Introduction

Though sold in multiple sizes and configurations, the name "Chevy Blazer" is often associated with a big, stereotypically American four-wheel drive vehicle, from the late 1960's through the early 1990's. This page intends to provide a background history of the vehicle and show the evolution of the full-size Chevy utility vehicle in all its myriads of forms. Focussing on the popular 1969-1991 trucks, I'd like to shed a little light on the confusing GM letter/number nomenclature of their truck models. There's even a tiny FAQ about the model names/numbers.

Please note that all years given are "model years", which often have little to do with the passage of time on a calendar. Historically, consumer car manufacturers introduce new models in the summer of the year prior, which are sold in quantity by fall (i.e. my 1974 Blazer would have debuted in late 1973). This is not always the case, particularly for the GMC subsidiary (medium duty trucks, a big part of GMC's business, are generally sold by real date of manufacture, and not by any artificial 'model year') so please don't mail-bomb me complaining. Also, some states register vehicles by year of actual manufacture or sale, rather than the (again, artificial) model year, so you may have a "1976" Blazer with no roof or a "1975" with a roof. Use any one of the on-line VIN decoders -- Chuck has a good one -- to discover the actual model year of your truck.

Also, those interested in the Blazer (and Chevy/GMC trucks in general) may find my Brochures page of interest. I've scanned copies of many sales brochures and other paraphenalia for the 1969-1991 Blazer, Jimmy, Suburban, andother trucks.

History

The Blazer is similar to, and can be considered to be based upon, GM's larger offering, the mighty Suburban. This vehicle actually dates back to 1935, when the Chevy Carryall was introduced, essentially a two door panel truck or wagon. One of the models of this truck was the "Carryall Suburban", the "Carryall" later being dropped from the name. This two-door, long-wheelbase configuration continued until 1967, through various body style and size changes.

In the mid-1960's, American car manufacturers were seeing the success of the utility vehicle market, what today we call "SUV's". The Jeep of course had been around since the Second World War; International Harvester (makers of farm machinery) had also seen success with their Scout and Travelall lines, and Ford had the first-generation Bronco. Four-wheel drive was just becoming popular from the factory, as aftermarket companies had been doing good business selling four-wheel drive add-on kits. The market was ripe for go-anywhere, utility vehicles for the mass market.

First Generation

1967 saw the introduction of a new generation of Chevy trucks, including the Suburban, now with an extra passenger door (presumably in reaction to the IHC Travelall, which also had three doors.) GM brought out a short-wheelbase, two-door (topless) version of their truck line called the Blazer in 1969, marking the beginning of the history of the Blazer name. (GMC enthusiasts will note that the Jimmy nameplate didn't start life until 1970 -- and I hear that 2WD models weren't available until 1970 as well.)

This first generation Blazer shared much of the mechanical underpinnings and bodywork of the pickups and Suburbans of its era. Like the Suburban, the interior was open from the cab area to the cargo space in the rear, but like the pickup, the cargo area was uncovered. In fact, the cab area was uncovered to boot -- it was fully topless. Suspension and power-train options were taken from the half-ton level; to get a higher GVWR one would have to go to a Suburban (which was offered in 1/2 and 3/4 ton) or pickup (1/2, 3/4 and 1-ton.)

Early marketing collateral represents the Blazer as a utility vehicle, for hunting or camping, and as a 'fun' vehicle -- for beach trips & the like. While most were sold with a hardtop and fully configured, the base model Blazer came only with a seat for the driver. The passenger and rear seats -- and the top -- were all "optional". Soft-tops were also available. Four wheel drive was popular, but two wheel drive was available for those folks who didn't need the extra traction.

Eagle-eyed enthusiasts will note that the Blazer was badged as a "K-5" model; see below for details on why this is silly.

Second Generation

Another new body style came in 1973, somewhat larger and more rounded than previous years. The Suburban gained a fourth door (two on both driver's and passenger sides), and a four-door "crew cab" pickup was also offered. The Blazer changed body styles to match, and was still topless. This second-generation Blazer is very popular as it shares the mechanical goodies with the newer trucks, but is still fully convertible.

