It’s not a long stretch to call Russell Lane’s ’57 Chevy Suburban exotic by any means. It’s also not a long stretch to say that Russell himself has an exotic history; namely Ferraris, MGs, and BMWs. Growing up, Russell’s dad had a penchant of sorts for all things exotic, owning a number of the previously stated Italian supercars as well as restoring a ’47 MG TC as a father- and-son project when Russell was in high school. His interest in cars continued after Russell graduated from college; his daily driver was a ’70 BMW with a 323ci engine backed by a five-speed trans. But like many of us, life began to run its course and the sports cars just wouldn’t cut it any longer for the young father. That’s when Russell turned his attention to another type of exotic: vintage SUVs.
A fan of the Tri-Five Chevy trucks, Russell began looking for a Suburban of the era so that he could haul his entire family to car shows, cruise nights, and road trips. Perusing the Internet one day, he located a ’57 Suburban in upstate New York. The truck was in decent shape, considering that it lived most of its life in Georgia. The current owner, a Vietnam vet, had used it as a daily work horse before Russell got his hands on it. The four-wheel-drive-equipped pickup ended up providing excellent daily transportation for Russell in the snow fields of Chicago, but loading the kids in and out of a truck with no rear doors provided to be a bit of a challenge.
The Lane family decided that some work was in order for the old ’Burban and so they contacted The Roadster Shop, then in Elgin, Illinois, to see what the guys could come up with. Russell went through some of the pros and cons of the ’57 and what he had in mind. As he went through his list, he could see that the guys were starting to question whether or not he truly understood exactly what he actually wanted. When they asked him if he ever thought about buying a new suburban, he knew he’d lost it on them. Frustrated and confused, Russell left the shop to contemplate the project.
A few years later, he found himself in the same shop but in a new location and talking to a new crew of guys. Neil Gerber and his sons, Phil and Jeremy, had recently purchased The Roadster Shop and shortly thereafter moved the business from its original location in Elgin to a more contemporary facility in Mundelein, Illinois. With the move and the injection of fresh blood into the shop came a renewed motivation and a sense of thinking outside the box. It was this new perspective that gave Russell the confidence to now leave the truck with the Roadster Shop guys.
Russell and the RS crew sat down and quickly began swapping ideas for the build. They agreed that to maximize the Suburban’s full potential, it needed to be converted to a true four-door truck. Likewise, the suspension and the drivetrain would need to be updated to enable the four-wheel-drive hauler to go down the highway as comfortable as a late-model SUV.
Starting with a fresh set of kicked up and narrowed ’rails, the chassis team at the Roadster Shop whipped up a truly one-off frame for the ’57. Up front, the truck received a Pro Touring IFS courtesy of Detroit Speed using C6 Corvette spindles, Afco springs and shocks, and Wilwood 14-inch, six-piston, ABS electrically assisted disc brakes. An 1¼-inch sway bar ensures the truck stays nice and flat in the corners. Out back, a Heidts IRS setup with a Tru-Trac posi gear hung off QA1 shocks and 12-inch Wilwood disc brakes complete the road racing–inspired suspension package. Intro Aurora wheels, 20x10s up front and 20x12s out back, wrapped in BFGoodrich G-Force T/A rubber keep the Suburban glued to the ground.