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Old 04-17-2007, 12:16 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Suburban conversion

I have a '94 Chevy Suburban with a gas engine and I'm wondering if it would be feasible to replace the 350 v8 with a turbo-diesel. I have searched AutoTrader and found no diesel Suburbans for sale in a 250 mi. radius as I thought that would be the logical route to take so I'm considering the possibility of an engine replacement. This project would constitute essentially a vehicle restoration that would require me to put a bunch of money into it and I'm wondering if I'm nuts. Any thoughts? [img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/crazy.gif[/img]
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Old 04-17-2007, 12:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

Diesel Suburbans with the 6.5 turbo are out there, but you may have to travel to get one. In California, I see them advertised PP around $6,000 give or take a grand for the condition. My friend wanted one & I test drove one that was really in rough condition. The owner said it was a fuel-sipper & I believe it. As for the coversion, you would be likely getting over-your-head with a 6.5 conversion. There's just so much you need to convert. The brakes are hydro-boost, the glow plug relays, dash instruments, bigger radiator, 454 bolt pattern on output engine arbor. Keep looking online, diesel Suburbans are out there for cheap, but maybe not locally.
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Old 04-17-2007, 02:21 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

Why couldn't you use any Chevy/GMC pickup w/a 6.5? Depending on the year, they all should be the same under the hood.
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Old 04-17-2007, 02:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

I guess my question would be “why”? New Chebby 5.7 crate motors (or good remans) are cheap as dirt and would be a simple swap. I doubt that you would ever recover the conversion cost via increased MPG of the diesel over gas. As for towing, the 6.5 was adequate, but no powerhouse…a built 350 (RV cam, headers, tighter TC etc) will do the job as well or better.


Now if you are set on swapping in a diesel, how ‘bout a 12V Cummins 5.9?
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Old 04-17-2007, 06:38 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

[ QUOTE ]
Diesel Suburbans with the 6.5 turbo are out there, but you may have to travel to get one. In California, I see them advertised PP around $6,000 give or take a grand for the condition. My friend wanted one & I test drove one that was really in rough condition. The owner said it was a fuel-sipper & I believe it. As for the coversion, you would be likely getting over-your-head with a 6.5 conversion. There's just so much you need to convert. The brakes are hydro-boost, the glow plug relays, dash instruments, bigger radiator, 454 bolt pattern on output engine arbor. Keep looking online, diesel Suburbans are out there for cheap, but maybe not locally.

[/ QUOTE ]

I'll keep looking, then. Of that list, the only thing I already have is the big radiator. From this I can see where a conversion would get expensive.
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Old 04-17-2007, 06:43 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

[ QUOTE ]
Why couldn't you use any Chevy/GMC pickup w/a 6.5? Depending on the year, they all should be the same under the hood.

[/ QUOTE ]

Not sure where you are going here. I'm not planning on trading my Suburban for a pickup. Under the hood they are indeed the same, but behind the driver's seat things get very different. I see using this for long trips with more than two people, and hauling plywood, etc. More below.
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Old 04-17-2007, 07:02 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

[ QUOTE ]
I guess my question would be “why”? New Chebby 5.7 crate motors (or good remans) are cheap as dirt and would be a simple swap. I doubt that you would ever recover the conversion cost via increased MPG of the diesel over gas. As for towing, the 6.5 was adequate, but no powerhouse…a built 350 (RV cam, headers, tighter TC etc) will do the job as well or better.


Now if you are set on swapping in a diesel, how ‘bout a 12V Cummins 5.9?
[img]/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/eek.gif[/img]

[/ QUOTE ]

Ah yes, why! Basically, this is my wife's car. My '97 Explorer v8 AWD has been taken over by my high school senior after he totalled his '95 Rodeo (not his fault, but no collision coverage on it). So we are driving the Suburban more and want to be more Green. It has 140k miles on it and is generally in good shape for a '94. We would like to trade it in for a newer diesel model but have recently learned that we will be limited to '99 or older due to circumstances imposed by GMC and even those are not exactly plentiful. We will probably buy a Mini Cooper S late this year just for the fun of it and it will be our primary city car but I would like to keep the Suburban around for long trips with more than the two of us and general handyman DIY hauling. (I had a fantasy earlier about Mom in the Suburban being followed around town by five Mini's with quack-quack horns.) I have five mostly grown children and, so far, seven grandchildren so there's always a need for a large people-hauler and the diesel has the potential for being much more green with bio-diesel beginning to move into our region. It's still not conveniently available but I can see that it's getting closer. Then, in the future, there's the possibility of WVO. I see bio-diesel as the better alternative fuel option at present, at least until electrics mature.
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Old 04-18-2007, 08:16 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
Why couldn't you use any Chevy/GMC pickup w/a 6.5? Depending on the year, they all should be the same under the hood.

[/ QUOTE ]

Not sure where you are going here. I'm not planning on trading my Suburban for a pickup....

[/ QUOTE ]

i may be mistaken, but i think he was infering that finding a pick-up to do the conversion maybe be easier than finding a suburban 6.5 in good shape to purchase. probably wouldn't be too hard to find a good 6.5 in a not-so-good pick-up to use as a donor. i see his point.


[ QUOTE ]
...we will be limited to '99 or older due to circumstances imposed by GMC...

[/ QUOTE ]

why is this - becuase they stopped putting diesels in the 'burbans in '99?? yeah, true. so that's why you may be looking at a swap.

i've had lots of experience w/ the 6.2/6.5s in the military. i would never own one, personally. BUT, i know that there are lots of people who swear by them. they aren't speed demons or power houses, but they can deliver decent fuel mileage. it may take a while to get there, but you'll save fuel doing it.

if i were in your position, i may try to find a cummins 12v and mate it to a decently built 700r4 to put in the 'burb. the motor would give you enough power to actually pass someone on the hi-way and the 4 spd / OD tranny should get you good mileage.

a cummins swap would require a tad more fabrication than swapping in a 6.5, but is easier to hook up once it's bolted in.

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Old 04-18-2007, 09:14 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

The Cummins would shred that little 700R4 tranny. It would have to be a 4L80, or a minimum of a TH400.
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Old 04-18-2007, 09:54 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

i disagree. first, i was referring to a built 700r4, not drag race tranny, but beefed nontheless. they're plentiful, cheap, lots of parts, and easy to build to take moderate abuse.

second, definitely, a modded cummins would destroy a 700r4. but i was recommending a relatively stock 6bt, even a first gen maybe. near-stock power levels shouldn't be that harsh w/ a good converter and tranny cooling. stock power on 6bt's is not far above the 6.5s which had 700r4's behind them.

ideally, yep, i'd rather have a 4L80. but they're expensive and would still need to be beefed up which makes them more expensive. and w/ a turbo400, he'd never save any fuel w/ a non-lockup 3spd auto.

but, other than those options for this theoretical swap, you'd have to go w/ an OD dodge auto or else go w/ a manual tranny to get OD.

or, he could try to mate his current tranny - 4L60 i'm guessing??
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Old 04-18-2007, 06:30 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Suburban conversion

Look at this page, Auto World, there's a few Suburban conversions that they've done. There's a CR, a 24V, AND a 12V on there. Only the 12v conversion has an automatic behind it. I looked into doing a Cummins swap in a Ford a while back and they took the time to answer any and all questions I had. Call them up, they'll tell if you are indeed crazy or not.
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