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Posts Tagged ‘suburban’

Suburban Rear Quarter Panel Holes

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

The full rear quarter panels for the 1947-55 Chevy/GMC Suburban were made all the same at the metal stamping manufacturer.  To save money these panels were not made different if the Suburban was to have the double doors or the tailgate style opening in the rear.

Thus, when the Suburban was provided with a lift and tailgate combination the 4 holes for the “double barn door” hinges in the quarter panels were filled with rectangular rubber plugs.  This was not just for appearance but prevent rain water from reaching the body interior.

These photos show the plugs painted in body color; however it is questioned if this is correct.  By 1950, Suburban buyers had the choice of the 12 pickup colors.  It would have been more economical for all to have black rubber plugs instead of 12 boxes with the optional color prepainted plugs on the assembly line.

The other thought:  These plugs were painted when the full body was given its final color.  This would mean GM planned on the enamel body paint being of the quality that would successfully adhere to rubber over the years.  We don’t usually see this combination in other GM vehicles.  Special paint for rubber only is used!

Comments on how it really occurred:  Email us at jcarter@oldchevytrucks.com

1953 Advanced Design Canopy Express

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Owners: John and Michele Dunkirk


1953 Advanced Design Canopy Express

We have always assumed that less than 100 Advance Design Canopy Express trucks remain. If you ever see one restored or not restored, you should stop and take note. They are a part of our nation’s history. They carried groceries in neighborhoods with one car families during the years they were built. The husbands drove the family car to work and the ladies were housewives. Grocers knew if they were to stay in business they must drive their Canopy Express to housing areas displaying and delivering food. Our feature truck is probably the most complete and perfect restored example in existence!

It is owned and has been restored by John and Michele Dunkirk of Southampton, New York. His desire to have a Canopy Express was because his first vehicle was this body style. In the 1960’s few people had an interest in this unique older body design as a used vehicle! Thus, it was the least expensive vehicle John could buy during his later high school years. After 2 years of use he sold it to an auto junk yard for $15.00.

After completing restoration on a beautiful 1954 Chevrolet ½ ton about 15 years ago, (they still have it) John continued to think about his first vehicle in high school. The restoration bug had now bitten John and he wanted to do another Advance Design truck. Yes, he decided it had to be a 1947-53 Canopy Express. The problem, there were none! They were built for work and a first owner wanted them to look their very best doing neighborhood grocery marketing. Sad but true, there was almost no interest in a second hand Canopy Express. Within 5 years the wood and canvas side curtains began deteriorating. The wooden rear floor now stayed wet from rain and snow and mechanical maintenance requirements were beginning. The Canopy Express had reached the end of a short life.

John’s several year hunt ended in Florida from a small magazine advertisement. The way the owner described it, made the truck sound like a real one! He drove almost 800 miles one way to see it. A great surprise, it was the real thing and a 1953. As he looked at the total package, it seemed so deteriorated! It would need it all and a little more. At the time, John thought this must be about the only one left in the world so the damage from age and abuse was overlooked.

The restoration went “full steam ahead”. No nut or bolt would be left untouched. It was like building a large model kit after the parts were restored. They soon realized what a big project they were into, however there was no turning back. Otherwise only a pile of parts would remain for salvage.

After almost 5 years including 500 hours in bodywork and painting plus another 1,000 hours in all the other parts of the restoration, the 1953 Canopy is now a “Work of Art”. It is one of the top attractions at all shows! The finished vehicle is now basically as it was when new. A great inline six cylinder motor is just broke in. Of course, the 4 speed transmission was a necessity on a Canopy Express. The low speed first gear was for slow moving through the neighborhood while displaying grocery products. The paint is a correct 1953-55 Chevrolet truck color, Transport Blue. John added one change to the restoration, it originally had a single bucket seat. He used a full pickup seat, so he and Michele could attend distant shows together. The white wall tires were a non-GM accessory but local tire shops could have installed them after the canopy was bought. This would make the truck more of an attention getter when selling merchandise in the neighborhoods.

There are several large expenses “not” mentioned that aren’t included in the 1,500 hours restoration time. The most costly expense was the acquisition of a Canopy Express tailgate. John’s Canopy Express came with the tailgate missing! How could he spend so much time and money on this project and then be stopped without a tailgate? He had no idea this part would be so difficult to locate. He continued with the restoration assuming the gate would be found by the end of the project. It wasn’t. The Dunkirk’s hauled it to New England shows for 2 years after completion with no tailgate! No matter how hard he researched, there was no gate to be found. They even took it to Stowe, Vermont twice for the most attended antique car and truck show of the summer. It received second place in the commercial class for both years. Still no tailgate!

On one summer weekend it was taken to the large monthly Hemming’s Car Show in Bennington, Vermont were it was placed in the top ten vehicles.

Numerous local shows on Long Island, NY also saw this little canopy for the evening. Actually, part of the reason for many of the shows was to try to get a lead on a tailgate.

Finally, a few years later another small magazine advertisement led to a tailgate. An un-restored complete Canopy Express with a tailgate was for sale in Southern California. The problem: John and his wife, Michele were in Southampton, New York. There was no choice. They flew across the country to see it! It was found to be well worn as John’s had been but it had a tailgate. As they arranged commercial transportation to New York, we assume John remembered he sold his first canopy to a salvage yard for $15.00. When it reached New York a few weeks later, John and his body man finally agreed and accepted the bad news. The inner tailgate panel had been beat so bad that the dings, tears, and holes made it un-restorable. Without this inner panel, there could be no tailgate. What a disappointment! What happens next?

