As if Mark isn't busy enough in is his world, he moderates our Tool Chest forum and wrote a very good tech tips for us:

Front End Suspension (Camero) (Clip) on an AD truck -- A good, quick tutorial with lots of pictures


15 September 2013 Update
# 1317

  Owned by
Mark Smith
Bolter # 8971
Southern California


1951 Chevy Suburban


LOTS more pictures of my old truck

Join the discussion about this truck


From Mark :

Hmmm. Last post was 2006!! Yikes! Been busy with work, promotions, work.

A buddy hit me up and after many years, wants to go racing again. He wants to re-build a fuel altered and a top fuel FED cackle car. So I says to him, "Do you know what would make a good push car?? My Suburban!!"

Ahh, all it takes is a little spark!! So, out with the grand dreams of a full on pretty car!

My goal is still to use it for a push car at the California Hot Rod Reunion, Famoso. That's about a three hour drive from my house, either through desert or over the mountains, depending on which path I choose.  That happens in the middle of October. Are you all ready to see an 1951 Chevy Advance Design pushing the 1971 Top Fuel Champion down the Famoso track for his start up? (Yes, and we want video !! ~ Editor)

So, I figure we'd need to get 'er back together and drive it for a while!! A little primer, a few windows. I have the same web pages with lots more pics added!! Feel free to ask questions, if you like!!

Had some problem with the darn brake lines early on. Hmmmm. The morning dew sure leaves a big puddle under there. ACK! Looks like I have a leaking union. So, I changed that out and, nope, starts dripping even faster! And that union ain't in an easy to get to place, neither! Out comes the whole rear line. Time to make a new one.

Meanwhile, the power steering side of the block was starting to look like something. The plan to use the original radiator fell through when I pressure tested it and found too many pinholes. So used it for a mock up. Some exhaust tubing showed up in the mail. So I did the Tuned Port wiring. I started a pile of things to go to the chromer.

The modified Corvette serpentine system seemed like it would work out. I was getting close to wiring it all up. I thought of re-doing the gauge pod with modern guts. I didn't want to plumb an oil pressure tube (teen horror story) and I didn't want to use the coolant pill tube. I wanted to use senders.

I planned on doing a wood floor in the cab. I needed to do a complete metal tear out.

The fuel tank is the stock 1951 tank that came with the vehicle. I modified it for fuel injection. Had to figure out the intake. When I finalized the exhaust, I figured out what to do about the VSS and speedometer drive.

I installed a new radiator, installed new trans cooler lines. Throw in some engine wiring and I should be able to fire it pretty soon. Then I'll move on to wiring lights and the dash.

This past July, I got some wires up through the floor to mount the fuse panel and computer under the seat. I made a plate to cover the tool hole to mount everything on top. I have a real minimum approach to wiring with capacity at the fuse panel to add when I have to.

Remembering my October deadline, my buddy is threatening to get an era correct station wagon to use as a push car if I don't get this thing going. Unfortunately, that dragster also requires a lot of work and the funny car needs to be ready for October, also.

So, by the end of July, I hooked up the battery, cranked the motor until I had oil pressure (temporarily hooked up the oil pressure gauge). It was the first time this thing has had a cranked motor or oil pressure since I bought it in 2006!!

Waited a day before I put some spark and fuel to it to see what happens! Of course, there was a minor set back. That poor brand new fuel pump has been sitting in an empty tank for almost seven years. I put 12v to it and it was a no go. So, I ordered a new one. When I dropped the tank to replace the pump, I still had one pin hole left in the tank that needed attention.

So, when I got the fuel tank back in and had all the ignition wiring done, I found a way to properly install my idiot lights.

Again, I cranked for oil pressure, put the prom in, put all the fuses in, key on for fuel pressure. I could hear the pump whirring, so that was a good thing.

I checked the schrader at the rail and I had fuel (with pressure). Boy, I could smell the varnish! That worried me a bit more as the injectors might be sticky.

