Owner: Norman Smith
This month’s feature truck is one of the nation’s finest 1957 Chevrolet Suburbans. We saw it for the first time about 1994, shortly after its total ground-up restoration. It remains in its pristine condition today and still almost looks like the day it left the factory.
The owner is Norman Smith of Denver, Colorado. As a lifelong old car enthusiast, Norm has restored and owned other Chevrolet vehicles but the Suburban is by far the most perfect in his history. He went all out to make it like new.
Found in a local newspaper ad in1983, it was in such poor condition Norm had questions on owning it. But, where do you find a Suburban even in 1983? Its prior owner had used it to carry products to local flea markets. Thus, two rear seats were gone. Electrical shorts in the old wiring prevented it from starting after the battery lost its charge in about 12 hours. Of course, having been driven daily in Denver winters, the 25 year old vehicle was full of rust. So, the bargain price of $400 may have been correct.
The more Norm looked at it at home, the more he liked it. He had always wanted a Suburban and only he saw the potential of making it look excellent. In fact, Norm soon decided to restore it all the way! He would go down to the bare frame and work to have a new 1957 Chevrolet Suburban. There would be no exceptions to the rule.
First, extensive research would be required to not make mistakes. Norm spent a great deal of time in the library looking over Chevrolet manuals and visiting many salvage yards for answers. Few personal computers existed in the 1980s and digital cameras to keep records did not exist. Norm used the telephone and US mail to gain parts and knowledge. This is just the way it was done before computers.
He had done upgrades on early Chevrolets, but nothing would be like this. Time was not a problem. Getting it right was a challenge.
This nine year project was completed in 1992. His heart and mind had always been on his Suburban restoration. It is doubtful Norm’s employer ever knew they weren’t first in his mind.
The finished product is just like it rolled off the assembly line. The exterior is the correct 1957 truck cardinal red. The gray interior and gray vinyl covered three row seats are just right.
Factory options include; a 265 cubic inch V-8 (the more long-lived 283 was first offered in trucks in 1958), 4-speed transmission, chrome bumpers, grille, hub caps, and dash knobs, plus an electric wiper motor.
Dealer installed Chevrolet accessories are; chrome wheel rings, hood rockets, fresh-air heater, AM radio, spotlight, cigarette lighter, right-side rearview mirror, turn signals, plus passenger side arm rests and sunvisor. It doesn’t take one’s imagination to realize the trophies and related awards he and his Suburban have received in the Colorado area since 1992.
An example of Norm’s requirement to have a new 1957 Suburban is the long one piece of ribbed, black rubber mat GM used between the middle seat and tailgate. It is not available anywhere! After much thinking on what to do, Norm came up with a theory that turned out to be perfect. He ordered a piece of heavy linoleum that was used on theater stages and dance studios. This is thick and has the same black color all the way through. A professional carpenter was found that was the best at using a wood router. This high-speed cutter made perfect factory grooves in the linoleum. Norm had just enough of the original rubber mat up by the middle seat so he knew his new handmade mat was show quality.
Because of Norm Smith’s strong interest in early American vehicles, he also does restoration work for others. He operates a small shop that makes customers cars look like new. You can contact Norm Smith at his email address; email@example.com.
Note: Another example of Norm Smith enjoying the unusual is in storage beside his Suburban. This is his 1956 Chevrolet four-door right-hand drive passenger car he bought many years ago during a visit to Australia. I’m sure this was a significant cost to ship this vehicle from the other side of the world! We can just imagine the attention this vehicle receives on the streets of Denver, Colorado.
Tags: 1957 Chevrolet suburban