How do you attract attention at a street rod show? Simple, have a unique or unusual ride. If your entry is truly unique, you may even find yourself chosen as a Top-Ten pick by the editors of CLASSIC TRUCKS. This was the position Ron Wright found himself in when he wheeled his '48 GMC Suburban into the Goodyguys' Del Mar show on April 7, 2002. Winning awards is not new to this first-time builder, having amassed 14 trophies in the last two years with the GMC. However, this was the first time he was asked to move his beautifully restored Jimmy inside with all the big boys.
The classic truck bug bit Wright when he first saw a friend's '49 Chevy Panel Delivery. When his wife complained that she could not see out of the back of the truck, he knew he needed to build a Suburban because it has windows all the way around. The problem is, there are very few early Suburbans left out there. Chevrolet began making them in 1935. There are only two of those around today, one is in a museum, and the other is privately owned.
Wright found his original-condition Suburban in a ramshackle garage out in the sticks. The guy had two of them, one Chevy and one GMC. Since, he'd seen Chevys before, but never a GMC, he bought it. When registering his restored treasure at the DMV, they told him that he had what may possibly be the only '48 GMC Suburban in California. Chevrolet used the same truck platform from '48-52. The Suburban only differs from the Panel Delivery in the fact that it had windows. The differences between the Chevrolet and the GMC are the hood, front fenders, and grille. From the front doors back, both makes are all the same. Just the frontend is changed.
A horrible looking green originally covered the outside of Wright's ride. The military used Suburbans to transport personnel on the bases after the war. A 228-cube six-cylinder engine and a four-speed transmission were standard.
When Wright began his frame-off restoration, the body was in bad shape and had a big hole in the roof. He learned leading, a traditional technique, to repair the big hole correctly. The floorboard was almost gone. It had to be completely cut out and a new 1/8-inch sheet was welded into place. It took him two-and-a-half years to put it together. He did all the work himself except for the interior and the paint.
This was the first car Wright ever built. Luckily, he had his friend's '49 Chevy as a model. The things he did not like on it he changed. He learned from his buddy's mistakes. People who have seen the truck and the pictures of it before the restoration say he must have been crazy to go through all the work he did to restore his hot rod.
Wright was meticulous when it came to restoring the exterior. He wanted it to look like it just came off the showroom floor-a resto look with the heart of a lion. To achieve this Ron chose a 375hp, fuel-injected LT1 350 pirated from a '94 Vette. With that kind of power, he knew the stock suspension would not do, so he went with the '89 Corvette IRS and '94 Corvette IFS. The new suspension really hugs the road. With all the Corvette parts, it would have been easier for Wright to build a stock Corvette, but it would not have been as fun or have turned as many heads.
The custom interior uses beige tweed cloth and camel colored leather on cut-down buckets out of a '94 Tahoe. The second row bench seat is from a '96 Suburban. Beige tweed carpet covers the interior including a storage area in the back that conceals all the waxes, cleaners, and polishers required to keep the vehicle in show condition. The rear doors, headliner, and the underside of the hood are also covered in the same material.
When things are too hot inside the Suburban, Wright can turn on the front and/or rear air condition just like a regular Suburban. The two units and single compressor are from Vintage Air. The re-chromed dashboard is stock and really makes the Dakota Digital gauges catch your eye.