Now, I know I said I'd take a video of the first fire up, but I wanted to crank it to see if it would even catch. So I cranked. Very tiny signs of life. Mechanics 101. Check for fuel. Check for spark. I do two birds with one stone. I throw some ether down the throat. Yeah, it has spark. It kicks over good. So those injectors must be stuck.

I sprayed ether and crank, spray ether and crank, etc. It was actually to the point where it would start on its own and idle roughly. But there were still some stuck injectors.

Between the heat and the work, I was feeling pretty beat. My hands hurt a bunch, too. So, I had it on a rough idle and you could really hear the air draw through that K&N filter. I could also hear a knock coming from the passenger lower area. Hmmmm??? Remember, I'm on the West coast, and I bought the engine / trans from back East. Supposedly good condition with only 88k on it. I haven't run this enough to really warm it up. I also still had a little more cooling system work to do. I set up the fan, found a place for the temp sender and installed the overflow. I really didn't want to run it just yet -- until I can see what the temp is.

The engine showed up dry but the old filter with oil still in it was on it. I still had that old filter. So I cut it open to see the contents. No metal, nothing abnormal. Definitely no bearing pieces. So, I needed to do something about my cooling issues. Then I wanted to run that motor through a heat cycle, see if it will loosen some stuff up. Who knows what moisture or whatever got in there while it sat when I owned it. I had kept it covered when it rained, but I did have the headers off and exposed throttle body. I thought maybe that "knock" would go away.

I did all that over a few days and then took a break. Well, sort of a break -- I also worked on the dragster putting the blower back on, new header and some other stuff.

When I got back to the old truck, one of the times, I put it in gear and I could feel the transmission engage. The idiot lights look like they are working. The CEL goes out after the engine starts running and so does the generator / alternator light. It is the alternator that came with the motor.

This past August I was still waiting for tires and headlights but was installing little items.

Amongst the many parts I ordered was a speedometer needle. When I took apart the speedo, I found out it was bad anyway. I tried to jimmy it to get the needle to work somewhat, that was a fail.

I took a deep breath, found a red lid from my creamer container to make a new high beam indicator lens. I repainted some other parts some non traditional colors. I installed the needle any way. The thing has a bad clock spring. So it will either indicate 0 mph or 60 mph all the time until it finally breaks. It should count miles just fine. If I need MPH, I'll just break out an old GPS that I have. I don't use it much anymore because I use my smart phone's Google Maps to keep me from being lost.

When I finally got the cooling system locked down, I fired it up again. I really let it cook that time! That "knock" is quieter and quieter. Maybe a bit of rust on something that is cleaning up? Maybe I'll roll it forward on its own power to clean up my work area.

I still have a little more wiring to do, brake light / TCC switch. I really need to clean up all my tools and work areas so I can readily find all the tools I need. I think I'm close enough. I'm getting close to making it legal This video is from September 6 - finally running and ready for the shake down cruise.

Still a lot of little things to do!!


24 April 2006
# 1317

From Mark:

Thought I'd send in an update on my 1951 Suburban project. My regular shift takes me to midnight four nights a week. So every night ('cept weekends ), I'll work until 2 or 3 am on the 'burb.

The updated rear end is mostly done as is the Camaro clip. I still need to plumb the brake and fuel lines. I also need to put a little electrical in. The frame was powdercoated and most of the "bolt-on" components were painted. A 1986 Corvette TPI with a 700R4 was also installed. There are a few other minor details to attend to and then I'll turn my attention to the body.

Much as I would have loved to have kept the inliner drivetrain, there was too much changed by the previous owners for me to want to save. Same with when I pulled the six cylinder out. The "I" beam was twisted and front components pretty beat up. I could either put all my money into restoring what was there or get to fabricating and update to a modern, reliable vehicle. I chose the latter. This chassis now has a V8, automatic overdrive, and four wheel disc's.

