When trawling for CCs out in the mystic East, one does not often catch American metal. But Japan has a stronger connection with the US than places I’ve lived in before, and I’ve been seeing a few more American cars here than in Thailand or Myanmar. Case in point: I found a classic “K5” Blazer, sitting in a quiet neighbourhood. However, I was not too sure what to make of it, and the more I looked and learned, the less I understood this Blah-zair. Or is that Blay-zurr?
See, I didn’t even know how to pronounce it – that’s the English language for you. So no, I’m not overly familiar with these machines. I cannot remember the last time I saw one of these, or their Suburban big sister (yes, I’m electing to give these a gender, and they’re female. I don’t know why exactly.) Unlike Jeeps, Blazers were never popular in Europe and are perhaps not as charismatic as other Chevrolet products, like the Biscayne or the Vega. Ok, I’m being sarcastic, but the fact remains that “Blazer,” to a good many foreigners, sounds more like a garment or a misspelling of the word “blasé” than a Chevy.
The idea behind the initial Blazer, in the late ‘60s, was GM’s answer to the Jeep, the IH Scout and the Ford Bronco, based on the Chevy Suburban / C-10 pickup. It was pretty a good idea, except that convertibles were on their way out and that the Blazer / Suburban started to bloat up at an alarming rate. The 1973 redesign, with those characteristic oversized square wheel openings, really changed the look of the vehicle and made the wheels look a little lost in there, though that’s perhaps only true on this particularly peculiarly-shod example. However, the front wheels seem a bit off-centre, which is a trait I’ve seen on other Blazers.
By MY 1976, the genuine drop-top had morphed into a short wheelbase Suburban. The rear could be canvas-topped if one so wished, but the GRP top was becoming the more or less default option. Combined with the decidedly wagon-like tailgate, complete with wind-down back window, the Blazer turned into a two-door wagon on stilts. The great thing about Suburban and Blazers was their combination of a simple yet sturdy frame and drivetrain with 4WD. I for one always figured that anything this big and high off the ground was necessarily equipped with 4WD – it sure looked like they were designed that way. But no, you could get RWD and IFS if you so desired. Same with the Scout, but not the Bronco or the Jeep CJ, as far as I know.
Our feature car is one of those RWD-only Blazers (a.k.a. the C-10, like the pickups — theoretically, “K5” should only apply to 4WD models). I’m not seeing the floor-mounted transfer lever down there, just a column shifter. And what looks like door cards from a mid-‘80s Blazer, too – Blazers from this era did not have power windows. Incidentally, this is another GM product from the era when they felt the need to wrap the dash around the driver – another ‘70s fad that leaves me wondering what they were smoking with their Quaalude and peyote space brownies back then.
Body-wise, I kind of like the profile of this truck. The square wheel openings are very ‘70s and work pretty well, assuming the wheels are big enough for them. The rear is fine too. But I’m really not too fond of the front end. It’s needlessly bland and brick-like, without any attempt at a curve or any non-right angle. It’s more akin to masonry than automotive design. The previous generation (1969-72) Blazers had a much more handsome mug, in my view.
I have no idea what engine this truck has – it has an automatic transmission, so I believe that theoretically rules out the 6-cyl. base motor. Either the 305 or the 350 (5.0 and 5.7 litre) V8s should be in there, producing something like 145hp and 165hp respectively – all to operate a two-ton Lego truck. The fuel economy must be in the single digits, unlike the 0-60 time.
So to sum up, here is a two-wheel drive two-door wagon that’s much bigger and heavier than it needs to be, wearing a face drawn with an etch-a-sketch. It used to be fully convertible, but no longer. It has a gluttonous appetite but not much power and it has an instrument panel shaped like a Mad Magazine fold-in. And it’s got all the drawbacks of the Suburban but none of the usable space.
The question I’m struggling to answer, then, is: What was the point of this Chevy Blazer, particularly the C-10 / 4×2 version? I’m sure there was one – GM probably wouldn’t have made these for almost two decades without some sort of justification. My skimming of a few online forums, articles and blogs further impressed on me the fact that this generation of Blazers and Suburbans were not exactly great quality vehicles, on top of everything else (especially the later ones, it seems, though YMMV). They are definitely “iconic,” because everybody says so, but that is probably more a function of their long production life, rather than their intrinsic qualities. I can understand the appeal of the 4×4 version or of their gigantic Suburban sisters, and I really like the earlier full drop-top ones, but this one escapes me.
Curbside Classic: 1980 Chevrolet K5 Blazer Silverado – The Charlton Heston Of Chevy Trucks, by Stainsey Stainselstein
CC: 1978 & 1979 Chevrolet Blazers – Tall, Wide, And…, by Andrew Turnbull