Suburban Dreams – Dallas Marine’s 1954 GMC Suburban
Sport Utility Vehicles may be the most ubiquitous form of transportation on American roads these days, but they were still a bit of an unproven concept back in the mid-1950s when Dallas Marine’s 1954 GMC Suburban Carryall first came off the assembly line. Family vehicles back in those days were typically four-door sedans and occasionally station wagons; trucks were still truly bare-bones workhorses during that era. A Suburban like this was more likely to be owned by a construction company hauling workers and equipment to a jobsite, not a family toting kids to soccer practice and school.
This particular Suburban was still pretty bare bones when Dallas bought. In fact, it was basically just a well-used roller in need of a lot of love and attention. But that was fine, as the stock body and basic frame served as a blank canvass on which Dallas could create the ground-scraping, vintage-style custom cruiser he envisioned in his mind.
Dallas worked with Thom Ophof and the team at SaltWorks Manufacturing in Sarasota, Florida, for much of the build, with a goal of reliability and roadworthiness in mind. To that end, the frame was updated with a Mustang II-style independent front suspension with disc brakes and RideTech air springs, complemented by a four-link rear suspension with more RideTech springs out back. An AccuAir system was incorporated to control the ride height and will drop the long-roof body right to the ground over the Diamondback wide whitewall tires and classic Cadillac sombrero hubcaps.
Like the chassis, the drivetrain was kept basic and simple. Power comes from a small-block Chevy with an Edelbrock intake, carb, and dress-up parts. Hooker headers and dual exhaust add a little extra power and a proper exhaust note. The 700R4 transmission allows for easy freeway travel – Dallas says the Suburban is regularly driven at 80mph-plus on road trips around Florida and beyond.
Dallas spent a lot of time and energy tracking down cool vintage accessories for the Suburban, including the front bumper guards, foglamps, hooded headlight rings, and other small pieces. SaltWorks handled the metal work on the body before Chad Fisher at American Dreams Restoration took over and took care of final bodywork, prep, and the application of the earthy PPG beige finish. Dallas originally had a louvered hood on the truck, but recently swapped it out for a smooth original. He sometimes adds fender skirts to keep things interesting.
The inside of the big ’Burb was given a vintage vibe at Sunbrite Auto Works, with distressed red leather upholstery stitched in simple vertical pleats. The dash was treated to a combination of Autometer and Stewart Warner gauges, tasteful pinstriping, and a vintage under-dash A/C assembly, with a tall-stick Gennie shifter on the floor. An American Autowire system was used to connect all the electronics, including a complete stereo system with speakers creatively mounted in a vintage suitcase in the back seat.
Dallas says he has loved the process of sourcing parts, getting work done, and seeing his ideas come together on this slick 1954 GMC Suburban. The planning and collaboration with friends and quality shops has paid off with a truck that never fails to grab attention and is still reliable and comfortable enough to cruise to shows and gatherings. It’s the sort of ride that suburban dreams are made of.
Photos by John Jackson