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Chevy Blazer Through the Years

Art Michalik

The original Chevy Blazer was equally adept on- and off-road. The Chevy Blazer has morphed over the years, with an all-new Blazer being introduced in 2019.

In 1969, Chevrolet responded to Ford’s Bronco with a very different design philosophy. Rather than a short wheelbase, bare-bones off-roader, the original Blazer was larger and more comfortable, setting the trend for full-size SUVs that continues to this day.

1972 Chevrolet K5 Blazer - carsforsale.com

1972 Chevrolet K5 Blazer – carsforsale.com  |  Shop Chevrolet Blazer on Carsforsale.com

The lineage of the Chevrolet Blazer is not a straight line. There were two vastly different-sized overlapping models and changes to its name that no longer included the word Blazer. To simplify, we’ve grouped the various model into two flavors: full-size and mid-size.

Full-size Chevy Blazer Sport Utility Vehicle

First Generation (1969-1972)

1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer - chevrolet.com
1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer - chevrolet.com
  • The unexpected success of the first-generation Ford Bronco, launched in 1966, raised the question among GM product planners as to how to address this phenomenon. They figured that a 10-inch wider vehicle riding on a 12-inch longer wheelbase that could accommodate five adults in comfort was the answer, and rightly so.
  • Only 5,000 K5 Blazers were sold in 1969, though by 1972, Chevrolet was selling twice as many K5 Blazers as Ford did Broncos.
  • For 1969, K5 Blazers were only available with four-wheel drive. Transmission choices included three- and four-speed manual gearboxes along with a three-speed automatic. Two-wheel drive versions were added for the 1970 model year.
  • There were, however, three engine choices. The base unit was the stout 250 CID L22 inline six-cylinder unit. Chevy matched the Ford Bronco 302 V8 upgrade with a 307 CID V8 that developed 200 horsepower. A 292 CID inline six-cylinder L25 engine option was added for the 1970-1971 model years.
  • One-upping the Bronco, Chevrolet offered an LS9 350 CID V8 with an output of 255 horsepower.
  • The LS9 small block engine for truck applications of that period is decidedly different from the LS9 that powered the C6 Corvette ZR1 from 2009 to 2013.
1972 Chevrolet K5 Blazer without top - carsforsale.com
1972 Chevrolet K5 Blazer without top - carsforsale.com
  • While the removable fiberglass roof (from behind the windshield) was standard, buyers could select from a range of options, including air conditioning, power brakes, power steering, tachometer, AM/FM push-button radio, heavy-duty shocks and springs, and an auxiliary battery.
  • The K5 Blazer retained its same styling throughout its run, save some minor styling to the front fascia for the 1971 and 1972 model years.
  • Also, in 1971, front disc brakes became standard equipment on the Blazer.

Second Generation (1973-1991)

1979 Chevrolet K5 Blazer - carsforsale.com
1979 Chevrolet K5 Blazer - carsforsale.com
  • Using the same rounded fenders and hood found on Chevy’s C-10 pickup trucks, the second-generation achieved a more contemporary look.
  • The rear-wheel-drive K5 Blazer continued until 1982 when the configuration was dropped due to low sales.
  • The availability of the full removable fiberglass top ended in 1976 with the introduction of a half-cab design that covered the driver and front-seat passenger with a steel roof. Behind them was a removable roof so that rear-seat passengers could still ride in the open air. This option ended in 1991.
1985 Chevrolet K5 Blazer 305 5.0L V8 engine - carsforsale.com
1985 Chevrolet K5 Blazer 305 5.0L V8 engine - carsforsale.com
  • Engine choices included the original 250 cu. in. inline-six as standard through 1984. Available engines included a 292 CID inline-six, four small block V8 options in 305, 307, 350, or 400 CID displacements along with a 6.2 L Detroit Diesel LH6 V8 that was also fitted to the HMMWV (HumVee) military vehicle.
  • Whereas the original Bronco triggered Chevrolet to develop the Blazer, for the 1978 model year, Ford responded by increasing the size of the Bronco to roughly K5 Blazer dimensions.
  • In 1981, the styling was refreshed with new elements including quad rectangular headlights and an egg-crate grille. With the refresh, the Blazer acquired a part-time all-wheel-drive option that allowed shifting into 4WD on the fly.

