Future Rat Rod! 1951 Chevrolet Suburban Project

Few companies can say that they’ve been producing the same car for nearly a century. Morgan, obviously, still produces the same cars that they have for thousands of years with nary a change in the design. On this side of the pond, we have General Motors’ Suburban models that are the physical embodiment of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy of engineering. Unlike Morgan, various design updates have happened over the course of the Suburban’s production run spanning nine decades, but today’s 2021 Suburban remains true to the original’s intent of being basically a heavy-duty station wagon. You can find this former government work vehicle here on eBay.

Unlike the modern Suburban, this 1951 example is powered by a 235 cubic inch (3.8 liter) Thriftmaster inline-six driving the rear wheels through a manual gearbox. The information I found about the third generation ‘Burban says that the Thriftmaster was available only starting in 1954, and could be had with a three-, or four-speed manual or a four-speed Hydramatic automatic transmission. Regardless, the valve cover clearly says Thriftmaster, and I spot a clutch pedal on the floor. The seller states that the engine doesn’t run, but it can roll and the transmission shifts through how ever many gears it does have.

Inside, you’ll find a split front bench and enough room in the back for half a dozen or so more passengers, but no seats for them to sit in. This truck was a former government work vehicle, so form always follows function. In a work vehicle, seating for eight people isn’t as often needed as cargo room. The floor is rusted through in the front footwell, and that split front seat will need new upholstery, but as far as projects go, this seems to be relatively complete and uniquely situated for someone’s dream rat rod build.

The seller says as much in their description, and they’re open to answering any questions potential buyers might have, which is always good when buying a rusted-out former work vehicle with an engine that forgot how to be an engine. As with many cars that are six decades old, it will require some work to get running again. The benefit with buying a Suburban is that since it’s been produced for so long, by such a ubiquitous company, that uses many of the same parts for all of their models, you won’t have trouble finding cheap replacement bits or a like-minded group of people who have done their own restorations or custom builds on the same car.


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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    A lot of acreage with a lot of rust but as unique as you can get these days. Will be interesting to see which route it goes with a new owner.

    Like 3
  2. Kenneth Carney

    Aw the heck with it! Just fix what needs
    to be fixed and use it as a work truck.
    Used to see these a lot as a young
    motorhead, and a lot of ’em looked like
    this. Restorations are a dime a dozen,
    but beater trucks are few and far between. Restos are nice, but beaters
    Are beater!

    Like 10
  3. bull

    Repair the rust.

    Pull the body.

    Install the body on a modified late model 4WD chassis and have a neat nostalgic driver with modern drivetrain.

    Like 5
  4. Tinkertoy Member

    The little ball next to the gas pedal is the starter

    Like 1
  5. Terry J

    Had 2 of these circa 1971. One was very nice with a 235 engine and granny 4 speed. They are called a “crummy” and as you can see have seating for several of the logging crew.
    “Crummy – Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Crummy. A loggers’ term for the vehicle transporting loggers to the work site.” :-) Terry J

    Like 1
  6. 356ASuper

    Judging by the column mounted shift lever, I’d say it has a 3 speed.

  7. Ron

    Our writer has completely lost it, Morgan producing the same basic car for thousands of years, really?

    Like 1
    • Terry J

      Perhaps it was an attempt at a little humor Ron ? The newest Morgan sure looks like the one they built in the 30’s to me. I don’t mean 30 A.D. :-) Terry J

    • bone

      Chevy hasn’t been producing the same car for nearly a century either , just the name .

  8. Gary

    Please, Oh please, whomever ends up with this old soldier, do not rat rod it. Too many fine vehicles have become rat rods, a very unbefitting punishment for any kind of classic. Needless to say I am no friend of rat rodding.

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