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Old 11-06-2011, 05:44 PM   #1
DirtyLarry
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Polar Bear Suburban

Well, I ran across this rig on Craigslist Thursday night and I knew had to have it. I could barely sleep Thursday night in anticipation to call the guy first thing Friday morning. It is a 1989 V2500 Suburban, 5.7L, SM456 with rear barn doors and only 132,000 original miles. When I saw it had a manual transmission in the CL add my eyeballs about popped out of my head and the rear barn doors were a bonus (I donít care for the tailgate with the roll up window on Subs). You wonít believe what I paid either. $1500! Actually, $1496.35 as I found a few bucks in pocket change when I took the interior apart for deep cleaning.

As usual with a rig of this age and price it isnít without issue. It needs a clutch, the windshield is badly cracked, the steering column is wobbly as hell (typical loose tilt mechanism situation that these Saginaw columns are famous for), stereo is missing and it has a severe lean to the left due to a sagging LH front spring plus it was filthy dirty! None of this is a big problem as I have a good used Centerforce dual friction clutch that I took out by my K10 last year when I did the NV4500 swap. The lean isnít an issue either as I have a pair of left over 4Ē front leaf springs from the K10 as well. Probably do a ORD shackle flip on the rear. I bet I already spent 20 hours since Friday night cleaning this thing. It is turning out nice though! The biggest disappointment is the fact it has 3:42 gears no biggie as I will be swapping in a 14 bolt FF soon but wasnít planning on regearing the front. Looks like I need to find a pair of axles now. It has a couple small surface rust spots but they will come right off with a DA sander then touch it up with touch up paint. Nothing major.

When I do the clutch Iím planning to kill two birds with one stone. Just yank the engine to replace the clutch and give the engine a makeover (paint, tune up, new sensors, gaskets, water pump, etc). It probably will get an 8.1L and NV4500 someday as I still have a few laying around but for now I am going to run with this TBI 5.7L and deal with the priorities first (fix issues, lift it, address the rust spots).

Let the fun begin! My wife named it the Polar Bear.



The underhood light even works!




Ah, YES!! Manual trans Picture after a major cleaning. That is the shifter from the SM465 out of my K10. It is a NOS shifter with no slop and a new knob. Glad I saved thos Husky floor mats too!


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Old 11-06-2011, 06:02 PM   #2
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Congratulations, and welcome to the Burb club
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Old 11-06-2011, 06:09 PM   #3
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

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$1500!
You didn't buy it, you stole it! I know you spent hours cleaning it, but that looks amazing for the price, even counting the work you'll be doing. Nice find!!
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Old 11-06-2011, 06:48 PM   #4
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Here is the original CL add.
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Old 11-06-2011, 06:54 PM   #5
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

You got a killer deal for sure, and with your elbow grease and spare (free) parts to get it solid again it will be even more the investment score!
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Old 11-06-2011, 10:28 PM   #6
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Wow, you got a killer deal. I would love that truck. How many of those did they make in 89, like 2, loaded w/4 spd, 3/4 ton....jack pot. I though my 4 spd 91 K5 was rare...
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Old 11-06-2011, 11:00 PM   #7
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Having seen the Bear in person yesterday I can attest to the score that was made. It even sounds good with the flowmasters on it. He shot me the CL ad Thursday night and said I should go after it and ditch my K5. If I only had the spare cash!

It is quite a score that's for sure. This thing is going to be beastly by the time Larry's done with it.
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Old 11-06-2011, 11:44 PM   #8
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Wow awesome score or better yet steal. I can't believe you got it that cheap that's crazy. Even though it needs a few little things nothing major. Looks great keep us posted and keep up the good work.
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Old 11-07-2011, 09:18 AM   #9
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Looks great for a 22 year old. You did a great job cleaning that thing up.
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Old 11-07-2011, 09:44 AM   #10
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Nice! Only one problem...I was here first(sig)....
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Old 11-07-2011, 02:57 PM   #11
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

that thing is beautifull!!
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Old 11-08-2011, 01:56 PM   #12
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Nice!!
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Old 11-08-2011, 08:04 PM   #13
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Got the steering column all fixed up. Wow, it was really jacked up. All four of the tilt housing support bolts (the 4 Torx head bolts in the pictures below) were completely backed out causing the steering shaft ball bearings to fall out of the bearing cages in the upper tilt housing assembly. Then some idiot glued the multifunction switch lever in so I had to cut it off and replace the multifunction switch. Good thing I kept the steering column out of that G-Van I parted out a few years ago.

Itís all back together now! Next order of business is to get the windshield replaced and start taking apart the dash to clean everything and replace light bulbs in the cluster. Going to order up some more Superbrite LEDís like I installed in the K10 last year. Those work great!

I forgot to mention that while cleaning it I found a receipt from Big O Tires where the guy just bought $720 worth the tires for it 5,800 miles ago.