One day a lucky thing happened! With research John discovered the tailgate from a 1947-55 Suburban is the same in the lower 2/3 as a Canopy Express. With almost as much effort as finding the Canopy gate, John finally traded for a damaged Suburban tailgate. A restorable inner panel was now in his possession. He could cut it shorter and make a new inside gate panel for his Canopy. The truck could be completed!

Next project; Finding the artificial fruit and vegetables to display were the easy part. Locating mint condition grocery boxes of the 1950’s was another story. John and Michele attended many flea markets and garage sales. The boxes had to be of wood of the 1950’s and their colorful paper labels perfect. They soon found the best sources were estate sales. Most wood boxes and labels had survived because they had been put in attics and basements 50 years and used for storing merchandise. At these sales, John and Michele bought the boxes when they could and not the miscellaneous items they contained.

Now that the total restoration is completed a big appreciation for help go to Trevor and Stephanie Mercer that worked side by side with the Dunkirk’s during the 500 hours spent. Gene “The Tool Guy”, handmade the many panels (body, tailgate repairs, and floor) to replace those so badly rusted. Reproductions were not available.

During the 3 years it has been totally restored the Dunkirk’s are occasionally asked “What does it take to build a truck like this”. They quickly say “Just the money invested is over $50,000. This does not include the tailgate trip to California with return truck line freight, the drive to Florida to find the Suburban,  plus finding the many distant flea markets while on a “grocery box hunt”. Then we come to the value of their time in the 5 year ground up restoration. Just make a guess of the investment! It all started with John’s first truck in high school.

You can contact John and Michele at : micheleant@hotmail.com

1953 Advanced Design Canopy Express 1953 Advanced Design Canopy Express 1953 Advanced Design Canopy Express
1953 Advanced Design Canopy Express 1953 Advanced Design Canopy Express 1953 Advanced Design Canopy Express

1947-55 Suburban/Canopy Express Tail Light

Monday, June 25th, 2012

What an ingenious way to keep a tail light in view! General Motors realized that with the tail gate in the lowered position the center tail light still had to be seen by the following traffic. At times the gate will stay lowered when longer freight is carried.

Therefore, the 5” round light is attached to a swing bracket. This bracket is moved by a ¼” vertical rod inside the tailgate. As the gate is lowered, the rod is moved by a hidden attachment on the edge of the body. Thus, the light is always visible!

These photos are of a 1953 Canopy Express owned by John Dunkirk of Southaven, New York.

1947-55 Suburban/Canopy Express Tail Light 1947-55 Suburban/Canopy Express Tail Light

A New Truck – 55 Years Old!

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Year/Make 1955 Chevrolet NAPCO Suburban

Owner: George VanOrden

1955 Chevrolet Suburban

1955 Chevrolet NAPCO Suburban

During the recent Mid-West All Truck National’s in Riverside, Missouri, a very special truck was on display. It had been brought to the show in an enclosed trailer from Virginia.The owner is George VanOrden of Fulks Run, Virginia and the vehicle is a 1955 Chevrolet Suburban with a NAPCO 4×4 system. His personal history, leading to this restored Suburban, is a story by itself. He spent his youth in this mountain section of Virginia only 10 miles from his current home. The interest in 4×4 trucks was early in life as these type trucks were regularly seen on the rough mountain roads in his county. It is not surprising George decided to restore a 4×4 after his retirement after 20 years in the U.S. Marines.

The first candidate he bought to restore was a late 50’s GM 4×4 pickup. His high hopes slowly dropped as his wife explained “Where will you put the whole family in a truck cab as the children grow?”

A new hunt began for a 4×4 Suburban which would just “fill the bill” for a medium size family hauler. This want proved a very difficult task. Few 4×4 Suburbans were sold in the 1950’s and most were later junked or used beyond restoration by off road owners.

A year of patience and a continued search finally met success. George’s wife found an ad from a Colorado owner that described a very used but not abused 1955 Suburban 4×4. It was first owned by the Colorado Forest Service and George was to become its third private owner. Rust was limited and all mechanicals could be rebuilt or replaced.

Once back in Virginia, the surface restoration began but soon went further than new paint and a clean-up. Each part to be restored opened even deeper needs. Suddenly, George was down to the frame rails. After all, with whole family to ride in the Suburban, he needed no future problems.

A nearby professional restoration shop was hired to lift the body from the frame and restore the sheet metal. George took the chassis home. That would be his project, however the 4×4 system proved to be a real challenge. As he slowly found new NAPCO parts to make the system perfect, the remainder of the chassis needed equal treatment. Then it became a must to make it all new! He just could not go this far and not make it all perfect.

The restoration shop was contacted, “Don’t just fix the dents and paint the body. I want it new!”. Compromises were not acceptable. George’s passion became research on what the 1955 was like the day it left the Chevrolet factory. Hours of collecting literature, talking to collectors, and using his computer brought out the answers and this was followed “to the letter”. There was no turning back. The Suburban was in hundreds of pieces. Even the grain, color, and seams of the new seat material came from the samples that was on the original seat upholstery.

A set of 5 bias ply 17.5 tires was the real challenge (does any factory still make them?). George located a truck for sale that had been in storage many, many years. It had new tires with even the dimples on the tread. He bought the truck just to get the tires.

George rebuilt the Suburban’s original 235 cubic inch six cylinder engine. All parts had to be new GM. Another hunt. The differential and 4 speed transmission received the same treatment.

