Dino, this 1970 Chevrolet Suburban 4x4, has lots of history. Many, many folks have relied on Dino over the years, using him for all manner of geological and paleontological research both from the original owners, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and subsequently people from institutions all over the world. The years of use haven’t always been good for Dino. Some areas are getting worn pretty thin and it’s time to clean a few things up and check Dino’s health for the millennia to come.
One area that has seen its share of use is Dino’s interior. The seat cushions are collapsed, the springs broken, and the vinyl dried, abraded, and cracked. Rat city. Not to mention the windows rattle in their channels as you drive down the road, the weather stripping on the doors is cracked, rotten, and in some places missing. And with plenty of places for water to get inside the Suburban, we need to be concerned about rust.
Our plan for Dino has and will be to refresh the vehicle with an eye to using more modern parts when they can offer reliability, improvement, and longevity without changing the flavor of what Dino is, was, and will be. Dino’s interior rattles, clanks, and worn-out seats made longer drives tiring. Our hand was forced, slightly, when we had to access some areas underneath Dino’s factory vinyl flooring. Upon lifting, the flooring crumbled and tore in our hands, and underneath we found some evidence of rust. With the flooring falling apart an interior refresh just makes sense. The seats would have to come out, so it would make for a great time to refinish them. Then we could address any corrosion we found under the flooring, clean things up, and reassemble Dino. We knew that without much change, just refreshment of some worn-out parts, and a bit of work, Dino would easily be better than new.
As usual, our go-to place for factory-spec replacement parts that fit, function, and look just like the originals was LMC Truck. The company’s catalog is impressive. We bet we could pretty much build a new 1970 Suburban using mostly LMC parts. But for now we settled on some high-quality interior parts that vastly improved the feel and function of Dino without harshing the vintage vibe. Now Dino is a pleasure to hop in and drive, whether it’s merely a run to the store for milk or taking the family and dog to the lake.
Dino is a base-model truck and, as far as dinosaurs go, does not have lots of chrome or other bells and whistles. That’s just fine with us. One of our favorite base-model features is the factory vinyl floor covering. It’s like a carpet but much better because it doesn’t trap and hold dirt. And trust us when we say Dino has seen his share of dirt, sand, and muddy work boots! The only problem with the vinyl floor is it’s literally falling apart. Apparently the floor the factory installed only lasts about 45 or so years, and now that Dino has been around for 48 it’s falling apart.
With new Energy Suspension body mounts getting installed in Dino and the floor crumbling in our hands we reluctantly made the decision to tear Dino’s interior apart. The seats had to come out for the old floor to come out and for the new floor to go in. This would give us a chance to have the seats rebuilt and recovered. Having the floor out also allowed us to clean the many layers of dirt trapped under the flooring and check Dino’s flooring for the signs of dreaded rust. Luckily we did not find much rust, but we did find sedimentary layers of dirt and a few old coins. Sadly, we found no fossils.
This is probably the worst spot of rust in Dino’s floor. That’s amazing considering how much rust is in the exterior panels of this former East Coast truck. Also, we know exactly why this rust is here. Some of the spot welds between Dino’s roof and the driver-side A-pillar have popped, which allowed rainwater to enter the cab where it eventually trickled down to right next to the high-beam switch. If we were going for the 59-point concourse restoration we would have had to start cutting, but since we want to keep Dino running and preserve all the patina, we cleaned off all the loose rust with an aggressive wire wheel on a 4 1/2-inch angle grinder.
If ignorance is bliss we are fine with being fairly ignorant of really bad rust in our vehicles. Living in the Southwest allows us to avoid most cases of really bad rust, but we know it’s an issue for many around the country. Dino is a bit more rusty than we’d like, but we don’t own it because we wanted the perfect three-door Suburban; we own it because we have history. We’d heard of POR 15 but never used it. This seemed like the perfect opportunity. It’s very smelly, and apparently breathing in the fumes while it dries is bad for you. It also apparently bonds with and seals rust, helping to prevent growth. That sounds great to us. LMC Truck sells POR15 in both pint and quart sizes. This pint was more than enough to cover all the rusty spots on Dino’s floor.
We also used POR15 to slow or stop rust in other areas, like this rusty trail up the A-pillar to our aforementioned roof leak. We have plans to fix that issue and hopefully dam up the leak, but that will have to wait for a future article.
Dino is a bit of a rattletrap when cruising down the best kind of road, a dirt road. That’s because time has taken its toll on rubber door seals, weatherstripping, window felt, and window channels. As a result the windows rattle around in the doors, and the doors rattle around in Dino’s cab. We wanted to reduce these noisemakers as best we could, and the easiest way is with new parts from LMC Truck. We started by removing the weather seals from the door surrounds on Dino’s three front doors and two rear barn doors. The easiest way to do this is with a sharp knife to cut the adhesive. We then used a pneumatic die grinder with a 2-inch wire wheel to remove large chunks of weatherstripping and adhesive, being careful not to remove any of the original paint.
