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Thread: 1971 Suburban Project

  1. #1
    I support Reno4x4!
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    1971 Suburban Project

    I really love my XJ. However when I take the wife, two kids, and dog camping, it just isn't big enough. Here is how the poor thing looked on one of last year's camping trip.

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    So I wanted something bigger. I consider a Land Cruiser, or a full size Wagoneer, but they really are only about a foot longer and a few inches wider. Hardly worth starting over.

    So I settled on a suburban. I've also had the itch for a classic car, so I decided a older one would maybe scratch that too. I ran across this article and love how this guy's suburban looks:

    http://www.fourwheeler.com/features/...an-sir-burban/

    Turns out its hard to find the cherry 'barn find' 4x4 suburbans like this guy did. They all have rust issues. Many are just trashed. Not many of them are 4x4. After about 8 months of looking I found this one in Chico.

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    It has had all the body work done and a repaint in the 90s. The interior was tuned up. It got a Goodwrench 350 installed then. Lots of the little things were done and I got to start with a decent running/driving rig. Since I have two little kids, I couldn't take on a major project, but can do some things here and there when a weekend frees up.

    The goal is for it to be a family offroad exploration rig. Not a crazy rockcrawler, just reliable, simple and fun.

    Here is the plans for this thing:
    1. Install aftermarket AC/Heat (Classic Air system already bought)
    2. Get some more oomph from the 190hp 350
    a) upgrade to HEI (already purchased)
    b) Install mild cam and intake (already purchased)
    c) Headers or performance rams horn exhaust manifold
    d) down the road do a Holley sniper or similar fuel injection upgrade
    3. Upgrade to 3/4 ton or 1 ton axles, some kind of locker in rear
    4. Mild lift and 35" tires
    5. Upgrade bumpers and winch - hopefully find a nice vintage Warn 8274
    6. Mild cage to add some protection for the family in case I manage to flop it somewhere.
    7. Roof rack

    So if anyone has a set of Chevy 1 ton axles they'd like to sell cheap, please let me know!
    Last edited by ManNamedJed; September 26th, 2018 at 12:04 PM.

  2. The Following 3 Users Like ManNamedJed's Post:

    Dennis (September 26th, 2018), LEKCAH38 (September 26th, 2018), locrwln (2 Weeks Ago)

  3. #2
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    Oh, and I'd like to keep it looking fairly period correct. Like it was all built in the 70s or 80s. Hence the desire for an older winch. A challenge will be finding bumpers that look right.

    I got a roof rack/basket ordered and happen to have a set of these vintage cast aluminum rack mounts that will look appropriate.

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    Last edited by ManNamedJed; September 26th, 2018 at 10:53 AM.

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    LEKCAH38 (September 26th, 2018)

  5. #3
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    Before I could even get into the cool projects, I had an issue with it not starting. The battery cables were pretty corroded and nasty. It also had a dual battery setup where one was isolated but you could connect it to the other via a soleniod. However it was only connected with a 12 gauge wire. And I couldn't figure out how the second battery was even getting charged.

    A long time ago my CJ was needing a new battery and I realized a dual battery tray and two group 24 marine starting batteries cost less than one new Optima, so that is what I did and it worked great. They lasted 10 yrs and didn't mind when I didn't start the jeep for months at a time. So that is what I decided to do here.

    I dropped the solenoid and got two new batteries and wired them in parallel. I built my own cables with copper lugs , solder pellets and heavy duty heat shrink. Its super easy to do and you can make your cables for less than crappy pre built ones.

    I used this method:
    https://www.wiringdepot.com/jt-t-tec...-Battery-Cable

    I also used 'military' battery lugs which allows you to stack other wires on the bolts.

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    Since I plan an upgraded alternator at some point, I also dropped the fusible link wire and went with this cool resettable breaker. I'm using an 80A now (63A alt), but will change when I upgrade.
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    Yes I still need to clean up some of the other wiring.
    Last edited by ManNamedJed; September 27th, 2018 at 09:24 AM.