The above is the “tip of the iceberg” of what George did to create a new 1955 Chevrolet Suburban. The restoration time was three years, completed September 2008. It is now how it came from the factory: 235 engine, 4 speed, fresh air heater, no radio, dealer added turn signals and the NAPCO installed 4×4. Ocean green paint was found under the mirror arms so George knew the correct color.

A new enclosed car trailer was a necessity. (Even more money in the project!) As a member of the Antique Auto Club of America -AACA, George thought he would see how the Suburban would do in serious judging competition. It started in the world famous Hershey PA. Fall Show. Surprise, it received a “Junior” award, the highest for a first timer. The next spring, it won the “Senior” award at the Charlotte, NC AACA show. The same year it was given a second at the AACA “Grand Nationals” in Newburn, NC.

George’s finished product has certainly attracted the attention of even the most qualified judges. He and his Suburban can’t receive honors much higher than this!

And what happened to the thought of having a clean Suburban for the family? Well, that will be the next project.

Note: Only if you are a real “die hard” NAPCO fan should you read this part of our month’s feature truck.

The 4×4 system was made by the Northwestern Auto Parts Co. of Minneapolis, MN. -NAPCO-. Of the many 4×4 add-on companies at that time, this was by far the most popular. Most medium size hill and mountain country cities had a NAPCO dealer. (GM’s factory assembled 4×4 trucks were not available until 1957).

George’s NAPCO was the last year for the Rockwell transfer case (pumpkin on the left of center). By 1956 NAPCO transfer case was made by Spicer (pumpkin on the right of center).

The Chevrolet GMC 1/2 tons were never given a 4×4 prior to 1955. Their closed drive shaft prevented a position for a transfer case. Thus, NAPCO in the early models began with a 3/4 ton which had enough of the drive shaft open to make room for this case.

When GM introduced the open drive shaft 1/2 ton in 1955, NAPCO jumped at the opportunity to offer a 4×4 for the light trucks. A redesigned 1/2 ton NAPCO system was not ready until 1956 and would include the Spicer transfer case. Therefore, the 1955 1/2 ton like George’s Suburban, plus 1/2 ton pickups were provided with the currently used 3/4 ton front end with 8 bolt wheels but internally used the 1/2 ton ring and pinion. This gave the higher speed 1/2 ton, 3.90 ratio. On the rear, 6 bolt axle spacers adapters allowed 8 bolt wheels to match the front. Very unusual but it got NAPCO quickly into the 1/2 ton 4×4 market. The 1955 1/2 ton NAPCO’s are one year only design. They really stand all with their 17.5 tires that were actually used on most 3/4 tons.

1955 Chevrolet Suburban 1955 Chevrolet Suburban 1955 Chevrolet Suburban
Interior Engine
1955 Suburban Taillights

1948 Chevrolet Suburban

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Year/Make 1948 Chevrolet Suburban

Owner: Jerry Rivers

1948 Chevrolet Suburban

1948 Chevrolet Suburban

It’s a great day for a car show! This is one of those rare Saturday cruise shows when the temperature, a light breeze, and no rain make it a picture perfect day. A few hundred vehicles, antique and street rods, fill the parking spots gather around the old city square.

The display overflow extends onto connecting side streets. Vehicle owners have gathered to enjoy a common interest, a love of special interest and restored cars and trucks.

As the day continues spectators are outnumbering the vehicle owners 3 to 1 as they stroll among the special cars of all early ages and marquis. However, it is obvious that one vehicle is attracting more than the usual passing interest. A constant flow of onlookers are staring at a large blue car or is it a truck. We wait for a place to get a better view of this “large people hauler”. It’s a beautifully rebuilt 1948 Chevrolet Suburban! The color, workmanship and engine bring most people to a stop as they are walking by this display.
The owner is Jerry Rivers of Independence, Missouri. The interest from the crowds prevent our questions but Jerry agrees to allow us a later interview for pictures and questions.

In a week we are at his small antique Chevrolet parts store with all his attention. The more we looked and discovered the truck’s special features, the more it was important to place this vehicle as our monthly truck of the month section.

Jerry bought this Suburban 13 years ago from the original owner in North Missouri. A friend was hunting and noticed the tired body in a back field along a fence row. Rusted out floors, broken glass, and a totaled engine was the package. Jerry saw the great potential plus he had always wanted an old Suburban. He is a retired body man, so to him the challenge was not so threatening. He began the rebuilding after a total disassembly. His parts business requires much time but he allowed himself one night each week for Suburban duties. Thus, thirteen years for restoration! It’s unveiling was June 2010.

He wanted an original appearing 60 year old vehicle but added many special accessories plus additions to make it freeway friendly. Jerry has no concerns about driving a long distance. It’s built as a driver but, of course, it gets extra care as one would with a collector vehicle purchased from a new car dealer.

Jerry provided us two pages of extras he carefully added during the 13 year rebuilding. These are items you may not notice as you view the final product. We list them here as he did for us.

