Rob Cate's

1951 Chevy Suburban 3116

"Lizzy" the Elephant

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12 February 2007
# 1810

From Rob :

           Hi, I just wanted to send in a picture of “Lizzy” the elephant, and provide a few details about how she came into my possession. It is a bit of a convoluted and twisted story…

           “Lizzy” the elephant, is a 1951 Chevy Suburban Model 3116 with clam shell rear doors. She has had the original 215 swapped for a 1960’s vintage 235. She has also been painted with an industrial pump primer.

           I bought the car with my meager yearly bonus about a year ago from the son of the original owner. This is where the story gets a little convoluted. Lizzy was originally purchased new by our next door neighbor, Earl. He bought the truck in Chicago in 1951 for $1660. In the early '60's (Earl was in the Navy) he drove it home to Utah and it was his daily driver. (Ths was long before I was born and long before my family lived in Utah). Earl drove the truck until sometime in the 1980’s when he parked it in favor of a small Isuzu pickup. His intent was to restore the Suburban. So he parked it in his shop to tinker with. He applied a thick coat of gray industrial primer on everything including the rubber window gaskets and the chrome pieces.

         After a long struggle with health issues, Earl died (he was 85 years old). Earl's wife had passed away a number of years earlier, so Earl left his house and belongings to his kids. About a year later, Earl's son, who lived out of state but was the closest geographically to the house, decided to sell the house. The house had sat empty for a number of years and had fallen into some state of disrepair (Earl was not able to keep the house up as he got older). My brother bought the house (which is next door to my parent's house, the house I grew up in) and everything that came with the house. The Suburban was written into the sales contract as having to be sold or removed from the shop 90 days after the sale of the house. You could say that the Suburban fell into my lap, and I am the second owner. The Suburban will always carry some sentimental value as I will always remember Earl who had become an adopted Grandpa to me and my other siblings.

           So, I have had the Suburban for almost a year. In that year, I had major ankle surgery, found a new girlfriend, fell in love and got married. Then we bought a house. Why is that important? Because I had intended to work on the Suburban in the shop where it had been parked since Earl parked it some 20 years ago. Since my brother owned the house and shop and was willing to let it stay where it was, I thought I had plenty of time. However things changed once I had a garage of my own. The pressure was suddenly on to move the Suburban out of the shop. So I ended up renting a trailer and shoe horning it into my two car garage. (It fit in the garage with about four inches between the roof of the truck and the ceiling in the garage.)

           The engine cranks and I have had it fire a couple of times. After the last backfire, the bailing wire holding the exhaust manifold in place broke and the exhaust system fell off. As of today, I have removed the front fenders and have begun the tedious process of undoing partial hack jobs done to keep the car running for 30+ years.

           The first picture at the top of the page is the Elephant the day I purchased it. Here is one of the Suburban, my wife (fiancé at the time) and me. The second one on this page is the Suburban shoe-horned into my garage.

           I don’t mean to make anyone drool, but with the Suburban I also got the original title, sales receipt, warranty card and many of the service parts receipts over the years. I also got the original 215 engine, three Rochester BC carburetors for Suburban, two 6v starters, two 6v generators, a “tuning kit”, a few spare belts, and a bunch of other various sundry parts.

See you in the funny pages,

Rob Cate
Bolter # 13465
Salt Lake City, Utah

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