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It's been said a million times that there are no rules in hot rodding. But you know what? There are. And judging from his low-rolling custom '63 Suburban, it looks like Ronnie Lagorio has learned three of the most important ones. Build it unique. Build it cool. Drive it all over.
Ronnie started learning the rules before he was old enough to drive, by helping his dad, Ron, restore a '67 GTO and accompanying him to car shows to display their work. By the time he was 15, Ronnie had a project of his own-a '69 Chevy C10 Stepside-to wrench on. In the years since, Ronnie has owned and built numerous Chevy muscle cars and custom trucks.
The Suburban, built with help from his friend Curt Hill from Hill's Rod & Custom, is one of Ronnie's latest projects, but not exactly a new addition to his fleet. He's owned the truck for about a decade, and knew about it long before that. Ronnie and Curt have been friends for years and used to build cars at night at Curt's parents' house after clocking out from their day jobs. Ronnie got used to seeing the Suburban parked down the street at a neighbor's house.
"When I saw it for sale, it was still stock," Ronnie told us. "It belonged to the original owner and had a stock 350 and Powerglide transmission-and a set of Eagle 5 Star wheels. I knew the Suburban would look cool if I built it, so I bought it, drove it to my parents' house, and parked it in the back of the garage."
While the Suburban sat, Ronnie started thinking about how he wanted it laid out, and started collecting parts for the buildup. When it came time to begin putting everything together, Curt-who was working for Moal Coachbuilders at the time-was there to help.
The project started with the suspension. The stock frame was muscled up with boxed 'rails and extra crossmembers built from 2x4-inch 4130 chromoly tubing. The front crossmember was raised 2 inches and moved forward to locate the wheels in the wheel openings, and McGaughys 21/2-inch drop spindles were installed to drop the front end. The frame was C-notched to drop the rear. Slam Specialties RE-72 airbags were added to adjust the ride height and Rancho 9000 shocks were installed all around. A Ford rack-and-pinion replaced the factory steering. McGaughys 11-inch disc brakes front and rear provide plenty of stop for the Suburban. With the Suburban sitting so low, the 21-gallon fuel cell from No Limit Engineering was raised 5 inches just to keep it off the ground. A custom front 13/4-inch NASCAR-style three-piece antisway bar and a 11/4-inch bar in the rear are more recent additions to the suspension.
After collecting some more parts, Ronnie and Curt started in on the sheetmetal, tubbing the rear wheelwells and rebuilding the rear floor to accommodate the C-notch, fuel cell, and suspension modifications. Other than elevation, the body has been kept in stock form, with trim pieces and hardware intact. The PPG yellow and white paint combination was shot by Curt Hill's father, Brian Hill, but not recently. That was sprayed for the truck's original owner in 1981. We're guessing that the yellow is at least part of the reason Ronnie calls the Suburban the Short Bus.
The Eagle 5 Stars that suited the look of the Suburban in the old days didn't quite match Ronnie's vision for the truck. In their place, he mounted Bonspeed Clutch six-spoke wheels, choosing 20x81/2-inch rims for the front with low-profile P245/40R20 BFGoodrich radials. In the rear, 20x10-inchers wear P295/40R20 BFGs. Front and rear rims feature 51/2 inches of backspacing to fit inside the wheelwells.