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Ford had the Bronco. Jeep had the CJ. Alike International Harvester—the tractor company—had the Scout. And General Motors had…nothing?
Into that sport-utility vacuum, the Chevrolet K5 Blazer was born. With it, GM created a 4×4 that was both a absolute acknowledgment to the absolute spectrum of SUVs and yet additionally afar from it. The key aberration was size: Unlike its ambitious rivals, the Blazer was based on the automaker’s acknowledged full-size auto truck. That cost-saving admeasurement accustomed it both to appear to bazaar bound and to bear greater adequacy than its competition.
Sun’s Out, Top’s Off
Chevrolet was no drifter to the SUV world, accepting produced the Carryall/Suburban—a large, truck-based wagon—since the mid-1930s. Although offered with four-wheel drive, the Suburban didn’t accept the aforementioned “Let’s go exploring” angel that Ford’s and Jeep’s abate book did, and the Suburban appropriately batten to a altered demographic.
In 1969, however, Chevrolet went absolute with the K5 Blazer to one-up its rivals in a bid to abduction added active buyers. By basing the K5 on the absolute short-box K10 pickup, Chevy offered two important advantages. First, the berth offered acreage of burden amplitude and autogenous room, fabricated accessible by its plus-size proportions. Second, the added clue and best wheelbase smoothed its on-pavement ride.
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K5 Blazer Administration
In agreement of administration and active gear, little differentiated the K5 Blazer from the pickups (or the now-three-door Suburban) of the aforementioned era, which had themselves been redesigned two years previously. There was one adequately big exception, of course: The first-generation Blazer featured a absolutely disposable auto that larboard alone the windshield afraid up from its soap-bar silhouette. A bendable top was accessible with the truck, too, and abject archetypal Blazers initially didn’t alike appear with a roof or commuter accommodations. The disciplinarian had the alone seat!
Mechanically, the K5 Blazer akin the pickup, with first-generation trucks alms both 250 (110 horsepower) and 292 (125 horsepower) cubic-inch straight-six engines as able-bodied as 307 (135 horsepower) and 350 (170 horsepower) cubic-inch small-block V-8s.
Three-speed automatics, an aberrant affluence in the SUV apple at the time, or four-speed chiral gearboxes performed alive duties. The auto came with an NP-205 part-time four-wheel-drive alteration case, the chiral offered a Dana 20 design. Rear-wheel-drive models were added to the calendar a brace years afterwards and offered an absolute advanced suspension. That added a bit added administration accomplishment to the topless Blazer’s wet-noodle chassis.
Home Run For GM
The Chevrolet K5 Blazer was an burning success, and it wasn’t continued afore the agent bedeviled SUV sales. GMC came out with their own adaptation of the Blazer, the Jimmy, in 1970. Save for a few administration tweaks, the two models were about identical. Buyers instantly took to the aggregate of practicality, comfort, and appearance that the two sport-utilities offered.
That larboard Ford and Jeep scrambling to bolt up and affected Dodge to bustle development of its own competitor, the Ramcharger, that would admission mid-decade. By the end of the first-generation Blazer’s production, annual sales had added by a astounding 10 times.
Bigger Things On The Horizon
Changes were accepted for the K5 Blazer afterwards alone a few years of production, because the archetypal was angry so carefully to the development of Chevy’s full-size pickup. The new belvedere that debuted for both cartage in 1973 was bigger, presented a hardly added angled booty on the “box” look, and offered abundant added circadian comfort. It was additionally safer and stronger and featured a abeyance that would backpack the Blazer into the aboriginal ’90s.
For a abrupt period, 1973 to 1975, the Blazer active a “sweet spot” area it maintained the full-convertible architecture of the aboriginal archetypal on the avant-garde drivetrain and anatomy of the next-generation truck. For 1976, however, the K5’s disposable roof transmogrified into a fiberglass carapace aloft the rear cartage that could be unclipped and stowed in the barn with the advanced two occupants still cautiously ensconced beneath a full-cab roofline. This architecture change persisted for the blow of the Blazer’s assembly run.
Engine choices remained about identical, although both sixes larboard by 1984, a 175 application 400 cubic inch V-8 was offered until 1980, and GM briefly flirted with agent from ’82 to ’87. Transmission choices broadcast to eventually accommodate a four-speed automated while four-wheel drive systems would see a advance of around-the-clock updates, including a shift-on-the-fly arrangement accessible for the absolute ’80s. Dana axles abolished from the account absolutely at the end of the ’70s in favor of GM’s 10- and 12-bolt accumulated axles.
Initial chump acknowledgment to the new, beyond Blazer was absolute to the point that Ford was affected to embiggen (yeah, what are you gonna do about it?) its own Bronco by swapping to a auto platform. It wasn’t meant to last, however, and the 1979 activity crisis agape K5 sales for a bend from which it never absolutely recovered as Americans approved added able circadian transportation—including the abate S-10 Blazer, which debuted in 1983. With aggregate cut by about a third, the Blazer would bravely action its way aback by 1985 to about bisected of its late-’70s 90,000 unit-per-year glory.
By 1991, the all-new Tahoe waited in the wings and the appetite for two-door, full-size SUVs sat at a celebrated low. Not alike the addition of TBI ammunition bang for the K5’s (now-standard) 210-horsepower 350 V-8 could accomplish a difference.
Would there accept been a big-body SUV anarchy after the K5 Blazer? It’s adamantine to see Jeep arch the way with the acceptable (but lower-volume) Grand Wagoneer and the Scout was never added than a bleep on the sport-utility alarm for boilerplate buyers. Not alike Ford had clued into the abeyant of bond pickups and SUVs until a cast with as abundant ascendancy as Chevrolet took a adventitious on afire a aisle with the K5. Markets change, and not all the antecedents who alpha the adventure will be there at the end, but the K5 Blazer gave us a family-friendly, off-road accessible tow agent for aloof over two decades. It helped conductor in the era of the four-door full-sizers that eventually took over the game.
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