After 18 months, I am finally finished with my 1958 GMC Suburban Carryall! The link to Photobucket shows the work, from beginning to end (235 images)
In April, 2006, I spotted a 1958 GMC Suburban Carryall on eBay. It had a reserve that turned out to be unreasonable. Plus, the old truck was located in Toronto, Canada, a four hour trip from Howell, Michigan.
After the auction ended, I contacted the seller to see if he might be more reasonable. I should have checked into a psychiatric institution instead of pursuing this vehicle, especially after finishing my 1939 Ford deluxe coupe, frame-off restoration.
This Task Force Suburban was such a rare vehicle, I just couldn’t pass it up. I remember these car-trucks from my younger days drag racing up and down Woodward Avenue, but only as work vehicles utilized by plumbers and construction companies. I don’t think I ever saw one of this vintage after the early ‘60's.
A friend and I set off for Toronto one fine morning and arrived safely and without getting lost (before GPS). The deal was made and we loaded it on the trailer. Although I could have driven it home, I didn’t want to take any chances. The seller had the elusive third seat, but wouldn’t include it in the purchase. He also had a 1958 Suburban, already restored, that he was going to put it in for posterity, I guess.
I had done my customs homework, and knew that a US made vehicle (right down the road in Pontiac, Michigan) being brought back to the country of origin would incur no duty. This didn’t stop all the car aficionado customs officers from admiring it and wanting to sit in it and have their pictures taken. I readily complied.
Before starting on the renovation, I drove it for two years. The 'Burb easily went 70 on the expressways around town. I even went to a car show or two, forsaking my ‘39 Ford. The four speed with the “granny gear” took a while to wind up the original 6 cylinder engine, but no smoke or problems at all.
My initial approach was to gather as much information and knowledge as I could before taking off a single bolt. Joining the Stovebolt Forums was, by far, the most important step in acquiring knowledge. I learned the interchange of parts, how to do certain tasks, and what references would assist me in the tear-down and reassembly. I purchased the shop manuals, factory assembly manual, and the catalogs of every vendor of parts.
Then the madness commenced. I decided to photographically document each step of the tear-down to insure that senility would not overwhelm my limited mechanical skills. I also acquired every part that I thought I would need to replace, and have it on hand so that I could put it back together as quickly as possible. Little did I know that the list of parts would exponentially grow as the project proceeded.
I removed every part that could be taken off, and replaced every bolt and screw with new fasteners, since automotive fasteners are readily available in the Detroit area even for vehicles 50 years old. I became a daily visitor at several fastener supply companies, and their bottom line increased nicely while my wallet decreased proportionately.
After stripping the vehicle down to a shell and rolling chassis, I sandblasted the entire frame and undercarriage. Then I primered it to prevent rust scale. Next it was off to the media blaster to completely remove everything down to the bare metal, preserving only the original headliner, which was in excellent shape, other than needing a coat of vinyl paint at the end.
The only rusted areas were the bottoms (rear) of the front fenders, some small pinholes around the clamshell hinges, and the right inner hinge pillar cover. The vehicle was immediately primered.
Before turning the 'Burb over to the body and paint experts, I boxed in the front frame rails to accommodate the new 454 big block, and welded in the motor mounts and transmission mount for the 700R4 -- which had already been rebuilt to specifications for this engine. All the brackets, short water pump, fuel pump and fittings were already on hand before primer.
Seats were sent out for re-upholstery as soon as the frames came back from the paint booth. All chrome plating and stainless were completed before paint. When the original wheels were painted, tires were mounted and ready to go. An American Autowire OEM kit was purchased for complete rewiring. The bodywork commenced in November 2008, with the agreement that I would have the Suburban back no later than April 1, 2009.
At the beginning of July 2009 (only two months late), I brought the Carryall home and started reassembling at a furious rate. After running new fuel lines, brake lines, transmission cooler, re-coring the original radiator, rebuilding and silk screening the speedometer, all new glass and weather stripping, dual exhausts with Flowmaster mufflers, tail gate cables and retractors, bumpers and guards, hubcaps, and other items too numerous to mention, It is finally running beautifully and ready to head up to the St. Ignace car show in the upper peninsula of Michigan in June 2010.
Most of the photographs are in my Photobucket album.
The collective knowledge so readily shared by the members of the Stovebolt Forum was invaluable in the completion of my project. Thank you one and all!