Rodding and customizing has always been about blending old and new. Ray Doe, president of RB's Obsolete in Edmonds, Washington, has a strong affinity for '40s and '50s Chevy pickups, panels, and Suburbans. He's owned a variety of them, and his interests are reflected in RB's aftermarket product line. He also likes late-model Chevy pickups, Trailblazers, and Tahoes, so it was a natural for him to combine the two genres.
The last '47-54 Chevy pickup to roll out of RB's shop was the High Tech Hauler '48 Chevy which was won by a lucky Primedia reader. This time, Ray wanted to build a keeper. He was leaning toward a '47-54 Suburban because of its increased functionality.
High Tech Hauler's base truck had a lot of hidden body damage, so Ray was hoping to find as nice of a body as possible. He lucked out when he found an incredibly cherry, rust-free California truck, a '47 Chevy panel.
Even though the panel altered Ray's original Suburban plans, it was simply too nice to pass up. Since the truck was a runner with a decent tan-and-black paint job, Ray's first thought was to build a resto rod with a modern chassis and drivetrain. He was just finishing the development work on RB's new '47-55 (first series '55s) chassis, so dropping the cherry body on a state-of-the-art chassis would be a snap.
The only problem was that Ray still wanted something with more passenger capacity, like a Suburban. It was then that Ray and his son, Scott, started discussing the "what if's" of building a pseudo Suburban. They recruited illustrator Chris Ito who put their ideas (along with his creative input) to paper. Several panel variations were drawn, but when a version was shown with Nomad-style rear windows, Ray knew he had to build it.
Urban Suburban PlanningRB's truck will lean toward the wild side of what can be done with these vehicles-that doesn't mean someone with less ambitious plans can't learn a lot from these articles. At any point of the project there are simpler, less expensive alternatives. One of these trucks can be built in stages as time and funds become available, so don't be put off by the radical body mods, trick drivetrain, or high-tech rolling stock. A safe, fun truck can be built with a stock body, used engine, and moderately priced wheels and tires.
A strong foundation in the form of the new Serious Hardware rolling chassis will be the early focus of this project. In reality, several subassemblies were built more or less concurrently. The new Beck Racing Engines 496ci big-block engine was built while the bodywork was being done. The chassis was assembled at the same time. The average homebuilder is more apt to tackle a single task before moving on to the next part of the project, but the processes are the same.
Just as the gang at RB's Obsolete knew they had a wide range of possible ways to build their panel, anyone contemplating building a street rod out of a '47-54 Chevy/GMC pickup, panel, or Suburban has a lot of choices, too. The Urban Suburban has some radical body modifications, but the components under the wild House of Kolor paint apply to any vehicle. And, the best part is that most of the parts are bolt-on items right out of the big RB's catalog.
Coming to TermsBuilding a '47-54 Chevy/GMC pickup/panel/Suburban can be accomplished in a myriad of ways. Versatility is a great feature of these trucks. For the sake of simplicity we'll usually refer to the series as '47-54 Chevy trucks, instead of mentioning the first-series '55 models and distinguishing between Chevy and GMC products. We prefer the generic "truck" instead of listing the three body styles every time.
First-series '55 models are confusing to many people because of the late introduction (March 1955) of the all-new '55s. The '55-57 models are virtually identical and are the series most people associate with '55 GM half-ton trucks. We're well aware of first-series '55 GM trucks, but it's easier to call them '47-54s.