Low-mileage 1952 Suburban ambulance is begging to be resuscitated

1952 GMC Suburban side

Thanks to Barnfinds.com, we’ve been dreaming about the various ways this 1952 GMC Suburban could be brought back to life after its spent 50 years stashed away in a barn. For sale on eBay in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, the former military ambulance has a Buy-it-Now price of $15,500 and has garnered a few bids thus far.

Photos of the Suburban’s body show there’s lots of rust on the floorboards that would require serious fabrication or, at the least, some welding skill. A quick check on parts availability shows that firewall, front floorboards, and kick panels won’t be hard to come by, and there appear to be several sources of other sheet metal stampings, but there are sure to be some panels that are specific to Suburban that would be hard to find. Thankfully, plenty of the ’Burb’s body appears to be solid.

1952 GMC Suburban floor

Unfortunately, there’s not much information on the drivetrain, other than it’s not currently running, but it may have just 8000 total miles. If that’s the case, this could be a great project to get freshened up and running without requiring a major teardown. This big wagon could be back under its own power after some new hoses and gaskets, a tune-up, and a carb rebuild, provided the 50 years of sitting hasn’t taken too much of a toll.

Hagerty doesn’t currently have a valuation listing for a 1952 GMC Suburban; the closest we could find was a 1952 Chevrolet Suburban half-ton. While Chevy and GMC have differentiated their pickup and SUV models more and more in the last few generations, back in the ’50s, Chevy and GMC models looked nearly identical on the outside. Where they differed was under the hood, where this GMC should have used a 228-cubic-inch, 100-hp, inline six as opposed to Chevrolet’s 92-hp Thriftmaster 216, which was a different engine family entirely.

1952 GMC Suburban interior

Out of curiosity, we checked the wheelbase of the 1947–55 Suburban and found that it’s 116 inches. Coincidentally, that’s the exact same wheelbase used by the Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon for three straight generations from 2000–20. There are probably a few of those sitting at a junkyard near you with a wrecked body but a perfectly good V-8 drivetrain and modern chassis, eager to have new life under a classic Suburban body.

1952 GMC Suburban steering wheel

So, how would you build this ’52 Suburban? There’s plenty of space under that big hood for just about any powerplant you could want, so almost anything is on the table if the factory inline six isn’t your cup of tea. Does the prospect of getting a low-mileage, 70-year-old workhorse back on the road appeal to you, or are your gears turning for something more modified?

1952 GMC Suburban front three-quarter
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    I kinda like the idea of a modern frame and drivetrain under it. I’ve always liked these things. Womelsdorf isn’t very far from me (about an hour). Nope. I’m not a buyer but I still think they’re cool!!

    The Suburban should be just made to run,(and stop!) then driven on short hauls until it proves its merit. No adding alternators and upgrading to 12 volts until it can reliably run as is. Looks like most pieces to get to that level could be found at ACE hardware.
    When the vehicle earns its way into the buyers heart then consider replacing the floor pans, rebuilding if needed brakes and suspension as needed for longer trips. Bodywork and paint come last with these kind of projects I think, make certain you’ve got a reliable runner first, looks like a neat first step to a nice piece of history!

    OMG! 15 thousand. How about 15 hundred. This is crazy! I don’t think I would take it for free. To much work needed for an oddball vehicle.

    The value of a truck like this is whatever someone will pay for it. It is unlikely to ever be a big bucks collectible, but I can see lots of ways that a hobby rebuilder could have a lot of fun with it. And that’s the point of this game. Someone with a small business and some time for a project could turn it into a very useful local runner that would be a fine billboard, too. It has an engine and probably a transmission and odds are it could be running again with a healthy injection of labor and some electric work. It’s bid up to $7,100 at this point so there’s interest, and if there’s a reasonable reserve (under 10K) I believe it’s going to sell.

    I bid it up to 7100 and thinking that was very fair for what shape is is in. Also I think it probably has 108,000 on it.

    I think some one has suffered a recent head injury if they are truly expecting 15 grand for this vehicle. That said I think it would make a cool hot rod! yank out that old power train install a modern engine and trans, good place for one of those throw away LS power plants! give it a cool interior and paint it up pretty! Don’t forget the suspension give it a sweet stance with some big meat meeting the asphalt and then make some somke! Sweet

    I could see $1,500 not $15,000. I would probably try and get it running and driving first on the cheap just for fun, and then I like the idea of putting the body on a modern chassis and drive train. I can see this lowered a bit, stanced nicely, with some shiny paint and tinted glass. It wouldn’t appeal to everyone but then I build stuff for myself and don’t care what anyone else likes. I hope someone does something to save it from the scrap heap.

    I agree with Alan, The price seems to be a bit high for a vehicle with serious rust issues, but the low mileage makes it tempting. It could probably be patched up and returned to service for a few thousand dollars by someone with average mechanical skills. A frame-off concourse restoration would far exceed its ultimate value, and a resto-mod would be even more costly.
    I have a 1952 Chevrolet 5-window 1/2 ton truck (all original)for years, it’s the most practical and reliable vehicle that I have ever owned. It’s no longer a daily driver, just weekends and a few parades and car shows If it was close by, I would snap it up, spend a few months on the repairs, then use it for like I do my 52′ Just think, no computers and no electronic doodads; just a robust vehicle with a simple drive train, a robust chassis and pleasing demeanor. but I do think $15.5 is just a little to high for that truck, in that bad of shape, if you couldn’t do the work yourself the cost of a shop today would be enormous……..

    Firstly I would replace the front passenger seat. Then my wife could tow it up one steepest hills around and see how fast it is and how well it handles. Hey, if someone gets hurt don’t worry it’s an ambulance.

    With invaluable help from a friend, I just finished a “restomod” of a 1954 GMC Suburban. Everywhere I go, people stop and praise the vehicle. Those who say there is not market, or it is not valuable are just expressing their opinion. People should build what they like. There are thousands of cars out there. How often do you see a 1950s Suburban restored? They are unique and very special. I say restore like original or go modern with powertrain and suspension and other upgrades. It is whatever is your passion. I went with original look, but upgraded engine, transmission, suspension, A/C and made it a vehicle that we can cruise in or take a vacation in. It still looks vintage, but has modern running gear.

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