Before cheap domestic flights were a thing, the best and, honestly, fun way for families to travel across the United States was the good-old three-row station wagon. Parents at the front cabin, kids at the back, jamming to their favorite classic tunes as they hop from one motel to the next, made a wholesome family vacation road trip.
They say, “history repeats itself.” Surely enough, millennials, perhaps hung up on their childhood adventures, are picking up on this trend with overland trucks. The Chevrolet Suburban, now the GMC Yukon, is one of the longest-running nameplates from General Motors and, as you’d expect – one of the most profitable.
GM began the production of the Suburban 89 years ago. It initially started as a station wagon (based on the Chevrolet pickup), but as decades passed, it turned in to a full-blown SUV. To remind you, the Suburban ran under GMC marque up until 1999. It was rebranded to GMC Yukon XL in 2000.
Chris of NoNonsenseKnowHow YouTube channel recently bought a 1973 Chevrolet Cheyenne Super Suburban Station wagon (sight unseen) in Las Vegas. The truck belonged to the owner’s late dad, who bought it in 1992 to help the family pull a camper – the 454 engine’s power was handy. It’s been sitting in a lot on the property unused since 1999.
Stock this ’73 Chevy Cheyenne Suburban came with a 454 cubic-inch V8 good for 240 hp (243 ps). It ran a 3-speed automatic transmission that routed all the power to the rear wheels. Chris of NoNonsenseKnowHow is a classic car enthusiast who likes to get his hands dirty reviving old cars.
If you’ve read some of our stories on his classic c ar revivals, he typically scavenges for abandoned relics, fixes them, and attempts to drive them home – no matter the distance (in the United States). He’s based in Pennsylvania, approximately 2,342 miles (3,769 kilometers) from Las Vegas (34-hour drive) where the 1973 Chevy Suburban is located.
First, he needed to get a fresh set of wheels and tires. The station wagon had been sitting for 23 years, and the elements had got the best of it. The next hurdle was getting the ’73 Suburban to start. Unfortunately, the crank seemed locked up from years of sitting idle.
The following line of action involved getting the torque converter cover off and manually budging one tooth at a time to loosen it. It finally paid off, but he later discovered the timing chain was broken. The 454 is an interference engine, meaning valves in the fully open position extend into the area where the piston may travel. Simply put, these engines may sustain damage (bent valves) when the timing chain/ belt snaps or synchronization is lost.
“Unfortunately, when that chain breaks, the valve stops, and if one stays open, the piston comes up, kisses it, and bends the valve. We could throw a chain in there. Even if we get it running and have a couple of dead holes with misfires,” Chris explained about the broken timing chain.
He finally got it running after replacing the timing chain but later realized the intake manifold was corroded and had a hole that would eventually sip water into the lifter valley. On the good side, the classic station wagon runs and drives even though the transmission is slipping. Still, there’s a ton of work required before embarking on the 34-hour journey back home.