1972 GMC Suburban 3-Door: Gonna Sell ‘Em All

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A 3-door Suburban is fairly high on my list of “Never seen one” specials, and this 1972 example here on eBay comes from a seller who claims to be unloading an expansive collection of vehicles and parts. Frankly, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t want that extra door on a vehicle designed to carry people and gear, so maybe one of our readers can fill us in on the original motivation behind this design. The seller claims he rescued it from a scrapyard (good on him) and the price seems low enough to deal with issues ranging from some rust to a cut frame just above the rear end, likely to accommodate a lower ride height to see some sparks fly. The rear barn doors are a plus, as is front and rear A/C. A very cool truck, in my opinion, and worth rescuing. The seller has 14 other rigs for sale so if you’re looking for a 4×4 project, he’s likely a good guy to know.

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Comments

  1. skelco

    I don’t think GM made a crew cab pickup of that body style, so they probably decided to save a buck and just use as many existing pickup cab components as possible. These were pretty low volume vehicles for them back then and it probably didn’t justify engineering a set of rear doors.

    Like 1
  2. BQS4

    The reason the early Suburbans had only 3 doors is because they were used as rural school buses, back when most people lived on farms and there weren’t that many kids on the route. You’ll notice the “blanked” door is to the street side of the truck thus preventing possible accidents.

    Like 1
    • captwilliewhiskers

      exactly!

      Like 2
  3. Howard A Member

    I guess my 1st question, would be why, but it is a pretty nice shell, if you’re into these. My old man had a couple of these when we pulled our travel trailer years ago. It was 10 times the vehicle the IH Travellall was, that the Suburban replaced. Milwaukee, and many other cities, I’m sure, used these as police ambulances ( before paramedics, the police would transport you to the hospital), and the 3rd door was real handy for that, and one of the Suburbans the old man bought, was an old police wagon. Keeping in mind, at the time, ( and maybe still) this was the biggest station you could get, and the 3rd door was designed, so rear seat passengers exited on the curb side. This is the last year for this style, and went with the more familiar 4 door of today.

    • Howard A Member

      Oops, meant “biggest station wagon you could get”.

  4. JW

    Question for you Bowtie guys, why did GM build a Chevy & GMC Suburban, was the GMC one more luxury than the working man’s Chevy ???

    • justin

      @JW, General Motors built the GMC so that the Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac dealers could have a truck to sell on their lots. It was used as a marketing tool to sell more GM products.

      Like 1
    • captwilliewhiskers

      Had different engine options. A weird v-6 and a much different V-8 than the Chevy speedster of the times.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi JW, I was always told, a GMC was just a Chevy with lock washers ( rim shot). Seriously, back in the early days, GMC was indeed a classier truck than Chevy. I think they used Pontiac motors. It wasn’t until after WW2, that GMC and Chevy kind of morphed together. Like Justin says, now, it’s strictly marketing, and they all use the same stuff.

      • JW

        Thanks Howard I guess that about sums it up because that;s what my Dad used to say, GMC was a Chevy with a suit on.

  5. Bobsmyuncle

    I’m shocked you’ve never seen one they are quite common.

    To be clear there was no 4 door in this body style so this was an added feature. The earlier body style was only a 2 door. ’73 marked the beginning of the 4 door.

  6. Charles

    Prior to 1967 the Suburban was a two door. In 1967 the two door version became the Blazer which featured a removable rear fiberglass top. The seventh generation three door Suburban was introduced in 1967 and ran until the Gen 8 version was introduced in 1973 . GMC and Chevy versions of the Suburban were nearly identical.

    Comparing the same year model Chevy C-10 to the GMC 1500 pickups, there were some real differences. GMC used rear leaf springs and Chevy used coils. GMC had gauges and Chevy used idiot lights in the dash, however a Chevy could be ordered with gauges. That’s when GMC was considered to be the commercial version of GM’s truck line.

    This 72 looks pretty solid. It will make someone a nice starting point for a build. If I were building this truck it would get 3/4 ton running gear, and a crate bigblock. It will make a nice vintage tow vehicle for a large boat or travel trailer. It would look pretty cool restored towing a vintage Airstream.

    • JW

      Thanks for the info Charles, I always liked the 67 to 72 Suburban & Blazers but I was born in to a Ford Truck and Pontiac car family so I didn’t get much education on them.

    • Todd Zuercher

      Blazers were introduced in ’69.

