The Suburban Story

Written by Mike Brazeau


1935 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall


1937 GMC Suburban Carryall

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A lot of people did not know that both Chevrolet and GMC built the Suburban for quite some time. Chevrolet introduced the Suburban in 1935 and GMC two years later in 1937. It was a pickup type front end with a station wagon type body mounted on a pickup chassis. Other companies also used the Suburban name, but General Motors was awarded an exclusive trademark in 1988 after all of the other companies discontinued its use.

The 1935 Chevrolet Model EB Suburban had a 112-inch wheelbase and a 206.8 CID OHV 6 cylinder engine. It was considered by many to be the first SUV although the term "SUV" was not coined until many years later.

By 1939, the Model JC Suburban wheelbase had grown to 113.5 inches and then to 115 inches with the introduction of the 1941 Model AK. Civilian truck production ended in January 1942 with America’s entry into WWII. Chevrolet was given permission to produce high-priority civilian use vehicles from January 1, 1944 though August 31, 1945, but no new Suburbans were produced until the 1946 Interim Series was introduced on September 1, 1945. The wheelbase grew one inch in 1947. The Hydra-Matic transmission was made available on the GMC Suburban in 1953 and on the Chevrolet Suburban in 1954.

The 1955 Second Series Chevrolet trucks were introduced in March 1955 and the Suburban received the new styling, along with the other Chevrolet and GMC light duty trucks. Wheelbase fell back to 114-inches. By 1957 a NAPCO 4-wheel drive conversion was available for approximately $1,200.00.

1960 saw a completely redesigned Suburban in both the Chevrolet and the GMC line. This included a new 305 CID V6 engine in the GMC models and independent front suspension on both Chevrolet and GMC two wheel drive models. It featured torsion bars in the front and coil springs in the rear. Wheelbase was back to 115 inches. In 1965, 4-wheel drive was offered as a factory option for the first time. 1967 saw new styling for GM light duty trucks. Suburbans had a unique 3-door configuration; one door on the drivers side and a front and rear door on the passenger side. Suburbans were always 2-doors up until this time. This was also the first year that Suburban was offered on ¾ ton models. Wheelbase grew considerably to 127 inches.

GM restyled their light duty trucks again in 1973. Suburbans were built on a longer 129.5 inch wheelbase and had a 9 passenger seating capacity. Gone was the 3-door configuration in favor of 4-door styling. The Blazer, introduced in 1969, was Chevrolet's 2 door SUV and the Jimmy introduced in 1970 was GMC’s 2-door version.

It wasn’t until 1992 that Suburban got the new GMT 400 platform styling. The R/V Series Suburban, Blazer, Jimmy, Crew Cab pickups and Cab Chassis units retained the old styling in 1988, when the Silverado and Sierra pickups got redesigned.

In 2000, the GMC Suburban was rebadged as the Yukon XL while Chevrolet kept The Suburban name. It was now based on the GMT800 platform. The Chevrolet Suburban was again redesigned in 2007 using the GMT900 platform. It has always retained its front engine/rear wheel drive layout and continues today as one of the longest living nameplates in the industry.

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