While this basic body style continued for some years to come, several changes occurred, most importantly in 1976. The Blazer was no longer fully convertible: the cab was enclosed, like the pickups, but open to the cargo area. The hardtop, still an option, was removable from the rear of the cab across the cargo area. Halfway through 1976, the Blazer Chalet was introduced; basically a Chinook pop-up camper conversion, perhaps 2000 units were sold over a year or so, before quietly disappearing. GMC sold an essentially identical Jimmy Casa Grande. See my web page all about these weird and wonderful campers.

While the pickups and Suburbans continued to be offered in both two- and four wheel drive versions, the two wheel drive Blazer/Jimmy was dropped (presumably due to low demand) for 1983. Succeeding years brought minor trim and option changes, with the occasional power-train update.

Baby Blazers

The auto industry as a whole is bad about the proliferation of model names; perhaps due to its multiple divisions, GM has historically had great difficulty preventing consumer confusion with their vehicles. The Suburban was sold under both Chevrolet and GMC Truck nameplates -- mechanically identical, the two differ in trim levels and option packages. If, however, you bought the Blazer under the GMC name it was badged a Jimmy.

This confusion became painfully evident in 1983, when the General brought us the Blazer's baby brother, also called a Blazer. This one was entitled the "S-10 Blazer" (or, from a GMC Truck dealer, the "S-15 Jimmy".) Initially offered only in a two-door configuration, this truck was based on the S-10/15 mini truck platform (itself descended from the 70's Chevy "LUV" pickup, a rebranded Isuzu design). This new baby Blazer had a utility body (i.e. enclosed cargo area, open to the cab area) instead of the pickup. Available in both two- and four wheel drive configurations, this truck sported various power train options appropriate to the smaller size (four cylinder and V6 engines.)

Nothing with GM is ever simple; while originally badged on the outside as an "S-10" or "S-15", this is again silly -- see below for an explanation.

Factory high-performance versions of these small trucks were sold in 1991-2 as the GMC Syclone (pickup) and in 1992-3 as the GMC Typhoon (utility body, i.e. Jimmy). Find out more about these pocket rockets at the syty.org and syty.net sister sites. (SYclone + TYphoon = SyTy, get it? ;-)

The Thought Plickens

The next few years of Chevy trucks' names are very, very silly indeed. A new pickup body style was introduced in 1988, in two door regular and extended cabs. This new platform featured independent front suspensions, for both two- and four wheel drive. However, the Blazer/Jimmy, Suburban, and crew cab pickups kept the older body style, with a solid axle on four-wheel drive versions. This split model line continued through 1991. Also for 1991, a four-door version of the baby Blazer was added to the family. To further confuse passerby, GM's Oldsomobile subsidiary started selling this smaller truck, under the "Bravada" name (and only in a four-door configuration, I might add.)

Internal designations for these two families are "C" and "K" (two- and four-wheel drive, new body style) and "R" and "V" (two- and four-wheel drive, old body style.) Confused yet? See below.

Name Changes

For 1992, the new body style was extended across the model line. This meant that, for the first time, the full-size Blazer was no longer convertible. Its roof was permanently attached, making the Blazer essentially a short-wheelbase, two-door Suburban. GMC also simplified its side of the lineup, by renaming the full-size Jimmy the "Yukon". The baby truck then became just "Jimmy".

Chevy followed suit in 1995, renaming the full-size truck "Tahoe" and dedicating the "Blazer" name to the baby truck. Also new this year was the four-door full-size (longer than the regular Tahoe, but shorter in overall length than the Suburban) in both Tahoe and Yukon nameplates. The two-door full-size body style was dropped in 1997 (GMC) and 2000 (Chevy), leaving only the larger four-door style.

In 1999, the four-door Tahoe/Yukon was rebadged as a Cadillac, this one titled "Escalade." For 2000, GMC renamed its Suburban the "Yukon XL", narrowing the distinction between the four-door Yukon (big) and Yukon XL (bigger ;-). Upscale versions are sold as the Denali and Denali XL. The Jimmy named was dropped in 2002; GMC renamed its smaller offering the Envoy, and brought out a longer wheelbase version called the Envoy XL. Chevy's similar offering is the TrailBlazer EXT.