Accessories

  • Guide back-up Lamp and Shift Box Switch
  • 15″ Wheels
  • Wheel Trim Rings
  • Bumper Guards
  • AM-FM Radio
  • Oil Bath Air Cleaner
  • Right Hand Rear View Mirror
  • Right Arm Rest
  • Glare Proof Inside Rear View Mirror
  • AC Oil Filter
  • Rear Turn Signals
  • Guide Traffic Viewer (prism)
  • Fulton Outside Sun Visor
  • Right Hand Inside Sun visor
  • Guide Turn Signal Switch on Steering Column

New Old Stock Parts

  • Left Front Fender
  • Both Inner Fenders
  • Front Lower Grill Baffle
  • Core Support
  • Hood Emblem
  • Complete Hood with Center Strip
  • Upper and Lower Hood latch
  • Rear Splash Apron
  • Front Splash Apron
  • Upper Gate Hinges
  • Right and Left Latches
  • Inside and Outside Door Handles
  • Steering Wheel
  • Radiator
  • Shift Box
  • Misc. Mechanical and Suspension parts

Up Grades

  • 1954 “261” Engine
  • HEI Electronic Ignition
  • Alternator
  • All 12 Volt Electronics
  • 3.55 Differential (replaces original 4.11)
  • Radial Tires
  • Tinted Windows
  • Custom Rear Lower Tailgate
  • Bucket Seats
  • YF Carter Lean Burn Carb
  • Heavy Duty 10 3/4″ Clutch and Pressure Plate
  • Electric Wiper Motor
  • Rear Dome Light
  • Seat Belts
  • Air Conditioning and Heater Combo
  • Special Paint Color Combo in Centari Acrylic Enamel

Parts Suppliers

  • Jim Carter Classic Truck Parts
  • Bowtie Bits Truck Parts
  • Tom Myers Truck Parts

We should note three very special extras that make the Suburban even more of a real show stopper.

The Tailgate opens to the side and operates as if GM did it. (This is a Jerry Rivers Creation). No leaning over in the rear just to reach the body.

Its Power Plant is a pure 261 six cylinder from 1954. They were originally in school buses and 2 tons only. It was a drop-in and moves the Suburban easily to 70 mph. (Of course the high speed 3.55 ring and pinion helps too) Many don’t know this 261 engine even existed. It really steps out in today’s traffic!

Cold Air Conditioning? Certainly. The custom made system is for the 1947-53 Chevy truck with a 261 engine. No cutting on the body. Note the concealed two control levers in what was once slots for the original factory radio speaker. Yes, it keeps the large body Suburban comfortable during Missouri days of high humidity and temperatures.
Jerry has had the Suburban completed and at car shows for only three months. Two trophies and so much public interest! It attracts so many he calls it his “Magnet”. His last show required a 400 mile drive. Did he have any mechanical problems? Of course not! He made it to be a new 60 year old Suburban.


1948 Chevrolet Suburban

1948 Chevrolet Suburban

1948 Chevrolet Suburban
1948 Chevrolet Suburban
Here He Comes! Custom Tailgate Accessory Back-Up Light Jerry’s Grand Daughters
1948 Chevrolet Suburban 1948 Chevrolet Suburban
1948 Chevrolet Suburban
1948 Chevrolet Suburban
Factory Dash Smooth Headliner Accessory Taillamp Prism
1948 Chevrolet Suburban 1948 Chevrolet Suburban 1948 Chevrolet Suburban 1948 Chevrolet Suburban
261 Engine Power Plant A/C Items Bucket Seats with New Covering
1948 Chevrolet Suburban 1948 Chevrolet Suburban 1948 Chevrolet Suburban 1948 Chevrolet Suburban
Pickup Dome Light New Carpeting Interior There He Goes!

1949 Chevrolet Suburban

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

Owner: Roy Asbahr

1949 Chevrolet Suburban

One of Roy Asbahr’s most special and unique vehicles is a just completed 1949 Chevrolet Suburban. After a 1 1/2 year restoration, it looks showroom new. Roy is a perfectionist in vehicle restoration and this is one of his best yet! The body and paint work was performed by Larry Swiggart.

This Suburban brings special childhood memories to Roy as it is like the 1949 his father bought-same year, color and accessories. It was the family car for many years and was even driven a few times on fishing trips to Canada and the Yukon.

Roy watched for many years for a restorable Suburban that could be made like the original family vehicle. He discovered this Suburban several years ago in Sioux City, Iowa. The prior owner had reached the age of 92. Little had been changed from the factory except a bargain paint job years before. Amazingly it was rock solid, rust free, and only 55,000 original miles.

Nothing was spared in the body off restoration. The factory exterior colors for Chevrolet Suburban’s, 1947-1949 was Channel Green-lower body and Fathom Green- upper body. This is just the colors of Roy’s father’s Suburban when new in 1949.

The seat upholstery is the ‘real thing’. It was carefully removed from the cushions, dyed, given new padding, and then put back in its original place. The seats now look as though they are just out of the factory!

Lucky for Roy the windlace surrounding the two doors was in excellent condition. He very carefully removed it, dyed it the color of the back side (never exposed to daylight) and placed it in its correct position. It appears new and with the unique Suburban only color. No tears or cracks!

The five piece headliner was not torn but had sagged and faded. This too was removed, re-dyed, and contacted to a piece of formica on the back side for strength. All were put in place with a new appearance.

There is gloss black paint on the inner fenders and upper radiator sheet metal. The shine in this area is often debated during a complete restoration. Roy remembers cleaning his father’s new 1949 regularly and has no doubt that it was gloss black, not flat or semi-gloss. However, all other items painted black are semi-flat black.

A final decision was made to add two hidden changes during restoration. To increase the speed on modern highways, Roy replaced the 4.11 ratio ring and pinion with a 3.55 gear ratio. All outside appearance is unchanged, except radial tires.

To also give extra highway speed, Roy installed a 1958 Canadian Pontiac inline 261 six cylinder which has hydraulic lifters and the 848 higher compression head. It is an excellent fit and even uses the same motor mounts. The original 216 valve cover is added on top to give an authentic look and an adapter was used to enable an early style 1954 water pump to be installed. The engine is the correct grey color and even the spark plug wires have the unprotected metal ends.

