Going to big car shows for a living can be an interesting thing. We (magazine types) see all kinds of people and vehicles from all over the country, and it can be easy to get wrapped up in the best of the best and the latest and greatest, but somewhere it (our brains) needs to be reset. You've hopefully been able to tell that we at CLASSIC TRUCKS try to bring you trucks from all kinds of backgrounds, budgets, and states of completion-all in good taste of course. While at the last Goodguy's show in Columbus, Ohio, surrounded by over 6,000 entries (some close to a million bucks), I found Dave Carter and his sons relaxing in/by their Suburban and thought this is what it's all about-having fun-and in Dave's case, with his family. Not only that, but the 'Burb was just cool enough that anyone could be proud driving it. Here's Dave's story.
"The Suburban story started when I began looking for a project vehicle back in the spring of '07. Like most people, marriage and two kids had taken most of my spare time and funds. But as family life had settled down I finally had the cash for a new project. Don't get me wrong, I've had some cool trucks and my daily drivers have ranged from dropped S-10s to fullsize shortbeds-neat trucks, but nothing close to classic.
"So I'm at the Cars and Parts spring swap meet in Springfield, Ohio, which is notorious for having lots of vehicles in every state of condition and vintage. Being the spring meet it should have an even larger number of cars as many winter projects are always up for sale. After walking for hours I've looked at what must be every car twice and I've only found two vehicles that really interested me. The first is a '66 Impala wagon with 327 and a four-speed no less, the second was a '66 Suburban. I liked it the moment I saw it, but it sat way too high. It was a real ugly duckling, and I thought initially it was a four-wheel drive. Once I learned it was a 2x4 the wheels began to turn.
"My wife had wanted a wagon, and we needed something to haul two boys and all the gear that comes with them. Agreed, I like wagons but as cool as they are, everyone has one these days. [But] the Suburban, now this was different. How often do you see them-let alone one that's hammered on the ground-around Ohio? Never. Long story short, after a grainy cell phone picture I convinced her (like she had a choice) this could be way cooler than a wagon.
"The truck didn't need wholesale changes-except for ride height-but lots of little changes here and there. The truck had the paint you see and most of the interior pieces when we bought it, but mechanically it left a lot to be desired. To improve the driveability, I replaced the carb, intake, exhaust, and most importantly the transmission. I did the 700-R4 swap and highly recommend doing so to anyone considering it. I've had to chase the usual electrical gremlins that come with a 40-year-old truck. I upgraded to a one-wire alternator to help the electrical situation. The steel wheels were on the truck when I bought it, but the tire setup was hideous. I changed the tires to the right big/little combo and replaced the caps with correct truck caps. A buddy and I cut the coils to get it down to a temporary respectable appearance, but that didn't last long. The final and biggest piece of the puzzle was of course the airbag setup. Kevin Erisman of Hacker's Paradise in Germantown, Ohio, went to work installing 'bags front and rear, and stepping the stock control arms to drop the front even more. In the back he C-notched the frame, added KYB shocks, and installed a new Panhard bar. Now the 'Burb really sits 'right.'
"Since we finished the truck I have been bombarded with advice to add 20-inch wheels, tint the windows, change to some crazy paint, etc. While I have nothing against all those things, I think those people just don't get our truck. The original clean look it has is what makes it. But I must admit, I have been toying with the idea of a five-lug conversion and a set of cast center American T-70s. I guess in the end it was a compromise. My wife got her wagon and I got my truck, and we all got a killer family cruiser. Best of all she doubts me no more!"