Time For The Suburban’s Mini Restoration

If there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s taking our “regular” vehicles and somehow turning them into projects despite our best efforts. To be fair, everything you’re about to see is being done out of necessity so that we can keep this as one of our regular, working and earning-its-keep vehicles, but it will be the most substantial amount of work that it has seen at one time, ever.

I should also clarify – because my mother and I borrow vehicles from each other so often that many end up being confused about exactly who owns what (one day I found out that my Grand Prix was unexpectedly down in Nanton, with her at the wheel) – that the Suburban is one of hers, so this is her project to oversee. I personally do not own a truck but regularly need one, however I fortunately to get to borrow the Suburban whenever required. Hence why I personally do not own a truck. I do get first dibs when (more likely if) it ever goes up for sale but she refuses to do so, so it stays in her name.

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So for those unfamiliar with it, here it is. This is the family workhorse, lovingly nicknamed the officialTHREETWENTY Support Vehicle: a 1993 GMC Suburban SLE. Bought brand new (ordered from the factory in fact) by my parents at the same time that they purchased (what is now) my ’92 Grand Prix, this has been the definition of reliable and trustworthy. It has taken us around Canada and even the USA. It has towed trailers. It has hauled bikes, car parts, recycling, furniture, TVs, tools, family, friends, dogs, and basically everything else imaginable. It has faced winter as well as summer, hail storms, snow storms, and more. While obviously it has been taken care of properly it was never babied; we’ve thrown everything at it, including a wheel and tire that took off down our driveway and were stopped via the driver’s door. Yay for PDR. Just about the only thing this truck has never done in fact, is let us down. In the 27 years of service we’ve had from it now, below is the entire list of problems it has had:

A few years ago, while I had it out one day, the alternator failed and caused the battery to die. Literally two blocks from my house.

The end.

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So yes, after a bit more than a quarter century the old Suburban is still with us for one very simple reason: there has never been a need to replace it. However, being a Calgary car since new and having seen Calgary winters, it was inevitable that eventually age would catch up with it a bit. And it has.

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For the most part this truck is still very solid and clean but in recent times we noticed a bit of rust starting to take hold here and there, so a few seasons back plans started to form to send it off for a very well-deserved refresh. With the rust now at a stage that it was A) substantially ugly and B) very rapidly spreading on one quarter specifically, it was decided that as soon as I had my S15 back from Speedy, my mother would drop this off for the work to begin. And so it was.

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The decision to lightly restore this Suburban instead of replacing it was an easy one for my mother to make, not only given the memories associated with it. The first year’s depreciation on any new truck would more than cover what this will cost, plus there’s the fact that older trucks are cooler than new trucks. They just are, sorry. Haha. In fact, even in its slightly crusty condition the ‘burb regularly received a lot of attention and upward-pointed thumbs, usually followed by inquiries of whether or not it was for sale.


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The mini refresh will also allow for the truck’s usage to be slightly changed as the plans call for it to start going to the odd show as well, including any that my Grand Prix winds up at. The idea of having our two early-90’s GMs together is a fun one, especially given they were bought together and are still with their original owner or family today.

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Before I get ahead of myself though I should probably swing this post back to detailing exactly what old KIDNDOG required after all of these years. You saw the driver’s door above, but that was the mild rust…it’s at the back of the truck where the real eyesores were.

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On the driver’s side the bumper’s rust was the worst, but the passenger side quarter was the winner overall. It was to the point that the paint was coming off that section of the quarter and it was only a matter of time before it all flaked off entirely. The bumper meanwhile was nothing more than junk at this point with years of spray collected inside it having eaten right through the corners. The bump strip had also taken a hit from something somewhere, but it’s getting a whole new assembly anyway so that’ll be dealt with too.

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Elsewhere around the truck there were a few other little things that further helped to make it look tired, such as souvenirs from careless passengers of other vehicles.

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Up front meanwhile was a little reminder of a past bump. While it has never seen a “real” collision in its life it was unfortunately backed into a couple of years ago while parked. It was relatively light, only really pushing the bumper back a bit, but the front grille was cracked as part of it. We had the bumper pulled back out but this remained as a hint that something had happened, so it too will be addressed. With the front end apart Speedy did find a tiny bit more damage but that’s for the next update.

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Along with these there were a few other areas with room for improvement, like the bracket for the trailer’s wiring plug. It’s all rusty, so Speedy will make up a new one. They have the list of items and areas that need to be fixed but were also given a bit of room to play; if they think they can clean something up, they were given some freedom to do just that.

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And in case you were wondering about the timeline of this, yes the truck was dropped off back at the end of July but work only started a few weeks back. She handed the truck over early even though she didn’t have the parts in yet, since it’d be in good hands and neither of us would need it for a while anyway.

Now don’t get overly excited by the idea of boxes of aftermarket modifications arriving, because they aren’t. Despite many suggestions from friends this is not going to turn into some restomod (they keep referencing some company called fifteen52, saying it needs to be lower, you get the idea…) but that’s not the aim here. The shipment of parts consisted solely of replacements for what it has now, courtesy of LMC: a new rear bumper, emblems, moldings, and so forth. It had also already received brand new hatch struts and a new rear wiper arm, since none of the original three were doing their jobs any more.

It won’t be some pristine, showroom condition restored truck but will be a still largely original, honest, usable workhorse. Because yes, even following this work and even with the hopeful odd appearances at shows, the old ‘burban will continue to fill the role it always has in the family fleet: the ever-dependable hauler/mover/tower. Although, maybe with a bit less use in the winter now.


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