I can't wait to get it on the road. Maybe by the end of summer???

Got lots and lots and LOTS of pictures to see -- especially some of the work done (in steps).

Mark Smith

             Mark jumped in to moderate the Tool Chest forum in February 2006. He's been a big help and a lot of fun. We think he likes this "job." ~~ Editor

14 December 2005
# 1317

From Mark:

It all started when a coworker gave me a 1929 1.5-ton pickup. It had been about 6-7 years since I've played with cars (trucks). I use to have a bunch of different projects: 1931 Chevy two door sedan, 1958 Volkswagen Kombi, 1965 MGB, etc.

One day, the first new vehicle I ever had -- a 1985 Toyota 4 x 4 -- was stolen. After the insurance company settled, I figured I'd buy one of those really old trucks. I looked for and found a 1949 1/2-ton. I had that for about 15 years or so. (At the same time, I also bought a 1988 Iroc for my daily driver. Put 250,000 miles on that 5.7 'til someone hit it. But that's a whole 'nuther story.)

So, I wanted to hot rod the '49 a little. It already had a 327 with a Muncie 4-speed installed by the previous owner, Elvis Aaron Bucknell, out of Washington state. (I guess his parents liked Elvis.) So, after tinkering with that front I-beam, I put a Camaro clip under it. Didn't look too bad. But it was starting to bug me that every time I did a modification, someone would make a kit for what I had just done. Example: I welded up the bracketry to put in a dual master under the floor and about a month later, I started seeing bolt-in kits at the swaps and shows. So I stopped doing any work to it to see what the next kit would be to come along. Oh sure, I'd drive it around here and there, but never did give it the attention it deserved.

Somewhere along the way, I got married and had some kids. Well, can't fit a wife and three kids in that poor old half ton. So it still didn't get much use. I knew GM made a Carryall, at least that's what we called our Suburban crew vehicles we used out in the middle of nowhere to build power lines. So I did a little research. By golly! GM has made a Suburban since 1935. Heck! They even make one in the era I like: 1947-55. I want one!!

I didn't look real hard though. In the mean time, a 1961 1/2-ton stepside fell into my lap. It was a 454, turbo400 and Canary yellow. I knew it was lookin' nice but not for long. Paint was great but cancer was sneaking up from behind various panels. Broke as I was, I told my wife that it was her truck. But having four vehicles with registration and insurance costs, plus two young ones and a teen to feed, well -- I guess the trucks would have to go! (Did I mention that around this time, a 1931 Ford Roadster and a 1975 Suburban stopped by? Traded the Suburban for my current ride which is a 1990 GMC R3500 Crew Cab. You can barely see the '75 'Burb behind the roadster.)

So, the 1961 was parted. The body was sold locally and the shiny go-fast 454 sold on eBay. The 1949 was sold to a buddy who's father was dying of cancer. His dad use to have a truck like mine. So my buddy and his father were able to spend their last times together rolling around in an old Stovebolt! Everything went -- spare parts, projects, magazines, etc. -- all went to eBay to help feed the kids. Got into restoring old Schwinns. That was easier to do and something the whole family can have fun with. Me restoring, them riding.

Fast forward six or seven years. The kids are eating alright. The county doesn't know where my teen is so I'm down to two mouths to feed. Did a little remodeling of the house? Even got a few promotions. Timing couldn't have been better when a coworker walks in and tells me he has a 1929 pickup just four hours north of where I live. He'll never get to building it but he knows I would. It's been sitting in his yard for about 18 years. He got it as payment for fixing someone else's car. So, after two months of trying to set up a day to get it, I get the go-ahead. I borrow a trailer and a friend and hop in my dually to go get it.

And I start work on it, making the frame as one, etc. (lots of detailed pictures here).

