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Published 6/14/24

Original+ Suburban: A Modern LS3 Crate Engine is Under the Hood 

WORDS: DAN HODGDON 

PHOTOS: NATE LIGHT

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Nobody Customs & Restorations sometimes uses the phrase “Original Plus” at its shop in Keithville, Louisiana. That was the concept they had in mind when they built Mike Nation’s lifted and LS3-powered 1989 Chevrolet Suburban.

Nobody Customs & Restorations’ 1989 Suburban build is powered by Chevrolet Performance LS3 crate engine.* 

“He wanted to keep it looking original and he said, ‘Man, I want to do an LS, but I want it to look like it came in [the vehicle],’” explained shop owner Joel Williams during May’s C10 Nationals at Texas Motor Speedway. “We didn't hide the wiring or anything. We just kind of cleaned it up and put it all together.”


The concept has been a popular one, and the two-tone vehicle won Best Suburban at the show.


Originally, the owner planned to use it at his duck camp. But as the build progressed, it turned into a show-quality piece.


Williams and his team started the project with a clean original Suburban that had a couple hundred thousand miles on the odometer. They then went to work, stripping the vehicle down to do a complete rebuild.


At the heart of the project is a Chevrolet Performance LS3 crate engine.* The versatile engine is among the most popular on the market today. The power plant is capable of 430 horsepower and 425 lb.-ft. of torque. Built on an aluminum block, the engine features a strong rotating assembly, L92-type rectangular-port cylinder heads and a high-lift, hydraulic-roller camshaft.

The LS3 power plant under the hood.

“[The owner] didn't want anything crazy or over-the-top horsepower, but he wanted drivability,” Williams said. “It’s a big truck, so a 430-horse [engine] really is a good mate for that,” he added. “With the modern technology you hit the key and it starts and goes. That's why we like the crate motors, they come with everything.”


The engine in the Suburban is part of a Chevrolet Performance Connect & Cruise Crate Powertrain System. The packages are factory-matched by engineers and feature an engine and transmission, along with complementing engine and transmission controllers, torque converters and installation kits. The LS3 in the Suburban is mated to a SuperMatic 4L70-E four-speed automatic.


“That case is very similar to what was in it originally, which is a 4L60,” Williams said. “This one is just a little bit bigger and beefier.”

The Suburban now features a lift kit and massive tires.

The Suburban remains on its original chassis, but underneath there is now a Skyjacker six-inch lift kit and 37-inch Mickey Thompson tires. The rubber is paired with Raceline wheels.


Williams and his team did some suspension work and changed gears to improve drivability, and they slightly modified the driveline angle since the vehicle is so large. However, everything went smoothly.


The Suburban is painted in a two-tone pattern with a pair of factory GM blue colors. They are flipped from the original layout though. Now, light blue adorns the top and bottom of the pattern with dark blue in the middle.

The interior is similar to how it looked in 1989.

The interior remains the original style, but it has been upgraded from 1980s Velour to distressed blue leather. The Nobody Customs team upgraded all the carpet, door panels, headliner and dash, too. The truck now also sports Dakota Digital Gauges and features an upgraded air-conditioning system, cruise control and electric motors. 


The shop, which employs just over a dozen people, offers customers complete builds in-house. At the C10 Nationals, the group also brought a 1970 C10 and a 1958 Cameo, each with LS7 power plants under the hood. 

Clay Nugent (left) and Joel Williams of Nobody Customs & Restorations with the Suburban at the 2024 Texas C10 Nationals.

Nobody Customs & Restorations owner Joel Williams is originally from Brodhead, Wisconsin, but has lived in Louisiana for 23 years. His wife hails from Louisiana as well. Williams himself owns an impressive collection of vehicles, including a Packard with a Small-Block Chevy engine.


His team works on a wide variety of projects; in fact, the shop is a 2024 finalist in the Goodguys Chevrolet Performance Builder of the Year GM Retro Iron category for an LS3 Connect & Cruise-equipped 1961 Rolls Royce. They displayed it at Texas Motor Speedway during the Lone Star Nationals in April.


LS3 engines are prominently featured in many of the team’s builds, ranging from the Rolls to the Suburban, to classic Camaros and more.


“It’s a good motor with a nice, smooth idle and they’ve got plenty of power,” Williams said. “I love the 430-horse on these builds because they’re just a good motor for every day.”


Keep watching The BLOCK for more Chevrolet Performance builds from the C10 Nationals and automotive events across the country.


*Because of its effect on a vehicle’s emissions performance, this engine is intended exclusively for use in competition vehicles. This engine is designed and intended for use in vehicles operated exclusively for competition: in racing or organized competition on courses separate from public roads, streets or highways. Installation or use of this engine on a vehicle operated on public roads, streets or highways is likely to violate U.S., Canadian, and state and provincial laws and regulations related to motor vehicle emissions.

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