When GMC introduced its Carryall Suburban in 1937, the Suburban name was just a generic label for a windowed station wagon type of vehicle. Although this continued on for several years, 1988 saw the Suburban nameplate become exclusive to a line of some of the biggest full-size SUVs from Chevrolet and GMC. With one of the most extensive production histories among a sea of various makes and models, the GMC or Chevrolet Suburban has become an unrivalled presence among full-size SUVs.
1937: The roots of the modern Suburban
The early Carryall Suburbans were said to be among the first ever SUVs—even ahough the ‘SUV’ term did not actually exist back in the day. These truck-based station wagons put in a large passenger compartment in place of a truck’s normal open cargo area. With such a spacious body design, the Carryalls were designed to comfortably seat eight people.
The Suburban was a vehicle that enjoyed a warm welcome since its very first generation. It was a forerunner in terms of style and functionality and it would continue to be a very popular full-size SUV for decades to come.
1960: The redesigned Suburban
The Suburban received a major facelift in terms of its appearance and mechanical attributes for the sixth generation. It was at this point that the Suburban actually adapted a two-door SUV body style instead of the Carryall or wagon type.
The first appearance of the ‘C’ and ‘K’ trim labels for the Suburban line was back in 1960. Both the Chevrolet and GMC version made use of these labels to refer to the rear-wheel drive (C) suburban and the four-wheel drive (K) Suburban. The 1500, 2500, and 3500 designations appeared in 1973 to pertain to the one-half ton, three-quarter ton, and one-ton models respectively. It was at this stage that the GMC K1500 finally took form as the four-wheel drive, one-half ton full-size SUV that it is more well-known as.
1992: The GMT 400 platform
Although the C and K designations were replaced in 1987 to 1991 to avoid confusion with Chevrolet’s C/K pickups, it was revived when the GMC Suburban received the GMT 400 platform for the 1992 model year.
The GMC K1500 Suburban had a small-block 5.7L V8 engine, a 4L60 four-speed automatic transmission, and independent front suspension torsion bars. The body style and the interior became sleeker as well. For this generation, GMC brought in several year-to-year upgrades for the Suburban. Some of the upgrades included a four-speed automatic gearbox in 1993, a third brake light in 1994, driver side airbags in 1995, the Vortec engine in 1996, electronic power steering in 1997, a Passlock theft-deterrent system in 1998, and some powertrain improvements in 1999.
After a very long run as the GMC Suburban, the full-size SUV was renamed as the GMC Yukon XL for the 2000 model year. The Suburban name continued to live on for the Chevrolet model.