Little was ignored in this ground up restoration. Dealer installed accessories include fresh air heater, grill guard, radio, and rear turn signals lights, running board step plates and a GM locking gas cap.

This Suburban is an excellent addition to Roy’s fine collection of restored vehicles.

1949 chevy truck 1949 chevy truck 1949 chevy truck

1949 chevy truck 1949 chevy truck 1949 chevy truck

1949 chevy truck 1949 chevy truck 1949 chevy truck

1972 Suburban Highlander

Thursday, February 11th, 2010


During the late 1970’s, trucks accelerated their change from a more commercial work vehicle to one desired by the family as their everyday transportation. During 1967-1972, Chevrolet and GMC introduced names such as CST, Cheyenne and Sierra Grande to show buyers that their trucks were no longer just for work. Options that rivaled cars could now be ordered for their vehicles.

Surprisingly, the Suburban was held back as the trend toward very deluxe trucks continued. This vehicle was not given the top of the line appointments as the trucks. The middle series in the pickup line was the ‘best’ in the Suburban. Though this was changed in the new 1973 body style, the 1972 Suburban lacked wood grain trim, bucket seats, and the more deluxe door panels. The rubber floor mats were colored to match the interior but carpet was not an option.

The following pictures are of a totally original 1971 deluxe Suburban. Note the door panels. They are almost identical to the Cheyenne pickup but lack the horizontal wood grain strip at the top. Outside lower moldings have satin black inserts, not wood grain. The seat covering is the Custom Deluxe style found on middle series pickups. The blue floor mats are rubber, not carpet. There is, however, a unique upper trim molding used only on Suburbans when you ordered the more deluxe unit.

To get the most sales from the special Scottish Tweed used in the 1972 Highlander, GM used it in one other application. The special Highlander seat covering could be obtained with the 1972 Suburban. It, like the Highlander truck, had lower side trim with satin black inserts. The special wheel covers were not used on this Suburban body.

1972 Suburban Highlander

1972 Suburban Highlander

Mr. Lynes also furnished the two photos of the Hawaiian blue Suburban showing a great color view of the Scottish Tweed. (Frederick Lynes can be contacted at stingrayl82@comcast.net)

The enclosed pictures are from Frederick Lynes who has these pictures of his 1972 avocado green and white Suburban the day it was bought new. Note the Highlander seat coverings.

1972 Suburban Highlander

1972 Suburban Highlander

1953 Chevrolet Ambulance

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Owner: John Heller
South Pasedena, Ca

1953 chevrolet ambulance

1953 Chevrolet Ambulance

Almost unchanged in 45 years! The second owner repainted the two doors to cover the town lettering, then added the “Moblegas” decals. Yes, the hubcaps, bumpers, and grill back splash bars are still the correct gray color due to 1953 Korean War shortages.

An Economical Ambulance

This 1953 Chevrolet Suburban was bought new by the City of Lamont, Illinois and was used as their fire department ambulance. It was for occasional medical emergencies but was usually found inside the town fire department building. This unusual work vehicle was taken out of service five years ago and had logged only 23,000 miles during its 45 years.

The original ambulance conversion in 1953 consisted of painting white over the original Juniper green, removing the middle and rear seats, adding red lights and a siren, plus attaching miscellaneous small extras that are part of ambulance necessities.

The Suburban interior (dash, front seats, side panels, headliner, floor mat, etc.) is probably the finest example of unchanged originality. This is the way General Motors sent it out from the assembly line. Inside storage and limited use has kept the interior colors just right including the maroon plastic handle knobs. Note the original tan floor mat to match the interior. (This colored mat was discontinued by GM’s parts department about two years later.) The dash lacks the stainless glove box door and trim as was normal during the Korean War shortages. Even the inside window frames (painted separately from the body) are a different shade and shine.

In May 2002, this gem was purchased from the second owner by John Heller of South Pasadena, CA. He recently completed the trip to his California home after driving it from Chicago on the famous Route 66.

His plans are to keep the excellent interior and mechanics unchanged. Only the ambulance white color will be removed. John is historian and curator of the once 1,200 mile Pacific Electric Railway Company that served Los Angeles communities in at least the 1940’s and 1950’s. Therefore, he will paint the vehicle railway colors (red with black fenders) and letter the doors just like in company pictures of the 1950’s. It will appear as a work vehicle just like you would have seen during the classic times of the Pacific Electric Railway. You will almost see a work crew being taken to a job-site in the Los Angels area

1953 chevrolet ambulance

Passenger jump seat including original brown floor mat and rear floor linoleum covering.

1953 chevrolet ambulance

Original untouched five piece headliner. Note: Rear dome light is the same as above the drivers seat.

1953 chevrolet ambulance

The 1953 dash! Red brown paint and gray brown steering wheel paint are just right.

1953 chevrolet ambulance

Minor damage for almost 50 years as a work vehicle.

Suburban Back Up Lights

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

For those on a quest for near unobtainable GM options, this one will provide years of searching. During the mid 1950’s, backup lights began to show growing popularity and were occasionally seen on pickup trucks near each rear fender.

The limited production 1955-56 Suburban was no exception but the location for its backup light was unusual. Their single center tailgate running light was given this attachment on its right side. The foot on this small backup light was curved to secure just right to the round tail light housing. The photo below shows this option as it was installed by GM.

Activating the light on a factory column shift three speed or Hydramatic was relatively easy. The switch attaches to the shift linkage levers on the steering column.

