In 1983, Chevrolet was 10 years into its third generation of its C/K series of trucks. The Suburban was a unique vehicle at this time, and it was the only choice for a full-sized wagon on a truck platform over a 25-year period. The International Travelall ceased production after 1975, and the Ford Excursion wasn’t introduced until 2000. The Excursion was discontinued after 2005, and since then the Suburban has remained the only full-sized truck-based wagon.
Chevrolet’s third-generation trucks used a full perimeter frame with the body mounted separately to rubber-isolated perches. The two-wheel-drive C10 and C20 Suburban used a coil-spring independent front suspension, and the K10 and K20 four-wheel-drive models had leaf-spring front and rear suspensions. The Suburban had a 129.5-inch wheelbase. Ground clearance for the C10 and K10 was 7.2 inches, while the C20 and K20 had 7.8 inches of ground clearance. The C10 and K10 used one-inch shock absorbers, with 1 1/4-inch shock absorbers specified for the C20 and K20 Suburbans. A quad-shock front axle option was available for four-wheel-drive models.
The base engine for the C10 two-wheel-drive 1983 Suburban was the 305 cubic-inch V8, producing 160 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 235 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 rpm. The base engine for four-wheel-drive trucks, the C20 and California trucks was a 350 cubic-inch V8 with 165 horsepower at 3,800 rpm and 275 foot-pounds of torque at 1,600 rpm. For California C20 and K20 trucks the output was slightly lower, 155 horsepower at 4,000 rpm and 240 foot-pounds of torque at 2,800 rpm. The top engine for the C10 Suburban was the 6.2-liter diesel V8, producing 130 horsepower at 3,800 rpm and 240 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 rpm. C20 and K20 Suburban buyers could upgrade to the 454 cubic-inch V8, with 230 horsepower at 3,800 rpm and torque rating of 360 foot-pounds at 2,800 rpm. The 6.2-liter diesel V8 was also available at the same power levels for C20 and K20 Suburbans in all 50 states.
The base transmission for the C10 Suburban was a four-speed automatic transmission with overdrive. The C20 offered a four-speed manual transmission, which was also the base transmission for both the K10 and K20 four-wheel-drive trucks, and the four-speed automatic was an option except for trucks with the 454 V8. A three-speed automatic was optional for all models and required for the 454. The New Process two-speed transfer case offered on-the-fly shifting from two-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive at speeds up to 25 mph. The front axle featured automatic locking freewheel hubs that engaged and disengaged automatically when switching to and from four-wheel-drive.
Curb weight for the Suburban was 4,320 pounds for the C10 and 4,706 pounds for the C20. The K10 curb weight was 4,719 pounds and the K20 curb weight was 4,991 pounds. Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), consisting of curb weight plus payload weight, was 6,100 pounds, 6,800 pounds or 7,000 pounds for the C10 Suburban. The 6,800- and 7,000-pound ratings required a front stabilizer bar. For the K10 model, GVWR was 6,100 pounds, 7,000 pounds or 7,300 pounds. The highest GVWR on the C10 and K10 required the diesel engine. The GVWR for the C20 and K20 was 8,600 pounds.
A Trailering Special package was available with weight-distributing trailer hitch, heavy-duty shock absorbers, extra cooling and special badging. Gross combined weight rating (GCWR), which combines loaded vehicle and loaded trailer weights, was 10,500 pounds for the 305 in the C10 and K10. The Trailering Special package raised the GCWR to 11,500 pounds for these models. With the 350 in the C20, GCWR was 12,500 pounds and the K20 was rated at 12,000 pounds. The Trailering Special package raised the GCWR for these trucks to 14,000 pounds. With the 454 engine, the C20 Suburban was available with GCWR ratings of 12,000 pounds, 14,000 pounds and 15,500 pounds. Diesel engine GCWR ratings were 10,000 pounds for the C10 and K10, which rose to 11,000 pounds with the towing package. The C20 and K20 diesel-equipped trucks had a GCWR of 12,000 pounds, and the Trailering Special option raised that rating to 13,500 pounds for the C20 only. The fuel tank held 25 gallons, and optional fuel tanks were available in 31-, 32-, 40- and 41-gallon sizes. Power steering and power front disk brakes with rear drum brakes were standard.
Body and Interior
The 1983 Suburban was 219.1 inches long and 79.6 inches wide. Overall height for the C10 was 72 inches, the C20 was 72.7 inches tall, the K10 was 73.8 inches tall and the K20 stood at 76.1 inches. Standard seating was a single front bench seat, with either one or two rows of bench seating available in the rear. Rear doors were standard “panel” doors that swung outward, or a swing-down tailgate with a retractable window. A power window option was available for the tailgate. Options included premium sound, CB radio, luggage rack, cruise control, ComforTilt steering wheel, air conditioning and styled Rally wheels or white eight-spoke steel wheels.
Trim packages came in three levels. The Custom Deluxe was the standard trim level, featuring embossed vinyl upholstery in two colors and dual outside mirrors. The Scottsdale trim added an insulated full-length headliner, velour upholstery and chrome bumpers. The Silverado package added more color choices, brushed metal dash trim and a front appearance package with a different grille and dual headlights. With three-row seating, the Suburban seated nine passengers with 35.8 cubic feet of cargo space. With the third seat removed and the second seat folded down, cargo capacity was 144 cubic feet.
No figures are available for EPA mileage ratings on the 1983 Chevrolet Suburban. The NHTSA did not perform crash testing on the Suburban in 1983. The manufacturer's suggested retail price for the 1983 C10 Suburban with diesel engine and air conditioning was $9,951, and for the K20 with the 454 the MSRP was $10,187. The National Auto Dealers Association NADA value guide estimates the late 2013 value of the 1983 Chevrolet Suburban C10 with diesel engine and air conditioning in good condition at a low retail value of $1,827, an average retail value of $4,250 and a high retail value of $6,268. The 1983 K20 with 454 and air conditioning is estimated at a low retail value of $2,586, average retail value of $5,753 and a high retail value of $8,423.