Chevrolet Suburban Is The Oldest Serving Car Nameplate In Auto History

Chevy Suburban nameplate history We live in an era where car makers freshen up their cars and rename them more often than before. Very few cars stick to their nameplates across generations, mostly luxury brands. Budget brands hardly do that, partly because they prefer to project their cars as ‘totally’ new and latest by every face-lifts. Some of the iconic car model nameplates that are around for a while like Porsche 911, Chevrolet Corvette, or Ford Mustang are always interesting. It’s a great way to get sense of how a car evolves over generations, and carry forward its legacy from past.

When we think about what car model has been around longer than any other in the automotive world, it is the Chevrolet Suburban SUV that is still in production without taking any breaks for 80 years since 1935. That’s longer than any other nameplate in automotive history. The Suburban is even claimed as “world’s first crossover”! Even today, the Suburban stands distinct in the market and sets standards for large SUVs.

Do you remember this macho SUV at this year’s republic day parade at Rajpath, New Delhi, alongside President Obama’s ‘The Beast’ Limo in his motorcade?? You should have at least noticed this car in a bunch of Hollywood movies you watched recently. The Suburban is quintessentially an ‘American’ SUV, partly because it is sold primarily in United States and Canada, but also because it symbolizes the ‘neo-imperialist’ power of the country in a narrow sense. It often gets one’s imagination of being a ‘sarkar gaadi’ (Government’s vehicle) of USA for some reasons! (if it isn’t so to you, then ignore the idea please!). I often put out Tata Safari and Chevy Suburban side-by-side for this reason, the two SUVs will surely be present in almost every motorcades for heads of their respective state.

GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Suburban

The GMC Yukon XL and Chevrolet Suburban LTZ are identical twins.

General Motors came up with 2015 Chevrolet Suburban last year and the new car was well taken among the fans of the franchise. The SUV is in its Twelfth generation now, and is also re-badged as GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade ESV. GM, despite its consistent debacle in the last few years, finds Suburban to be a hot cake with spending an average of only ten days on dealer lots before being sold. It adds that 65% of those fast-selling Suburbans are in top-range, ridiculously expensive LTZ trim! For most of its recent history, the Suburban departs from its trickly origins with each generations and is becoming more and more expensive. But that’s not how the SUV started its journey three quarters of a century back.

The name ‘Suburban’ is self-explaining. In the beginning of the twentieth century, there were vehicles built to carry passengers and then there other bare types built to carry cargo. During 1930s, the Great Depression ripped-off the purchasing power of people. Now they have to rethink priorities and having one vehicle for work and one for pleasure isn’t possible anymore for most American families.

At that time, many auto firms in the US like DeSoto, DodgePlymouth, Studebaker, and GMC used the “suburban” designation for windowed, station wagon type body vehicles. Chevrolet started producing its version in 1935. Named as ‘Suburban Carryall’, the UV was unique because it was based on a heavy duty truck chassis, unlike its rivals, which were car-based. The all steel body car could seat eight, with easily removable seats offering a large 75-inch-long by 77-inch-high cargo bay. It increasingly found favor with professional customers in the first decade, including the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II.

Chevrolet Suburban all-generation models

All generations of Chevy Suburban!

Of course, back then, Chevy’s hauler was not called an ‘SUV’, as the segment didn’t even exist until the 1980s. Only in 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of pick-up trucks, SUVs in particular, gained momentum. The Suburban very soon absorbed the trend and became on par with luxury cars of the day in terms of accouterments. It became uncommon for a American family of four to use a Suburban for everyday driving. It soon became a symbol of American car culture. GM celebrated the 75th anniversary milestone of the Suburban in 2010 with an ‘Anniversary Diamond Edition’ limited to 2,570 specially-badged White Diamond Suburban LTZ’s.

Also Read: Land Rover Defender: An Automotive Epic | Nostalgia

When it comes to experience of cars and its relationship to modernity, many scholars argue that cars are also an important cause of the growth of suburbia and countryside. It is likely to be true in the ‘New England’, which is a land of expanding business opportunities (at least until half a century back) and a ‘car nation’ in general sense. The Suburban’s history if quite matching to such a perspective. The SUV, at present, is the most efficient, powerful, and expensive ever. It carry forwards its historical legacy in a whole new era.

Photo Credit: Motortrend,

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran

Editorial consultant (Automotive and Technology), academic, and blogger based in India. He can be reached at

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