Installing the new weatherstrip from LMC brought back memories of gluing model cars together. Maybe that’s because of the fumes or because you have to use a big tube of weather seal glue to hold the weatherstrip in place. First we had to attack what little adhesive remained on the doorsill with adhesive remover from the parts store. We then used parts cleaner to remove oils from the doorsill and the new rubber seals from LMC. Also shown is the special weather seal adhesive in a tube and some clothespins. More on those in a second.
Having never installed glue on weatherstripping before, we watched a few videos online and decided it must be a fairly easy, albeit sticky, job. Along the way we picked up a few tips. First we installed the weatherstrip dry to make sure we understood how it was supposed to fit. Then with that under our belts we moved ahead. The best method seems to be to apply the adhesive to the metal doorsill a few feet at a time and allow it to dry for 5-10 minutes. Then you can put the weatherstripping in place. We started with the 90-degree corners at the top back of the door. The clothespins are used to hold everything in place (especially at the bends) while the adhesive continues to dry. Once in place you want to go around the length of the weatherstrip ensuring that the gap between it and the doorsill has been closed everywhere.
Working your way around the door eventually leads to the two ends of weatherstripping meeting up. We used a pair of crosscutting pliers to trim the excess. Also, you want the holes at the two ends to be able to breathe so when the door closes the bulb in the weatherstripping collapses (rather than holding air like a balloon) and lets the door fully close. Fresh weatherstripping does make the doors a bit harder to close until things get a little broken in.
Dino had some sort of sound-deadening material like tarpaper under the factory vinyl flooring, but we decided we would try this sticky Sound Control Mat from LMC. It comes in 21x29-inch sheets that are a few millimeters thick and are meant to be cut to fit. We used a box cutter with a fresh blade, and it was easy to install. We like tools, and would recommend ordering the roller that helps ensure that the mat is well stuck down to the floor.
Next we put down the fabric insulator that goes under the LMC polyvinyl floor mats where your feet go when you sit in the front or rear. We also carefully cut holes for the shifters. This is good practice for cutting the holes in the polyvinyl floor later.
LMC’s heavy-duty molded industrial polyvinyl (MIP) floor mat is molded to fit the contours of Dino’s floor but does require trimming for a factory fit at the door openings and under the dash. The mats are easy to clean and are resistant to water, dirt, mud, and most chemicals. We used a box cutter with a fresh blade again to trim the mats. Between these mats and the Sound Control ones, we are willing to bet Dino’s roar will be a bit quieter, if only inside the cab.
The floor mats are held in place with doorsill plates that attach to the floor with sheetmetal screws. These add a little glimmer to Dino’s interior and help keep our new floor covering in place. There is no sill plate for the nondoor behind the driver seat, but we took an extra rear doorsill plate and trimmed it down to fit on that side of the truck and secured it with screws. This should help keep dirt and other debris from finding its way under that side of the floor mat.
Dino came from the factory with lap belts, but we pretty quickly noticed these little plastic caps located right where you’d expect the shoulder portion of a three-point belt to be, both for the front seat and the rear seat. A little research told us what we’d hoped, namely, that three point belts are comically easy to install in one of these three-door Suburbans. LMC sells seatbelts for just this upgrade. We like adding safety and don’t like the idea of being force-fed a dash or steering wheel during an accident, so bring on the shoulder belts! We cleaned up the 7/16 -20 threads under each cap and installed the seatbelts.
Dino’s original front and rear bench seats were worn from years of use. The foam padding and springs in the seats were damaged. We generally like to do everything ourselves, but despite the fact that LMC sells the parts necessary to recover almost any factory seat, we paid a local upholstery shop to rebuild and recover Dino’s seats with both vinyl and fabric. Expect to pay $375-$500 per bench seat depending on what options you add (like fabric inserts) and how many repairs your seats need.
Most of the window felt, channels, and rubber on Dino’s four roll-down windows (yes, there are four, even though there are only three doors) was all rotten, dry, cracked, or missing. This means the window glass bangs and rattles around in the doors with every bump on a dirt road. Replacement parts are available for these windows from our friends at LMC. Along with the weather seals, the window felt, channel, and sweeps all help to quiet those rattles as well as keep the weather out. Replacement is fairly easy but does require that you remove the right part at the right time and then reassemble everything in order.
One of the last interior components inside Dino that always gave us pause was the rotten and broken old dash pad. Luckily for us, LMC also sells a color-correct dash pad replacement. That should really put the icing on the cake of cleaning up Dino’s interior.