Chevrolet K5 Blazer
The presence, purpose, and acceptability of sport-utility vehicles have long been a controversial subject here at Car Lust, spurring some of the fiercest debate this normally placid site has ever seen. We even have an SUV Throwdown post and discussion thread in which we tried to confine all of the endless, circular, unproductive debate about whether SUVs represent wonderful utility, repugnant overindulgance, or simply more extroverted but less useful minivans. This post is not an invitation to reopen that argument, and if you feel yourself compelled to refight it, please do so in that old discussion thread.
However, I will say that I prefer my SUVs to follow the Jeep Wagoneer, International Scout, and Ford Bronco vein--rough, tough, impervious, and inexorable. I figure that if I'm going to have a vehicle with the compromises of a truck (heavy and with a high center of gravity), that I may as well have the benefits as well, namely the easy ability to go off-road, to tow a boat or a brace of snowmobiles, and to swallow enough gear to support a platoon of soldiers. Such a truck needs rugged body-on-frame construction, a bellowing V-8, and nothing extraneous to snag or to break.
At one time, it wasn't difficult to find trucks like this; they were the natural, motorized replacements for mountain goats, draft horses, and burros. They were as capable and basic as tractors, because customers needed maximum functionality for minimum cost. It's one of the brilliant ironies of design that this emphasis on function over form helped sculpt trucks that were fantastic to look at--their basic, elemental designs were as direct and forceful as Chuck Norris' fists. These are the trucks that created the rough-and-tumble image on which today's fancy and expensive SUVs are trading.
The Chevy K5 Blazer was one of those original workhorses. The K5 Blazer, not to be confused with the compact S-10-based Blazer, was essentially a shortened Chevy full-size pickup truck with a back seat and a removable top. The result was a truck big enough to carry a family and their camping equipment, and it was capable of getting them there without drama. In short, it was the perfect truck for making adventures and creating memories.
The K5 Blazer came into existence in 1969 and was produced alongside the contemporary Chevy full-size trucks until the slicker Chevy Tahoe replaced it in 1995. The earlier K5s are certainly more elemental than the late K5s, but even the K5s produced in the late 1980s made capable workhorses.
In fact, the K5 sums up much of what I liked about the bigger GM products of the 1970s and 1980s. The full-size Chevy trucks were dependable, durable, faithful, and great to look at - and they carried the usual array of tractable and powerful Chevy gas and diesel engines. Given the wide array of available Chevrolet engines, I'm sure a hot-rodder could even make a 4WD K5 into a brutal and stealthy drag-racer--like a bigger, blunter GMC Syclone.
Beyond that, K5 Blazers have always held a special place in my heart. My father had a white K5 Blazer as a company car when he was working in forestry in Oregon in the early 1980s, and as a result the white K5 has always stuck in my mind as the quintessential go-anywhere adventure machine. Some people envision adventures that take place in Jeep Wranglers or Land Rovers. In my imagination, my adventure takes place with a white K5 figuring as my sidekick. It doesn't matter how grim the situation looks; my K5 and the gear I have strapped to the roof can get me through.
It's getting difficult to find pristine, untouched K5s nowadays. Many have been retired from daily driver status and have been turned into jacked-up off-road specials or hunting vehicles. While I wish more of these trucks were being kept in their original state, I'm glad that at least these trucks are still fulfilling their original function--delivering enjoyment and disregarding the challenges of terrain or conditions.