Long before the creation of the “SUV” acronym there were SUVs that each had their own loyal fan base. One of these was the Chevrolet Suburban. For many years it was the largest SUV on the market with its 4 side doors, rear cargo door or doors, optional 3 rows of seating, and plenty of rear cargo space. The most revered generation was the seventh generation 1973-1991 Suburban. It was the longest production run of any Suburban generation and there’s a good reason for this. It’s extremely squarish styling had the aerodynamics of a brick but it’s as classic as classic will ever get and its the Suburban generation that transitioned the Suburban from a niche vehicle to America’s favorite wagon. It should be noted that GM’s GMC truck division during this time also sold a rebadged version of the Chevrolet Suburban called the GMC Suburban, for many years it was marketed as a slightly more upscale version of the Chevrolet Suburban.
The 1973-1991 Chevrolet Suburban’s styling was attractive when it was new and it has aged very well being more popular today than ever. It’s also the reason why prices for these classic Suburbans have been skyrocketing the last few years. To continually keep the 1973-1991 Suburban looking modern and up-to-date Chevrolet did a great job of periodically updating the Suburban’s interior along with its front and rear exterior design.
The seventh generation Suburban started off as a utilitarian people and cargo hauler. The interior was pleasant but it was taxi cab spartan. Compare this to the 1963-1983 Jeep Wagoneer and 1984-1991 Grand Wagoneer which also began production in 1963 as a utilitarian vehicle but grew into an upscale luxury SUV by the late-1970s with leather seats and just about every other luxury option found on an upscale luxury car at the time. The Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer were the pillar of country club prestige which was the polar opposite of the Suburban which was the big SUV of middle America. The Suburban was marketed as a big wagon rather than a SUV. It would gradually be available with more options, additionally items like power windows, power door locks, and comfortable cloth interior seating became more common by the 1980s widening the Suburban’s customer base.
The Suburban was standard with 2-wheel drive while 4-wheel drive being optional. There were different trim levels offered. It can’t be stressed enough how large in size the 1973-1991 Suburban was, it had a 219.1 inch length, 79.6 inch width, and a 129.5 inch wheelbase. It had a curb weight that was just under 6,000 lbs. In other words it wasn’t an easy vehicle to fit into the average American home garage at the time.
There were many different engines offered in the 1973-1991 Suburban. Ironically there was a 4.1 liter straight-6 cylinder engine which provided very good gas mileage. There were also V8 engines offered in the following cubic-inch engine displacements: 305, 307, 350, 400, and 454. The most popular of these was the 350 cubic-inch 5.7 liter small-block V8 which seemed to offer the best balance between good power output and semi-reasonable gas mileage. In the U.S. market the Suburban was also available from 1978-1981 with Oldsmobile’s 350 cubic-inch 5.7 liter diesel V8 which was replaced by a 6.2 liter Detroit Diesel V8. The 1973-1991 Suburban could be equipped with the following transmissions: a 3-speed manual, 4-speed manual, 3-speed automatic, and 4-speed automatic.
The seventh Suburban was still a niche vehicle even as its popularity rose in the 1970s. It wasn’t until the 1980s when so many of America’s popular full-size cars either disappeared or were drastically downsized, that Suburban began to take on the role as America’s most popular wagon. This new customer base was comprised of buyers who didn’t like the drastically downsized full-size cars and station wagons but still had the need to transport up to 8 to 10 passengers along with lots of cargo. The Suburban became the perfect replacement especially with it being available with 4-wheel drive something traditional large cars and station wagons were never offered with.
Chevrolet by the 1980s had improved the Suburban’s ride, handling, and steering attributes giving it driving characteristic closer to a car than Chevrolet’s full-size pickup truck platform on which it was based on. Additionally the Suburban with its sturdy body-on-frame construction, very good low end torque, and a very long wheelbase was the perfect vehicle to tow a trailer, camper, or boat. All of these factors caused 1973-1991 Suburban sales to skyrocket during the 1980s. Even today the current generation Suburban remains a very large SUV with a V8 as its standard engine and it is still a very popular vehicle. The 1973-1991 Suburban will continue to flourish in popularity, it has become an American icon and its skyrocketing prices prove it.
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