In 1999 GM came out with their Concept Car calendar. I really liked the looks of the SSR Sport Truck concept. It was based on the AD trucks. I wanted to build my own concept and drive through a couple of Chevy dealerships just to see the reaction. I started looking for a donor, but could never find the right one at a fair price. When GM started production on the SSR, I didn't want to be a follower and decided to go another direction. My new Idea was to build a AD Suburban. When I found this 53 Suburban, I couldn't pass it up.
On April 23, 2004 I hooked up the trailer, loaded the the family in the truck and started the 5.5 hour drive to Sun Valley Idaho. The guy I bought it from had owned it over 20 years and was pretty sad to see it go. After another 6 hours of traveling, she was finally home.
I picked up a Chevy 5.7 liter engine core. I has the Vortec heads and roller cam. Bored it .030 over, custom ground the cam to LT1 specs and went with 10.5 to 1 pistons. The intake manifold is an Edelbrock performer with an Edelbrock #1406 square flange 600 cfm carburetor. The distributor is Mallory's Big End HEI with the high RPM coil. Added a little chrome, some aluminum and stainless steel headers.
After some research and a few posts here at Hotrodders, I learned the original steering gearbox had to go, to make room for a Chevy Small Block. First thing is to remove the front clip. The replacement gearbox came from a 1980 Chevy 1/2 ton pickup with power steering. I purchased a conversion kit from Classic Performance Products. The upper and lower shock mounts need to be moved from the original mount location in front of the axle to the new location behind the axle, to make room for the steering gearbox. For the lower mounts I just put the left lower on the right lower and the right lower to the left lower. Pictures in my engine install portion of this journal show better detail of this.
I have the engine and transmission together. I purchased engine and transmission cross members from Classic Performance Parts. I cut out the old originals. I believe they were built for the 1955 and later model trucks with a wider frame. I had to cut both the cross members down. I'm keeping a straight axle instead of using an IFS from a donor. I will pull the engine and transmission back out, pull the body off, sandblast and paint the chassis.
I removed the torque tube rear end. My 3:73 posi donor rear end is from a 1984 Pontiac Trans Am with disc brakes. I cleaned off the perches and other brackets. My new spring perches are offset to allow centering the tire in the wheel opening.
My dash is clean with the exception of the stereo cutout in the middle lower portion. I'm still debating if I should replace with a donor dash. The speaker grill and glove box door are from a donor vehicle. Both mine were okay, but the donor's are perfect. The other picture is of my new gauges.
I have started on the interior. Sanded the passenger side and pulled the glass and channel. My donor seats are new pulls from a 2004 GMC Yukon. They are six way power and heated. Hey, they even have side airbags. When I get done it will have that new car leather smell.
Thought I'd put a couple of pictures showing what the color will be when completed. I found this color on what I think to be a 1939 Chevy hot rod. When I saw the color I decided it would work on my Suburban. It is PPG #5588 Island Blue Metallic. I painted my Traxxas RC car in this color to see the curves and body lines.
Looked through a number of posts here at Hotrodders as well as other internet sites. After numerous sleepless nights,I came up with this idea about 4:00 am. I ended up using a set of old camper jacks. The side rails sag a little and after I shot these pictures I sat it on jack stands. I have since doubled up on the 2x4 side rails and it seems quite steady. With the body removed I can finish sand blasting the frame, paint, build my new rear shock mounts, install the fuel tank and run the brake and fuel lines.
Well my July 23, 2005 deadline has come and gone. My hope was to have this project completed for a local car show. Last year I cleaned the 1953 Suburban and showed it in a local car show, in as found condition. They saved the same stall for me in hopes of showing it completed this year. At least the pressure of a deadline is gone. A couple weeks ago I sandblasted the chassis. Today I wiped it down, sprayed it with POR-15 and re-installed the engine and transmission. Next will be running brake lines, fuel lines and fuel tank.
Installed the body and front clip to check power steering conversion and steering column fit as well as engine clearance. I installed the original radiator, to get the distance to the fan, needed for choosing the correct fan spacer. I chose a fan that compliments the engine colors. When I did the power steering conversion, I thought I might have to trim the inner fender to clear the gearbox. As luck would have it, the gearbox clears without trimming (shown in bottom right of 1st picture). After researching posts here at the Hotrodders forum (Much thanks guys) I placed the engine in and mounted my motor mounts to position the number one cylinder directly above the front axle. This was great for clearing both, my tilt steering column to header distance as well as the distributor distance from the firewall. Next up I will remove the front clip and body once more to fill holes in firewall, install patch panels, as well as the finish body and paint in the engine compartment. Things are going slowly, but smoothly.
Finally getting around to the floor replacement in my 1953 Chevy Suburban as well as floor reinforcement (thanks to help from some friends). Cut out the old rust and squared the door openings in preparation for replacing the floors. I am using the seats from a 2004 Chevy Tahoe, so I'm going with a flat floor. Previously I installed the engine and transmission mounts to allow a totally flat floor to toe kick (no hump).
New inner cowls and inner to outer cowls are tacked in place. These are reproductions from a leading Chevy supplier. Will be cutting the toe kick out, replacing with new sheet metal and installing the tilt steering column in the next few days.
I have been trying to decide if I should replace the complete dash or just repair the stereo cutout. While I have extra sheet metal left over from replacing the floor, I decided to patch. I will post pictures when completed, hopefully sometime within the next week. My goal is to have this drivable by April or May 2006.
Patched the dash where the stereo cutout existed. The finish welding is done to the new floor. Will be doing some patches to a couple of the lower area's where there is minor rust. Next I'm going to run e brake cable, brake lines and fuel lines. Hoping to get the engine started within the next 6 weeks.
I had planned on adding a few pictures today. That all changed when the batteries died in my digital. Well, at least I was able to post these pictures of the fuel pocket installed. I never really liked the old filler neck with gas cap (the stock setup). I really like the looks of this unit and there is no gas cap needed.
The last of the patches are complete. In this journal entry the work is done on the left rear fender and both rear fenders are now ready to work. New fender mounting brackets will be fabricated for joining the front clip to the new toe kick and firewall.
Since I first saw the 53 Suburban, I've been looking at the roof repair and options. One of the early owners had cut a hole in the roof and installed a crank up vent. Someone then did a terrible job of removing the vent and replacing the sheet metal in the roof (notice I didn't say repairing the roof). The warping is quite extensive. I think I've decided to cut out the badly warped sheet metal and install a sun roof. My next week or so will be researching bone yards for a donor, as well as pricing and availability options for new products. These three pictures show the roof damage as it was when I found the Suburban.