Simply Off The Map


If a more luxuriously conceived Suburban exists, we've never seen it.

Edited by Matt Stone

Reprinted from Motor Trend Magazine, June 1999

Actor/rapper Will Smith is on a roll: His recent movies are hits, his CDs bag sales and Grammy Honors, and he's got a fabulous wife (actress Jada Pinkett). It probably goes without saying that he's financially comfortable and can drive just about anything he wants. But you won't see a million dollar McLaren F1 in the Smith/Pinkett driveway. Just an average, everyday Suburban. Sure. . .

To say that Will's new Sub is an average truck is to say that Mark McGuire is an average hitter. Yes, it began life as an off-the-rack '98 7.4 liter 2500 Suburban 4x4, but then Will turned it-and about $120,000-over to Becker Automotive Design. You may never have heard of Howard Becker, but folks like Barbara Striesand, Jerry Seinfeld, and Steven Spielberg know him well. They, and a host of other entertainment and business glitterati, are Becker's customers. They want the best. And they can afford it.

Becker is known for designing and engineering Tinseltown's most outrageous sound systems, yet it's far more than just a stereo shop. "We approach the vehicle from three viewpoints: sound/entertainment, performance, and styling - both interior and exterior," notes Becker, who's been fiddling with star's cars for better than 20 years.

Nearly every square inch of the Sub's interior was stripped. Everything you can see, touch, or sit on has been redesigned and upgraded to Lear Jet quality levels. Custom bucket seats, front and rear, are upholstered in European leather, while the headliner and contrasting trim areas are done up in rich suede. The wool carpeting is the same as that found in a Rolls-Royce. The deliciously black Japanese ash burled-hardwood trim is custom made in Becker's shop, as are the consoles, speaker enclosures, bracketry, and just about everything else inside.

There's more communications gear in here that you'll find in Air Force One. Its sound system is a mind - and ear - blowing combination of Sony, McIntosh, Soundstream, Kimbler, AVI, and dynaudio componentry, plus enough speakers to broadcast the Super Bowl. Toys? How about three liquid-crystal video monitors offering their services to a Sony DVD, stereo VHS, TV tuner, Nintendo 64, and Sony Playstation. Don't forget the two cell phones, Phillips Carin Nav system, and the refrigerator in the back (no joke). Naturally, the entire truck's electrical system was totally reengineered, using custom crossovers, the best speaker and electrical wire available, and no fewer than three batteries with s multiple charging system.

Colorado Custom 18-inch billet wheels are wrapped by Bridgestone Dueler HT Tires. The suspension received a through workover to improve handling, while dealing with the increased weight of the interior hardware - Will's Suburban tips the scales at an all-conquering 7170 pounds! Anti-roll bars were enlarged front and rear, and most of the bushings were swapped for polyurethane pieces.

The stock 454 was treated to a Whipple supercharger, Thorley headers, custom exhaust, engine management system, and transmission shift program revisions, 4.56:1 front and rear diff gears, and a host of other powertrain upgrades. The exterior restyle is subtle yet imposing. Bumpers were smoothed out, custom fender flares fitted and a billet grille and set of Smittybilt running boards pretty much sum up the upgrades - with everything painted black.

But the real beauty is in the driving. You're surrounded by lush materials, entrenched in home-theater-quality sound, and going faster than anything this big really ought to go. Despite its weighing some 1500 pounds more that a stock ¾-ton Suburban, Will's Sub bellows to 60 mph in just 6.9 seconds (as opposed to 9.4 in unmodified form). We simply don't have the room to adequately describe the depth of this rig's metamorphoses, but suffice it to say that it's extraordinary in every way. The world's most awesome Sub? We say yes.