COAL: 2000 Chevrolet Blazer – The Fruits of Impetuosity

Next month is the thirtieth anniversary of one of the most important relationships: that of me and my driver’s license.  In that time, however, aside from a couple of my father’s hand-me-down T-Birds that were never titled in my name, I’ve owned only four daily drivers.  Two were Escorts and one is my current Focus, which I’ve been driving for over 11 years (yikes, time for something new).  Even when considering my burgeoning catalog of classics (with a small “c,” so as not to upset the CCCA), my nonchalance toward the car in which I spend the most time occasionally makes me question my status as a “car guy,” especially when I look back fondly at my favorite of a fairly crude menagerie: my 2000 Chevy Blazer.

I don’t remember exactly what made me want a two-door Blazer.  When a wayward deer made quick work of my Escort wagon in 2004, I simply decided it was time for a new car.  That week, I thought Blazers looked cool, so I started looking for Blazers.  They were everywhere back then.  Most of them were painted this dark blue.

For those who don’t live in Michigan, it’s hard to overstate how powerful General Motors is.  Almost everyone gets GMS (otherwise known as the GM employee discount), almost everyone knows someone who works or worked for GM, and even today, their products outnumber anything else on the road.  The lifestyle is something that’s ingrained into a lot of us, sort of like a cult.  To the derision of many who don’t live here, I wouldn’t dream of buying a car with a foreign nameplate, unless it was something old and British.  Or Swedish.  Or Italian.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love a new Nissan Z or a Toyota 86, but in reality, my Michigan upbringing would rear up and I’d buy a Mustang or a Camaro or a Challenger.  Logic doesn’t matter to many of us who live here.  We understand your arguments and we might intellectually agree with you, but our allegiance lies with the home teams (even if one of them isn’t really at home anymore).

This dogmatic approach to auto purchases often works in my favor, as many American cars intrinsically have a low resale value.  My Blazer was four years old when I found it on a Ford dealer’s lot near Alma, Michigan, in 2004.  I sent my then recently retired father over to check it out and do some haggling, and he managed to talk them down about a grand (if I remember correctly) to $5500.  It had 55,000 miles, was four-years-old, and it was only worth (at a dealer nonetheless) $5500.  It had never been wrecked, but the previous owner was a smoker.  Other than that, there was nothing wrong with it that I could see when I went to pick it up on a Saturday; I was simply thrilled that I was able to get such a nice car for such a cheap price.

The Blazer was a great car that accompanied me during a memorable time in my life.  When we signed for our house in April 2005, the Blazer was in the parking lot.  When a couple pals and I went on a fishing trip for my bachelor party, the Blazer towed my dad’s fishing boat.  When we got married in July, my fiance-then-wife drove it to the wedding so she could carry the kinds of things a person needs when she gets married.  When we drove out east for our honeymoon, the Blazer racked up a few thousand miles on the highways of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York.  Yes, it was squeaky and rattly and a little harsh, as all Blazers were, but it was a surprisingly nice car to drive on the expressway or a quiet two-lane highway.  In case you were curious, a 2000 Chevy Blazer is limited to 97 mph.

Of course, there was more than 97 mph worth of power on tap via Chevy’s old, hoary 4.3-liter V6, which as everyone knows was derived from the 350 small block.  It had a lot of torque but would run out of breath after 4000 rpm; above that, there were no sounds emanating from the engine compartment to make the driver desire to repeat that experiment.

Engine noises notwithstanding (it had the ubiquitous Chevy cold piston slap the entire time), the Blazer was very reliable over the 35,000 miles I owned it.  I replaced one ball joint and an idler arm.  I flushed out the Dexcool antifreeze and added an auxiliary transmission cooler, as towing the fishing boat resulted in the acrid smell of burnt transmission fluid.  Even with a 5,000 pound towing capacity (from what I remember), it’s not good to tow even a 16-foot small craft with your Blazer.  I did replace the spark plugs shortly before I sold it, and I remember that the plug for cylinder number three was blocked by the steering shaft: It’s that kind of baked-in engineering goodness that keeps me buying American.

I certainly would have continued driving the Blazer for many more years if it weren’t for its greatest shortcoming: fuel mileage.  In the winter, even on my rural commute, it would be a day to celebrate if it got 18 miles per gallon.  If you’ll recall, fuel prices spiked as 2008 approached, and it made no sense to me to continue commuting in a car that wasn’t old and yet fleeced me at the pump.  My sister was selling her beat-up Escort ZX2 for $2000, and I saw an opportunity to make a few thousand dollars by selling the Blazer and saving a lot of money on gas.  Of course, my plan was to funnel all of that money back into my four (at the time – oh, how quaint) old cars.

So I did.  Finding a buyer for the Blazer was unfortunately difficult.  It took months to sell, as you might expect given what little I paid for it.  Nobody wanted a two-door, two-wheel drive Blazer; most of the six million on the road at the time were four-door, four-wheel drive models.  Finally, after parking it across the street from my parents’ house for a few months with a “for sale” sign in the window, in the driveway of an empty house that was also for sale, and learning from my parents that someone in the night dented the door by throwing a vacuum cleaner (of all things) at it, a guy paid me my full asking price: $3900.  In cash.  At night.  I had popped out most of the (very) small dent, and he never saw it (although I was furious at man’s endless compulsion to vandalize things.  My mom’s phone call alerting me to the deed was prefaced with, “Now don’t get mad.”).  After the deal was done (odd timing), I remember his asking if there was any body damage.  I told him, he didn’t seem to care, and that was the end of it.

As an aside, say what you want about Facebook Marketplace flakes, but at least you’re not getting prank phone calls in the middle of the night because your home phone number’s in the Auto Trader.  One memorable nocturnal intrusion involved a particularly inappropriate imitation of a foreign accent.  Such was selling a car back in the good old days of 2008.

With all that being said, I still miss the Blazer, most likely for what it represented than for any actual aesthetic or mechanical appreciation for it.  Still, when comparing it to Escorts, one might understand the rose-colored glasses I wear when I think back on it.  What’s next?  You know, I’ve been looking at manual-transmission-equipped two-door Broncos, but I hear they only get 17 miles per gallon or so.  My aunt’s GMS would save me money on a turbo Camaro, too.  Hmmmm.