ‘bob’ up and down when driving it. We loaded it with as much wet cherry wood that could fit – every nook and cranny. Can only image the amount of weight, poor truck. Anyways, had to drive all this wood back home – about 45 miles. The axle straightened out and it drove straight and even after that. Funny.