  7. Charles

    The base engine for both the Chevy and GMC versions from 67-72 was the 250 cubic inch inline six. Earlier model GMC’s used a V-6.

  8. CrazyGringoTowing

    The reason for the 3 door was because children were just opening the door without the consideration of traffic and getting hit.
    It was one of those odd ideas that never really made sence.
    My 1950 Palace camper has 1 tail light on rear left , because if you were turning right , nobody cared , but if you turned left. , you would be waiting to cross traffic and that would confuse other motorists hence the single blinker.

  9. Charles

    GMC trucks never came from the factory with Pontiac engines. The V6 GMC engine from the early 60’s was designed as a light truck engine. Lots of people swapped Pontiac engines into GMC trucks when the V6’s failed. A 389 Poncho engine with a manual transmission bell housing will bolt it, except for ancillary items that are easily fabricated. Pontiac engines of the day developed massive torque at low RPM’s, which made them suitable for light trucks. A friend of ours had a early 60’s GMC stepside. He swapped a 428 Poncho with 3 duces from a 421 engine. He used the original rock crusher style four speed. Some trucks had the rear engine mounts on the bell housing, so some modifications were needed in those cases. The 428 conversion was visually impressive, and scary to drive, because one could break traction in any gear except fourth just by pressing the accelerator. The truck was not fast, because the transmission could not be shifted fast, but it would pull like crazy.

    I did a conversion on a 68 SWB stepside, only I swapped in a 409 Chevy bigblock and a Muncie four speed. That swap allowed me to use the bell housing from the 250 six which mated perfectly with the 409 and the Muncie. It was a beast!

  10. justin

    GM could have made more money with the forth door. The inside door handle could have been taken off to be used as schools buses.
    These were the alternative for station wagons but had cheaper insurance because they were listed as a truck.

    Like 1
  11. Todd Zuercher

    We had the 4×4 version of this truck as one of the chase rigs for our race team at the NORRA Mexican 1000 in Baja this year. I spent a lot of time in it – neat rig!

  12. mike

    A dear friend of my Dad’s work for GMC dealer as the Service Dept. Manager, he always said that GMC trucks were a year ahead of a Chevy truck, that they played with them to see how folks would like it before putting it in the Chevy Truck Line. They would put a different motor in it one year and if it worked great than Chevy Trucks would have it in them the next year. They also played games with some car parts, the interior parts, seat styles, consules, etc, used in the GMC trucks. They did this up until the late 80’s according to him, now days they roll off the same line, but with a different badge on the grill or tailgate. I own a 2002 Chevy Suburban, and a 2002 GMC Yukon XL, use in my business, and they look alike except for logo’s. My service manual has them both listed on the front cover of it. Most parts are the same from any parts store. I wrecked the GMC some years ago, and bought the replacement front clip from a salvage yard off of a Chevy 1500 Pickup truck, and the front grill from a 1500 GMC Sierra , they were a prefect fit. The small rural school I went to have a couple of the 3 doors, and like mentioned before they were used to pick up a small number of kids out in the boonies. They had them for years, before the GMC/Chevy School Bus Van became popular, or the short bus as we always called them.

    • mike

      I goofed, I replaced the front header panel from the Sierra, which of course had the headlights and grill on it.

  13. mike

    FYI The General Motors Arlington Assembly Plant has been building world class vehicles in Texas since January 6, 1954. It was the company’s first air-conditioned automobile factory. During its first years of production, GM Arlington produced Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Cadillac and Chevrolet passenger cars. The plant converted to truck production in 1997 and now is the only GM facility in the world to produce and export GM’s portfolio of full-size sport utility vehicles – the award-winning Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade. GM Arlington is one of 63 GM facilities recognized by the EPA for achieving the Energy Star Challenge, reducing energy intensity by 10% within 5 years, equivalent nearly 250,000 homes. In 2013, the facility added an all-new stamping facility followed by a new habitat wildlife facility in 2014. .

    • Todd Zuercher

      Are you their PR guy? :)

  14. justin

    Thank you Mike. I and along with others, wrote programs for the PLC controllers for the Arlington GM plant. They controlled the conveyor, parts distribution and robotics systems.

  15. justin

    Something else that some may want to know about the Arlington plant. They built the Caprice, Cadillac Fleetwood and the Impala SS. The demand for SUVs phased out the full size passenger cars. 1996 was the last year for the big cars for GM.

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