By on May 15, 2010

[Note: This CC is an unused leftover from last week]

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 (1964) 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; were folks’ body sizes getting bigger already then too? 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.

Yup; there it is, the third door on the curb side of the big wagon. Passengers hadn’t yet achieved proper status yet. 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, rugged though it was. 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 clam shell doors, preferred by many, especially delivery drivers.

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17 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1970 Chevrolet Suburban...”

  • avatar

    Question on my mind. Why does hardly anybody ever repair the front seat on an old car?

    Not even homegrown repairs. I’ve done or helped with a couple of no-cost fixes that have come out quite well.

    Not having steel springs digging into one’s butt seems important to me.

    • 0 avatar

      Upholstery is for wimps?

      But seriously, my grandfather used to keep a pickup truck of similar vintage for hauling stuff too messy for the “nice” truck. If it didn’t keep it from going down the road, he didn’t have time to fix it.

    • 0 avatar

      I may well be a wimp, but padding between my butt and steel rails and springs inn very important to me. I’m not talking appearance at all. In one of those jobs I mentioned, my mother sewed a piece of gold fabric from an old sofa cover into a blue bench seat.

      About half the Curbside Classic cars shown seem to have a serious lack of seat padding.

    • 0 avatar

      Front seat upholstery does seem to be a neglected item on many an old work vehicle.

  • avatar

    The green color makes me clamor for Ranger Rick to sally forth, hop in, engage his unit in forward propulsive mode and engage the nefarious forces of evil threatening the American Way and all our furry friends residing among the trees and bushes within the national park that never was named that I can recall.

    Perhaps allowing the representation of any national park the viewing audience wanted to.

    Go Ranger Rick go.

    • 0 avatar

      Close. This is a surplus U.S. Forest Service vehicle. There is no mistaking that particular shade of green.

      The one thing that GM, Ford and Chrysler still have in common is that they will still deliver fleet vehicles in that USFS-unique color.

    • 0 avatar

      My kid bought a 1998 ‘burban surplus in that same green with 4×4 and van type rear doors. The current generation liftgate is a joke for a truck. Being in San Diego, the government color and fleet trim level causes day laborers to scatter whenever she visits Home Depot.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Random remarks:

    The three-door thing is a typical beancounter move, but it should be noted that the IH Travelall was the same way for a while. It did get the fourth door about the time these came out, though.

    A long wheelbase 60-66 gen was available as a C30 (1-ton) panel van.

    My neighbor growing up had one of these in primer gray for along time.

    Anyone care to take odds on the 4-speed being the rarer-than-rare NP435GA?

  • avatar

    Will forty year-old Escalades be hauling top soil?

    Yup. Give it time.

  • avatar

    Every time I see this color, I have the urge to go camping.

  • avatar

    Our family hauler was a 72 Suburban 3 door. I learned to drive in it, after I got my license I got elected to haul a bunch of friends on some outing. One of my buddies ran to the driver’s side and grabbed for the rear door handle…and of course there wasn’t one. I will never forget the “WTF?” look on his face. Priceless.

    The thing was pretty much indestructible. I got t-boned by a Toyota in it. The Toyota was totalled, I drove the Suburban away and kept driving it, just needed a couple hundred bucks worth body work. The huge engine compartment made wrenching on it a breeze, not that it ever needed more than regular tune ups. After 200K it threw the timing chain, only took a couple hours to replace it.

    The best part was that in the 70s nobody else drove these things. Ours had a white top, we could find it in the Disneyland parking lot from about a quarter mile away.

  • avatar

    i sure hope that topsoil is in bags

  • avatar

    Our family hauler was a 72 as well. All 5 kids learned to drive in it. Being the last of the 5 I didn’t even get behind the wheel (legally) until it had 150K miles on it. It went to 195 before the trans went. A friend of mine bought it for a couple hundred bucks and put a 2 speed powerglide in it, and kept driving it for several years. Ours had all 3 rows, but none of the seats folded or anything like it said in the article – the three benches bolted to the floor. You could take them out if you needed (very heavy to move), but the 2nd row of seating was only 3/4 width wide, allowing a passage to the third row. It was a great truck. And the reason I bought my ’04 Yukon XL.

    • 0 avatar

      I missed that about the folding seat. Ours didn’t have that either, I think Paul’s mistaken. Dad pulled out the middle seat and put the full-size rear bench in it’s place, giving us almost a 6-foot bed in the back. Made a great hauler.

  • avatar

    Reminds me of the Forest Service Suburban that my Junior High principle had.

  • avatar
    Acc azda atch


    I have pics of a 60 Burban coming out of Phila.. neatly framed in the left mirror of my Accord.

    Its a nice respectable MAN truck.. not this 4wd b.s today.
    Normally Id hate most things GM did.. but 3doors.. is a perfectly interesting oddity on a vehicle that has such a bad stigma.

    Nice truck.
    Cant imagine.. a child of mine buying a 10yr old one.

  • avatar

    These old trucks with three doors may be an old holdover when cars and light trucks had no outside locks on the drivers side. This was a safety feature. The driver would lock the truck or car from the inside and slide across the seat to the passenger side where heshe could exit the vehicle in safety on the curb side and then lock the vehicle from the outside. Maybe it was not the bean counters after all. I think this feature was called curbside entry.

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