The 4-speed transmission backup light switch must be totally different as there is no external linkage. This photo is of this very unusual switch attached to the base of the floor shift lever.

suburban back up light 1

suburban back up light 2

suburban back up light 3

1939-1946 Suburban and Panel Doors

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The unusual side doors on these Suburban and Panel trucks will fit on the more common pickup cab, however, their looks will tell the observer that something is not correct. Across the top of the outer skin is a horizontal stamping or groove. This groove is a continuation of the stamping that runs the length of the body to help strengthening the long sheet metal sides.

The pictures below should help you in obtaining the correct used door for your panel or Suburban restoration project. Tip: Even a badly damaged door from a Suburban or panel truck is of value. This will perfectly graft on a pickup or large truck door to make the rare item you need.

Suburban and Panel Door 1

Suburban and Panel Door 2

Suburban Seating

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

suburban seating 1

An original drawing of a 1949 Chevrolet Suburban from their sales brochure. Shown with its rated seven passengers. NOTE: The lady driver emphasizes that it does not drive like a truck! (The hotel employee is probably wondering how he will place the suit cases and golf clubs in the space behind the third seat)

Suburban Seating

With the increased popularity of the Advance Design Suburbans (1947-1955), questions are often asked in regards to the proper seat arrangement. This eight passenger vehicle was the only GM “people hauler” on a truck chassis and still remains a popular carrier for the family.

This body style was only produced on a 1/2 ton 116″ wheelbase chassis (the same as a pickup except for 4 riveted right angle brackets to better support the body). The extra weight capacity and stiff ride of a 3/4 ton was not necessary for a vehicle carrying passengers and expected to do almost no towing.

Two seats at front consist of a 3/4 unit for the driver which can be adjusted several inches front and back. The far right non-adjusting jump seat is designed to tip forward and allow passengers access to the rear seats.

The middle unit is also only the 3/4 size. It has the same size cushions that are used by the driver, however, the framework does not adjust. It must be this 3/4 width to give room for passengers to reach the rear seat.

This back seat has full length “crowded” three passenger cushions. In today’s world, it is the rarest seat! Though all Suburbans originally had this back seat, many were removed to give more loading capacity for merchandise. They were probably put in storage or used as a seat in the barn and then forgotten years later when the Suburban was sold to the second owner.

suburban seating 2

suburban seating 1

Suburban Frames

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Over the years we have been asked ‘Where can we locate the chassis frame for a Suburban or panel truck?’ The answer is not complicated. To save much money General Motors used a modified frame from a pickup. The difference is four right angle brackets riveted to the frame. These provide an attaching point for the large single unit body (Suburban and panel truck).

On most pickups, these frame holes are even punched at the factory so the long side rails can be used for either body style. Therefore, if your Suburban or panel truck needs a frame, your hunt will be less difficult. The attached photos show body mount brackets on a 1954 as they were installed at the factory.

suburban frames 1

suburban frames 2

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1947-1955 Suburban Interiors

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Since their beginning in 1935, the Chevrolet Suburban was always the “people hauler” of General Motors commercial fleet of trucks. They were designed to carry more weight on rough roads than was the passenger car station wagon. While trucks were carrying freight from the time of their purchase, Suburban’s were reserved for passengers! It became an immediate success with the military, as a school bus on smaller rural routes, for transporting people from train and bus stations to hotels, etc.

After WWII, the Advance Design Suburban body design (introduced in 1947) began to attract more individual owners for family transportation needs. To better provide this with limited expense, General Motors added just a few extras for appearance. This was tan rubber floor mats and a two tone painted interior. Neither was like what was on the pickup or large trucks.

The Suburban interior colors are Pecan Brown and Wicker Brown. This all harmonized with the brown headliner, floor mat and seat upholstery. All makes a nice interior package with little extra expense to GM.

The following should help the restorer have an even a better idea of the 1947-53 Advance Design Suburban when new. Photos are of a 1953 untouched Suburban that was left with original paint and used as a fire department ambulance in Lamont, Illinois. Photos taken about 2005 after being bought from the city of Lamont.

Because General Motors always kept production cost as low as possible on truck related models, they designed the Suburban on the pre-existing 1/2 ton pickup chassis as well as using the same sheet metal on its doors, front end, and dash. To dress up the body for passengers, GM added these extra appearance features not found on their trucks. Though these additions were nice, they were still a long way from the appointments on the cars and station wagons being sold in the same dealerships.

The door panel frames and removable interior window trim of the 1947-53 are a shade darker, Wicker Brown as in photo E. Even the seat frames were also this darker brown, photo f. The seat upholstery is brown Spanish grain while trucks in 1947-1953 were maroon. The cardboard door panels match the seat texture and color. The tan floor mats and red brown door windlace colors are Suburban only.

The lighter Pecan Brown was placed on the body sheet metal that became part of the total assembly. This is inner quarter panels, doors, dash, tailgate or double doors, and front seat riser. All was painted at one time after being welded together as a single unit. See Photos.

One very different touch on the Suburban over the truck is the color of the seven horizontal ridges on their 1947-1951 dash. Note picture A and B. These ridges are the color of the darker interior trim. Photo C shows the truck (not Suburban) dash ridges which were silver to closely match the upper and lower dash horizontal stainless.

By 1952-1953 the dash stainless had been exchanged for painted steel due to Korean War shortages. Then both the Suburban and truck dashes were without contrasting colors but still kept overall interior coloring. See photo D.

In 1954-1955 the Suburban and truck body shared a new redesigned dash panel and the interior body colors were also changed. The two body styles now used the same pearl beige color on their interior metal. A medium brown Spanish grain vinyl was on the seats of both body styles. Contrasting color interior window frames were not on the 1954-1955 Suburban as seen on earlier Advance Design models. They were the color of the main body panels.

