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Chevy Suburban Timeline: Hits and Highlights from America’s Longest-Lived Nameplate

Tracing the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban's history all the way back to 1933.

The 1935 Chevrolet Suburban launched a sub-segment that eventually attracted competitors like the Dodge Town Wagon, Jeep Utility Wagon, and International Travelall. Those trucks are long gone, of course, now leaving Chevy's Suburban to duke it out with the Ford Expedition (and soon the reborn Jeep Grand Wagoneer). While we wait to see how the all-new 12th-generation 2021 Suburban stacks up against the Expedition and friends, let's review the highlights reel of the Suburban's 84-plus-year history.

    • 1933 - The pre-Suburban: Chevrolet half-ton truck gets a long station-wagon body made of wood and built specifically for National Guard/Civilian Conservation Corps use. Power comes from a 207-cu-in (3.4L) I-6 good for 56 hp.
    • 1935 - Chevrolet Carryall Suburban: This model (above) is introduced as the first truck-based all-steel station wagon based on the EB Master series half-ton truck chassis. The original was offered with eight-passenger seating (in a three-two-three-person arrangement) accessed via just two front side doors and a tailgate/lift-window in back, although a barn-door rear option was soon offered. Output of the same 207 engine jumps to 60 hp.
    • 1937 - GMC Carryall Suburban: GMC slaps its name on the half-ton (T-14A in GMC parlance) steel wagon, but uses its own engine, which this year is a 230-cu-in 85-hp flat-head I-6
    • 1941 - Second Generation: The Chevrolet/GMC Carryall Suburban gets a 2.5-inch wheelbase stretch (to 116.0 inches), retains its door and seating configurations. Each brand gets a more powerful engine, with Chevy's 216-cu-in (3.5L) making 90 hp and GMC's 228-cu-in (3.7L) good for 93 hp. Wartime production continues for military use.
    • 1947 - Third Generation: Based on new "Advance Design" pickup styling, this Suburban would eventually inspire the 2006-2011 HHR retro wagon. Both brands retain their 116-inch wheelbase, engines, manual transmissions, door, and seating configurations to start with.
    • 1953 - Hydra-Matic Offered! A four-speed automatic transmission arrives at GMC in 1953, and a year later at Chevrolet.
    • 1955 - Fourth Generation: New smooth-sided "Task Force" styling featuring a wrap-around windshield arrives in March 1955. Both brands get optional V-8 power, with Chevy fitting its new 265-cu-in 154-hp Small Block and GMC adapting a Pontiac-based 287-cu-in 155-hp V-8. Six cylinders are still standard, (235 cu-in/119 hp at Chevy, 248 cu-in/125-hp at GMC). Wheelbase shrinks 2 inches (to 114). GMC applies the Suburban name to its smooth-sided pickup (analogous to the Chevy Cameo) until 1958, with fewer than 300 built each year. (The Suburban name is never again applied to a pickup. )
    • 1956 - 4-Wheel Drive: If you wanted 4-wheel drive in earlier years, you had to get dealer-installed conversion kits from companies like Northwestern Auto Parts Company (NAPCO). Their live-axle/leaf-spring kit had cost $995, required just three hours to install, and could be removed and reinstalled in a new truck. GMC began installing the NAPCO kits in house in 1956, Chevy in 1957.
    • 1960 - Fifth Generation: Factory-engineered 4WD arrives this year, as does independent front suspension for rear-drive models, using torsion bars. C/K nomenclature is introduced, signifying 2WD (C) or 4WD (K) models. Each brand offered a range of six- and eight-cylinder engines (including a gigantic 305-cu-in 150-hp V-6 at GMC) paired with manual or automatic transmissions.
    • 1964 - Chevrolet Veraneio This model featuring unique body styling and two doors on the passenger side is sold in Brazil. There's still only one door on the driver side.
    • 1967 - Sixth Generation: Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Carryall 6th-gen finally gets a rear side door on the passenger side only. V-8 engine offerings proliferate, with Small Blocks offered in 283-, 307-, 327-, 350-cu-in sizes and a big block offered in 396- and 402-cu-in sizes.
