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The Chevrolet Suburban has been transporting passengers longer than any other automotive nameplate in U.S. history.  Visit Karl Chevrolet in New Canaan, CT for the northeast’s best selection of new and pre-owned Suburbans….. or read on to learn more about the history of the Suburban:

At one time, there were vehicles built to carry passengers and then there were vehicles built to carry cargo.  The year was 1935, and that was about to change.  The Great Depression had caused society to rethink priorities and having one vehicle for work and one for pleasure just wasn’t possible for most American families.

As the leading manufacturer of dependable transportation for value conscious consumers, Chevrolet introduced a new vehicle to its line-up; one which could lay claim to the title “World’s first cross-over vehicle”!  The Chevrolet Suburban Carryall was a vehicle designed to do just what its name implied:  carry anything and everything you and your family could need.  That meant the new Suburban Carryall was at ease transporting large volumes of cargo during the week and then carrying 7, 8 or 9 passengers on weekend journeys.

The Chevy Suburban was the first vehicle of its kind, and remarkably, even after Seventy-Five years, still in a class all its own.  Enjoy a slide show of the Chevy Suburban growing up through the years, beginning with the very first 1935 model:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR. 

After 75 years of continuous U.S. automotive production, no other nameplate has been around longer than Chevy Suburban without at least some time off.

“Having been a part of our automotive landscape for three-quarters of a century, the Chevrolet Suburban embodies the traits that have come to define the American SUV,” says Leslie Kendall, curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.  “Its longevity in the marketplace speaks to both the resourcefulness of the original design team and the good judgment of the decision makers at General Motors who knew better than to tamper with a winning idea,” Kendall said.

The idea for the Suburban was born out of a need for a heavier-duty, truck-based wagon. Through the early 1930s, most manufacturers offered car-based wagons for professional use. Open models with windows and rear seating were known as depot hacks, and were used to ferry passengers and their cargo around train stations and boat docks. Enclosed models, typically without rear seats, were known as sedan deliveries.

Chevrolet began experimenting with an all-steel wagon body mounted on a commercial chassis in the mid-1930s, and the Suburban Carryall was launched in 1935. The original Suburban could seat eight, while easily removable seats provided a large 75-inch-long by 77-inch-high cargo area. The heavy-duty chassis of the Suburban increasingly found favor with professional customers, including the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II.

Putting 1935 into perspective, the population of the United States was just over 127 million people.  A first class stamp cost 3 cents, Technicolor was first introduced to motion pictures and the Detroit Tigers defeated the Chicago Cubs in a tough World Series (yes, the Cubs did play in a World Series!).  Certainly much has changed since then… but the Chevy Suburban remains strong.

The foundation of strength and capability that propelled the brand for more than seven decades is still evident today. The 2010 Chevrolet Suburban seats up to nine, or it can accommodate 137.4 cubic feet (of cargo with the second-row seats folded and third-row seat removed. With the standard Vortec 5.3L FlexFuel engine and fuel-saving six-speed automatic transmission, Suburban half-ton models can tow up to 8,100 pounds. Suburban 2500 models offer a 6.0L/six-speed powertrain combination and a maximum towing rating of 9,600 pounds.

Chevrolet h as introduced a 75th Anniversary Diamond Edition Suburban which is limited to 2,570 units (including 350 for Canada and other export markets). It is distinguished by a White Diamond Tricoat exterior color and Cashmere interior, along with unique 20-inch chrome-clad wheels and new roof rack rails.  As the leading Suburban Dealer in the Northeast, KARL Chevrolet has received a special allocation of these Diamond Edition Suburban’s.

“Times have changed, but the Suburban remains a fixture in the industry for private and professional customers who need truck-like towing capability with maximum passenger and cargo space,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet general manager. “The Suburban’s core capabilities and dependability have remained constant for more than seven decades and generations of people know that a Suburban will haul people and their gear.”