If you have decided to restore your rare early Advance Design Suburban as it left the factory, these tips can separate the men from the boys in serious judging. To some it may be just as important for the daily driver.

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Photo A (above)

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Photo B (above)

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Photo C (above)

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Photo D (above)

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Two Tone Door Panel (above)

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Photo E (above)

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Photo F (above)

1965 Chevy Deluxe Suburban

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the mid 1960’s many Americans began to request deluxe features on trucks. More disposable income put extra items in reach for many households. GM recognized this area for more income and began adding more extra cost options.

The popular standard Suburban could be transformed into a more family vehicle by offering exterior trim and upgrading the interior. It would be even better for a family vehicle as well as pulling a boat or travel trailer. Highways were being improved and Americans wanted to see the country.

A more deluxe Suburban emerged in the 1960’s. To same GM costs, most components were simply from the top of the line Chevrolet pickup. Even the side trim was from the fleetside pickup. It only had length differences and the word “Custom” was engraved on each side.

Following are pictures of a rare 1965 deluxe Suburban. The outside is all original except for new paint. The interior had recently been changed so the attached photo is from an original salesman’s data book showing a deluxe pickup. The nicer appearing and more comfortable cushions also apply to the deluxe Suburban. Note the deluxe steering wheel (actually GM used this from a 1960 Impala), trim band on the glove box door, and the two tone color pattern on door panels.

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Chrome bumper and anodized grill (above)

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The rear appears to have no changes from the standard model other that the chrome bumper (above)

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The upper side anodized aluminum trim is the same as the deluxe pickup except for the length differences. Even the short from spear starting the trim strip is the same as the pick up (above)

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Note the word CUSTOM etched on the side trim (above)

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Suprising, the windshield rubber does not hold stainless trim (above)

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Custom comfort interior (above)

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Deluxe Steering Wheel (above)

1962 GMC Deluxe Suburban

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Suburbans ‘ people haulers on a 1/2 ton truck chassis. Not designed for truck freight, the successful Suburban was created to move people. They quickly gained popularity among the military, as crew haulers for companies, and for small rural school buses.

By the 1960’s, GM began to expand their Suburban market to attract families. To many this would be a great heavy-duty family car. A more deluxe Suburban model was introduced. The exterior trim and well appointed interior defiantly showed this model was not for commercial use.

These pictures of a 1962 top of the line GMC Suburban show the unique trim that was placed on this model. It is for GMC only ‘ not Chevrolet. Though Chevrolet shared the same body and some chassis parts; trim, interior, and colors were different so each brand could be individual.

Look closely and see how the GMC brand kept their cost of side trim to a minimum. Other than the curves around the front door windows, straight pieces of aluminum trim make up the package. The more obvious economy steps are on the rear quarter panel. Note vertical and horizontal trim strips simply butt together. They also act as paint divider strips for the two-tone paint combination of the GMC. The die cast chrome ‘custom’ emblem in the same as on the GMC pickup.

This is an excellent example of a very original GMC Suburban interior. The woven green seat material is as it was 40 years ago. The right jump seat swings up and forward to gain access to the rear. Note how the middle seat is shorter so that the passengers can walk to the rear.

Today, even finding a 1960-1966 GMC Suburban is rare but locating one with this deluxe custom package is almost impossible.

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1960-1966 GMC Deluxe Suburban Seats

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The seats on this 1962 GMC Suburban are pure factory original. Their shape is designed for only the Suburban body. They allow for access to the rear seat.

Horizontal white vinyl in the back rest is characteristic of many GM vehicles during this era. It was an extra touch that added a little extra flair to the deluxe models.

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Suburban Panel Body Rust Repairs

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Replacing major rust-out between the rear fender and door of the 1947-1955 Suburban or panel truck can be easier than you think. The curvature in this area is the same shape as the adjacent door.

Therefore, locate a 1947-1955 donor door of limited value due to butchered radio speaker holes or a badly rusted bottom. Remove the outer panel. It has the correct metal gauge and round shape as the Suburban and panel truck body.

Suburban Paint Colors

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

During the beginning of the Advance Design years (1947-1949) new Chevrolet Suburbans were sold in one color combination; Channel Green (light) on the lower body and Fathom green (dark) on the upper.

Unless the customer paid extra for a specific paint such as for school bus use or a commercial paint color for a company, the two tone green was the color your received.

Beginning in 1950 this changed. Chevrolet began also offering 12 colors as on pickups and large trucks.

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The following is from a 1950 Chevrolet announcement pamphlet showing changes in trucks that year

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1948 Chevrolet Suburban

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Owner: Unkown

1948 chevrolet suburban

Finding a forgotten 60 year old stored vehicle to restore is very unlikely in today’s world. They have been already found and junked or are in the hands of a new owner. The most unusual exception is our feature truck of the month.

This 1948 Chevrolet Suburban has been setting behind a storage building or machine shop so long it is buried to the axles in dirt and sand. No garage! The dry air of the area has slowed weathering, though a light surface rust film has developed. No dents and most original parts still remain. Note the GM grill guard, spot light, and optional rear signals.

What a find for a serious rebuilder. Most experienced restorers know the year or more to obtain the parts for this series of Suburban. Here, most all is in place even down to hubcaps and seats. Covered on one side with sage brush, photos on the one open side could be taken to show the detail.

As soon as we begin to say this is just too good to believe, we found it is. The owner states “It’s been in my family since new and I am going to fix it up someday”. Have we ever heard that comment?

The person that recently found this Suburban is also hoping to buy it sometime. Therefore, he traded me these pictures for the promise I would not mention any contacts including him. Sorry!