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Old 11-08-2011, 09:54 PM   #14
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

I would love to have a stick shift suburban but i hate daily driving them and my is a partial dd so i would never do it but that thing is awesome and those under hood lights are awesome i swapped one onto mine best thing i ever did ive used it so many times and i found a place that sells a similar one much closer than lmc's, looks to be the silverado and has power windows and locks? if so im even more jealous ill trade you for mine =-p
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Old 11-09-2011, 12:31 PM   #15
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Great find! That's a rare rig loaded up with the 4-speed. How's the A/C work?
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Old 11-09-2011, 12:38 PM   #16
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

$1500!!?!?! VERY nice score. I love my 'burb, just wish it was 4wd.
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Old 11-09-2011, 01:00 PM   #17
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

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Great find! That's a rare rig loaded up with the 4-speed. How's the A/C work?
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Dunno yet, itís been pretty chilly here. The compressor does cycle on and sounds quite and smooth when moving the control to A/C and defrost. The rear A/C blower motor is toast. It sounds horrible!
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Old 11-10-2011, 06:47 AM   #18
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Wow that's nice. 4spd and all! I was hoping to come across a good one like that when I found my Jimmy. Uh...is that a semi-floater? I guess it'll do for now.
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Old 11-10-2011, 11:20 AM   #19
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

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Uh...is that a semi-floater? I guess it'll do for now.
Yep....Exactly, it will do for now.

The Polar Bear will eventually get the same 14FF infusion as the last Suburban of this era that came through the Big Block Garage. Lift too.

This Sub was a bit rough on the outside but had a fresh marine turbo 6.5L when it left. This one lives in Detroit, MI now where it got fresh paint and other upgrades.




Junk 14 bolt 9.5Ē semi-floater ready to be returned to the salvage yard for core cost after it was pruned from the black Sub
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Old 11-13-2011, 10:20 PM   #20
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Got a few things done to the Polar Bear Saturday. Pruned the rattly nerf bars off, removed the rusty center caps, cleaned the wheels, painted the hubs, removed the aftermarket cruise control that didnít work, fixed several vacuum leaks on the engine, removed the EVAP canister and painted the grill and radiator support. Next order of business is to get the new windshield installed then get ready for the clutch replacement.

I drove it around town quite a bit this last week. WOW! The TBI 5.7L takes some getting used to after being accustom to driving a square body style truck a 425HP 8.1L on tap backed by a much smoother shifting NV4500. The 5.7L, especially with 3:42 gears, feels like 4 cylinder. I almost forgot what a gutless truck feels like.

Another old wh*re with new lipstick. I always liked the grills of 89-91 square body rigs


Looks much better without the nerf bars. Canít wait to get the 4Ē lift on it!


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Old 11-14-2011, 02:35 AM   #21
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Nice looking truck!! I haven't seen a M/T Suburban of this vintage for many years.

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The rear A/C blower motor is toast. It sounds horrible!
Check it out before you buy any parts as the blower impellers are a slip fit retained by this goofy spring/wrap apparatus that doesn't work so well after a few years. Drop the motor down slide the impellers off, clean the shaft, put a film/coating of RTV on the shaft, slide the impeller back on, center it in the housing and let it set. Reassemble it after it has cured and they will stay put for many years to come. The rear blower motor in my Suburban (same motor as yours) suffered this same fate in the donor vehicle and as such, it was not used. This kept the motor in "like new" condition and once the impellers were secured has been working fantastic ever since. Resist the urge to put steel impellers on the motor--they do not move anywhere near the amount of air the ones you have move.
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Old 11-14-2011, 01:19 PM   #22
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

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Nice looking truck!! I haven't seen a M/T Suburban of this vintage for many years.



Check it out before you buy any parts as the blower impellers are a slip fit retained by this goofy spring/wrap apparatus that doesn't work so well after a few years. Drop the motor down slide the impellers off, clean the shaft, put a film/coating of RTV on the shaft, slide the impeller back on, center it in the housing and let it set. Reassemble it after it has cured and they will stay put for many years to come. The rear blower motor in my Suburban (same motor as yours) suffered this same fate in the donor vehicle and as such, it was not used. This kept the motor in "like new" condition and once the impellers were secured has been working fantastic ever since. Resist the urge to put steel impellers on the motor--they do not move anywhere near the amount of air the ones you have move.

Great info Mosesburb. I havenít even taken the rear A/C cover off yet to investigate the issue, which I need to because something is rattling around like crazy in there. Very annoying! Thanks again!
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Old 11-17-2011, 10:51 PM   #23
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

Man that ting cleaned up AWESOME! Congrats on the cl find.
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Old 11-18-2011, 07:41 AM   #24
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

That 'Burb is like the big brother to the '90 Blazer 350/4spd I had for nearly 20 years. I still want another. I really liked having one of each. Too bad you're so far away. I have the 4" Tuff Country springs from my '91 'Burb laying in the shop. Still have the paper stickers on them. You may want to go another route for lift anyway.
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Old 12-28-2011, 09:51 PM   #25
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Re: Polar Bear Suburban

I have the week off from work and the wife is out of town visiting her parents so Iíve been busy playing with shop projects.

Today it was the Suburbanís turn for attention. It has needed a clutch from the day I brought it home and I decided to pull the engine instead of pulling the tcase and trans as I wanted to give the engine a good cleaning, reseal, clean up wiring, etc. Also installing an ORD steering box brace while the engine is out as it is so much easier to install with the engine out of the way.



How cute that little 5.7L is! I got so used to playing with big blocks these small blocks are like Mini Me's. A whole lot easier to man handle around by yourself too!


The engine and engine bay all steam cleaned up by late afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised to find how clean the inside of the engine was once I popped the intake off. Since the engine was coming out I figured Iíd might as well throw on fresh intake gaskets. Glad I did, as I found an external coolant leak by cyl #8


I should have the flywheel back from the machine shop tomorrow and can start going back together once the paint dries.
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