Many automotive companies in the United States used the "Suburban" name to indicate a windowed, station wagon type body on a commercial frame including Dodge, Plymouth, Studebaker, Nash, Chevrolet, and GMC. Chevrolet began production of its all-steel "carryall-suburban" in 1935. GMC brought out its version in 1937. These vehicles were also known as the "Suburban Carryall" until GM cut the name to simply "Suburban."
With the end of production of the Dodge Town Wagon in 1966 and the Plymouth Suburban station wagon in 1978, only General Motors continued to manufacture a vehicle branded as a "Suburban", and they were awarded an exclusive trademark on the name in 1988. The Chevrolet Suburban is one of the largest SUVs on the market today. It has outlasted many competitive vehicles such as the International Harvester Travelall, Jeep Wagoneer, and the Ford Excursion. The latest competitor is the extended Ford Expedition EL, which replaced the Excursion.
First generation (1933–1934)
Chevrolet offered a station wagon body, built on the 1/2 ton truck frame. This model was specifically built for National Guard units and Civilian Conservation Corps units. Much of the body was constructed from wood, and could seat up to eight occupants.
Second generation (1935–1940)
Chevrolet offered the body style as a "Carryall Suburban". These share the front sheetmetal and frames of the 1/2 ton pickup models of the same year, but featured all-metal wagon bodies differing very little in shape from contemporary "woodie" wagons. Seating for up to eight occupants was provided, with three in front row, two in the middle row, and three in the rear row. Either rear panel doors or a rear tailgate/lift window were provided for easy loading and unloading of luggage.
Third generation (1941–1947)
Suburbans were built in model years 1941, 1942, and 1946(also, it was produced during the war as a military transport vehicle at bases). Seating for up to eight occupants was provided. Models with rear panel doors were designated "3106," while those with tailgates were designated "3116." The Chevrolet versions were equipped a 216-cubic-inch 6-cylinder engine. The GMC version was equipped with a 228-cubic-inch 6-cylinder engine.
Fourth generation (1947–1955)
Beginning in 1954, the Hydra-Matic 4-forward-speed automatic transmission is available in the Chevrolet Suburban (GMC offered this transmission in 1953). As with the Art Deco series, models with rear panel doors were designated "3106," while those with tailgates were designated "3116." In 1952, the Suburban came with either a tail gate or panel doors. The front bench seat was split, with two seats on the drivers side and a single seat on the passenger side, which slid forwards allowing access to the rear two rows of seat. The second row was a "2/3" seat, making allowing occupants to move past to the third row, much like a modern minivan is configured, only without the side door.
This was the last series to feature "Canopy Express" models.
The design of the 1949 Suburban would go on to inspire the design of the Chevrolet HHR over half a century later.
Fifth generation (1955–1959)
In 1955, all Chevrolet truck models had new styling(different from the now famous Tri-Chevy cars) which included a flatter hood, the front fenders flush with the rest of the body, and a trapezoid grill. The inside had the V-shape speedometer that the cars did. Engines included I-6 and the small block V-8s. Chevrolet used its 265 V-8 engine, later evolving it to a 283-cubic-inch version. GMC based their V-8 on a Pontiac design. Standard Suburban model numbers continued from the previous series, but the introduction of four-wheel-drive models in 1957 added the numbers "3156" for 4WD Suburbans with panel doors, and "3166" for 4WD Suburbans with tailgates.
Sixth generation (1960–1966)
The styling of the 1960 - 1961 model year took cues from the late 1950s Chevrolet cars and had large oval ports above the grille. Front independent suspension was new for 1960. The cab featured a "wrap around" windshield. Both tailgate and "barn door" rear openings were available. From 1962 onwards, the hood styling was 'toned down' a bit, with a more modern looking hood that eliminated the large ports. In 1964, the front glass area was updated to a flatter windshield, and larger door glass. 1, 150 lb (68 kg). of cargo could be carried in the back.
This model series introduced a factory-equipped 4WD ("K") option for the first time. The 2WD "C" models introduced a torsion bar-based independent front suspension and trailing arm and coil spring rear. But by 1963, returned to a more conventional coil-spring approach.
Engines included both I-6 and small-block V-8s. A 305-cubic-inch 60 degree V-6 was also available on GMC models. The 305 was actually 'brought down' from GMCs medium duty truck line. It featured huge torque numbers, but was also notable for poor fuel economy. Transmissions were a 3-speed and 4-speed manual, and the automatic Powerglide.