For the KARL family, the Chevy Suburban represents a multi-generational relationship intertwined with both business and family life.  After all, not many Chevrolet Dealers can say they’ve sold Suburban’s every year since it was introduced!  Back in 1927 when Leo Karl Sr. first opened the doors at KARL Chevrolet on Railroad Avenue (now Elm Street) in New Canaan, CT, he had no idea that one particular Chevy model would stand the test of time. 

Life in New England has long been centered on family and community.  So a vehicle like the Chevy Suburban has been a natural fit.  From the first models in 1935 through the 1940’s and 1950’s, the Suburban found its niche in the driveways of hard working New Englanders.  As fate would have it, in the 1960’s Leo Karl Jr’s growing family needed more room than the typical station wagon offered, so he began driving a Chevy Suburban as his vehicle of choice.

Over the subsequent decades, an interesting phenomenon began to unfold, as KARL Chevrolet’s Suburban customers began sharing their experiences with one another.  How you ask?  These were the days before personal computers, chat rooms, Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, Blogs, and email!  Well, it turns out that many families who drove Suburban’s shared common interests.  Most had young children and their family Suburban was the primary mode of transportation.

As families met at camp grounds, horse shows, vacation spots and boat ramps, they shared their Suburban stories with one another.  When our customers’ new acquaintances returned home and began to look into getting a Suburban for their family, they found that most local Chevy Dealers at the time did not know anything about this niche Chevrolet product called Suburban, nor could they find one to test drive.  One by one, customers from Rhode Island, suburban Boston, Long Island, northern New Jersey and upstate New York would make the effort to seek out advice from KARL Chevrolet in New Canaan.  Our staff not only knew Suburban facts and capabilities; we also always had one available for test drives. 

Thus, each year during the 1970’s and 1980’s, KARL Chevrolet’s sales of Chevy Suburban models grew.  Whether a 2-wheel-drive 2500 model to tow a boat trailer, a 4×4 1500 model to head north skiing, or a basic ‘Cheyenne’ model for work, KARL Chevrolet had the answer.  During these years the toughest choice for most customers was rear Barn Doors or Tailgate – and of course, KARL had both available to compare.

Over the years, as the Suburban became more of a mainstream model and its popularity grew, we enjoyed building life-long relationships with hundreds of local families.  We’ve watched young couples raise a family, seen the kids grow up, go off to college, and start their own families.  We’ve seen those families come back to us for their own Suburban and many times been there for the grandparents who thought they didn’t need a Suburban once their kids got through college, only to find out those Grandkids require one all over again!

During the 1990’s KARL specialized in personalizing our customers Suburban’s in any way imaginable.  From installing surround-sound stereo systems, to built-in hand made walnut and marble humidors, to various styles of running boards, electronics, rack systems and more.  If a customer could dream it up, we could figure out how to get it done!

With each successive redesign of the Suburban, Chevrolet engineers and designers have managed to stay true to Suburban’s original roots; yet at the same time they have successfully improved this vehicle in every way possible.  It has not been uncommon to hear words like “this is the BEST Suburban ever” from a family after taking delivery of their third or fourth model.  Only to hear them repeat it four or five years later with their next one.  Over the years, choices for customers went from what rear doors to choose to Cloth or Leather interior to Center Row Buckets or Bench to Rear Seat Entertainment with VHS or DVD.  Today’s fully equipped LTZ models include virtually everything standard.

Perhaps even more impressive than the Chevy Suburban’s remarkable run of continuous production is the way the Suburban holds up in everyday use.  Known for rock solid reliability, the Suburban and its full-frame construction holds up under the most challenging operating conditions.  Currently we have many local customers driving Suburban’s with well over 100,000 miles – a few with over 300,000 miles!  While most families choose to keep up with the latest models for safety and security reasons, there are many customers who simply need Suburban’s incredible capability to tow or haul and the latest comfort and convenience features don’t matter all that much.  Because of Suburban’s excellent long-term reliability, these models have historically enjoyed some of the highest retained values of any vehicle on the market.