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1948 chevrolet suburban 1948 chevrolet suburban

1947 Chevrolet Suburban Woody

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

Owner: Don Bryant

1947 chevrolet

During the 1940’s and 1950’s a few body companies created their own design of truck not offered by the chassis manufacturer. In this case the Campbell Co. made their own “station wagon” body to fill a need of a small number of buyers. its all wood construction and 3 or 4 side doors made a very attractive package. It was similar to the GM all metal Suburban with 2 doors.

It this example the Campbell body was built for a Chevrolet or GMC truck. GM would provide the 1/2, 3/4, and 1 ton chassis with factory front sheet metal and windshield plus rear fenders to their dealer. Campbell offered a completed wood body as an exact fit. It could be shipped to a specialized body instillation company and then the local Chevrolet and GMC dealer would have it installed.

Campbell’s body was a replacement for the GM all metal Suburban body. It offered more accessibility and better seating for passengers. Thus, the extra cost was not a factor to many buyers. The Campbell fitted GM truck was perfect to transport people to and from airports and train stations, for school bus routes, hotels, country clubs, tours, camps, etc.

Below is a 1951 ad from the Mid State Body Co. in Waterloo, NY. Shown are the three different Campbell bodies that was available at that time.

This month’s feature is one of these rare Campbell/GM trucks. Few (even rare when new) have survived. This classic like new restored example is on a 1947 1/2 ton Chevrolet chassis and owned by Don Bryant of Oakland, California.

Don bought his 1947 Chevrolet cab and chassis totally restored in 1997. It even included the correct Chevrolet color, Windsor Blue. However, the Campbell body was not rebuilt. He states the “wood was in a large, gnarly pile”. A hunt began for a specialist in older body restoration. Recommendations led him to Ron Heiden in Encinita, CA. His good reputation resulted in Don waiting a year before his turn arrived.

It was in Ron’s shop for 10 months for this procedure! The next step was for even more fine detailed work at the Moonlight Woodies Restoration Shop in Cambrea, CA. The finished product is now for “show-and-go”. Its a work of art that is part of history. Don now drives the Campbell wagon on rare occasions up to about 75 miles from home. Of course, no rain allowed!.

His eamil address is: dbryant@barnesconti.com

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1935 Chevrolet

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Owner: Ed Brouillet

1935 chevrolet

During the early 1930’s the US Army strongly encouraged General Motors to develop a light weight people hauler for their military needs. GM’s answer to this is what they called a Suburban. The finished product was placed on a ½ ton truck chassis. This allowed GM to use most of the existing items from their pickup. New tooling was only necessary for the body and seats keeping engineering and production costs low. The new Suburban had a wood framed skinned over sheet metal body. The doors, cowl, front fenders and front floors are all 1/2 ton.

As with the other earlier 1935 Suburbans a lift gate was not yet available. A canvas drop curtain was factory installed. The top is black oil cloth over wood bows which caused an early grave for these Suburbans. Once a top leak developed years later and more and more patches were needed, the interior began to stay wet longer. Rust and wood rot soon took over.

The featured early 1935 Suburban has been owned by Ed Brouillet of Fairfield, CT for about twelve years. It has been restored as new. Ed states it is the ‘first’ oldest Suburban. The other five 1935 models known to exist are not this low of ID number.

It is restored with a Swifts red body and black fenders. An original 207 cubic inch six cylinder is in place with a 3 speed floor shift transmission. It has most all details correct and looks as great as in 1935.

Fortunately, Ed enjoys showing his piece of history. It is seen at several shows in the New England area each year. His personal collection of antique hand operated house vacuum cleaners are displayed in the back. Ed always stays with his Suburban at shows. He loves talking to people about this first Suburban and his vintage vacuum cleaners. It can be a very memorable experience!

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1946 Chevrolet Suburban

Wednesday, October 1st, 2003

Owner: John Hart – Albuquerque, NM

1946 chevrolet suburban

I bought the un-restored Suburban in 1996 from a Kansas source I found in Hemmings Motor News. It must have been home to a thousand mice for 20 years or more; most of the stuffing from the seats was above the headliner, in the glove box, in the doors, etc. Where the mice had nested, the nearby metal was badly rusted from long term contact with urine; the shell was beyond recovery. Fortunately, I was able to find a solid Southwestern parts truck only about 20 miles from home.

The parts truck is a panel; it is identical to the Suburban except for the rear windows and seats. In fact, I checked the production codes and both trucks rolled out of GM’s Kansas City plant only one month apart. I cut the rear window panels out of the original Suburban, did the same on the panel, and welded and bolted the window panels into the panel truck shell. I turned a panel truck into a Suburban. The seats, interior window frames, fittings, and the like from the original Suburban were for the most part in fine shape.

I rebuilt or replaced everything down to the steering balls and spring shackles. It took me over a year, but I found 16-inch artillery style wheels. The engine is a rebuilt 235 with Mallory dual-point distributor and high performance coil. I installed Patrick’s 3.55-to-1 ring and pinion gears in the rear end and a Saginaw 4-speed transmission using Patrick’s adapter kit. This allows the use of the original torque tube drive shaft by shortening the shaft 2 inches.

The color is GM original Hollywood Tan with cream wheels and waistband. Fenders and running boards are black.

Many of the parts were purchased from Jim Carter. I have had it on the road now for about two years and it is lots of fun to drive. One thing about a pickup, you can’t fit too many people. With the Suburban, you can take the whole neighborhood.

John Hart

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1946 chevrolet suburban