Every morning when the dog and I go for our walk, we pass these just one block from our house. And I’ve been rather ignoring them, until I realized, hey, these are both like 30 years old. Don’t be so lazy, and pull out your phone!
They make a fine pairing actually, two GM products of the mid-late ’80s that were relatively successful, and quite different at that, obviously. The Blazer was a pioneer compact SUV at that, and helped usher in the whole boom for the genre. And there’s still a Blazer today. The Bonneville? Not so much so, but let’s check them out.
The Bonny is from 1989, according to its plate. It was all-new in 1987, joining its H-Body stablemates Buick LeSabre and Olds 88 a year after they first graced us. Its center section is of course essentially identical to those two, but that was the way of GM at the times. But the Bonneville did get a droopy nose and more aerodynamic front end to make it look a wee bit more, um, with it, given that Ford was eating GM’s lunch with its aero styled Taurus and Sable.
Not a bad looking car, but these really did look instantly dated after the Taurus and Sable arrived.
The interior reeks GM of the times. Seems they were all so much alike, except for some minor differences in size and detail. These H Body cars were roomy, no denying that.
The Buick 3.8 V6 was rated at 160 hp, and now called the “3800 V6”. There was an SSE model, but no genuine performance parts or optional engines. That would have to wait a bit longer.
This Blazer is a 1990, by which time it was already in its eighth year of production. But there was still no four door, and wouldn’t be until 1991. That was a GM DS if there ever was one. No extended cab pickups, no four door W-Body sedans, no four door compact SUVs. Somebody was asleep at the wheel.
At least the 4.3 L V6 had been available since 1988. The standard 1.9 and 2.0 L fours were badly underpowered in this none-too light SUV, and even the Chevy 2.8 V6 were none too perky in this application. But the 4.3 finally solved that, with its chunky torque band. The fours were blessedly gone by 1989, although one hardly ever saw one anyway.
These were popular enough, but were totally overshadowed by the Jeep Cherokee, and then in 1990 by the Ford Explorer. The Cherokee felt positively lithe compared to the Blazer, which really was nothing more than an S-10 pickup with an extended body.
Two reminders of the good old days, eh?
Those Blazers were absolutely everywhere in central Indiana fifteen or twenty years ago. In the late 80s I thought the perfect combination would be a Blazer’s running gear and body but with an interior and build quality supplied by Ford. A Blazer built and trimmed like a Bronco II would have been really nice.
I always liked the size and the look of the original S10-Blazers, and the interiors were quite comfy. But boy was it a dog with the 2.8. A friend had one when I was in high school that I drove a couple times, and it made the 89 Caravan that I normally drove feel like a sports car.
This one looks like it could be a sort of a fun mountain ride with the 5-speed.
Nice pairing. I can remember passing a Blazer of tis vintage that was paired with an ’80s El Camino a few streets away from where I grew up. This was back in the late 90s. The owner took pride in both cars, and even as they aged, they looked great, and you could tell whomever owned them was a car guy.
I want to knock on the owner of the Bonneville’s door and offer to help him take the front fender off and pound it straight. Looks like it would be a pretty easy fix, and it would make the car look a lot better.
I’m currently tinkering with a ’91 Park Avenue that I picked up for very cheap, and have been doing a few junkyard runs. Like Jim C I’m in Indy, and the yards are absolutely thick with GM sedans, mostly turn of the century stuff but an impressive showing of 80s-early 90s iron as well, many with some variant of the Buick 3800. I plucked cam sensors and ignition control module/coils off a ’89 and ’92 Lesabre and got to see the evolution from the “LN3″ to ‘Series I” with its “Tuned Port Injection” intake manifold.
I’m really enjoying wrenching on the Buick although a less patient more profit-minded flipper might be exasperated by the two cylinder misfire that turned into a crank-no start condition (lost spark to all cylinders). It’s been a great platform to learn more in depth diagnostic work on using an oscilloscope.
I had a Blazer as a rental on one occasion, for about a week, back around this time. I remember liking the concept, and told Mrs. Lee that I like the SUV concept, but she was having none of it at the time. The suspension gave quite a bouncy ride, and her shorter stature made it difficult to enter and exit. I think our consensus was that we would not ever get this kind of vehicle.
As I stare at my Ford Escape in my garage. The higher-up feel and look now appeals to the Mrs., and entry is now not a problem.