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  7. #4
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    Here is the winch that is currently on it. It has a great retro look, but they don't have a great reputation. Tenson TX2.
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  8. #5
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    Looks like you're off to a good start

  9. #6
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    Last weekend I had meant to install the HEI dist and start the AC project, but brakes went out on the wifes car, and had a tire blow out on the highway (in my XJ). So never really got around to Suburban projects.

    This weekend my wife is working so I have our two small boys, so its not good to tear into major projects, so I decided to install my roof rack. This is the Smittybilt Defender and its pretty decent for the price. I used these vintage rack feet I had and I think they look very appropriate. The rack starts to change the look of the rig from 'classic show car' to 'vintage off road vehicle'.

    I also just scored a canoe that just happens to have the same color scheme. The blues are almost exactly the same. I think they look like they were made for each other.

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  10. The Following 5 Users Like ManNamedJed's Post:

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  11. #7
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    Been installing my aftermarket air conditioning kit. It is a complete unit that replaces your heater core, blower, controls, as well as adding AC and new ducts.

    It was a major pain in the ass. I probably have 15 hours into it. Its one of those projects that snowballs as you discover other things to fix/update once you start digging in.

    All the old stuff comes out:
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    New unit gets wedged behind the dash:
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    This is the new heat/AC controls. I don't really like them. They totally clash with the look of the vehicle. I hope I grow to like them.
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    New heater control valve:
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  12. #8
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    Scary part - cutting into your dash for new vents. I think they wanted to be sure you didn't cut this hole too big as the template was undersized, so there was lots of filing to make it fit. Note, I am not the one who cut the radio hole
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    New side vents - required a 2 1/4" hole saw which apparently is not a common size. Was not in either of my hole saw kits, and wasn't available at Home Depot. Apex Saw had it though, and it was priced the same as the ones at HD. I highly recommend this place for your cutting tool needs.
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    Center vent installed.
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    All the hoses run and ready to have the glovebox reinstalled (which is now about 3" deep unfortunately)
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    New AC compressor. Looks like they sent me the wrong length hoses, so I'm getting that straightened out.
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    I didn't bother to take a pic of the stuff that goes in front of the radiator - which I had in and out about a dozen times before it was all done.

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  14. #9
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    Got the radiator filled and did a test drive. I still need a belt for the AC pump, and maybe swap those hoses, so can't test that part. However it blew hot air really well and with much more velocity that the OE system.

    I took three days off this week hoping to tackle some of the work on this project. After the AC kit I'm pretty burned out, so the HEI, headers, and intake will have to wait. I was bummed to realize I will have to unbolt a bunch of this same stuff again to do these - especially the cam.

  15. #10
    Wheeler
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    So nice to see a vintage Suburban being modified. Good luck and keep us posted.

  16. #11
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    Thanks.
    The previous owner regeared it to 3.08 to try to get better mileage. That combined with the ~200hp engine makes it woefully underpowered. The TC's low range of 2:1 doesn't help, so I haven't really taken it offroad yet.

    However I'm hoping to do some camping trips next year and maybe a trip to moab, so the pressure is on to sort out the suspension and drivetrain.

    It doesn't make sense to regear the 1/2 ton drivetrain, so I've been looking for a deal on 3/4 ton or 1 ton axles and haven't been having much luck. I hope to find a set with at least a 14b full floater and 4:10 or 4:56 gears. However that will mean moving to 8 lug wheels, so I'll also have to buy wheels and tires, which means I'll have to do the suspension at the same time, as I'd want to get the planned 35" tires at the same time.

  17. #12
    Wheeler
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    Great looking suburban. Love seeing one get built and used.

    Jack
    1985 4Runner on tons and 40's.
    2007 Chevy 2500hd max/alli/d60 front. 2008 FWC Pop-Up Camper

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