Mom’s Dream Truck? 1961 GMC Suburban

My mom once had a post-retirement dream of towing an Airstream trailer behind a fifth-generation (1960-66) Suburban. Now that she’s actually retired from teaching, she’s starting her own business instead, and getting her Airstream kicks by vacationing in places where you can spend the night in permanently parked versions of the iconic trailers, but I still think it might be good for her to have a vintage Suburban to tool around in sometime. I’m not sure if this one, shared with us by reader Matt Williams, is the perfect candidate, since it’s not currently running, but it definitely has tremendous potential to be a really cool truck! Find it here on eBay with the reserve not met at $4,000 as of this writing, located somewhere unspecified in California (hey, seller, it’s a big state!).

We’re not told exactly why the Suburban isn’t running, although it’s implied that the fault lies with the automatic transmission, not the engine. The engine is said to be the “original 250” inline-six, which would make this a rare bird indeed, since all 1961 GMC Suburbans were powered by a 305 V6. Still, if it can be made to run the 250 should be torquey and reliable, if not as exotic in configuration as a V6 was for a ’60s truck.

The mostly primer-colored body looks pretty straight and clean, with one pretty minor dent pictured. The seller assures us that the frame is solid as well, and that overall the truck is “99 percent rust free.” The artillery wheels are an interesting choice, and I can’t decide how I feel about them on this truck, but taken in isolation they do look sharp against those wide whites. Between the wheels and some of the accessories that come with the sale, I get a sense of what the seller may have had in mind for the Suburban—a bit of “bomb” style, which probably would have looked cool—but I’m not sure if the various bits and pieces would have actually fit a Suburban, since they appear to have been largely designed for GM’s World War II-era passenger cars.

The interior looks very complete and usable, if a bit drab. The beauty of a vehicle this simple, though, is that brightening things up is mostly just a matter of paint and seat covers. All of the seats are present, too, which is somewhat unusual for a Suburban of this vintage in my experience. Overall, aside from the inop transmission (and possibly engine), this looks like a good candidate for a pretty simple restoration, with plenty of room for personalization. That might be more work than my mom wants to take on, but she might be ready to take it off your hands once you’re done sprucing it up!


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  1. Fred W.

    This looks like a very easy project if a driver is the desired end result. And the price is realistic if it doesn’t go too much higher.

  2. 68 custom

    since the original motor is gone anyway I would keep it stock looking with some sort of factory alloy wheels and original paint scheme, under hood ditch the 6 and pop a LS 5.3 and auto overdrive. look like the master cylinder has been updated to a dual circuit unit but did they add disc brakes in front cause it will need those too. and vintage air system. sweet truck well priced!

  3. Lee Hartman

    It’s obvious the owner doesn’t know much about this rig, the engine is newer and has electronic ignition, the brakes have been upgraded and probably are disc on the front, judging by the dual master and the proportioning valve. That being said, it looks like a great rig with a lot of potential.

  4. Brandon

    The ad has a 909 area code, east LA

    • Nathan Avots-Smith Member

      Yes, I saw that, but no guarantee that that’s where the car is in this here cell phone age. I don’t live in my phone number’s area code anymore.

  5. Rube Goldberg Member

    I’d make it into a Don Garlits push truck clone.
    He used a truck like this to pull his Swamp Rat lll dragster, all over the east coast. He almost died in the original when the truck went off the highway in Georgia, I believe, trapping him and his mechanic almost under water. He kicked out a back window to get out. My old man had one like this, to pull our travel trailers, but the V6 proved weak, and he went with the newer 3 door ones. The straight 6 looks a bit out of place, as these were made for the V6, but nothing wrong with the in-line. Probably the same power, and a lot smoother. Those artillery wheel, while a bit out of place, shows how long they had that lug bolt pattern. From the 30’s, maybe even used today.

    • Steve

      the V6 had more torque, though…

  6. LAB3

    Love it! Certainly looks solid from what I can tell, if the engine and trans need replacement a Duramax would move it along quite nicely. Finish off the body work with a period correct paint job and you’d have a nice family wagon that your teenaged kids won’t be embarrassed being seen in.

    • seth karpen

      swapping in a duramax is harder than you think. Engine is to heavy for the chassis and suspension

      • Roger

        The earlier sixties Chevy and GMC light trucks actually had a torsion bar type front suspension but not for sure when they changed it to the more conventional type coil spring type though,those hubcaps hail from a ’49-’52 Chevy passenger car and the artillery style wheels were from the mid to late thirties I believe,unless it has been painted the engine is pre ’75 and notice it has a power steering pump attached as well as the ’77 and later HEI distributor as evidenced by the coil in cap-the ’75-’76 used a separate coil,but still it’s a nice old Suburban though.

