A New Grille, Headlights, and Suspension Upgrades for our 1967-1972 Chevy pickup or Suburban

Bookmark this
25 April, 2019

 

Written by on March 18, 2019

Taylor Kempkes, Brian Brennan - Photographers;

It happens all the time with truck lovers. You search long and hard for that perfect truck and finally bring it home. Our own (leader of men, loosely stated) Brian Brennan had been longing for a big early ’70s Suburban for a sometime. Not just any Suburban, mind you, he wanted the big boy, the 3/4-ton C20, a truck (well today they would call it an SUV) that can do heavy hauling in style. After finding a real good example of the C20 he made the deal and brought the truck home. After sorting out a few typical issues, Brennan’s ’Burb proved to be a decent driver. It was a good “50-footer.”

And then it happened. As the “new” began to wear off it looked like the truck could use a fresh paintjob. Sure enough into the shop it went and came out looking, well, like new. Oh the joy of driving a freshly painted truck, brilliant new paint glistening in the sun.

And then it happened. While washing the truck one day Brennan couldn’t help but notice the trim and grille on the truck were no longer up to the standard of that glistening new paint. The anodized aluminum pieces had developed that milky look and the grille had been effectively sandblasted over the past 47 years. Yes, 47 may seem young for a face-lift (even by California standards) but the Suburban was going in for a bit of cosmetic surgery, compliments of LMC Truck parts. As it turns out LMC had everything we needed to freshen the front of our 1972 Chevy, including a nice new, bright blue Bowtie. And they had more than just the pretty stuff, new grille braces and all the proper hardware are also available from LMC. Brennan perused their online catalog and placed the order. Since the pieces are exact replacements the installation proved to be a fairly simple project.

Watch Hot In, Cool Out—Intercooler vs. Water/Methanol Injection for Turbos

And then it happened. While driving home from the office after dark (as usual) Brennan was having a difficult time seeing. Now aged eyes will do that to you, but so will aged, antiquated sealed-beam headlights. Upon arrival home it was time to find a brighter light for the Suburban. The search ended at the United Pacific website where frankly we were shocked at just how many lights and bezels are manufactured for different vintage vehicles. The term “something for everybody” comes to mind. After some “clicking” on different lights we settled on the United Pacific 31391 light with five high-power LED lights neatly packaged in a fluted lens, seal beam replacement body. These lights produce a brighter light and a light that is much closer to color temperature of daylight, a vast improvement over the old seal beams. While we were on the site we also ordered new front parking lights and front and rear side markers. Since United Pacific does not sell direct we noticed Summit Racing on their list of dealers and ordered the lighting. Armed with bright lights the truck was a pleasure to drive at night, a good combination of cosmetic improvement and safety. Once again, all of these parts are exact fit so installation was nothing but fun.

And then it happened. It seems on a recent long haul the Suburban had a less than acceptable ride quality, the overall stance just looked saggy and the truck just didn’t sit quite level. Now we weren’t looking to lift the truck into thin air, but we did want to bring it up to original ride height. The answer was simple, a new set of Eaton springs for all four corners did exactly that, brought our 1972 Suburban back to the original ride height and the truck was once again sitting level.

Of course new springs can’t cure the overall bad ride and handling alone. You see the spring absorbs the inputs of the road surface, but it is up to the shock absorbers to dampen the spring. The proper shock will let the spring absorb the energy of the wheels moving up and then slow the spring action so the truck rides and handles well by keeping the tires in contact with the road. The shocks can help prevent unwanted body roll, particularly if you have adjustable shocks. Of course your sway bar bushings must also be in good conditions. Being aware of all these things we headed straight to the QA1 website, ordered up adjustable shocks for all four corners, and our truck was riding like new. Granted the suspension upgrade was a bit more work, but once again the new Eaton springs and QA1 shocks were direct replacement pieces so it was still a straight parts swap, no fabrication required.

