I admit I like Toyotas, and I even considered getting one for CTC. But when Editor-in-Chief Rick Péwé bought and built his Trail Toy last month for our Cheap Truck Challenge (“Cheap Truck Challenge Build, Part 1,” Aug. ’12) I knew I had to outdo him with massive American iron! I’ve never owned a Suburban before, and I figured that if I were 17 and needed a way to haul all my friends out to the woods for some camping, wheeling, mud whomping, and bonfiring then a Burb would be hard to beat.
I started my search for the budget bro-hauler and was determined to come in way under the $2,012 purchasing budget. I searched long and hard on the various online classifieds for a $1,000 Burb, with little luck. Actually, quite a few were available for that price, but I was begging and choosing. I didn’t want a half-ton. I wanted a 4x4, and I definitely wanted the rear barn doors. I’m not sure why the barn doors were required, but they were. I quickly found a recurring problem with Suburbans: automatic transmissions that can’t survive. It seems that in every ad I found for a low-dollar crew hauler the Sub either had a dead trans, a slipping trans, or a recently replaced trans. To put it bluntly, I don’t think an automatic is right for a heavy bus like a Suburban, especially if I’m on a budget. This is really shocking since many 3⁄4-tons came with a TH400, a great transmission. I would definitely steer clear of the half-ton Burbs with the TH350 or 700R4.
CheapBurban has a little rust, hideous running boards, a drooping headliner, a weird coffe
Then I found it, a needle in a haystack of dead slushbox Burbans, the rare yet perfect ’87 GMC 3⁄4-ton Suburban with a four-speed manual! Plus, to seal the deal it has a fuel-injected TBI V-8 and barn doors out back. Sold! I test-drove it and hauled it home after parting with 13 of my hard-earned Benjamins. My new favorite wheeling, camping, mobile funhouse was about to be built and done cheap.
Vehicle Budget $2,012.00
Vehicle Price 1,300.00
Upgrade Budget $2,012.00
Upgrade Spent 2,012.00
Total Spent 3,312.00
For Future Upgrades 712.00
There is nothing better than gutting the carpet and headliner from your new cheap truck. I
A proper buildup requires intense research, extensive data, and cross-referencing to devel
WD-40 is cheap and it works, especially if you are planning on removing 25-year-old bolts.
The front springs under the Burb were flatter than an emaciated supermodel. I called up th
New U-bolts and shocks were required with the front springs. This took $117, leaving me $4
The steering geometry had to be fixed after the front of the truck was raised, and the mos
The new steering arms and a set of front and rear longer ORD braded brake lines set the fi
Instead of new springs in the back I opted for Offroad Design’s shackle flip kit for $189.
I used a grinder to cut the heads off the rivets and knocked them through with a hammer an
The shackle flip reuses the factory shackle and raises the rear 4 inches to match the fron
I took my last $6 and bought some batteries for an old boom box I had, and now my CheapBur
The tires measured right at 35 inches, and being tall and skinny they cleared fine at ride
The CheapBurban is done for Cheap Truck Challenge, but I’m already planning on a handful of upgrades. First is a set of Offroad Design’s heavy-duty greasable shackles. The factory shackles are thin, and the ORD ones will raise the front slightly and be stronger. I’ll also add ORD’s steering box brace for additional support because these boxy GM trucks are notorious for cracks around the box on the frame, and I’ll add an ORD sway-bar disconnect kit for unrestrained front axle movement.
I have already ordered a new clutch and power steering pump from RockAuto. RockAuto is great for replacement parts, and I know the clutch is on its last legs. I’m not going to replace these parts prior to CTC because they don’t fit the budget, but the pump is whining and the clutch barely engages and slips bad in Fourth gear on hills with the bigger tires and stock 3.42 gears. The SM465 transmission also pops out of Third gear under deceleration, so that will be addressed eventually. And gears and lockers are always a good future upgrade, but for now the stock rear Gov-Lok limited slip will have to do.
6680 Odana Road
15450 W. 108th Street
2412 Abbeville Highway
Off Road Design