No More Weak Links [Suburban Pt 5/5]

We’ve all heard the expression “the weakest link in the chain”. Well, what you’re looking at here are the stronger replacements for the rest of the weak links that were in the Suburban chain. Give me a moment, I promise you’ll see where I’m going with this.

You see, when the Suburban came home from the first round of restoration at Speedy, while it looked incredible overall with its fresh paint and few new pieces the remaining original parts started to look a little more tired in comparison. When the whole truck was original and everything on it was nearly three decades old, a little bit of wear here and there was excusable because nothing really looked out of place. Once some fresh paint and a new rear bumper had been added in to the mix – replacing what had been the worst parts of the truck – the next-worst in line moved up.

That once-third-worst aspect of the truck now finding itself at the top of the list was the original grille, with its badly flaking finish. Normally this was hidden behind a clip-on grille cover but without that to hide it, and the perfect paint sitting right above it on the hood, this was now the biggest eyesore on the vehicle; this was now the weakest link in the chain. As such it was decided almost immediately that a new grille would be fitted to remedy this.

However, there was also the matter of the original front bumper’s little bits of “character” looking a little more obvious now, and they’d only become even more so once that grille was new as well. With the bumper assembly then replaced though, the pattern would surely continue with the next-worst in line, and so on and so forth. Items that once wouldn’t have stood out on a truck that had some rust and door dings would only look worse and worse in comparison as more and more items were replaced or refinished.

Knowing that there was only ever going to be one inevitable outcome at this rate, the decision was made to save on shipping costs and wait times by ordering basically everything else LMC offered in one go. We ran over the truck front to back and anything that had the slightest bit of age showing was noted before the catalogue was then opened up again and the shopping cart populated. A few weeks later, all of this arrived.

As the truck sits today, only a few original exterior components remain either due to them passing the inspection or just not being offered (at least at the time of ordering). The one item remaining that really needs attention is the roof rack as its finish is flaking in a few spots, but that can easily be remedied with some powdercoat and didn’t necessitate replacing it.

Now, you all saw the Suburban in its 99.9% complete state in the Steel Dreamz photos, but I promised at that point that I’d put together a final (for now) entry properly detailing the extra parts it had seen since the repaint – and so that’s what we have today.

The installs of most of these parts were handled at Speedy – more on that in a second – but I did quickly toss on a few at home just to get something done. The first items up were the tail lights.

The originals were certainly very good for their age and absolutely could have been tidied up with some fresh clear and polishing (although I had noticed that one of the reverse lights was starting to let a little more condensation in in recent years) but if there’s the chance to have brand new pieces, why not? Worth noting though is that every single original piece which was replaced in this round of work (grille included) was actually repackaged in the new parts’ boxes and put away in storage, as spares.

Anyway, tail lights. These were silly easy to replace, only being held in by a couple of screws each.

The original gasket was in good shape fortunately, and so was placed on the new light before the lightbulb socket assembly (let’s go with that as the name) was bolted down and the whole unit put in place. With the driver’s side light replaced, the passenger side was handled next.

The difference was subtle, but you can make out that the reflections on the new light (right side of the photo) are just that little bit sharper overall. It also doesn’t have the molded-in DOT text on the bottom.

The other items I replaced this day were the park lights, seen here on the bottom. The lenses were fairly badly weathered and removing them was simply a matter of undoing the four screws and taking out the bulbs. Remember when cars had fully exposed hardware like this from factory?

Even knowing they were bad to begin with, seeing the brand new replacements next to the originals still showed a surprising difference in quality.

As for the rest then, it was handed off to Speedy since it’d be easier for them to handle the install of the large (and heavy) bumper assembly, and it needed to go to allow the nose to come back apart for the grille. There was also one other job that they were asked to look after, which would see the truck being immobile for a little while…

…and that would be the wheels. Over the years their original finish had aged badly and nothing short of a full redo would fix them, so while the Suburban was back at the shop it was set on jackstands and the wheels were pulled off to be restored as well. Admittedly this really should have been taken care of during the first round, but perhaps we were still (foolishly) thinking that this wasn’t going to be some full redo. Cue laugh track.

Fast-forward a little bit and following a phone call to say the truck was ready (again), this is what we were greeted with!

With the new grille in place the face of the truck was noticeably better, but the emblem bolted to it was also helping with that. The original was looking a touch dull so it too was set aside in favour of a new part.

On either side then sat the previously-fitted parking lights, now joined by brand new headlights above, although the original amber reflectors were retained as they were fortunately spotless. Those paying extra-close attention may have noticed that the new front end isn’t exactly correct to the truck’s original specification though, as the new grille is entirely chrome whereas the original had satin black slats (behind the GMC logo) and headlight pockets. The black/chrome piece wasn’t available any more so the all-chrome version was selected since it could always be painted or wrapped to replicate the original, although it has intentionally been left chrome for now as a way to brighten up the front of the truck a tad.

Also brightening up the front of the truck was that new bumper assembly, and a complete bumper assembly at that. The main chrome bumper, lower valance, impact strip, bumper guards, and even the license plate holder were all replaced. Only the license plate and its original bolts were transferred over, in fact.

The last parts to be fitted at Speedy were new side mirrors, and then once it was back a little bit of vinyl work finished the whole package off. The very aged decals that had called the quarter panel windows home for some time were peeled off and replaced with something that properly reflected the truck’s “job” these days; a few of us started jokingly referring to it as the Support Vehicle some time back and eventually it was properly labeled as such given that’s its role in the family fleet these days, hauling parts for the various projects – mine, my mother’s or friends’. It had worn a decal on the back glass for a little while but that was removed and replaced with a new one on either side. Below that, some subtle pinstriping was also applied to break up the vast expanse of blue. There were no replacement stripe kits available to mimic the truck’s original pinstriping, and while it could have been replicated (I made sure to take detailed photos of it prior to the repaint for reference) the decision was made to change it up just a little bit with a pair of stripes (silver and blue) replacing the original trio (one black and two blue).

As for the interior, in case you were curious, it saw one and only one piece during this whole process: a new dash cover to protect the still-tidy original dash from sun exposure. Given my Grand Prix’s original finally gave out a couple of seasons ago, we weren’t keen to see a similar fate for the truck’s. Apart from that though – and the sunvisors which I replaced in 2010 or so (again, LMC) – the interior of the truck remains exactly as it was at the time of delivery in March 1993, unless you want to count the extra rubber floor mats.

If there were glaring issues with the interior’s condition after all this time it might be a different story, but given the overall state of it – extremely tidy but not showroom perfect – it’s staying untouched. There’s the odd nick on the tailgate trim, a couple of buttons’ text is starting to wear off a bit, and some small scuffs can be found on the kickplates, but that’s all okay because despite the truck now being taken to the odd event here and there, it really does remain as a Support Vehicle for the others. Or I suppose, the XL Support Vehicle now that I have Arabis to use for most cargo and – importantly – winter time hauling.

On that, the only real limitation in the truck’s usage now will be that it won’t ever see snow again, but during the summer months it’ll be just as likely to be found at a car show…

…as it will be hauling parts for another vehicle.

If I had to make a prediction as to any future work on the truck, I would assume – as mentioned in the Steel Dreamz coverage – that in a few years the engine will be pulled apart for some new gaskets and a general refresh of its own, but until then the truck will basically remain as it now sits (the 1500 emblems may or may not go back on still), ready and able to fit in at a car show but also still capable of earning its keep around here. It already received a huge amount of attention from the few events it attended in 2021, and the plan is to take it out to even more in ’22, perhaps with more of the local OBS owners as well.

And hopefully, an equally fresh-looking ’92 Grand Prix.


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