And then it happened, we were satisfied for now. Yes, just like most truck lovers we were finally pleased with our 1972 Chevrolet Suburban. It looks good, rides good, and we can even see where we’re going at night … what more could a guy ask for? Well, for now we are plenty happy with the truck, but of course being truck guys we are sure to find other things to improve soon. CT

From 50 feet the brightwork on the front of our 1972 C20 Suburban looked pretty good, or at least OK. But after painting the truck the brightwork was showing its age.
Move in for a closer look and you can see the aluminum grille surround had become milky with age. The surround and the grille had also been pitted from miles of driving.
The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” was Brennan’s battered blue Bowtie.
Removing the grille assembly is pretty straightforward. Unbolt it from the hood latch bracket, then the side brackets. Work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging painted surfaces.
The headlight bezels were removed to be replaced with new units from United Pacific.
The parking lights must be removed before the bumper can come off. A battery-operated drill makes this process quick and easy. Eye protection may be a good idea to protect against falling dirt.
With the parking lights removed the bumper bolts were removed and the bumper was lifted off and carefully set aside.
The headlights remain in place; just the grille and grille surround are removed at this time.
Our truck was recently painted so the radiator area and sheetmetal was clean and black. Most trucks would require some cleaning and a fresh coat of semigloss black on the area behind the grille.
We spent some time at the United Pacific website choosing the needed parts. Since United Pacific is a manufacturer only, they only sell through their dealer network. We simply wrote down the part numbers and ordered the pieces through Summit Racing.
The new United Pacific grille and surround is on top. The bright smooth finish will bring our Suburban to the next level. We consider installing the “pretty stuff” like this the “glory work” of any restoration.
There is some simple assembly required. By reading the instructions and taking your time this is well within the reach of any home mechanic.
We couldn’t resist a closeup of Brennan’s brilliant blue Bowtie. These trim pieces really to give the Suburban a “good-as-new” look.
The grille braces/mounts are pop-riveted to the new United Pacific grille surround. It sure must be nice to have a pneumatic rivet gun! Yes, you can also use the hand-operated rivet gun for this job.
With the grille mounted inside the aluminum grille surround and the brackets in place it was time to install the assembly in the Suburban. Christian Arriero, from our tech center, was extra careful here; if necessary tape painted areas for protection.
The hood latch bolts lined up perfectly, a testament to the accuracy of our replacement parts. At this point our face-lift was just about complete.
It’s one thing to look good, it’s an entirely different thing to actually see where you are going. To that end it was time to replace the stock sealed beam headlights. Here we leaned on our hot order supreme Bob Kleiner who installed and properly adjusted our lighting.
Removal is pretty straightforward. In 1972 a simple stainless retainer ring held the bulb in place. Just remove this ring and the light only that way you will not have to re-aim the headlights.
Once again, we located our replacement lights on the United Pacific website. We opted for modern LED lighting and we were thrilled to find it was a plug-and-play operation.
New electrical connectors are notoriously tight. Bob added a dab of white grease to make assembly go smooth and prevent moisture from corroding the connection.
With the simple electrical connection made, we installed the new light using the original retainer. Now is a good time to hit that retainer ring with a bit of metal polish.
The new United Pacific headlight bezel is the crowning touch. We really like the fluted lens on these lights. The lights look upgraded without being overly modern. The improvement in night vision was remarkable.
We couldn’t replace all that front trim without replacing the side markers. Once again, United Pacific to the rescue.
Side marker removal and replacement is about as simple as things can get. The new gaskets come with the lights and fresh rubber gaskets add a nice touch of detail to the truck.
We performed the same operation on the rear side marker lights. Funny, you don’t realize how worn some items are until you replace them, what a difference!
And here we have Brennan’s ’Burb all prettied up. While it looks good, the truck left a bit to be desired in the ride department. You may also notice the truck is listing slightly to the driver side. We will refrain from comments speculating the cause of that angle.
The solution to a level a sagging Suburban is new springs on all four corners. We ordered our springs from the spring experts at Eaton. These springs will restore our Suburban to factory ride height. We were surprised the truck had settled an inch or more over the past 47 years.
Use a high-quality spring compressor to remove the old springs and always use the utmost care as springs are under tension and can be very dangerous. Here we are installing the new Eaton spring on the rear of the Suburban.
To improve ride and handling we decided to upgrade to QA1 adjustable shock absorbers on all four corners. These adjustable shocks made a huge improvement on the ride and handling of the Suburban.
Because or Chevy Suburban utilized stock height Eaton springs we used direct-replacement QA1 shocks. A simple click of a knob adjusts the shocks, making it easy to adjust between daily driving and trailer towing.

And there you have it, a face-lift and sagging suspension cured in one weekend. The combination of proper ride height and fresh trim makes our Suburban look and ride better than new.

 

SOURCE: HOT ROD NETWORK 2019


Advertisement