Saturday, May 19, 2012

Car of the Week: Chevrolet Suburban (NOT the new one!)

Stay with me here! I know this is a big stretch but this is only because you are thinking of the last decades of horrible monstrosities from GM. Lets go back to a time when cars were designed to look amazing. In the 30's most of the big companies built a suburban carryall that was a large inclosed cargo area surrounded by windows and  based on a truck chassis. GM had theirs as well and it was a beauty. My favorites came later on in the fifties when most other companies stopped making the suburban and GM latched onto the name that they would later get the exclusive rights to use.

In high school the first car that I bought was a 1953 Chevy Panel truck. This looked exactly like the Suburban but it did not have any windows. I am sure that looking at that thing for so many years has given me an appreciation for that particular vintage but... From 1949-1954 Chevy built the best looking Suburban of all time. Here are some pics:

Look at that thing! There is no way you could think that this was designed recently; it speaks of a time period and instantly takes you there. It is too beautiful, too much metal, too curvy to be contemporary. The looks were not the only thing going for it. They were good and useful trucks that were easy to drive. I drove my Panel truck everywhere (as long as it was in town. The top speed was about 50 mph.) There is no way that I can convey the way it felt to drive this truck. The only thing that made it difficult was seeing out of the back, and hence the reason for my love for the suburban. This experience can not be matched by the horrible beasts of today. The new ones really do not handle much better, though they do have a faster top speed. Here is a comparison of the old and new:

I dream about getting one some day, I mean what a cool family rig! I saw one on ebay a while back that was an old Fish and Game truck. I got so sucked into thinking about the history of that truck and the fact that it had seen more years than me. I love old stuff: I have old cheese graters because they are simple, they work.  I have a spatula from the 50's. How old is you cast iron pan? I see no reason to buy new crap that was made in China that will not last because there is no connection between the makers and the customers. That is how I feel about the new suburban, it is plasticky crap, made by people I do not know and it will not last very long and does not look good doing it.

My struggle would be to restore it to original condition, or add just a few creature comforts, or completely update it. I like the idea of trying to keep it as stock as possible but I would need to increase the cruising speed. Then what about a stereo that communicates with my ipod? Or what about air conditioning? What about safety features? Will all this stuff ruin the character and feel? I don't think so, I think I could restore it and keep the cool quirky stuff like the starter pedal and the manual windows and then hide some goodies behind the scenes. Air Conditioning using older controls and hiding the vents. Better brakes etc.

To close, this is my Car of the Week for two reasons. First, its brother was my first car and there are lots of memories that go along with it. Second, to coin a phrase; they don't make them like they used to. They really don't, this thing was designed to look stunning and it was "just" a work truck. Work trucks now are like manifestations of machismo boy wet dreams. Tonka toys where everything is overstated and reiterated. No longer is there quiet beauty in things. I look at cars (and other things) and wonder how someone could have "designed" them. Some one intentionally designed this and it shows. The Suburban stirs me and it is more than just looks. If you have or could drive one you would notice the deliberate nature of the being the driver. You have to set the choke, you have to remember to turn it off, you HAVE to check the oil, tire pressure and coolant. You do not just jump in and go, you have to warm it up. It is a lively experience for those interested in living. Go buy an old car, there are cars older than you that are still ticking that we can learn something from.

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