Every type of old/classic car has the “bad year(s)” and “good year(s)” to get. With Toyota 4x4s, it’s 1985 for the solid axle and EFI. With Box Body 3/4 ton Suburbans, it’s 1991 for the combination of solid axle and 4L80E overdrive transmission. While Box Body ‘Burbs lie thick on the ground in rust-free California, examples of just one specific year are harder to find. Which means if one pops up with a cheap-and-dropping price tag, it’s hard to resist making a case to The Missus to burn the better part of a day driving two hours each way for a test drive.
I want to believe if I’d called and asked the right series of questions that maybe I’d have skipped the trip, but in reality I would’ve found a way to rationalize the trip no matter what. Anyway, hit the jump for what I thought I was getting versus what I got.
On paper, we’re talking about a ’91 Suburban with a 350, 4L80E, 6″ lift, 35″ tires and a full-float 14-bolt rear axle swapped in. The beefy roof rack is just the (nearly literal) icing on the cake. It had been listed at $2800 and then just dropped to $2450, leaving me it’d get snapped up any day now. Sure, the cosmetics were rough, it had at least one non-functional power window and the AC needed work, but those were the typical headaches I’d expect from a $2500 ‘Burb.
Research I’m too lazy to cite properly suggests we form both lasting and accurate opinions of others in the first few seconds of our exposure to them. Such was the case with this truck: it was clearly on the wrong side of the line dividing “rough driver” from “beater”. Most troubling were the multiple rust blossoms on the upper door openings, as they’re not easily cured without significant metal work.
Secondarily, it just drove like crap. The brakes managed a hat trick: mushy, pulling to one side and squealing badly. It had 35″ tires but mere 3.73:1 gearing, imparting a feeling of gutlessness. The lift came with giant blocks in the rear and no crossover steering up front. Follow the link for an explanation of why, but basically it had awful bump steer.
Back inside, I was prepared to deal with a “AC needs recharge” situation, but the entire AC control panel was nonfunctional. Blown fuse? Short that caused blown fuse? Who knows. Also, trying to strap in one of the kids’ car seats turned into a frustrating game of tensioner yo-yo to get enough belt out without it locking up.
I was prepared to deal with one or two of the preceding paragraphs of gripes for a low-$2s price tag, but I’m specifically trying to avoid that near-endless list of fixes and upgrades with this purchase. I don’t yet take this as an indictment against all Box Bodies due to their age, but it definitely leaves me leery of the sub-$3k price range. If I burned a day to learn what I don’t want, that’s probably just as valuable anyway.
Previously on Truck Hunt: