Second-gen Blazers and Jimmys are hip to be square


General Motors’ Square Body trucks hold a special place in the hearts of Chevrolet and GMC fans. Although pickups dominated the market in the 1970s, adventurous customers without the need for a traditional truck bed could opt for an enclosed Blazer or Jimmy.

Even today, Square Bodies are attractive and utilitarian, with plenty of creature comforts for the era, but they don’t stray far from their original purpose: to do work. They remain one of the last “Goldilocks” trucks—juuuuust right—from a time before manufacturers started tossing in more and more options, sending us down the slippery slope that has brought us to today’s luxury trucks, which rival the best-appointed luxury cars. Square Body days were simpler, when there was no “sport” before “utility vehicle”; a Square Body was simply a utility vehicle, and everybody was OK with that.

1979 GMC Jimmy 4x4 rear three quarter two tone square body truck

So OK, in fact, that GM kept the vehicle style alive for an astonishing 18 years, from 1973 to 1991. The pickup line transitioned to the GMT400 platform in 1988, but the Suburban and Blazer/Jimmy held out.

When introduced, the Blazer came in two configurations: rear-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive. For nomenclature, GM used the same C/K system as it had on its previous generation of trucks: C for 2WD and K for 4WD. Though the Blazer and Jimmy were based on C10/K10 half-ton trucks, their badging adopted C5/K5 monikers. Through 1975, a fully removable fiberglass roof was offered. For the rest of production, the trucks featured a permanent top, over the front seats, with a removable rear section. Power came from a variety of engines, from the base six-cylinder to a 400-cubic-inch small-block V-8.

A facelift came in 1981. The trucks got even more square, a silhouette highlighted by slab sides and a flatter hood, with a revised headlight configuration. A big change came again in 1982, when a 6.2-liter diesel engine was added. After that model year, the 2WD C5 was discontinued. In 1987, throttle-body fuel injection (TBI) debuted, and in 1989, the trucks were given their final front-end styling change.

Chevrolet Blazer 4x4 interior

Subtle differences do exist between the Chevy/GMC versions. Like their shared models today, GMC’s Jimmy was slightly more upscale (a very relative term, in the truck world of the era) than Chevy’s Blazer. Trim levels varied as well, with utilitarian offerings like the Sierra and Custom Deluxe on one end and more comfortable ones like the High Sierra and Silverado on the other.

In terms of today’s values, there aren’t huge gaps between trim levels. Disparity does exist, however, between the brands: Despite being a bit more decked out, the Jimmy lags slightly behind the Blazer in pricing. Gen X is the strongest buying demographic for both the Chevy and GMC, with the cohort accounting for more than 40 percent of the quotes for these trucks. Millennials make up the second biggest group, accounting for around 30 percent of quotes.

Living with a Square Body Blazer, as with any of these trucks, comes with some perks and perils. Square Bodies are robust overall, and most came with a small-block Chevy, so the reliability is high and the difficulty of repair low. Later TBI trucks work well, but the system is pretty low tech: If you plan to modify a TBI-equipped truck, it is generally much easier to rip out the system and go with a carburetor or a more modern EFI system. The tried-and-true TH350 transmission was standard on earlier trucks and got swapped out for the 700R4 overdrive unit in the 1980s. These had a few teething problems, but nothing that hasn’t already been addressed by now.

GMC Jimmy 4x4 engine bay

Among 4×4 trucks, those built through the late 1970s got a full-time 4×4 transfer case, which wasn’t universally loved. Many of those earlier Blazers and Jimmys have had their transfer cases swapped out for part-time units, a perfectly acceptable substitution in the eyes of most. Finally, watch for rust. Rocker panels and floor boards easily fall victim to rot, especially if you’re looking at an early model with a removable top plagued by a leaky seal. Rust can also occur around the rear inside wheelwell.

Upgrades also bring on their own set of problems. Because Blazers and Jimmys share so much with the pickup versions, heavier-duty axles bolt right in. While a beefier axle is not a problem on its own, these swaps are usually accompanied by lift kits and big tires, both of which put extra strain on the truck. Without proper bracing to the frame at the steering box, a lifted Blazer with larger tires can eventually stress-crack the frame, so be wary of a truck with mods that lacks the proper reinforcement.

The market for these trucks exploded around the same time as the Bronco market did. However, in comparison, Blazers and Jimmys have remained less expensive than their Ford rival. But we’re grading on a curve—early Broncos are just plain expensive, so a $60,000 Blazer seems like a more affordable option. But $60K–$70K is about where the top of the market lives for these trucks now, and anything that would make for a good driver is around $20 grand.

