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1987 Chevy Suburban - Big Bad Burban'

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on September 1, 2006
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There's something about a Suburban's body that lends itself to massive tires. The sheer girth and length of the body make it just about the biggest passenger vehicle on the road today, and it just looksso right with big knobby tires. But we didn't realize how sweet one could look on 53-inch Michelin tires. Andrew Fairfax realized its potential though, and proceeded to turn an '87 'Burb into a mud monster for a truly bigger-than-life off-road mud toy. When we caught up with him at the Moyie Mud Bog near Bonner's Ferry, Idaho, Andrew was showing all the smaller trucks at the bog that you don't need so much motor if you can just walk over everything in the pit.

Andrew used a combination of suspension ideas to hold the front of his small-block powered Suburban high above the tires. The 8-inch drop hangers were built to hold 12-inch-tall leaf springs. By dropping the hangers and using less arch on the leaves, Andrew was able to keep that front end still flexing pretty well, especially with that Rockwell and all its weight pulling on the springs. Andrew also employed some coil overload shocks to control the bounce of the giant 'Burban. The 2 1/2-ton Rockwell axle was left largely unchanged, with the original 6.72 gears, open differentials, and drum brakes. All that unsprung weight combined with 53-inch Michelins on 20-inch wheels can become quite a handful. Steering this big 'Burb back and forth is a Novex full hydraulic steering setup like those used on monster trucks today. It provides more than enough grunt to push those big Michelins left and right.

In the rear, the matching 2 1/2-ton Rockwell is set up to complement the front; 6.72 gears, drum brakes, and open differentials were again the standard. Andrew is thinking about adding some traction enhancement to the diffs, but for now he is able to climb over the mud without spinning too much rubber, so he's relying upon the flotation of the Michelins. To hold the Rockwell in place, Andrew built a four-link slung from over halfway down the frame. The 12-inch leaves attached to 8-inch dropped spring hangers added 20 inches of lift to suspend the rear and to match the front, and doesn't really inhibit suspension movement from what we witnessed.

Basically this is a big fun toy for Andrew. There's no license plates on it, so you won't be seeing it on the highways of Idaho, and we're not sure he could make it more than a few miles without some red-and-blues lighting up behind him anyways. He's got himself a giant mud thumper sitting on 53-inch Michelins mounted on 20-inch USA 6x6 wheels, and that's how he uses it. For now Andrew has deemed the stock 350ci engine, TH400 tranny, and NP205 case OK since he can drive over almost anything that would take smaller trucks two lockers and lots of motor to accomplish. But we think Andrew might be having a yearning for a little more grunt, and the next time we run into him there could be some big rat motor under the hood.

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