Cheap Squarebody? 1978 Chevrolet Suburban C20

My first thought when I clicked on the ad for this Suburban was “Sweet, a cheap squarebody Suburban” and technically I wasn’t wrong. Its located in California,which would explain the lack of quarter panel, rocker, and underbody rust, so I was surprised to see it offered with bidding at $250 and no reserve. Evidently, it was a donation to a charity and is now being auctioned off. I figured it would bring the money easily, being that it had only a few rust spots around the rear driver’s side window. I was wrong! Find it here on eBay.

Most of the 1976-1991 Suburbans I have seen are rotting out around the wheel wells, the quarters, rockers, and fenders. This one is a change of pace, as every speck of rust that would be found in the aforementioned locations has focused on rusting out the rear window instead. I cannot for the life of me figure out what would cause such an odd rust pattern, other than perhaps damage that wasn’t repaired or was poorly repaired. This poor window looks ready to fall out! One speed bump or pothole hit too hard and suddenly you’ll have a permanent vent window! That being said, the rest of this Suburban is in somewhat remarkable condition, and it could be a great parts vehicle or a great project.

Although worn, the interior of this truck appears to be in good shape, and looks largely complete. Although it definitely needs work like the rest of the vehicle, I have personally owned a suburban in much worse condition, that I paid a lot more for. Did I mention that its a 3/4 ton? Even though its “only” two-wheel drive, this Suburban has clearly been used for its intended purpose and with some sheet metal repairs (or not), it could be an excellent parts runner or towing vehicle for someone.

Under the hood is what is likely a 350, though I can’t say for sure, and this Suburban reportedly runs and drives. The seller states that it will need brakes, a battery, and general service before it would be safe to drive. While this old Suburban is a little rough, and will certainly need a lot of hours put into it to be a nice vehicle, I have seen much worse sell for much more. I think this truck will fetch a reasonable price, all it is waiting for is the correct buyer.

Fast Finds


  1. CJay

    Lack of quality in the 1970’s GM era causes rust.
    Moisture will get between the inside and outside quarter panels and gets trapped. As the moisture gets warm it rises up, to the unpainted surfaces inside causing it to rust from the inside out.
    On the roof same problem, when it condensates it will lie in the bottom seam and rust out.
    But I LOVE my square bodied “Burb”. 1987 429K in a local parade.

    • Robert Reynolds

      I love the 73-91 squarebody’s!! I have 1990 R1500 and a 1991 V1500. Wouldn’t trade them for anything!!!

  2. Rock On Member

    For that price someone will buy it for the engine and transmission.

  3. Andre

    I’d be curious if it spent a lot of its life parked in a car port, partially under a tree, or otherwise in the same parking position.

    In the mid-90’s there was a local ’80’s Delta 88 that was 3/4 immaculate, but the LR 1/4, that spent a decade being backed in partially under an evergreen tree, was bordering on swiss cheese.

    • LMK Member

      Yes, that’s probably the case here….

  4. casey j.

    when I started as an operator apprentice at the turn of the millennium, my first job was working on building a runway at an airport. we use to all meet in a satellite parking lot and take this trucks twin on to the tarmac. my fondest memory of that truck was plugged up catilatic convertor that was cherry red with in 5 miles. it was nice in the winter but murder in the summer. thanks for the trip down memory road.

    Casey j.

  5. jaymes

    nice fuel pick up access, lol every panel is bad though,so much work

  6. Steve

    About ten years ago I had an 82 C20 Silverado Suburban that had a nice, rust free body (central Texas, and undercoated when new) that i could not sell for the life of me! It was originally equipped with a 6.2 diesel, over 300k miles. One day it started randomly cranking (!) on its own. No key in the ignition, just random. It melted the side posts out of the battery before I could find a wrench. Luckily it did it when I was there! I replaced all sorts of parts in the starting circuit.Sometimes if you went to start it with the key and the glow plugs weren’t on, it would not start but keep cranking even when you released the key. I tried to sell it for $1000. Straight rust free body, decent interior, good tires, drove and ran good.Finally parted it out, sold the red 6.2 for $1K, used the 700r4 in another truck, sold the 4.10 full floater rear for $400, nice doors with power windows and locks for $250, power tailgate for $100, front clip for $300, tilt steering column for $100 to the best of my recollection. (this is a prime example of why wrecking yards are in business. Cars are worth more in parts than as a whole.)

    • LAB3

      In the 80’s I was assigned a 6.2 diesel as my work rig. It ran rough and stank while idling, being the new guy on the crew no one else wanted it and it picked up the nick name “Edsel” While making a cross country drive it started shaking violently and making a nasty racket under the trannie tunnel. Luckily I found a GM dealer and made it there, turned out the bolts holding the torque converter onto the flex plate vibrated loose probably due to it running so poorly. A quick fix got me out of there and on my way. During a trip overseas a few weeks later it was put into the shop for a long over due once over. When I got back I was stunned at how well it ran and the power it had, it just needed attention from someone that knew what they doing under the hood, I’d never messed with a deisel up til that point.

  7. Pat Housel

    It’s a 454 big block lurking in there.

    • Bob

      I can only state my experience, but I own a 454 version, and my grill has a square with the numbers 454 on the drivers side.

  8. Warren

    In the 80’s I was a Service Zone Manager for Ford travelling coastal Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Being from Michigan, I was amazed at the lack of rust on the lower fenders, doors, etc due to the lack of road salt use. What I found interesting is these coastal vehicles would rust from the top down due to the salt air and humidity. Had Crown Victoria police vehicles develop rust holes on the roofs along the drip rails and especially where the light bars were attached.

  9. Warren

    You gotta wonder if that had been tagged in the driver’s rear quarter at one time and a poor job of replacement was done. Lot of localized rust there….

  10. KevinW

    My ’89, which is the same body style, started rusting in the exact dame spot, although it’s just surface rust. I sanded, primed and rattle can painted the spot and it’s been fine.

  11. Rich Nepon

    Seems gone from ebay

  12. Patty

    This is the same color, inside and out of my first Suburban. A 1973,no ac, no power anything but I loved that truck. That one was a six cylinder. Next I bought a 1983 Suburban. It came with a 305 but we later installed a 350 engine in it full power that handled great but it gave me a lot of problems. I graduated to a 1988 Suburban with the Barn style doors and later got an 84 Suburban with a plow. I wish that I had known about Barn Finds back then. All of them are in Suburban Heaven now, except the one with the plow.

  13. LMK Member

    Bottom line assessment, somebody got it for a very good price…

    I currently have a black 1989 Surburban 2500 with a 350 engine and a 4 speed manual transmission. It has a 4” Rancho Suspension lift and a competition hood . It’s a very nice looking Suburban with barn doors. It needs rockers and lower fender rust repairs but has a very solid and rust free undercarriage. I bought it from its long term owner 2 years ago but haven’t gotten to it yet. In researching the cost to repair the rust I was amazed at how inexpensive replacement sheet metal repair panels are. It’s on my list and will get done if I don’t sell it first.

    I’m in the Hudson Valley in NY if anybody is interested contact me through this site….

  14. Buj Buj

    Ride ‘Em, Don’t Hide ‘Em

  15. Tony L

    If I had seen it in time, I probably would have thrown my hat into the ring. The rust is probably from water getting under the window’s seal. Maybe the window was replaced at some time and they did a poor job installing it. The car is in Orange, which is far enough inland to not have salty air, otherwise, the hood and roof would have been rusted.

  16. Keith

    This went for $306, someone did well for…whatever their plans are. Back in the 80’s and 90’s in Montana, these things were EVERYWHERE. Don’t seem them so often anymore, nice to see one again.

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