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.
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.
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.
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.