Also for 2002, Chevy introduced the Avalanche as a crossover vehicle, part sport-ute and part pickup. The Avalanche is, more or less, a four-door truck with the ability to open the bed to the cab area through what Chevy calls the "mid-gate". Fortunately they haven't seen fit to sell this under the GMC nameplate, but an upscale version is sold as the Cadillac Escalade EXT.

Speaking of the Avalance, the latest oddity is GMC's Envoy XUV: part Envoy and part ... God only knows what.

Finding that consumers were confused by the plethora of available brands and models, the Detroit Big Three have been hard at work trimming models (and entire brands!) from their offerings to avoid duplication. GM dropped the entire Oldsmobile brand for 2005; the Bravada was sold through 2004.

Alphabet Soup

While the text above provides a reasonably accurate list of changes in the Chevy truck lineup over the years, the GM model numbers can be very confusing, so I'd like to focus briefly on the 1973-1991 trucks. Note that Chevy's part numbers may look like CC12345 or CK98765; I drop the initial "C" and focus only on the second letter as a model differentiator.

For 1973-1987, any 2WD full-size truck would be a C-series. K-series trucks are the four-wheel drive versions.

1/2-ton capacity trucks, including pickups, the Blazer / Jimmy, and Suburbans, are model 10, so a C-10 Suburban is a 2WD, 1/2 ton. Using this system, a 4WD Blazer is a "K-10" (even Chevy's paperwork calls them this) and not the "K-5" on the badge.

3/4-ton trucks (pickups and Suburbans) are model 20, and the 1-ton pickups are model 30. A K/20 pickup, for instance, is a four-wheel drive 3/4 ton.

In the split years of 1988-1991, things unfortunately get a little weirder. 1/2 ton trucks are now 1500 models, 3/4 tons are tagged as 2500 and the 1-tons are 3500. (Note that GMC started this in the late 70's, but Chevy took a few years to change over.) However, the 2WD/4WD designator depends on body style.

The new body style (regular and extended cab pickups) keep the "C" and "K" designation, so a K1500 in these years is 4WD with the IFS. The old body style (the Blazer/Jimmy, Suburban and crew-cab pickups) have an interim "R" and "V" designation (for two- and four wheel respectively.) A 3/4-ton Suburban is therefore a V-2500 and has a very solid front axle.

Therefore, those of us with these inbetween trucks must be careful to specify "I have an R/V truck and not a pickup" when obtaining parts. I had a devil of a time finding a front receiver hitch for a 1990 Suburban because folks assume (incorrectly) that parts for a 1990 pickup would fit. It may be easier to verify that parts would fit a pre-1988 pickup (old body style) as well as your later-model vehicle.

On the baby Blazer side, these trucks were often sold as "S-10 Blazer" or "S-15 Jimmy". Note that the S-10/15 desgination only applies to 2WD versions; 4WD versions were actually coded as T-10/15. Hats off to the General for making things unclear as always.

Micro FAQ


Small print

I strive for accuracy wherever possible in this document. If you think I'm wrong, do let me know. Realize that in a few places I've oversimplified in the interest of providing usable information. For instance, when I say "crew cab pickups" I actually mean "Crew Cabs and Bonus Cabs". I know the difference (Crew Cabs have seats for up to six, Bonus Cabs have no rear seat for maximum cargo capacity) but the average reader neither knows nor cares ;-)

This document was prepared in June-July 2002, based on a much earlier version, so some information on current/future models may be late-breaking or just plain wrong by the time you read this. Realize again that my focus is on the 1973-1991 trucks; my intent with the rest of the information is to provide a sense of where the Blazer name came from and where it's going.

Small print

If you find any errors on this page or otherwise feel compelled to email me, you may do so via dremu at slosh dot com. I've stopped using mailto links in my web pages to reduce spam -- it keeps the automated crawlers from reading my address. Thanks!