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Thread: My 1989 Suburban overland/expedition project

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Snohomish County, WA
    Posts
    190

    Default My 1989 Suburban overland/expedition project

    I bought this Suburban early January 2011 and I am building this to be my new overland / expedition rig.

    Specifications:
    1989 Chevy Suburban 1500 4x4
    5.7L 350 V8 TBI
    700R4 4speed auto

    I wanted to get a ¾ ton but got a good deal on this one, because it has a rebuilt engine and transmission both with less than 30k miles on them. Maybe doing an axle swap in the feature? I also wanted a red one with grey interior.

    I have owned a 2000 Dodge Durango before that I modified as my overland vehicle but used it as a trade in to buy a Dodge challenger. I had been to Yellowstone with it and many other camping and road trips. However it was a little too small to sleep 2 people and haul all our gear (I am 6’7”). Specially if we bring the dogs too.

    I always liked the older square body style Suburbans (1973-1991) and have had an 86 ¾ ton suburban that I recently sold. I used that one mainly for hauling fire wood, dump runs, etc.
    I chose the 89 to 91 model year suburbans above any other year because it has TBI (the fuel injection gets me about 2 to 4 miles more than my 86), has overdrive and has the newer grille and some newer interior and these are the last years with solid axels.



    Here is a picture from when I bought it.



    This is after I did some modifications.

    I took the ski box off, took the running boards off (better clearance) and installed 2 Bully aluminum steps up front so my wife can get in. Took off the ugly spoiler and installed a LED 3rd brake light.



    This picture is from late January

    I bought black 17” rims and 33”Dean mud terrain tires (just in time before the snow), also got a 2nd battery for dual battery set up. (still have to get everything hooked up and decide what system to use)


    I found a roof rack for it, repainted it (with spray on bedliner) and mounted it. (April 2011)


    As it sits now (June 2011), I spray painted the rocker panels black with spray on bedliner, I mounted some backup lights, put the spare tire on the roof rack, installed my CB radio and made a storage/sleeping platform for the back.

    Current modifications:

    - 17” black steel wheels
    - 33” Dean Mud Terrain tires
    - Custom safari roof rack
    - Cabalas Trail gear seat covers
    - LMC bug shield
    - Dual batteries
    - 2 pro comp off road lights
    - Emergency warning lights

    Future modification I plan on doing:

    - finish dual battery setup
    - 3-4 inch lift (ORD)
    - winch bumper with brush guard
    - 12000 pound winch
    - rear bumper with gas can mount and tire carrier
    - Snorkel (like the Suburban in Dante's Peak)
    - Fog lights, spot lights and backup lights
    - Diesel engine (Cummins if I can afford it)
    - 3/4 ton axels
    - Bushwacker fender flares
    - Paint job
    - and who knows what else

    I will post pictures and keep you guys updated of the progress.
    It will be slow as I have limited money and time to work on it.
    But I am planning on driving this truck to Alaska summer 2012 (if I can afford the gas) and hope to have all modifications done by then.

    There is lots of great info on this site and I am glad I found it, (I wish I knew all this when I build my Durango) thanks to everyone for sharing this…
    Last edited by Little Red; 06-10-2011 at 09:57 PM.
    My Photography Website

    1989 Suburban Overland and Rescue Vehicle "Little Red"
    1993 Bluebird bus "Almanzo"
    DREAM ~ DISCOVER ~ SHARE ~ INSPIRE

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    #TheBigWonderful
    Posts
    1,113
    We had an '89 Suburban when I was growing up. It took us to many a fishing hole. Great rig!

    Welcome and good luck with your build!
    Beau

    Living Overland - Gourmet Cooking * Travel * 4WD
    Toyota Cruisers and Trucks Magazine - Managing Editor - Outdoor Lifestyle
    The Hidden Wyoming Project - Chronicling Wyoming's Lands and Wildlife

    'Your gear doesn't make the trip but a passion for seeing the world makes the journey.' - Me!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    renton, WA
    Posts
    197
    nice, i love red/black combos. what 3rd brake light did you install? i was looking at the tailgate fire/ice blinker ones from recon
    88 V20 Suburban-350/th400-3:73 gears with zoodad mod+cut exhaust

    newer paint
    rebuilt drivers seat

    6" lift
    ORU U-Bolt Reversal Kit
    ORD Swaybar bushings and correction/Dissconnect
    ORD greaseable HD front Shackles
    BFgoodrich Mud terrain 35x12.5
    Allied Wheel Components Aluminum Modular 16.5's
    dual steering stabilizer
    cobra cb
    auxillary battery w/isolator
    metal black side window visors
    bully steps
    voyager trailer brakes
    Equus Tach
    LED marker lights

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Snohomish County, WA
    Posts
    190

    Default 3rd brake light

    Quote Originally Posted by coreys88burban View Post
    what 3rd brake light did you install? i was looking at the tailgate fire/ice blinker ones from recon
    I installed a factory 3rd brake light of a 92-99 suburban, the picture has too much snow on it to really see it but I will post some more soon.
    My Photography Website

    1989 Suburban Overland and Rescue Vehicle "Little Red"
    1993 Bluebird bus "Almanzo"
    DREAM ~ DISCOVER ~ SHARE ~ INSPIRE

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Lower Saxony , Germany
    Posts
    125
    Nice Truck !