Third Generation (1992-1994)

1992 Chevrolet Blazer - carsforsale.com
1992 Chevrolet Blazer - carsforsale.com
  • For 1992, GM redesigned its SUVs, moving to the GMT400 architecture that had debuted four years earlier on its pickup trucks.
  • Third gen Blazers rode on a wheelbase nearly as long as that of the Chevrolet Suburban.
  • The standard engine was the 5.7L (350 CID) LO5 V8. Fuel economy was a dismal combined rating of just 14 miles per gallon.
  • Transmission choices were a five-speed manual and a four-speed automatic.
  • A 6.5 L turbocharged Detroit Diesel V8 was added as an option for 1994 but was available only with the automatic transmission.
  • The full-size Blazer was discontinued for 1995, replaced by the Chevrolet Tahoe, which featured two-door and four-door body styles.

Fourth Generation (1995-1999)

1997 Chevrolet Blazer - carsforsale.com
1997 Chevrolet Blazer - carsforsale.com
  • By this point, Chevrolet had confused consumers and dealers alike with naming both the full-size and mid-size versions of its SUV Blazer. To help sort that out, what had been known as the Blazer now became the Chevrolet Tahoe.
  • Launched in 1995, the Chevy Tahoe was available in two-door and four-door configurations. The four-door was, in essence, a shorter version of the Chevrolet Suburban.
  • The two-door 1995 Chevrolet Tahoe was dimensionally the same size as the last Chevy Blazer, riding on the same GMT400 architecture in use since 1992.
  • The standard engine was Chevrolet’s 5.7 L LO5 small-block V8, while a turbocharged 6.5 L Detroit Diesel V8 became available in the 1994 model year.
  • The Tahoe was voted Truck of the Year for 1994.
  • The direct link to the original Chevrolet K5 Blazer was broken in 1999 when the two-door configuration was discontinued.

Mid-size Chevy Blazer

First Generation (1983-1994)

1984 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer - carsforsale.com

1984 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer – carsforsale.com  |  Shop Chevrolet S-10 Blazer on Carsforsale.com

  • To compete with the incoming flood of imported and US-built compact SUVs, Chevrolet created a competitor based on the smaller S-10 truck chassis. The first-generation mid-size Blazers were manufactured in the United States, Canada, and Venezuela.
  • While the new S-10 Blazer didn’t feature a removable top, it was only available in a two-door configuration, like the K-5 Blazer.
  • The base engine was GM’s 2.0 L OHV four-cylinder engine that produced a measly 83 horsepower. The 90-degree (narrow-angle) 2.8 L V6 that developed 110 horsepower was an available option. Because of more stringent emissions laws, California bound S-10 Blazers were fitted with Isuzu engines.
  • The 1.9 L and 2.0 L engines were dropped by Chevrolet after 1985, replaced by the fuel-injected 2.5 L Tech IV “Iron Duke” engine. The diesel engine was dropped altogether.
  • A new 60-degree 4.3 L V6 based on Chevy’s small-block V8 that developed 150 horsepower was added for the 1988 model year, becoming the sole engine available after the four-cylinder Iron Duke was dropped in 1989 and the 2.8 L V6 discontinued after 1990.
  • In March of 1990, a four-door version of the S-10 Blazer was introduced as a 1991 model based on a six-inch longer chassis to accommodate extra rear passenger and cargo space.
  • Production models of the four-door between March and August 1990 were available as a four-wheel-drive only, with 2WD production beginning in the summer of 1990.
  • 1991 saw the introduction of Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) on all mid-size Blazer models.
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Second Generation (1995-2005)

2003 Chevrolet Blazer - carsforsale.com
2003 Chevrolet Blazer - carsforsale.com
  • All-new for the 1995 model year, the Blazer saw the removal of the S-10 prefix. Now it was just the Chevrolet Blazer.
  • The 1995 Chevrolet Blazer was called the Truck of the Year. With its rounded, more modern styling along with more interior and cargo space, it became an immediate hit with families.
  • Power came from the only engine offered in the second-generation mid-size Blazer: the Vortec 4300 V6. While introduced at 200 horsepower in 1995, output dropped to 190 horsepower from 1996 through 2005.
  • From 1995 through the end of its run in 2005, the Blazer could be ordered with a ZR2 off-road package. It featured real off-the-road upgrades, a wider track and increased ground clearance, big BFG A/T tires along with increased ground clearance, special shocks, skid plates, and fender plates.
  • 1997 was the last year a manual transfer case for four-wheel drive (floor shifter for four-wheel drive) was offered.
  • In its last year, the (S-10) Blazer was available in a TrailBlazer trim, which would be the successor’s model name. Just to keep things confusing.

