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Last of the Chevy Highboys: 1960-66 Suburban Carryall

Posted in Features on March 19, 2016
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The year was 1960, and Chevy went mainstream with four-wheel drive. The comp had been offering 4x4s since 1957 but the four-wheel drive hardware was sourced from NAPCO (Northwestern Auto Parts Company) in kit form. For 1960, GM sourced the parts on its own and eliminated the middleman. At the same time, it got rid of the brooding curves of the ’50s trucks and debuted an angular look more appropriate for the hip ’60s. Along with the new look were options and features that moved the Chevy truck and utility lines closer into step with a growing mainstream market. As part of the expansion, the now-familiar "C" (for 4x2) and "K" (for 4x4) designations were instituted.

Unlike later years, the 1960-1966 Suburban Carryalls were offered only in the K10 series 1/2-ton range and on a 115-inch wheelbase. There were three GVW options: 4,900, 5,300 and 5,600 pounds. You could buy the Carryall in the same basic go-to-work styles as previous, or you could add some upscale features to make it more daily driver-friendly. Among the first was the Custom Carryall option (better seats mainly) and the Cool-Pak, dealer installed air conditioner. Later the Custom Appearance Package was added, as was a Custom Comfort option. Three-row seating for seven was standard for 1961, and buyers had the choice of side-swinging panel doors (model K1406) or upper and lower tailgates (model K1416).

This 1961 Suburban Carryall, Model K1416, is decked out and shows the hood "eyebrows" used on the 1960 and 1961 trucks. This one has the Appearance Option, along with the two-tone option in Woodsmoke Blue over Cameo White (two-tone option number 743). The lack of a "V" emblem behind the bowtie on the hood indicates this is a six-cylinder truck. We can see it's a six-seater (two-row seating). It's also wearing the passenger-style standard four-ply 7.10-15 tires. Among the more off-road–oriented tires available were the 6.50-16 U.S. Royal Fleetmaster; 6.70-15 or 6.50-16 BFG All-Purpose Traction; 6.70-15 or 6.50-16 General Super All-Grip; or Firestone 6.70-15, 6.50-16 or 7.00-15 Super All-Traction.

Up to 1960, Chevrolet had denied 4x4 buyers the V-8 option. With the intro of the 1960 models, a 160hp (gross) 283ci Trademaster V-8 was a popular $118 option compared to the standard 235ci, 135hp Thiftmaster six. Only one transmission was offered for 1960, the Saginaw SM420 four-speed, and that wasn't a bad thing. The transfer case was the Timken T-221 (a.k.a. Rockwell T-221), and it was in a divorced position. The rear axle remained the same H-O33 semi-float dropout for the 1/2-tons as previous. Up front, a closed-knuckle Dana 44 was used in place of the NAPCO axle used previously.

The first major cosmetic changes came for 1962 when the twin "eyebrows" were replaced by a more sharklike front wrap. By this time, a three-on-the-tree was standard with the four-speed SM420 optional. A new engine was added to the line: a "big" 261ci six. It was essentially a 235 with a 3/16-inch overbore and a hotter cam but with 150 hp and 235 lb-ft of torque. The 283ci V-8 was still there, but "High Torque" replaced the ’50s legacy "Trademaster" name for the V-8 and also "Thriftmaster" for the six. A Custom Appearance option was available that added chrome bumpers, bright grille, chrome exterior mouldings and trim, chrome trim on the inside along with some white accent panels. The Custom Comfort options were still there too and again were mostly padding and seat upholstery. Standard seating reverted from seven-passenger to six, and the third seat became optional.

From 1962 through 1966, the Chevy truck wore the sharknose front end. The grille changed a little year to year but essentially the truck looked the same. This very nicely restored 1966 K1406 represents the last of the breed in this body style. Because there are no emblems to indicate the engine after 1961, you can't tell immediately if it's a six or a V-8. It has the Custom Chrome option (bumper, grille) but not the Custom Appearance Option, which had more chrome around the windows and elsewhere. The chrome hubcaps are a mystery to us, as they are not listed in the data books for 4x4s.

