Early Suburbans started with the Rockwell T221 transfer case with 1.86:1 low-range gearing, then made the switch to the NP205 transfer case (1.96:1) in about 1969, which got the boot in 1981 for the NP208 (2.62:1). The full-time gear-driven NP203 (2.01:1) was also used in the Suburban. The late-model Suburban has seen the chain-drive NP241 and NP243 (both 2.72:1) as well as the NV246 (2.72:1), which allowed five different drive modes including 4-Hi Lock. Automatic locking hubs arrived in 1981.
The four-speed 4L60-E transmission.
Early Suburbans got a floor-mounted three-speed manual synchromesh, and by 1941, the shifter moved to the steering column. But 1946, it was back to the floor, and by 1948 the locale was the column again. The Hydra-Matic four-speed joined the SM 330 three- and SM 420 four-speed manuals in 1954. For the '60s, there were the Powerglide and the three-speed synchromesh, while a heavy-duty three-speed and SM 465 four-speed were also available; the late 1960s included the Powerglide and the hi-po Turbo Hydra-Matic automatics. In 1993, the Hydra-Matic electronic 4L60-E four-speed auto was introduced, and over the following years, trannies included that model as well as the Hydra-Matic 4L80E and 4L85E. The all-new '07 Sub retained the 4L60E and 4L80E and added the 4L70E four-speed. And in 2008 the 4L80E was dropped for the Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic. By 2009, the six-speeds were the last man standing: 6L80 and 6L90.
The Suburban saw active military duty from 1943-1945, and was used as transport on U.S. naval and army bases as well as in government motor pools. Among its features were special military bumpers and the absence of chrome and trim.
The 216ci inline-six.
If we broke down the annual horsepower and torque increases and decreases, your head would spin, explode, and explode again. So we'll give you enough of an engine overview here to fake your way through a Sub-off with a Sub-geek.
The Suburban came out of the womb with a 206.8ci "Stovebolt" inline-six worth about 69 horses. In 1937, horsepower climbed again, thanks to the 216ci inline-six worth 78 hp and 170 lb-ft of twist. The "Thriftmaster" then had an increase to 235 cubes and saw a bump to 112 horses and 200 lb-ft of torque in 1954. By 1962, the final year for that engine, it was up to 135 horses and 217 lb-ft of torque. The 230 "High Torque" inline-six was introduced in 1963, which made 140 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque. If you're old enough, you might recall meeting the 250ci Six in 1966; it was worth 155 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque. In 1975, the small-block 350ci V-8 was introduced, and it made 160 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque. The 250ci six-cylinder in 1976 was worth 100 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque. In 1980, the base engine was the 350 V-8, cranking out 170 horses and 270 lb-ft of torque. In 1987, the 5.0L 305 EFI V-8 made 170 ponies and 255 lb-ft of torque, and the following year the 5.7L 350ci V-8 put out 210 hp and 300 lb-ft of torque. The Vortec engines debuted in 1996; the 5700 V8 made 255 horses and 330 lb-ft of torque. A new base engine arrived in 2000, the Vortec 5300, which made 285 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Following performance increases over the next couple of years, the 5.3L is now ranked at 310 hp and 335 lb-ft of torque.