Third Generation (2002-2009)

2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer - carsforsale.com

2002 Chevrolet TrailBlazer – carsforsale.com  |  Shop Chevrolet TrailBlazer on Carsforsale.com

  • Starting with the 2002 model year, the new, larger GMT 360 architecture was adopted for the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, adding more confusion to the naming sequence. It was sold alongside the existing Chevy Blazer from 1999-2005, then by itself from 2006 until 2009.
  • The Chevrolet TrailBlazer was the first GM SUV that was not based on a pickup truck chassis. While still body-on-frame like a truck, being on a unique platform allowed engineers to tune its suspension for reduced noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH).
  • The Chevrolet TrailBlazer was designed around the all-new 4.2 L inline six-cylinder DOHC Atlas engine, marketed as the Vortech 4200. The engine was selected as Engine of the Year from 2002 through 2005 for its advanced engineering and its smooth, powerful performance. Despite this, customers were more interested in V8 engines, and the Atlas engine was dropped entirely in 2009.
  • From 2002-2009, a 302 HP 5.3 L V8 was available, supplemented by a 6.0 L V8 from 2006-2009. These engines were all part of GM’s new LS family of engines.
  • Rear-wheel drive was standard, with part-time four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive as options.
  • From 2003 through 2006, there was also a TrailBlazer EXT, with a wheelbase extended 16 inches that allowed for three-row, seven-passenger seating.
  • An SS version of the TrailBlazer was added in 2006, the first time a Super Sport badge was applied to an SUV. The suspension was upgraded, and the ride height lowered, and 20-inch wheels were standard. The SS was powered by an LS2 C6 Corvette engine that produced 395 horsepower. Sales of the SS model accounted for only 26,000 purchases between 2006 and 2009.
  • After the 2009 model year, all forms of the Blazer name went dormant, as the Chevrolet Traverse replaced the TrailBlazer.

Return of the Blazer

2019 Chevrolet Blazer - chevrolet.com

2019 Chevrolet Blazer – chevrolet.com  |  Shop new Chevrolet Blazer on Carsforsale.com

  • Picking up the story ten years later, the world was introduced to the next installment of the Blazer legacy, the all-new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer.
  • The all-new Blazer is a mid-size crossover CUV. It is based on the same C1 platform as the Cadillac XT-5, though the Blazer has a wider track. Unlike the first generation K5 Blazer, the new version is of unibody construction.
  • With its wide stance, tight proportions, high beltline, and dramatic sculpting, Chevy says that the current Blazer is “the boldest, most progressive expression of the Chevrolet crossover design theme.” The new Blazer features intentional styling cues borrowed from the current model Chevrolet Camaro.
  • The Blazer is available with a choice of three different engines. The base is the sophisticated normally-aspirated 2.5 L four-cylinder EcoTech LCV engine rated at 193 horsepower. The normally-aspirated 3.6 L V6 LGX engine is optional and delivers 305 horsepower.
2020 Chevrolet Blazer - chevrolet.com
2020 Chevrolet Blazer - chevrolet.com
  • For the 2020 model year, Chevrolet added the 230 horsepower 2.0 L turbocharged four-cylinder LSY engine as an available option.
  • The only available transmission is the GM Hydra-Matic 9T50 nine-speed automatic. Gearing was selected to provide off-the-line acceleration in first gear up to the tall ninth-gear for economical highway driving. Power is sent to the wheels through either a front-wheel drive, available all-wheel-drive, and twin-clutch all-wheel drive, which is available on premium models.
  • The new Chevy Blazer is offered with several advanced towing features. Hitch Guidance aids in aligning the Blazer’s hitch to a trailer by showing the centerline on the rear-vision camera. Hitch View complements Hitch Guidance by showing a top-down view, making it easier to hitch a trailer without a second person to assist.
  • In front, the cloth base seats have six- and four-way manual adjustments. On upper trims, power 8-way seats in front can be heated and cooled and clad in leather. The rear bench slides to allow for either more cargo or passenger space as needed.

Blazer Fast Facts:

  • In 1976 and 1977, Chevrolet offered the Blazer Chalet through its dealers, a pop-up camper affixed in the same manner as the factory hardtop. All-wheel drive and a 400 CID V8 were the only drivetrain configurations. Standard features included accommodation for two with a sink, a two-burner propane stove, an icebox, and a dinette table. Higher trim level versions had a propane heater and refrigerator, and overhead fold-out bunks for two additional campers.
  • From 1983-1987 Chevrolet produced an M1009 K5 Blazer-based vehicle for the US military. The military spec model was outfitted with a more robust suspension, upgraded electrical system, front brush guard, and rifle rack. Exterior paint colors were limited to olive green, tan, and camouflage.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2019 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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Art Michalik
Art Michalik

Art Michalik brings a career full of experience in the automotive industry to his writing. He has guided marketing at two major tire companies, represented some of the biggest names in the automotive aftermarket at an ad agency, built the enthusiast social media presence at a major online retailer and even managed one of the most famous racing schools in the world.

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