1981 Chevrolet Suburban Custom Deluxe Is Junkyard Treasure

The Junkyard Treasures series tends to showcase more cars than trucks, but since trucks and truck-shaped cars now rule the American road, I decided to seek out an old Suburban. No, not a Plymouth Suburban but the genuine GM article, from the generation of these trucks built for most of the 1970s and all of the 1980s. Here’s an ’81 Chevrolet C20 Suburban that put in who-kn0ws-how-many miles in the service of the Wyoming State Highway Department prior to ending its career in a self-service yard in northeastern Colorado.

The Wyoming State Highway Department (now the Wyoming Department of Transportation) used a version of the general 10 codes for radio communication, and this cheat-sheet was attached to the passenger-side sun visor. Animal carcass in the road in Washakie County? You know what to do.

The base engine in the 1981 Suburban was a 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) small-block V8 rated at 160 horsepower, which wasn’t much for a truck that scaled in at way over two tons. For those Suburban buyers who wanted low-single-digit fuel economy, a 454-cube V8 with 210 horses was optional equipment.

Wyoming is the kind of state where government employees had better be capable of driving a manual transmission— well, such was the case in 1981, at any rate— and so this Suburban has the four-speed manual with granny-gear low. So we’ve got a rear-wheel-drive steel box with manual gearbox and no air conditioning, and I’ll bet it covered at least a half-million miles of Wyoming’s mostly-empty roads during its life.

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