Field Find: 1956 Chevrolet Suburban

In today’s world, you would call the Chevy Suburban a sport utility vehicle or SUV. But 65 years ago, you would have simply called it a van. Sometimes they would come with multiple seats for carrying people, other times the area behind the driver’s seat was used for carrying stuff. The latter describes the seller’s 1956 Suburban, a vehicle that looks as though it was meant to haul cargo. The van has rust and brake issues but does run, so that’s a good start. For those interested in restoring this former transport, it can be found in Princeton, Missouri, and here on eBay where the bidding has reached $3,050. Thanks, Larry D, for another neat find!

The Chevy Suburban has the distinction of being the longest continuously used nameplate in automobile production. It first appeared for the 1935 model year and is still worn on Chevy products today. The first-generation Carryall Suburban was one of the earliest production station wagons to use all-metal bodies (remember the woodies?). From its roots as a utility vehicle, the Suburban has come a long way, now being the biggest, most luxurious – and expensive — SUV that Chevy offers.

Fourth-generation Suburbans were built between 1955-59. Redesigned in conjunction with GM’s truck series, the updated engineering and styling didn’t arrive until mid-way in the 1955 season. Changes over the third-gen included a flatter hood, front fenders that were flush with the body, and a trapezoid grill. Parts and components would also be shared with the company’s passenger cars, like the V-shaped speedometer from the 150/210/Bel Air.

While a small-block V8 could be ordered with the Suburban for 1956, the base engine was the 235 cubic inch inline-six, which is how the seller’s van is equipped, including 3-on-the-tree. We’re not sure how active the seller’s truck has been, but we’re thinking it has been laid up for a while. The snow you see on the ground around the Suburban is also inside the Suburban, which may have happened because the doors don’t latch. The seller says the vehicle has rust “in the usual places.” As we see some big holes in the floorboards, those usual places must be associated with the undercarriage.

We’re told the truck runs, but we don’t know if that extends past idling. For example, will it move on its own, and will the transmission go through the gears? We do know the brakes are gone as the van won’t stop on its own, so caution will be needed when loading it up on a trailer. It’s a well-used vehicle as the seller says the odometer reading is approaching 200,000 miles.

What’s a van like this worth? There are several estimates for Chevy pickups from 1956, but not much specifically for the Suburban. If you assume they’re in the same territory, one of these transports in Fair condition would be worth about $10,000, but this one isn’t quite there. But all fixed up, trucks of this era can go for north of $40,000. It always boils down to what it will cost to fix everything as that’s the primary consideration in determining whether to buy someone’s automotive wares.

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  1. PaulG

    Typically these were known as a Carryall, a Panel, or Suburban depending on how it was optioned.
    Having owned several from this and the next generation I’m partial to something with less rust…but this should be a great candidate for someone used to working with the tin worm.

    Like 5
    • Phlathead Phil

      Yes the ‘Tin Worms” have been up all night feasting on this delight.

      Seems they have three shifts. Morning, noon & night!

  2. Glenn C. Schwass Member

    It has aittle more rust than I can handle and I’d have to see underneath it. I’m not able to get one now which is good, because I’d be learning how to weld on this.

    Like 1
  3. Vall Miller

    I’ve owned a number of earlier pre ’67 short wheelbase, 2 door Carryalls, and love them. My first was a ’57 with 389 Pontiac, and wish I’d never sold it. My current Suburban is a 1969, and first long wheelbase Suburban I’ve owned. Once I quickly got used to the extra length I grew to really appreciate that larger carrying capacity and love it now.

    Like 1
  4. chrlsful

    bud hada dodge like this. Alot to like over the ’60 – ’96 vans. And even something over the new sprinter/transit connect style. For every automotive Q, there is the same “What’s ur APPLICATION? answer. I think in 4WD this could really fill some specific needs. I hade to work ona ’60 – 96 motor (the dash keeps gettin in the way – “Is this thing 1/2 in or 1/2 out?”

  5. Terry J

    Had a couple back in the day. “Crummy’s” they were called and were used as crew transporters in the logging camps. Mine had rear doors that opened to the left & right, not “clam shell” like these. :-) Terry J

  6. Vall Miller

    The rust on this old Burb is really not that bad, and although I hate rust I’d take this on in a second if it was cheap enough to buy. I’ve got a ’39 Chevy coupe that made this look pristine in comparison! Everything in the bottom 4″-5″ of the body was rotted away, and today it’s back on the road solid as new. Took me 6 months of metal replacement to get it there, but saving such a cool old car is better than watching it rot back into the soil.

    Like 1

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