Category Archives: GMC Suburban

Savoring aged ‘burbans

Three's company

Three’s company. We’re pretty sure this is a ’71

It’s a fact, Suburban is the automotive nameplate that’s been in continuous use longer than any other model designation.  The name debuted more than 80 years ago with the introduction of the Chevy Carryall Suburban.  Ultimately, “Carryall” was dispensed with but the Suburban name was also applied to a GMC badge-engineered clone that became known as Yukon XL back in 2000.

Nobody forgot to close the barn doors. Note: Yukon plates

Nobody forgot to close the barn doors. Note: Yukon plates but it’s not a Yukon. (photo by Feral Cars Field Scout Tim Merlis)

In recent years, with the explosion of SUV sales, these behemoths have been transformed from the utilitarian vehicles they had been to luxury barges that are used in lieu of limousines and have supplanted minivans as the vehicles of choice for soccer moms.  The current, squared-off Suburban could easily double as a hearse and weighs almost three tons and manages to squeeze 16 paltry miles out of gallon of gas in city driving.  So much for sustainability!

Three to go

Just one for the road (side).

The point of this post is not to disparage the current Suburban (and Yukon XL) — which we kind of just did — but to celebrate earlier iterations which were, admittedly, huge but, somehow, more appropriate sans all the luxury accoutrements — like multiple doors.

Barn doors or tail gate? The choice was yours.

Barn doors or tail gate? The choice was yours. Note: iconic midcentury Eichler house in b.g.

Yes, earlier generation Suburbans came with one door on the driver’s side and two on the passenger side, the logic being that you didn’t need a door to get into the back because the vehicle is typically loaded from the right side.  This format lasted for 38 years plausibly,  because nobody cared all that much.  By the middle ’70s the idea of truck-based SUVs used as private passenger vehicles started to take hold and GM saw fit to cut another door into the driver’s side.

Pre-Yukon GMC

Pre-Yukon GMC

Speaking of doors, there was a time when you had a choice of a tailgate or panel doors (we like to call them “barn doors”) in the back.  That era of choice ended ten years ago with current models equipped only with tailgates.  Talk about bait and switch:  “Look, here’s that door you wanted. Oh, the ones in the back?  We don’t have those anymore.”



While we don’t, typically, do many posts about trucks we’ve decided to make an exception in the case of the Suburban in a salute to its ultra tenured status and the fact that we think old ones are much cooler than current ones.

Brick house on wheels

Brick house on wheels

Suburbans have been sold in many parts of the world including Australia where they wore Holden badges, the Middle East and Mexico.  Here’s a great commercial for the ’87 Suburban from our not yet walled-in neighbor to the south. “!Si, es lo más práctico!”

There are lots of older Suburbans out there that can be yours for the right price but not all that many with 3-doors for people and barn doors for cargo.  This one in nearby Seattle WA is offered for a buck under $17K and has been “pimped” to some extent.  Not sure what it would take to de-pimpify it but whatever the figure would be money well spent because we like to “keep it real.”

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