Guest Blog: Member of the Family

Writen with love by a true, honest-to-goodness car man by the name, MudRunner.
On a snowy winter day in 1995, I can remember trekking out to a dealer in Leavenworth, Kansas with my mother in some sort of courtesy car. I didn’t know where we were going, or why; I was just happy to be in a car. We arrived at a Chevy dealership. I was 4 years old at the time, so the whole thing was fascinating to me. All the pretty cars and trucks lined up in neat little rows, and the cars in the showroom… How did they get those in there? As my mom talked with the salesman, one vehicle in particular on the showroom floor caught my eye. It was a bright red Suburban. It was huge with its big wheels and tires and chrome bumpers that I could see my face in. I was enamored by it. Being a typical four year old boy I screamed with a huge grin, “Mommy, mommy, come look! It’s a big red truck!”

She peeked out of the office, and laughed, saying “Do you like it honey?”

She then disappeared back into the office. I went to look at the truck some more, but was interrupted by some man who got into it! He proceeded to start it, and drive it across the showroom to a set of open doors on the other side. I was heartbroken; he was taking my truck away! Just then, my mother came out of the office with a large envelope, and walked over to a desk in the showroom, where she talked to a lady about something. I didn’t know what was happening as the lady handed my mother two sets of keys with little black remotes and told her that ‘it’ would be waiting outside. Being a typical four-year-old, all I wanted was that big red truck that I liked so much.

“Mom, can we please get the red one? Please? It’s pretty…” etc. My mom simply said, “Zach, just be quiet. There are other people in here.”

She took my hand, and we walked me over to the door. She got some papers from a man outside, and began to walk towards the big red truck that I wanted so bad. And that’s where it began.
Mom’s special-ordered 1995 K1500 Suburban 4×4 was pretty cool to say the least. At the time, it was probably one of the coolest cars I’d ever been in. After all, I had my own air vent in the back seat. That’s just cool! I couldn’t reach it, but heck, it was still cool.Over the next 15 years, it would travel more than 250,000 miles, take 100 plus trips across the US, 9 cross-country military moves, and consume more than 15,625 gallons of gas. 90% of those miles I spent in the right rear seat, looking across at the instrument cluster. I would close my eyes, and listen to the sound of the engine working, pulling the three-ton beast along the freeway. It was like my own little heaven. Little did I know that at that time my bizarre sensory feelings were caused by my growing love of all things mechanical (and partly by ADD).

The Suburban has had a pretty eventful life, serving as a daily driver, pulling a 5,000lb camping trailer, serving with the USCG drug task force in Los Angeles, CA, and even appearing on the show “Walker, Texas Ranger”. No, Chuck Norris didn’t drive it; the truck was just in the background.

When my parents got divorced, my mom, sister and I lived out of it for about a week as we moved cross country again. It’s been with us through the good times, the bad times, and everywhere in between. To be honest, it’s probably the only thing in my life that has remained totally stable.I never really thought about driving it, it just happened one day. In a way, it was no different for me than just sitting in the back seat. I knew where and how everything worked, I knew what it felt like, and I knew what and what not to do. My mom just sat in the passenger seat and was silent, as I drove us to the store for the first time. It was bizarrely peaceful. The feeling of the engine through the cable throttle, the slow, but linear steering feel, and the way it glided over the pavement created a permanent impression in my mind of what a vehicle should feel like. I drove it almost every day after that. Running errands, practicing parallel parking, using every excuse I could to drive it. Fast forward to today: I was driving my mom, step-dad and sister home from Costco in Memphis, TN to our home in Selmer. It’s about a 70 mile trip. Leaving the Costco parking lot, the power steering pump grenaded, blowing ATF all over the exhaust manifold, and creating a smoke screen behind us. I wrestled the truck home, and into its parking spot. I felt sort of hurt the whole way, as if the truck were a part of me that was injured. For reasons I have trouble explaining, it was very emotionally disturbing. As I shut it down, and everyone got out and began to unload, I sat in the driver’s seat, head resting on the steering wheel, just… not feeling right. It was all wrong. We’ve been thinking for a while now about doing an engine rebuild, since there is a slight coolant leak somewhere. I don’t know where exactly, but it always shows up as a trace in our Blackstone Oil Analysis. So, the time has come to begin the project. Aside from religious synthetic fluid changes, tires, and brakes the truck has never been in the shop, not for anything. The power steering pump seemed to be some sort of sign that it was time to give it a bit of a restoration; a rejuvenated heart to make it stronger, healthier, and better than new. The project shall begin as soon as possible. The 350CID small block is coming out and getting rebuilt from the ground up to go another 250,214 amazing miles. The clear-coat on the roof may be failing, the carpet may be worn, and the leather seats may be torn, but this old, incredible truck will stay with us as long as I live. It has been with me almost as long as I can remember and I won’t let that change.

Since this was written, the engine has been stripped, and I’m rebuilding it with some mild modifications. The basics:
-Original crankshaft, cleaned and polished (yes, that is all it required… Mobil 1 5W-30 is a beautiful thing)
-Original Block bored .030 over
-Comp High-Energy cam kit
-Speed-Pro Pistons on stock rods
-King bearings
-Rebuilt heads
-Ported and polished throttle body
-Full 3″ headerback exhaust with super-quiet muffler
All in all, should be a great DD build, with a nice torque and MPG increase. It’s mom’s birthday present for this year, and I think she’ll enjoy it for many years to come.

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One Response to Guest Blog: Member of the Family

  1. The Vol Blogger says:

    Love reading this story! Great use of imagery in the writing made me feel like I was a 4yr old at that dealership. That model Suburbans were one of my all-time favorite vehicles and will probably always be. I've only driven one – once around the block, but it was still a memorable experience. I drive a trailblazer and hope to have the same mechanical luck with my truck as you've had with yours. I only wish I had a 350 under the hood. haha

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