by Jerry Langton –
It seems like the Chevy Suburban has been around forever. In automotive terms, it has.
The Chevy Suburban has, in one form or another, been around since 1934, and is the longest-running automotive nameplate in history. It’s obviously been very successful, but somehow it’s the only vehicle in its class — there’s nothing on the market very much like it, except the mechanically similar stablemate, the GMC Yukon.
But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, there used to be Suburbans all over the market. That’s because in the 1930s, when it debuted, the word “Suburban” was not a model designation, but a vehicle type like a sedan or station wagon. Back then, when body styles and configurations were still evolving, a Suburban was any station wagon-shaped body on a truck frame, as long as it had windows on the rear panels.
Later, the term was used by many manufacturers just to mean any full-sized station wagon with three rows of seats.
Back then, Chevy, GMC, Dodge, Plymouth, Nash and Studebaker all made vehicles they called Suburbans, although most of them were really little more than big station wagons. In order to stand out, Chevy called their larger, more truck-like vehicle the Suburban Carryall.
But as the others died off — the last of them was the 1978 Plymouth Suburban, a wagon version of the venerable Fury with a small, rear-facing seat — GM had the name all to itself and trademarked it as a model.
Since then, the Suburban has been refined and has successfully defended its self-created niche from any challengers. Because it’s the only vehicle of its type with rear nine-passenger capability (aside from full-sized vans, which are really designed more for cargo than people), the Suburban has become very popular with official services, including police, fire departments, EMS and as a limousine.
It’s also the standard car of the U.S. Secret Service, and is even used to transport the President.
But its primary purpose is as a luxury family transport. I have a friend who has five kids and a Suburban. It carries her, her husband, all five kids, their stuff and still has room for two friends to tag along. She prefers it to a minivan for a number of reasons, citing comfort, room and a more enjoyable driving experience. Besides, she says, “it makes an entrance.” Indeed it does.
There aren’t many kids who can say they go to school in the same kind of vehicle the President travels in and that Tony Soprano used to drive.
Obviously, the Suburban’s size means it’s not for everyone. But for the services and families that need that kind of room, and want that kind of image, the Suburban is alone in a class of one. If the Suburban is not for you maybe chevy’s new line of diesel trucks would work?
Let us know what you think in the Comments.
Jerry Langton is the author of four national bestsellers. He has also written for some of the best-known publications in North America. His work has appeared in The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, National Post, The Hamilton Spectator, Maclean’s, CBC.ca, The Daily News, The Star-Ledger, Yahoo!, MSN.ca and dozens of others.
Photos by Mike Gulett.
This was originally published on March 6, 2014.