There used to be a bit of a gap in value between the ’73–80 trucks and the ’81–91 models, with the latter being a bit more affordable. That gap has closed somewhat. Even the diesel-powered trucks have crept up in value. Anyway you cut it, Square Bodies are expensive, and that’s just in stock form. Well-executed custom work can easily push values into the six-figure range. That said, we haven’t seen a cottage industry latch onto Square Bodies the way high-end builders have with first-gen Broncos. But that could just be a matter of time.

The bottom line? Second-gen Blazers and Jimmy have solidified themselves as serious collector trucks. It wasn’t that long ago these were just used trucks. Now they’re highly coveted machines caught up in the classic truck craze, so get yours while the gettin’s good.




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    Good trucks, simple and widely supported. The Blazer/Jimmy tailgate window stuff can be problematic; 12 years ago, that stuff was hard to find, but has likely become available now.

    Author here, I can tell you honestly that I absolutely adore these trucks. If anything, I’d love to see prices come back down so I don’t have to pinch pennies to acquire one. I’ve owned a couple square body pickups and a square body Suburban but a good Blazer has been elusive.

    In the past I worked with a guy who had a 1984 K5 Blazer 4X4, forgot if it was a 305 or a 350 V8, and it came from the factory with a granny gear 4 speed manual transmission. That was the only time I ever saw a factory-installed transmission like that in a 1980s K5 Blazer. These are great trucks.

    So, the point is that not all of these K5 Blazers were automatics as the article seems to imply.

    You TOTALLY missed the military version of these – the M1009, CUCV. There is a whole ‘cult following’ on these vehicles. All CUCV’s were powered by GM’s 6.2L J-series Detroit Diesel V8 engine ‘non-emissions’ diesel.

    I agree – I’m surprised there’s no mention of the CUCV here. There are quite a few CUCV owners around that either kept the trucks original or made their own mods like with the other civilian Jimmys and Blazers. Then those little trucks end up loading to bigger trucks like the HMMWV and the 2 1/2-ton – they’re gateway trucks, so to speak! The first generation HMMWVs used the same motor as the CUCVs did.

    I have a 1991 GMC regular cab short bed. I looked a long time to find one. I bought it off the original owner 14 years ago. He made a lot of changes to it. New seat, radio, better A/C, bigger tires and rims and duel exhaust. He had every manual that was available. The best part was that he put it away for the winter. I do the same thing.

    I had a 1976 K5 two tone gold and white with removable top.
    Sold it 25 years ago for $1,000
    Should have kept it and stuck my ‘51 Studebaker on it😎

    I own a square 91 Dodge Ram short box two wheel drive project truck for sale, make me an offer?

    Thank you, Gary. I think big numbers for Broncos is absurd. And the new ones are atrocious. Apparently I’m in the minority.
    I’ve always liked the square body GM product but I have no use for one. Otherwise I would own one. And othr than the brakes FI is a good idea.

    I had a ‘92 S-15 GMC Jimmy SLT 4X4 that I loved, until it started nickel ($500) and diming ($1,000) me to death. For the first 125,000 miles or so, it was an outstanding vehicle, taking me places I’d be afraid to take other vehicles, and wouldn’t attempt with the wimpy junk you can get today without spending $75 large on. Then, alas, it stopped getting me home from work several times, and I couldn’t afford too keep dropping a grand every three weeks on it.

    I bought a new 1973 K5 Blazer 4WD, with a 350 V8, 4 speed manual transmission, for just under $4K. Drove it for 30 years, put 400K miles on it, changed the rear end and suspension to 3/4 ton after the original rear end failed. Pulled travel trailers, hunted, and raised my kids with it, and it was a great ride, smooth as silk and straight as a string. Sold it in 2003 for $6K after all that, because I had a new GMC truck setting in my driveway, and I was still driving the Blazer everyday to work. I missed using the old girl for hunting for a quite awhile.

    Always loved squares since I was a little kid. My dad used to bring home an ‘88 k5 blazer from work all the time. I loved riding in that thing! I’m now on my second truck…’85 K30 Singl Cab Dually…454, Turbo 400…to me it’s the king of squares!!

    I’ve owned 73-87-91 Chevy 4×4’s for 25 years. My current K5 is a metallic green 1990 Chevy Blazer. Love the TBI 350 motor, 700R4, and Np241 T-case. I prefer the 87-91 models as TBI is much more trouble free compared to old gummed up and finnicky carburetors. The 1992-1999 GMT400 2-door version of the Blazer/Jimmy/Yukon/Tahoe are great too.

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