BIG Rat Power! 1973 GMC Suburban

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Nothing says 1973 like a butterscotch hue! And when it’s sprayed over something the size of a GMC Suburban – well, that’s a lot of butterscotch! Known as a “Super Custom”, this 1973 Suburban presents pretty well but shows signs of typical aging – definitely a twenty-footer. The BIG news is under the hood, however – more on that to follow. This Suburban is definitely one to review, it’s located in Cypress, California and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $3,050 with the reserve not yet met.

So, a Chevy Suburban or a GMC Suburban? Flip a coin, other than badging and the grille, it’s mostly the same. I knew a guy who bought a Chevy Silverado pickup truck years ago and it had a Silverado badge on one fender and a GMC Sierra on the other – even the assembly line guys couldn’t keep it straight. Today’s find is a 2500 variant which means that it’s a 3/4 ton capacity truck. The Super Custom option denotes a deep foam seat in all vinyl or woven material and vinyl, faux wood door panel inserts with integrated armrests, bright door sill plates, door-operated dome light switch, and a color-keyed floor mat. In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that these few items were considered an enhancement option – shows you how basic trucks were 50 years ago.

The seller tells us that the exterior (and the interior) are all original so that butterscotch topping has held up fairly well on the vertical surfaces – not so much on the horizontal ones. The Dinoc wood side inserts have fared better though some fade is evident. The seller adds, “Rust they (sic) is some rust spots on the butt of the door and surface rust on roof. See pictures!“.  The roof is actually rough looking – and not in a patinaed way that everyone seems to favor these days. There are additional rust spots and small rust-through areas here and there. Yes! Review the images – there’s more rust here than originally noted but the underside is definitely clean. White wheels were all the truck rage in the ’70s and the ones that you see here are eight-lug, have been powder coated, and are wearing the correct GMC center caps.

Under the hood is a 468 CI big-block V8, which if memory serves me, means that it’s a 454 with a .060″ overbore. Originally eeking out a measly 240 net HP, this “Invader” (what GMC called Chevrolet engines) rat motor is now wearing an Edelbrock intake manifold, topped with a Holley 650 CFM carburetor (seems too small), cranking an enhanced but mild cam, and exhaling via Doug Thorley, ceramic coated headers. I’m sure the forward thrust is quite a bit more exhilarating than stock and the seller claims, “The vehicle runs great and is mainly used for weekend drives“. A Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission makes the rear wheel connection.

The interior has seen better days. It’s not terrible, mind you, but the front seat is wearing an Indian blanket and the rear seat is starting to split – so one can imagine what’s under the front seat’s blanket. The dash is wearing a topper, so the pad is likely damaged too. This was an A/C equipped truck but the seller removed the compressor and brackets (which may or may not work with the headers) though he says that he still has them.

Verdict? The seller suggests that this is a good tow vehicle as its custom brass radiator keeps it cool on 100-degree days. Well, that’s good to know, especially if you have something big that needs to be towed – at speed. Problem is, with that hopped-up 468 CI engine, you’ll probably need to hook up a fuel tender while you’re doing all that towing, right?

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  1. Randy Donahue

    I think I’d buy it, pull the drivetrain and find a good bodied car to put it in.

    Like 2
    • Handsome Pristine Patriot

      And drop in a 6.2 diesel with an aftermarket turbo and aftercooler, plus an overdrive addition.
      Simple to do with no electronics.
      Make it a real towing vehicle.

      Like 2
  2. CooterMember

    A 73 big block Suburban? This is the 1st year of the iconic square bodied GM’s which was the longest ever for any design. This legend of a vehicle deserves to be restored.

    Like 11
    • Glenn Suprovich

      Yes restoring it to its original is the only way to go ! Yanking the drive train or putting a diesel in is moronic ! This world needs more people who think the way we do !👍

      Like 1
  3. William Milot

    Those 454 Suburban’s are pretty potent trucks and would give most of the muscle cars of those days a serious attitude adjustment coming out from under a light! My Dad bought a 73 New with the 454 turbo 400 and 373 gear in the half ton version. Pulled all the pollution control junk off it and added 2 1/2″ dual exhaust and flipped the air cleaner lid over for more air and that was it. Since it worked so well and sounded like a lion roaring when it was full throttle he left the Quadrajet on it. This Behemoth would jump outta the hole like a charged Rat, it only gave a shivering bip bip bip of the tires and crossing a 5 lane road from front bumper behind the lines to rear bumper clearing the lines it would do 58 mph! Top speed was hard to tell since the speedometer only went to 100 mph but it would twist the needle around to the odometer in about 3 city blocks. We all thought it was just a “mutant motor” that everything was done correctly on when it was built but as years went on and I’ve owned a few of these Big Block Bruisers that to this day will surprise the people that stop laughing at them at a stop light when it’s go time, and the “454” Badge in the grill tends to attract the very people that need that attitude adjusted LOL!

    Like 6
  4. duaney

    The only down side is that when new and stock most driving gets only 5-6 MPG, especially with the automatic

    Like 3
    • William Milot

      The ones I had got around 11 mpg if I stayed out of the secondaries. With a 4.10 gear the best was 9 mpg, but that’s with a Q-Jet not the 780 Double pumper Holley that everyone seemed to put on them. All that did was make them slower and Thirsty!

      Like 0
    • Chris Cornetto

      When I ran a wrecking yard in the 80s we bought this vehicle’s twin at a dealer auction to use for deliveries. Thank the lord we could fill it from the yard as I don’t think it did any better than a loaded Kenworth. Neat to see a wooded rust free unit far into the future after most of these including the previously mentioned one have passed into oblivion. It is not something I would not even consider driving except on rare occasions. I have several square bodies of this Era, no Subbys but I do have a wrecker version with a Holmes 440 unit that still delivers twice the mileage of the woody sub from ions ago. I still like it though.

      Like 0
  5. Ray M

    A friend had a 75 Chevy crewcab long bed dually with the 454 , auto and I think 4:10 gears. Borrowed it to move a lot of furniture, loaded the beast up and away we went. The engine was never working hard and I think I got about 8 miles per gallon, you could drive quite a ways before filling it up, but then it did have dual tanks. The 454 was a good engine.

    Like 3
  6. John EderMember

    I borrowed a one ton stake bed of similar vintage with a 454 from my employer once. It was the only vehicle that I have ever driven where you could visibly watch the gas gauge move downwards (like a really slow tach) as you drove down the road (and not that far). I have never paid any attention to the gas mileage of vehicles that I owned (it’s low- put gas in it), but that was a wake up call for me… and when it was over, I had two large fuel tanks to refill- $$$.

    Like 1
    • Handsome Pristine Patriot

      Had a buddy that was running a hot-shot rig with a 454 on 5-8 hundred mile trips.
      He always kept a spare gas line in the tool box because the originals tended to wear out from the inside.

      Like 0
    • Dave Solarz

      My friend had a 74 Caddy with a 498 in it. He said that stepping on it to merge onto the Turnpike, you could watch the gas gauge go down almost as fast as the speedo went up. When you let up your foot the speedo would start coming down but that gas gauge wouldn’t gain a hair. Lol

      Like 0

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