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Snohomish County, WA
    Posts
    190

    Default update

    Alright here is a little update on my project

    I am planning on driving my suburban from WA to Alaska summer 2012
    So I am hoping to have all the work done by then.

    Just replaced the front brakes last week and I finally found a pair of bucket seats that match my suburban, I will be driving to Bellingham today to pick them up.
    My Photography Website

    1989 Suburban Overland and Rescue Vehicle "Little Red"
    1993 Bluebird bus "Almanzo"
    DREAM ~ DISCOVER ~ SHARE ~ INSPIRE

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Duluth, GA
    Posts
    206

    Default 3rd brake light

    Quote Originally Posted by Little Red View Post
    I installed a factory 3rd brake light of a 92-99 suburban, the picture has too much snow on it to really see it but I will post some more soon.
    Any update on this? I'm really interested in this mod as well.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    renton, WA
    Posts
    197
    i asked 4wheel parts to verify my info i found and they say, it is in fact a Safari snorkle made for any 80 SERIES Toyota (passanger side) 4wheelparts in tacoma will charge $409 for the parts, but you havve to install on your own.
    88 V20 Suburban-350/th400-3:73 gears with zoodad mod+cut exhaust

    newer paint
    rebuilt drivers seat

    6" lift
    ORU U-Bolt Reversal Kit
    ORD Swaybar bushings and correction/Dissconnect
    ORD greaseable HD front Shackles
    BFgoodrich Mud terrain 35x12.5
    Allied Wheel Components Aluminum Modular 16.5's
    dual steering stabilizer
    cobra cb
    auxillary battery w/isolator
    metal black side window visors
    bully steps
    voyager trailer brakes
    Equus Tach
    LED marker lights

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Snohomish County, WA
    Posts
    190

    Default 3rd brake light

    Quote Originally Posted by ratkin View Post
    Any update on this? I'm really interested in this mod as well.
    Sorry I have not posted an update on this yet, I lost my SD card out of my camera. I am going to buy a new one today and then I will post some pictures.
    My Photography Website

    1989 Suburban Overland and Rescue Vehicle "Little Red"
    1993 Bluebird bus "Almanzo"
    DREAM ~ DISCOVER ~ SHARE ~ INSPIRE

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    queens, ny
    Posts
    96
    Quote Originally Posted by Little Red View Post
    I bought this Suburban early January on Craigslist.
    It’s an 1989 half ton with a 350 engine (5.7L V8) 4 speed auto with overdrive and TBI
    I wanted to get a ¾ ton but got a good deal on this one, because it has a rebuilt engine and transmission both with less than 30k miles on them. Maybe doing an axle swap in the feature? Also I wanted a red one with grey interior.

    I have owned a 2000 Dodge Durango before that I modified as my overland vehicle but used it as a trade in to buy a Dodge challenger. I have been to Yellowstone with it and many other camping and road trips. However it was a little too small to sleep 2 people and haul all our gear (I am 6’7”).
    I always liked the older body style Suburbans (1973-1991) and have had an 86 ¾ ton suburban that I just sold. I used that one mainly for hauling fire wood and large materials.
    I chose the 89 to 91 model suburbans above any other year because it has TBI (the fuel injection gets me about 2 to 4 miles more than my 86), has overdrive and has the newer grille and some newer interior and these are the last years with solid axels.



    Here is a picture from when I bought it.



    This is after I did some modifications.

    I took the ski box off, took the running boards off (better clearance) and installed 2 Bully aluminum steps up front so my wife can get in. Took off the ugly spoiler and installed a LED 3rd brake light.



    This picture is from late January

    I bought black 17” rims and 33”Dean mud terrain tires (just in time before the snow), also got a 2nd battery for dual battery set up. (still have to get everything hooked up and decide what system to use)

    Future modification I plan on doing:

    -finish dual battery setup
    -winch bumper with brush guard
    -12000 pound winch
    -rear bumper with gas can mount and tire carrier
    -custom full size roof rack
    -4” suspension lift
    -Snorkel (like the Suburban in Dante's Peak)
    -Fog lights, spot lights and backup lights
    -emergency lights (as I am a volunteer fire fighter and will be using this as a rescue rig also)
    -upgrade the front bench seat to bucket seats
    -and who knows what else

    I will post pictures and keep you guys updated of the progress.
    It will be slow as I have limited money and time to work on it.

    There is lots of great info on this site and I am glad I found it, (I wish I knew all this when I build my Durango) thanks to everyone for sharing this…
    it all sounds good so far, but i would be more concered with upgrading to a 1 ton (not 3/4 ton) axle setup sooner than later.....all the weight you want to add will snap those 10 bolts at the worst possible time. all the goo-gaz are nice, but a bullet proof drivetrain would be my first choice if i was going where i couldn't expect help in short order.

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