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496 EFI Big Block! 1975 Chevrolet Suburban C20

General Motors has produced a vehicle named “Suburban” in the format we describe today as an SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle) since 1935. In 1975, shoppers comparing four-door, fully-enclosed, full-sized trucks had few options, and even fewer a year later when the International Harvester Travelall faded into the sunset. This 1975 Chevrolet Suburban C20 in Ottawa Lake, Michigan barely differs from today’s Suburban in its basic design and envelope. Thanks to the efforts of some greasy Keebler Elves, it swallowed an early 2000’s powertrain in the form of an 8.1 L Vortec V8 and matching five-speed Allison automatic transmission. Though not perfect, the swap is sorted and the seller says this truck rides and drives “amazing.” The detailed listing here on eBay asks $14,450 for the solid-looking land schooner. Thanks to Wikipedia for some details.

What looks like Silverado trim on this Texas-sourced Suburban adds brightwork and other details to compliment the two-tone Grecian Bronze and Frost White paint. Weathering on the roof could be easily touched up. The trailering mirrors and 16″ (or possibly 16.5″) give this three-quarter ton Chevy a beefy look. New tires and powder-coated steel wheels put the rolling gear in good shape for the new owner’s use.

While two-wheel-drive SUVs seem to have fallen out of favor, owners benefit throughout their ownership by dodging the complexity, up-front cost, and fuel mileage penalty of four-wheel drive. Few snowy drives will cause trouble for this Chevy and a set of good tires.

One blurry picture is all we get of the fuel-injected engine swap. GM went all out with this final version of the mighty “Big Block,” stroking out what would have been an optional 454 cid (7.4L) engine in this ’75 model to a whopping 496 cid (8.1L) for model years 2001-2006. A 2003 donor truck gave up the motor, transmission, and rear differential as a matching set to give this smog-era C20 a new lease on life. With 340 HP and 455 lb-ft of torque, this truck will haul or tow just about anything with few complaints. Even the cruise control works! Sadly after some well-staged pictures of the exterior, the seller’s camera ran out of film before documenting the interior. Compared to recent over-the-top restomod trucks this one has 90% of the engineering for about 20% of the price:  a good value in my book. You might try to flip this truck by taking it to the next level, but I’d be happy to simply use and enjoy it. Hook this rig to a vintage Airstream trailer and you’ll draw a crowd every time you (all too frequently) fuel up. I’d take that combination over a modern setup any day. Have you driven or owned a Suburban?


  1. Howard A Member

    While I may complain about the 5 figure thing, until someone gives me 5 figures for mine, of course,,( crickets), if there ever was a vehicle worth 5 figures in todays economy, this is it right here. While I’m a little indifferent about the motor, a friends dump truck had this motor, I didn’t think it was anything special, but certainly enough power to pull just about anything. Just bring a couple gas cards in case you max one out. Nice find.

    Like 4
    • Big_Fun Member

      Howard – the 8100 with Allison 5 speed should get 13-14 mpg, 9 mph when pulling a trailer.
      If the roof paint bothered anyone, those upper seams are perfect for the stop line…

      Like 5
  2. doug

    The roof needs paint. My 454 gets about 5 mpg towing my trailer. This can’t be any better.

    Like 1
    • Steve R

      Did yours have fuel modern injection and an overdrive?

      Steve R

      Like 5
  3. geomechs geomechs Member

    I’d much rather run the 454/THM 400 engine and trans combo. With a little careful prep and tuning they could be brought into the low teens. Still easy to work on and reliable. The 8.1 is OK but I still like carburetors and the less computers on my old vehicles the better I like them…

    Like 13
  4. CraigR

    I’m on my 3rd suburban now, and this model was my first. I put 450000 miles on it, and it still ran good when I sold it. Maintenance doesn’t cost it pays! The only major repairs were a differential and a radiator.

    Like 2
  5. Kris

    I had a 89 4×4 Suburban with a 350. We drove it for 30 years pulling horse trailers, travel trailer and car trailers. I finally let it go with over 350,000 miles. The guy who purchased it came from Pennsylvania with his wife and kids. Picked it up in LasVegas, drove to LA and then back home. He got it from me cause it was rust free. His wife told me it was the 3 rd one they had done this with. I now have a 06 Suburban with the 8.1 and the fuel mileage isn’t that bad. Like the wife said, “More to life than fuel mileage!”.

    Like 6
  6. Josh

    I have an ’04 Suburban 2500 with the 8.1L and I love this thing. No other SUV was ever rated to tow 12K pounds! Comfortable, fast, powerful, and reliable! Sadly I almost never drive it anymore except for short trips to the home improvement stores, since I don’t have the race car and big trailer I used to tow.

    I’d consider selling it. It’s gotta be worth something with only 75K miles and being in California, no rust. But it’s just too useful and newer ones are so expensive!

    Like 3
  7. Mike Morgan

    Damn!, sold for $13,950

  8. Mood-O

    That 8.1 will pass almost anything but a gas station!
    Had an ‘02 2500 ext cab long bed 4×4 Silverado a few years back that would pull my 8,300lb fifth wheel trailer without too much trouble…
    Now when I started pulling 12,000lbs around it was much different!
    Burned up that venerable Allison 5 spd then switched to the “Dodge Boys” with an ‘06 Cummins 5.9 5 spd stick and all my pulling problems went away.
    Have a ‘16 3500 Ram now with 6.7 and auto(shifting gears sucked after 350K)
    No complaints…
    Years ago had a ‘78 “Burb” with the 350/350 was way underpowered even only with 2 wheel drive. Traded for an ‘82 Lincoln Mark VI what a pile!
    But that’s a story for another day!

  9. Hot Rod Lincoln

    I have a 2WD ’67 Suburban that I dropped in a LS2 with a 4L80E. I get 13 mpg hauling a 5000lb trailer even though the mountains of WV. Plenty of torque and rides great. Get plenty of looks pulling an Airstream or my ’68 race ElCamino. Put about 7000 miles a year.

    Like 1
  10. Tim

    He ran out of film???

  11. John B. Mc

    I certainly agree with Geomechs. The more complex a vehicle becomes the more things there to break. The main problem I see with computerized systems is the poor mechanics are not able to keep pace with the engineers and the dealerships are too cheap to train them. Simpler is by far better!

    Like 2

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