Written by Eric Becker
One cannot help but notice these days SUVs are quite literally everywhere. From Kia to Lamborghini, showrooms highlight the popularity of this vehicle class. Collateral damage? You bet, as these urban and suburban rides have all but killed off the conventional sedan and the unfairly maligned wagon. Some automakers have even gone so far as to cease production of the aforementioned sedan and wagon all together.
One might ask, what gives? What are consumers actually getting? Today’s current crop of SUVs, with few exceptions, feature the same mechanical underpinnings as a regular car. Yes, cladding and a slightly raised wheel clearance give a hint of something different, but these vehicles mostly only share the functional idea possessed by their military and agriculture-derived ancestors. Yet a silver lining does exist – some of our most iconic utilitarian classics are in the midst of a mini-renaissance. Chevrolet’s Blazer is a stellar example.
The Blazer might be considered as one of the most influential SUVs of all time. Prior to the Blazer’s launch in the fall of 1969, the Ford Bronco, International Scout and of course the Jeep were highly capable 4WD off-roaders. Built for use on the farm or battlefields, Chevy’s rivals were bred for the purpose of traversing the most difficult terrain but were absent the most basic amenities.
The Blazer would share its underpinnings with a shortened version of the K10 pickup’s ladder chassis. The Blazer was longer and certainly wider than its competitors, but unquestionably more pliant on the road. The interior could be configured to hold up to five passengers and featured far more creature comforts than its spartan rivals. The Blazer would go on to be instrumental in marking the change of four-wheel-drive vehicles from niche workhorses to everyday commuters, as well as expand the reach and market of domestic and international manufacturers.
When launched in 1969, the Blazer was only available as a permanent four-wheel-drive vehicle and featured a rudimentary live axle and leaf spring suspension. The following year would see Chevrolet introduce a more commuter-friendly two-wheel-drive variant riding on a new and entirely different suspension. The hard-riding and off-road necessary live axles were replaced by a fully independent coil spring suspension at the front and trailing arms at the rear. The two-wheel-drive Blazer was markedly rarer than its four-wheel-drive sibling; only 985 left the factory in 1970 (with 4WD production at 11,527 that year). In total, less than 6,000 first-gen two-wheel-drive Blazers were produced between 1969 and 1972, making them highly sought-after and collectible today.
This was cause for a bit of confusion, as the two-wheel-drive Blazer was still referenced as the “K5” in most press and marketing material. Those practiced in the alpha-numeric language of Chevrolet will decry, “How can that be?” Well, it is true that “K” designates four-wheel-drive vehicles in Chevy semantics, while “C” is referential to two-wheel-drive models. Chevy knew this and, in a bid to dissuade buyer confusion and given the limited production of the two-wheel-drive model, scraped “C5” from the naming convention. With the benefit of hindsight, this may have caused more confusion in the long run. But there’s a quick and easy remedy: To discern if a Blazer is the highly coveted factory two-wheel-drive, just check the VIN. All Blazers from 1970-71 start with the letter “C” and for ’72 they can be identified with “CC,” whereas four-wheel-drive VINs start with “K” or “CK.”
Given the Blazer’s popularity over the years, it has proved to be the perfect canvas for modification – becoming, if you will, the ultimate “off-road-ster.” Over the years Barrett-Jackson has seen several stellar examples of Chevrolet Blazers on the auction block. Here are some favorites that have captivated imaginations and wowed audiences.
Crossing the block at the 2017 Palm Beach Auction, this immaculate K5 Blazer Resto-Mod underwent a frame-off build that took well over 1,200 hours. It’s powered by an LS3 430hp engine with a GM Connect-and-Cruise 4L70E automatic overdrive transmission, mated to the original NP-205 transfer case. Coated in a beautiful black finish, this ’71 K5 Blazer sold for an auction record with a final price of $220,000 after a remarkable round of bidding.
This custom 1971 K5 CST (Custom Sport Truck) Blazer recently crossed the block at our 2020 Scottsdale Auction. Power comes from a 6.0-liter LS engine sent through a 4L80E transmission with an advanced adapter supporting the NP205 transfer case. The engine features a Holley EFI Sniper high-rise intake manifold, ceramic-coated Headman headers, ICT black pulley front drive, Dirty Dingo ECU mount, and a DeWitt’s aluminum radiator with all-stainless lines and hoses, as well as a custom air intake. The Blazer’s chassis has been completely reworked and sits on 37-inch BFG KM3 tires wrapping 17-inch American Racing wheels. For the ultimate stopping power, the K5 features 4-wheel Wilwood disc brakes backed by CPP hydroboost. The Blazer is finished in PPG Cement Gray with Ice White two-tone. The body has been retrofitted with a 1967 front clip and truck-style chrome side trim. Hand-pinstriped moldings, emblems and tailgate accent the interior, which is Porsche Panamera red utilizing factory front bucket seats and a factory rear bench seat. This 1971 Blazer is a true CST and commanded a final price of $143,000 when it crossed the block.
Owned by Blink-182’s famed drummer Travis Barker, this custom Chevrolet K5 features an LS3 V8 engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission. It rides on a raised suspension with Bilstein shocks and Black Rock wheels wrapped in Nitto Trail Grappler 35×12.50 tires. The exterior is finished in Gunmetal Gray and features 7-inch Vision VX series headlights. The interior features black leathers seats, air conditioning, Dakota Digital gauges and of course a custom sound system. Barker’s Blazer drummed across the block at the 2020 Scottsdale Auction and netted a final price of $93,500.
Built by Kindig-it Design, this Blazer exudes class. Under the hood sits a GM Performance LS3 6.2-liter V8 crate engine backed by a 4L65E 4-speed automatic transmission. The lowered Blazer rides on AccuAir suspension and is finished in a gorgeous shade of PPG Forrest Green. The lean, green machine crossed the block at the 2020 Scottsdale Auction and went to its new home for $132,000.
We’re always excited to see Chevy’s legendary off-roader crossing the auction block or cruising down the highway, and that burly on-road presence is certainly nothing to scoff at. But better still is catching a K5 Blazer tackling a backroad trail.