One interesting Chevy Suburban was a 15-passenger conversion done by Stageway of Fort Smith, Ark. These modified Suburbans had three doors on the right, had 171" wheelbase, was 273" long, and weighed 6,300 lbs.
One ton (C-30), 10-foot (3 m) panel truck models were no longer available after 1966.
Seventh generation (1967–1972)
The second generation C/K Suburbans are easily recognised by having only a single drivers side door and two passenger-side doors. They were available in both 2WD and 4WD models.
Engines included the V6 (e.g., Chevrolet 292-cubic-inch I6, and GMC 305 cubic inch V6), and small-block V8s of the current model year (e.g., 283, 307, 327, 350, 400-cubic-inch V8s.) For the first time, a three-quarter ton version was available.
This series would also be the last to offer C-10 & C-20 Panel truck models for commercial purposes, the last year being 1970.
1971 saw the introduction of disc brakes on the front wheels, and 1972 was the last year for coil-spring rear suspension on 2WD models. 1972 also introduced a smaller housing for the rear seat air conditioning (a unit that ran the full length of the roof had been available since 1967). The Comfort-Tilt steering wheel became optional in 1971.
In 1964, Chevrolet in Brazil introduced a 5-door version of the Suburban called Veraneio (also known as C-14/16). It was based on the 1960-66 US C/K series. The Veraneio used the instrument cluster from the C/K series although the exterior sheet metal layout is exclusive to Brazil. They were initially powered with a Chevrolet 4.2-liter inline six based on the pre-1962 "Stovebolt" engines. Later they used the 250-cid 4.1-liter engine from Chevrolet's Brazilian mid-size sedan - the Opala. The original version of the Veraneio was kept in production, with another grill and interior, until 1988 (model year 1989), but it was eventually replaced with an updated version based on the C-20 family.
In 1997 GM introduced in Brazil the Silverado pickup, replacing the "C Series". The Brazilian version of the Suburban, which was made in the same style of the 1992 American Tahoe until 2001, was called the Grand Blazer, a successor to the Veraneio. The 4.1-liter inline six engine with 138 hp (103 kW) was offered on both models with option for a MWM 4.2-liter turbodiesel unit with 168 hp (125 kW).
Eighth generation (1973–1991)
With the third generation C/K models, the Suburban became a 4-door vehicle. The rounded 1970s body style remained largely unchanged for 19 model years - making this series the longest in production of any Suburban. Both 2WD and 4WD models, designated "C" and "K", were offered, as well as one-half ton and three-quarter ton ("10" and "20" on the Chevy, "1500" and "2500" for GMC) models. The one ton model designation was the C or K 30 for Chevrolet and 3500 for GMC.
Stageway(now with a company named Armbruster) were still making 15-passenger Suburbans in 1973, but now they had 5-doors in each side, plus, front-and-rear air conditioning, a baggage rack, a heater under the third seat, step-plates for easier access, etc.
The base engine was the small-block 350-cubic-inch V-8. A 400-cubic-inch V-8 was optional. The 454-cubic-inch big-block V-8 was now available for the first time, most commonly in the 2WD three-quarter ton models. The 6.2 L (379 cu in) 130 hp (97 kW) Detroit Diesel V8 engine was also available from 1982-onwards. The Diesel later became the engine of choice for Suburbans exported to Europe from USA.
Three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmissions were available for only small block engines. The Turbo-Hydramatic 400 was used for big block and 6.2 diesel engines. The 700R4 4 speed automatic was introduced in 1981 and was available with the small block and the 6.2 diesel. Towing packages, offering gearing reduction, TH400, and cooling additions for heavy loads, were available. A "positraction" limited slip differential was optional. Later vehicles came equipped with rear anti-lock brakes (available on C and K series Suburbans).
Trim options included base level, and upgraded Silverado versions. An optional 3rd row bench seat allowed for 9-passenger configurations. A rear heating system was optional, as well, to help heat the long vehicle's interior.
In 1981, automatic locking front hubs were added on four-wheel-drive models, and the NP208 transfer case replaced the NP205 in most models.
In 1986 and 1987, the method of fuel delivery for the engines was switched from carburetors to electronic fuel injection. The system that GM chose was called throttle body injection, or TBI. The change improved fuel economy, performance, and emissions. A heavy-duty four-speed automatic transmission, the 4L80-E was added in 1991.
GM temporarily changed the usual "C/K" designation to "R" and "V" for the 1987 through 1991 model years. This was done to avoid confusion with the GMT400-based Chevrolet C/K pickup trucks, which were introduced in 1988, during the overlap period.