Ideas dance in my head of making a crew cab so the wife and kids can come along and enjoy my hobby. Plus, the little ones are old enough to start involving them in ol' Dad's craft. I look at the 'net and see a few samples of what I want to do. It just doesn't look right to me! And leaving it stock -- well, you can barely fit two in the cab let alone four! So, time to do it right! Time to get the project that I have wanted for a long time!!

So I start looking at the local ads. There's a 'Burb for sale, one mile from my house!! No windows, grille, radiator, seats or transmission. I go look at it. The body is perfect! Like it has never been dinged in its life! Light layer of rust but nothing a sander wouldn't take care of! All the trim is there, too 'cept for the side window dividers. A 1950 version. I tell the seller I need a couple more weeks to scrape the cash together so don't wait for me. I got back to him one day too late!! Oh well, my loss. So, back to the ads.

I answered another ad for one in Phoenix, AZ. One state to the right of me. The seller sends me some extra pics. So we shoot a bunch of emails back and forth and decide on a day to head out there. I rally the troops, well maybe just wake them up early. Pack some sodas, snacks and DVD's. ( I built a nice overhead oak console for my crew cab. Eventually, it will be a fifth wheel hauler. Keeps the little ones entertained on long trips.) I head to the bank.

On my way out, I hear a hissing sound coming from the back of my truck. The right rear inner has a leak! BTW, did I mention that I figured with all the stuff I move around, I should get myself a trailer. About midweek before I head out to the Suburban, I bought a car hauler and did a little tweaking to fix it up. Broken lights, safety chains, etc. So, tire going flat, trailer hooked up, kids haven't had their breakfast (Mcdonald's) and I'm thinking, "What else can go wrong?!"

While the kids are munching down, I go to a quickie tire place and ask them if they plug tires? Nope, they only patch them. "Okay, how long is the wait?" 1 1/2 hours. I've already left three hours later than I wanted to leave and I still have five hours to the Suburban! I figure that I'll get on the road and find one of those old fashioned service stations along the way. Quick fill is out of the question as there is no way to get to the inner stem with the can and besides, I just don't like the mess when I go to repair my own tires! So on the road we go. In my mind, I'm thinking I'm driving a 3/4-ton anyway. Single rear wheel, as long as the flat one doesn't shred and cut the outer one!

By the time I reach the state line, I'm thinking, yikes! What if we can't come to an agreement on price?? What if I don't like it?? What if I have to come home empty handed?? By darkfall, we reach the Suburban. There it is, just like the pics! Rust problems where I expect them to be! A few unexpected dents, but nothing major! Sure, the kids threw rocks at the glass, but they spared the curved ones in back!

I like it!!

Now the price. The seller and I are on the same page!! Things are looking great even if I still have a flat on the dually!! (Yup, that tire is still there! What about the spare? Not enough tread for that many miles! Yeah, somewhat bald.) So, while my kids are running around the yard and driveway chasing the cats, I load up the 'Burb. Things went smooth for the very first load I put on this new to me trailer! The owner even gave me an all-brass, Arizona historic plate for the 'Burb. We hit the road and I pulled over after a few miles to check and retighten the binders. This Suburban had been sitting 18 years (it ran when it was parked! ) and I'm sure it felt good to have wind against what was left of its windshields.

I've already decided to go with 5-lug wheels and updated brakes. And, I have already found a new rear axle for it. That 3/4-ton full floater has to go! So does the 1954+ left front fender. But I'll probably keep the six and the four speed. And I'll do no major changes to the body except for renewing it. If I'm lucky, I'll come across some seats for the rear. Until then, I'll fit some later versions. All in due time.

By the way, I went to pick up the Suburban on a Saturday. On Sunday, the 1929 1.5-ton was sold to a young fella who is going to hot rod it. So now all my attention can be focused on the Suburban. Except for Monday in which I finally patched the flat on the dually. Plus, I replaced the power steering pump that blew just moments after I parked the 'Burb in its new spot! Better it happened after than during the trip!




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