  7. Rock On Member

    LAB3- teenage kids are generally just embarrassed to be seen with their parents!

    • LAB3

      Generally. Most parents don’t take their teenaged kids to punk rock shows in the worst part of Detroit!

  8. geomechs geomechs Member

    Nice unit, overall. It has a lot of potential and looks like the end goal could be achieved without a lot of problems. Definitely been modified to a dual braking system which is a vast improvement over the original one (I’m going to change the braking system on my wife’s Poncho). Every time I open the hood to an early GMC I expect to see a V-6, unless it’s a Canadian version which was essentially a Chevy with GMC badging. Even if this was a Canadian built truck, the engine would either be a 235 or a 261. The transmission would be a Powerglide. I’m not a big fan of the V-6 but if that’s what it originally came with I’d be tempted to look for another one. Otherwise I’d probably locate a 350/350, install it and call it good. A lot of enjoyment left in this truck and I wouldn’t want to waste any more time….

  9. PaulG

    Having owned several of these, both GMC and Chevrolet versions, I can say that they are some of the easies vehicles to work on. Simple, and easily modified or restored to stock. This would be super cool with very few changes.
    Looks like a great start.

  10. Craig MacDonald

    I like the blank slate and would be tempted to do the 350/350 routine and whatever few mods suited me to produce an easy reliable driver. I even like the flat gray look; short of a rat rod but no pretense and budget friendly.

  11. Mark J

    572, power glide, 12 bolt posi. Tubbed Dropped and murdered. Track day

  12. sluggo

    Nice, SBC and 700R4 overdrive trans, call it good. I got a 65 GMC pickup in this style, would love to have this as its stable mate.

  13. James

    Lots of character that is for sure ! Would love to see it with a nice V-8 and a black paint job. Could use some body side trim? Wonder if it is supposed to have any??

  14. Loco Mikado

    I don’t have much love for these as I drove one as a delivery truck in 1970-71, The V6 had no power, everything rattled, the brakes were a joke and the ride was terrible. When they bought a ’72 Dodge van to replace it I thought it was a Cadillac in comparison. Two years of driving one 5 days a week gives one a unique insight.

  15. Rob S.

    This a cool rig. The inline 6 is rare. Hard to imagine this as a lowered ‘rod. Keep it stock and make it a clean ride. Will do well at shows. Very unusual to see. My good friend has a 61 like this with a 305 V6. Factory 4X4 and in his family since new. Wins all the time at car shows.

  16. Mickey R

    Truck’s in Rialto, California according to seller’s other listing. I’d get it running and drive as is, just ratty enough for me.

  17. seth karpen

    Mabe upgrade to the 292 Chevy Tru k engine

  18. Jay C Calk

    That 305 V6 was one powerful motor. Inspiration of the NASCAR V-6 that has never come to be.? Great looking ride.

    • Steve


  19. angliagt angliagt Member

    And these are WAY COOLER than them there newer SUVs.

  20. junkman Member

    Shake,rattle and roll best describes these. I had several, all straight sixes, the 250 was out of a 64 or newer. This should have a 265 “stove bolt” six. A very simple machine, plenty still around don’t over pay!

  21. Steve

    “265” stovebolt. hmmm

  22. junkman Member

    “235” Sorry, little foggy yesterday


    3 station wagons and now a Suburban. Hard it imagine someone wanting to pour money into these grocery getters.

    • sluggo

      Well paperkjwriter,,,,

      Horses for courses sparky! (Waste of money?) Some will say we are all crazy lusting after vintage vehicles and we should all drive Priuses or better yet take busses-lightrail-trains. I have several friends who have Vincent motorcycles and not my scene but some consider them the holy grail of vintage classics.
      (Auction prices seem to agree). So I heard an amusing tale from a guy who he & a friend rode their 1950s Vincents across the US from Canada to the tip of South America, (Tierra Del Fuego???) So there is a cafe or bar there and while sitting there some guys on late model BMW adventure bikes were also there,
      (The bazillion dollar plastic wonders that if they fall over you have to call a BMW approved Tow service). The BMW guys congratulated these nutters on making it to the end of the epic ride, but were overheard to say “Its too bad that all they can afford is those old motorcycles………”.
      SOME people eh???
      Horses for courses!!!

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