With so many long-time loyal Suburban owners coming to KARL Chevrolet, its no wonder we are also the place to come for well-maintained pre-owned Suburban’s as well.  KARL routinely has the area’s best selection of new, Certified, and pre-owned Suburban’s in stock.

Here’s a timeline of significant moments in the Suburban’s first 75 years:

1935: Suburban Carryall introduced with a signature two-door body style that would last through 1967. Power came from Chevrolet’s stalwart “Stovebolt” inline-six that produced 60 horsepower (45 kW) for the half-ton chassis.

1937: New, streamlined exterior styling carried Art Deco cues, and horsepower from the Stovebolt six increased to 79 (59 kW).

1942: Production of almost all civilian cars and trucks halted during America’s involvement in World War II, although many Chevy trucks – including the Suburban’s body style – were pressed into military duty.

1947: The first significant redesign of the Chevrolet’s truck line – including Suburban – since before the war. Torque from the inline-six engine was 174 lb.-ft. (217 Nm) at only 1,200 rpm, giving the Suburban excellent towing capability.

1950: Suburban models are offered with either a tailgate/top-opening rear window configuration or conventional “barn doors” at the rear.

1955: Revolutionary new styling is introduced midway through the model year. Known as the “second series” design, it features a wraparound windshield and the elimination of running boards – the body is flush with the fenders for the first time. The second series model also introduces the ubiquitous small-block V-8.

1957: Factory-installed four-wheel drive is offered for the first time, with the famous NAPCO-supplied “Powr-Pak” system.

1960: Chevrolet institutes the C/K designations to denote models with 2WD (C) and 4WD (K). Front-end styling is also new.

1967: All-new styling of Chevy’s half-ton trucks is introduced, including Suburban. It carries a unique three-door arrangement with a single door on the driver’s side and front and rear doors on the passenger side. This configuration makes the Suburban popular with ambulance companies.

1973: A new generation of Chevy trucks is launched, with Suburban offered in a conventional four-door body style introduced for the first time. Its 129.5-inch (3,289 mm) wheelbase was only 0.5-inch (12.7 mm) shorter than the 2010 model’s. Also debuting is the Suburban three-quarter-ton model, which could be had with a 454 big-block engine that delivered 335 lb.-ft. of torque (455 Nm).

1975: Increased focus on interior comfort and amenities in the 1973 models bring more customers to Suburban for use as a personal vehicle. Chevrolet responds with more comfortable seats and greater amenities, including simulated buffalo hide vinyl upholstery, wood grain dash inserts, fully trimmed door panels and more.

1981: Updated styling brings stacked rectangular headlamps for the 1980s. The 4WD system adds automatic locking hubs and the 454 big-block is still offered, giving customers great towing capability.

1987: Electronically controlled fuel injection and a four-speed overdrive transmission bring greater efficiency.

1992: An all-new Suburban features sleek styling with flush glass and composite headlamps. The 5.7L small-block V-8 powers 1500 models, while the 454 (7.4L) engine is still available in the 2500 series. Other updates include four-wheel anti-lock brakes, Insta-Trac on four-wheel-drive models and a suspension system designed to provide a more carlike ride.

1998: OnStar and the full-time AutoTrac all-wheel-drive system are added. In Australia, right-hand-drive versions of the Suburban are offered through GM’s Holden brand.

2000: Launched in 1999 as a 2000 model, the next-generation Suburban brings new styling, new interiors and new powertrains. The engines include the Vortec 5.3L and 6.0L V-8s that were from the same Gen III V-8 “LS” family that debuted a couple of years earlier as the LS1 in the Corvette. Other new features include four-wheel disc brakes and a load-leveling suspension system.

2007: The latest generation of the Suburban is introduced, featuring a wind tunnel-shaped exterior and the elimination of traditional chrome front and rear bumpers. More efficient, comfortable and capable than ever, the Suburban continues to offer customers of all walks of life uncompromising capability and versatility.

2010: The 75th anniversary is marked with a limited-edition model, the 75th Anniversary Diamond Edition Suburban.

OK, now it’s your turn…share your family’s Suburban story with us!