Curbside Classic: 1970 Chevrolet Suburban

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer
curbside classic 1970 chevrolet suburban

[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.

More New Curbside Classics Here

Join the conversation
2 of 17 comments
  • Accs Accs on May 29, 2010

    Man... 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.

  • Gurry Gurry on Oct 05, 2010

    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.

  • Bobbysirhan I'd like to look at all of the numbers. The eager sheep don't seem too upset about the $1,800 delta over home charging, suggesting that the total cost is truly obscene. Even spending Biden bucks, I don't need $1,800 of them to buy enough gasoline to cover 15,000 miles a year. Aren't expensive EVs supposed to make up for their initial expense, planet raping resource requirements, and the child slaves in the cobalt mines by saving money on energy? Stupid is as stupid does.
  • Slavuta Civic EX - very competent car. I hate the fact of CVT and small turbo+DI. But it is a good car. Good rear seat. Fix the steering and keep goingBut WRX is just a different planet.
  • SPPPP This rings oh so very hollow. To me, it sounds like the powers that be at Ford don't know which end is up, and therefore had to invent a new corporate position to serve as "bad guy" for layoffs and eventual scapegoat if (when) the quality problems continue.
  • Art Vandelay Tasos eats $#!t and puffs peters
  • Kwik_Shift Imagine having trying to prove that the temporary loss of steering contributed to your plunging off a cliff or careening through a schoolyard?