The Awesome History of the Go-Anywhere Chevrolet K5 Blazer

Ford had the Bronco. Jeep had the CJ. Even Worldwide Harvester—the tractor firm—had the Scout. And Normal Motors had…nothing?

Into that sport-utility vacuum, the Chevrolet K5 Blazer was born. With it, GM created a 4×Four that was each a direct response to the prevailing spectrum of SUVs and but additionally aside from it. The important thing distinction was measurement: Not like its would-be rivals, the Blazer was based mostly on the automaker’s profitable full-size pickup truck. That cost-saving measure allowed it each to come back to market shortly and to ship higher functionality than its competitors.

Solar’s Out, Prime’s Off

Chevrolet was no stranger to the SUV world, having produced the Carryall/Suburban—a big, truck-based wagon—for the reason that mid-1930s. Though supplied with four-wheel drive, the Suburban did not have the identical “Let’s go exploring” picture that Ford’s and Jeep’s smaller fare did, and the Suburban consequently spoke to a distinct demographic.

In 1969, nonetheless, Chevrolet went all-out with the K5 Blazer to one-up its rivals in a bid to seize younger consumers. By basing the K5 on the prevailing short-box Ok10 pickup, Chevy supplied two vital benefits. First, the cabin supplied acres of cargo area and inside room, made attainable by its plus-size proportions. Second, the broader monitor and longer wheelbase smoothed its on-pavement experience.

K5 Blazer Styling

By way of styling and operating gear, little differentiated the K5 Blazer from the pickups (or the now-three-door Suburban) of the identical period, which had themselves been redesigned two years beforehand. There was one pretty large exception, after all: The primary-generation Blazer featured a very detachable hardtop that left solely the windshield sticking up from its soap-bar silhouette. A mushy high was out there with the truck, too, and base mannequin Blazers initially did not even include a roof or passenger lodging. The driving force had the one seat!

Mechanically, the K5 Blazer matched the pickup, with first-generation vans providing each 250 (110 horsepower) and 292 (125 horsepower) cubic-inch straight-six engines in addition to 307 (135 horsepower) and 350 (170 horsepower) cubic-inch small-block V-8s.

Three-speed automatics, an unusual luxurious within the SUV world on the time, or four-speed handbook gearboxes carried out shifting duties. The auto got here with an NP-205 part-time four-wheel-drive switch case, the handbook supplied a Dana 20 design. Rear-wheel-drive fashions had been added to the lineup a pair years later and supplied an impartial entrance suspension. That added a bit extra dealing with prowess to the topless Blazer’s wet-noodle chassis.

Dwelling Run For GM

The Chevrolet K5 Blazer was an prompt success, and it wasn’t lengthy earlier than the automobile dominated SUV gross sales. GMC got here out with their very own model of the Blazer, the Jimmy, in 1970. Save for a number of styling tweaks, the 2 fashions had been basically similar. Consumers immediately took to the mix of practicality, consolation, and magnificence that the 2 sport-utilities supplied.

That left Ford and Jeep scrambling to catch up and compelled Dodge to rush growth of its personal competitor, the Ramcharger, that will debut mid-decade. By the top of the first-generation Blazer’s manufacturing, yearly gross sales had elevated by an exceptional 10 instances.

Greater Issues On The Horizon

Modifications had been afoot for the K5 Blazer after only some years of manufacturing, as a result of the mannequin was tied so carefully to the event of Chevy’s full-size pickup. The brand new platform that debuted for each automobiles in 1973 was larger, offered a barely extra rounded tackle the “field” look, and supplied rather more every day consolation. It was additionally safer and stronger and featured a suspension that will carry the Blazer into the early ’90s.

For a quick interval, 1973 to 1975, the Blazer occupied a “candy spot” the place it maintained the full-convertible design of the unique mannequin on the modernized drivetrain and chassis of the next-generation truck. For 1976, nonetheless, the K5’s detachable roof transmogrified right into a fiberglass shell above the rear passengers that might be unclipped and stowed within the storage with the entrance two occupants nonetheless safely ensconced beneath a full-cab roofline. This design change endured for the remainder of the Blazer’s manufacturing run.

Engine selections remained virtually similar, though each sixes left by 1984, a 175 horsepower 400 cubic inch V-Eight was supplied till 1980, and GM briefly flirted with diesel from ’82 to ’87. Transmission selections expanded to ultimately embrace a four-speed computerized whereas four-wheel drive programs would see a procession of continuous updates, together with a shift-on-the-fly system out there for the whole ’80s. Dana axles disappeared from the image fully on the finish of the ’70s in favor of GM’s 10- and 12-bolt company axles.

Preliminary buyer response to the brand new, bigger Blazer was constructive to the purpose that Ford was compelled to embiggen (yeah, what are you gonna do about it?) its personal Bronco by swapping to a pickup platform. It wasn’t meant to final, nonetheless, and the 1979 vitality disaster knocked K5 gross sales for a loop from which it by no means actually recovered as People sought extra environment friendly every day transportation—together with the smaller S-10 Blazer, which debuted in 1983. With quantity minimize by practically a 3rd, the Blazer would bravely struggle its approach again by 1985 to just about half of its late-’70s 90,000 unit-per-year glory.

By 1991, the all-new Tahoe waited within the wings and the thirst for two-door, full-size SUVs sat at a historic low. Not even the introduction of TBI gas injection for the K5’s (now-standard) 210-horsepower 350 V-Eight might make a distinction.

Would there have been a big-body SUV revolution with out the K5 Blazer? It is exhausting to see Jeep main the way in which with the nice (however lower-volume) Grand Wagoneer and the Scout was by no means greater than a blip on the sport-utility radar for mainstream consumers. Not even Ford had clued into the potential of pairing pickups and SUVs till a model with as a lot clout as Chevrolet took an opportunity on blazing a path with the K5. Markets change, and never all of the pioneers who begin the journey might be there on the finish, however the K5 Blazer gave us a family-friendly, off-road prepared tow automobile for simply over 20 years. It helped usher within the period of the four-door full-sizers that ultimately took over the sport.

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