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The First 1935 Suburban

Owner: Ed Brouillet

It’s 1935! With the encouragement of the US Army, the first Chevrolet Suburban is introduced. The Army wanted an enclosed vehicle to carry officers with a driver at their military bases. Of course, it would be a boost to Chevrolet for people to see they were doing so well during the Great Depression that they could even introduce another body style! Now looking back over 75 years ago there must have been some guarantees by the Army to encourage General Motors to create a new body design in the middle of bad economic times. Sales were down drastically in all brands of automobiles and trucks. Over half of the makes would be gone forever before the end of this disastrous economic downturn.

Trying to boost slow sales and save their dealers, the Chevrolet Division introduces the “standard” car in 1935. It was less expensive than the “master” car which was the full size body. The “standard” was slightly smaller, less appointed, and some mechanical features were less complicated than their full size car.

Sales of the GMC line (big trucks) had dropped so much that many of their dealers were out of business. General Motors attempted to counter this by introducing their first ½ and ¾ ton pickups. They even created the “Trail-a-bout”, a small utility trailer for pulling behind passenger cars using their pre-existing pickup box.

With all this gloom and doom for the auto industry, what a surprise when Chevrolet introduces their new 1935 Suburban.

When you look close you realize this new body is set on the pre-existing ½ ton chassis, a major cost cutting feature. The chassis, doors, front sheet metal, wheels, radiator, bumpers, and cowl are all from the ½ ton. The Suburban was new in body only. This lesser investment probably helped seal the agreement between the US Army request and General Motors.

Our feature truck of the month is owned by Ed Brouillet of Fairfield, Connecticut. Ed states his first year Suburban is one of only 5 remaining of that year. The body’s wood framework covered in sheet metal did not survive well when year’s later water began leaking from the canvas top and began to reach the interior. As the Suburban aged, few owners had the money or interest to make any major repairs. With the large scrap metal drives during WWII, most were donated for their metal value.

Ed proudly mentions his Suburban is not only from the first year but it is the “first” one from the Chevrolet factory! This may be the reason why it was painted Swifts Red in a conservative era. Most vehicles were blue, green, and black. It was driven by a General Motors executive and kept it at its very best during the time it was assigned to him. Being seen driving such a unique shaped body was great advertising.

It is considered the “first” Suburban for two reasons:

There is no rear lift gate and no evidence of a place for hinges or the latch. There is only a roll-up canvas curtain. The other 5 remaining 1935 Suburban’s have these stampings for a metal lift gate.

There are no body tags on the firewall or stamped serial numbers on the engine block. No grinding or filling the holes or stamped numbers can be seen.

We assume the new Suburban was introduced toward the end of the 1935 as only 75 were made that year. Many more were produced in 1936.

Ed bought it over 20 years ago from the second owner, Walter Deck of Illinois, who was also a well known professional auto restorer. This person realized the rarity of owning the first Suburban and completed this ground up restoration just right. Because of being the first, all was done just like it left the factory.

The vehicle has not been in local shows for about 4 years. Because 2012 is Chevrolets 100th Anniversary, it is temporarily on display in the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, PA. For a close up view of the Suburban, visit this museum while in town at the famous Hershey Swapmeet in October 2012.

Note: Ed has hinted he is considering selling this “number one” Suburban. It has been appraised at $150,000.00! Bids are being considered starting at $125,000.00. See it at the museum or contact us for a contact.

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