How times change. The Blazer was built in the true sportiness theme of an SUV, perhaps used to go offroading, certainly driving to the beach, maybe carrying a canoe or something on top. The Escape CUV? Let’s get to Walmart or Costco is as adventurous as that mostly sees.
If this one’s a 4.3 with a stick, it might be a real sleeper for the era. I drove an Astro of this vintage with the 4.3/auto. It was surprisingly quick. However that engine was rough in a misfiring way and sounded like a congested frog when pushed hard. Economy and reliability was great though.
Cherokee with the H.O. 6s were downright fast…
I’m surprised they used the small fours versus Ironduke as base engine. IIRC the General made Ironduked Astros with 3 speed autos lol. They couldn’t keep up with 240D’s.
Thank you for the nostalgic moment. I’ll point out the S 10 had an extended cab pick up truck version, from day one. I had an 84 model. The extension was small but it was a huge improvement over my regular cab S10.
Imho the mistake GM made with the 2.8 V6 is they installed the wrong version in the little trucks. They needed the 135 hp version used in the F- bodies. The regular 110hp version was installed instead. It was okay with the 5 spd but a bit slow with the automatic
I’d welcome these two vehicles in my fleet. I miss my old Bonneville. Both are reliable, comfortable and familiar, like the best automotive old friends.
I was referring to the full size pickups.
Ah…the S10. Nothing but a shipping crate for the 4.3L engine.
The Bonneville is so dated, it’s fresh again, and a darn sight better looking than most of the angry pokemon we’re currently watching rumble around.
My only experience with a Blazer was my 98 S10 Blazer (the insurance card listed it as a T10 presumably because it was a 4×4 – the vacuum switch never worked). It was decent, though very used when I bought it with 215k miles or thereabouts. The interior by this time was disintegrating. The mileage was terrible, though better than a 94 Aerostar that preceded it – 15 for the Blazer 10 for the Aerostar); I could never understand how something so relatively small could do so poorly.
I generally liked it while I had it, but it was a second car and my dillweed friends borrowed it all the time, and mucked it up. I got rid of it because I was tired of the hassle.
I had a ’94 Aerostar and a 95 Blazer at the same time. The Aerostar got 15 on a bad day, mid 20s on the highway.
The Blazer, I’m not sure of the fuel mileage, because it didn’t work often enough to bother cataloging it.
I had a 2004 GMC Sonoma Crew Cab, and a 96 Isuzu Hombre (S10), mostly the same experience.
I did find a good Chevy, but it’s a ’74 pickup with the Inline 6.
The Aerostar was of the 4 litre variety and was supposed to have been AWD though the idiot light was on the entire time I had it and I’m not sure if it ever worked. Since I paid under a grand for it, I didn’t feel it was necessarily worth addressing. I can’t say if the 3 litre Aerostar was better since I have no personal experience with one.
I just remembered being shocked on the few occasions it would manage 12. I’ve been more or less compulsive about tracking mileage for just about every tank in every car I’ve driven.
I’ve been very happy with my ’94 GMC Sonoma 4X4 with the 4.3l V6 and five speed. The interior quality is pretty bad (the rear view mirror fell of shortly after I got it and the window winder broke the first time I used it), but it has taken me over some very rough terrain including some places where a larger truck couldn’t fit. Have a home made camper on it and went camping on new years day. There was a nasty storm that ripped the grommets out of the tarps and the culverts passing under the logging roads became rivers travelling over them. Still temperatures were mild and we had a good time.
My father had one of these S-10 Blazers. He bought it new and I intended to buy it off of him as a second vehicle when he was done with it. The gas mileage was poor and I had a Honda as a daily driver. But I wanted this as a weekend vehicle. The vehicle was in the shop quite a lot. The only one who ever used the 4-wheel drive was me and they was only once, early in it life. The 4WD stopped working after the vehicle was out of warranty. The repair cost was prohibitive and he traded it. It definitely had less than 100K miles on it. I was very disappointed in the quality of that vehicle.
Have a ’93 s-10 Blazer Tahoe LT with 125k Miles. Has every option Chev offered and all work but the ABS. I use it for work summers and store it indoors winters. Purchased new locally and I have the original window sticker! Have new Hyundai Santa Cruz Limited coming next month so I will be finding a new home for the Blazer. She has been a good old girl for me!