In 1947, the United States Air Force was founded as a separate branch of the military. As the most recent branch of the U.S. military to be formed, it remains the largest and most technologically advanced Air Forces in the world. A year after its inception, the Air Force assembled a fleet of vehicles to transport occupants to and from the base, and among those vehicles were a barrage of Chevy Suburbans—which include this one here.
Owned and restored by Fred Perez, he’s long been an avid collector of all things rare and unique, but his love affair with classic Chevy Suburbans prompted him to bring this one back to life. It was back in 2007 when he found a lonely 1948 Chevy Suburban nestled in a storage warehouse. It was in desperate need of love, and with missing doors and seats it still didn’t stop him from throwing out an offer that was accepted—and the timing could not have been better, as the following week the warehouse was leveled in a brutal fire.
Once the deal was done, the Suburban was transported back and that’s when the re-up began—but it didn’t come without one last surprise and twist of fate. As Fred started to take the car apart, he uncovered an instrumental piece of information that changed his view on the vehicle. What he found was serial base numbers and U.S.A.F. painted in the firewall.
So what did that mean?
Well, that meant that he had not only uncovered a piece of Americana but a piece of American history that had transported so many of our military. Knowing that, Fred took the entire truck apart and went for a full frame-off restoration. The frame and body were sent to Zarco Equipment to get sandblasted. Fred himself did the bodywork and primer and prepared it for Enrique Aguilar to add his unique touch.
Once the body was back and painted, Fred’s friend Joe Padilla at Unique Glass cut all the glass for the massive Chevy. For motorwork, Don Hackenberg rebuilt the 235 engine motor and Fred installed it. Fred took a 10-hour drive to El Paso for the chrome work that was completed by Electro Plating. The complete process took Fred close to five years to complete and involved countless hours of searching for the rare parts at auto swap meets, salvage yards, and online websites.
Fred wishes to thank everyone who had a hand in this amazing build, including God and his wife, Martha, whose support made the build that much sweeter for Fred. He also wishes to thank Oscar Navarro and all the dedicated members of his club, Old Memories Denver Chapter. While he was working on the Chevy Suburban, he would religiously listen to the song “Sky Pilot” from the Animals, so it seemed fitting with the history of the classic to name his completed project The Sky Pilot.
1948 Chevrolet Suburban
Fred & Martha Perez
Old Memories, Denver Chapter
PPG Transport Blue and Harbor Blue done by Enrique Aguilar, chrome plating by Electro Plating of El Paso, glass by Joe Padilla of Unique Glass in Denver, sandblasting by Zarco Equipment in Henderson, Factory GM exterior sunvisor, Picket Fence grille guard, 14-piece stainless deluxe trim, eagle hood ornament
235 Straight-six with Fenton Headers, built by Don Hackenberg at American Machine in Denver, dual pipes by Ismael and Marty at Ken’s Muffler in Longmont, Colorado
Original with 3-inch lowering blocks
Original style, charcoal gray done by S and S Upholstery in Longmont, Colorado; GM tissue box; GM red Head Flashlight; GM gas cap; GM Banjo steering wheel; GM radiator overflow tank; Fulton window vent shades; Fulton Traffic Viewer; Pres-a-lite cigarette dispensers; rear backup light; second and third row seats; Cat Eye cigarette lighter; compass; Pioneer foglights; vintage toppers; rear fold-down bumper guard; GM radio
15-inch Artillery wheels with 5.60×15 Coker Classic tires