    • 1969 - Chevrolet Blazer/1970 GMC Jimmy These short-wheelbase two-door variants with removable rear roof sections are introduced with standard 4WD (a rear-drive option is quickly added).
    • 1970 - Panel-side production ends. This body style had been offered in C-10 (half-ton) and C-20 (3/4-ton) variants, with the latter being the only heavy-duty Suburban available.
    • 1971 - Front disc brakes! This modern convenience becomes standard at last.
    • 1973 - Seventh Generation: Suburban finally gets four side doors along with a 12-inch wheelbase stretch and remains in production for 19 years, ranking as the longest-lived generation. Also new: optional front and rear A/C, an Eaton locking rear differential, a luggage rack, along with diesel power, first the (largely terrible) GM 350 V-8, and later a 6.2-liter from Detroit Diesel. Second-gen Blazer/Jimmy introduced. For the first time a ¾-ton passenger version is offered (this option disappears again after 2013).
    • 1981 - Shift-on-the-fly 4WD Automatic-locking hubs are added to 4WD to ease 4WD engagement and overall convenience of the option.
    • 1987 - Carburetors eliminated Electronic fuel-injection becomes standard.
    • 1990 - Rear Anti-lock Brakes
    • 1992 - Eighth Generation: GMT400 architecture underpins the latest Chevy Suburban and renamed GMC Yukon XL plus their new siblings, the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon. Torsion-bar independent front suspension arrives for 4WD models, the Detroit Diesel option grows to 6.5 liters. This generation eventually gets a driver airbag, Onstar, PassLock security, and full-time AutoTrac AWD.
    • 1998 - Holden & Cadillac Right-hand drive Holden Suburbans built in Silao, Mexico, are exported to Australia and New Zealand. Cadillac launches its heavily tinseled Escalade variant.
  • 2000 - Ninth Generation: New GMT800 architecture saw the retirement of the long-serving 350- and 454-cu-in V-8s as well as the diesel, with the gas-fired Vortec 5300 and 6000 taking their place. The spare moved from the cargo area to beneath the truck and four-wheel discs were added.
  • 2001 - Chevrolet Avalanche/Cadillac Escalade EXT These pickup trucks based on Suburban architecture are introduced, featuring a "midgate" that allowed long items to extend in over the folded rear seats, while a rigid weather-tight tonneau over the bed kept everything dry and secure. They last through 2013.
  • 2002 - Cadillac Escalade ESV A Suburban-length model joins the Cadillac lineup.
  • 2005 - Mil-spec: AM General begins production of Light Service Support Vehicle military versions of the Tahoe and Suburban (and Silverado 1500/2500). GM started off building these in-house back in 2001.
  • 2007 - 10th Generation: GMT900 architecture brings a more rakish windshield and smoother aerodynamics. The 5.3- and 6.0-liter engines carry over, joined by a 6.2L Vortec V-8 in Yukon XL Denali editions. No sheetmetal or lighting elements are shared with the pickup trucks any longer.
  • 2010 - 75th Anniversary Edition This fully loaded model based on the LTZ trim level features a cashmere leather interior and white diamond tri-coat paint—the supply of which limited production to 2,570 units.
  • 2015 - 11th Generation: Spanking new K2XX architecture brings longer, lower, wider (by 2.0, 2.4, and 1.4 inches respectively), increased use of aluminum (hood and liftgate), and new, more efficient EcoTec3 direct-injected 5.3- and 6.2-liter V-8 engines.
  • 2016 - One-Ton Class 3: Joining the 2500HD Suburban that returned to the lineup in 2015 was a Class 3 (10,000-plus GVWR) 4WD variant available only to commercial fleet and government buyers.
  • 2019 - 12th Generation: The T1-generation 2021 Chevrolet Suburban arrives with a longer wheelbase, new tech, an available 3.0L turbodiesel I-6, and, for the first time, an independent rear suspension. Along with its Tahoe sibling, the new Suburban also gets updated 5.4L and 6.2L V-8 gas engines. All come mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.