The big deal for 1963 was the introduction of new six-cylinder engines, which was a year after they debuted in cars. GM engineers completely redesigned the Chevy sixes, and the new engine bore only a faint resemblance to the old, with very little parts carryover. The block was stronger, but lighter, and had a seven-main crankshaft. The head was extensively redone and modernized. The engines changed displacement, the smaller going to 230ci "short deck" having an oversquare 3.87x3.25 bore and stroke. Power jumped to 140 hp gross and torque to 220 lb-ft. The big "tall deck" six went to 292 ci using the same bore as the 230 but with a 4.12-inch stroke. Power was 165 hp, and torque 280 lb-ft. The 283 jumped up too, going to 175 hp and 275 lb-ft (up from 270) as a result of a few minor tweaks.

Other than cosmetics, such as the obligatory grill changes and slight features upgrades, not much changed after 1963. By then the next-generation Chevies were on the drawing boards, and they would be a big upgrade. The 1960-1966 Chevy trucks had long been the red-headed stepchildren of the classic Chevy truck world, lost between the sleek 1967-1972 models and the deliciously retro 1955-1959 Task Force trucks. Now, unlike Rodney Dangerfield, they are getting some respect.

The Details: 1961 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall
235ci six, Chevrolet Thriftmaster (std.)
283ci V-8, Chevrolet Trademaster (opt.)
Power (hp):
135 @ 4,000
160 @ 4,200
Torque (lb-ft):
217 @ 2,000
270 @ 2,000
Bore & stroke (in):
3.56 x 3.937
3.87 x 3.00
Comp. ratio
3-spd SM318, column shift (std.)
4-spd SM420
Transfer case: 2-spd, Timken T-221
Front axle: Dana 44, closed knuckle
Rear axle: Saginaw H-033
Axle ratio: 3.90:1
7.10-15 4-ply (std 4,900, 5,300 lbs GVW)
7.00-17.5 6-Ply (std 5,600 lbs GVW)
Wheelbase (in): 115
GVW (lbs): 4,900 (5,300 std. and 5,600 opt.)
Curb weight (lbs): 4,690 (6-cyl.)
Fuel capacity (gal): 17
Min. grd. clearance (in): 8
Approach angle (deg): 35
Departure angle (deg): 23

The K1406 Suburban Carryalls had the panel-type side swinging doors instead of upper and lower tailgates. We don't have the 1966 prices, but there was there was a $30 difference between the two models in 1963. You can see by the dual exhaust, which is custom and not factory, that it's a V-8 model. You can see this rig also has the truck 12-bolt Salisbury axle, which appeared in 1964.

Though technically not a "Suburban," the panels had largely the same body, less the windows. The standard Panel came only rear doors and the standard unit had a single bucket seat for the driver the passenger bucket was optional. Pretty much all the other functional and cosmetic upgrades were available for the Panel as the Carryall, including the high-end options. Panels with four-wheel drive are extremely rare. There were only 103 K1405 4x4 Panels like this sold in 1965. Now you know why we didn't have a color image of one.

This shows the typical 1/2-ton layout for the 1960-1966 trucks, this one having a six-cylinder engine, an SM420 backing up the engine, and the divorced Timken T-221 transfer case. The rear axle into 1964 was the venerable H-033 semi float, a Saginaw dropout that had roots back into the ’40s. It had a big 9.375-inch ring gear with 17-spline, 1.28-inch major diameter axles. In 1965 and 1966 you began to see the truck version of the 12-bolt. At that time the standard axle ratio changed from 3.90 to 3.73:1. The front axle was the closed-knuckle Dana 44.

The old 235 "Stovebolt" was pretty long in the tooth by 1962. It was a four-bolt-main engine that had direct roots to the original Chevy six of the ’20s. In the truck lines this year, there was a common truck High Torque 235 with a downdraft cab that made 135 hp. There was also an economy six with a smaller carburetor that made only 110 hp and was used in certain fleet appliations. Even stranger was a 235 with an updraft carb found in P20 and P30 Step-Vans. It made the same power as the standard 235.

The 1962 High Torque 283 was a well proven engine that made 160 hp (137 net) and 270 lb-ft torque (250 net) with a two-barrel Rochester carb and single exhaust. There was a 327ci truck engine at this point, but it was used for larger trucks and had a lot of HD features, plus a governor.

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