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Posts Tagged ‘4×4’

1972 Chevrolet Highlander Blazer 4X4

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

It is July 2020, and we were attending the annual South East Trucking Nationals in Lebanon, Tennessee. Over 1,000 trucks were on display at the Wilson County Fair Grounds, and so, so many people came just to walk through the many rows of special trucks. Even parts venders lined some aisles!
Of the very few 1969-72 Chevrolet Blazers at the show, one really caught our attention. It was owned by Steve McDonald of Arab, Alabama. He always stayed nearby to be available for the many questions people asked. We certainly enjoyed hearing the numerous details of such an exceptional 1972 Chevrolet Highlander Blazer.

Steve is a wealth of information on 1955-72 Chevrolet trucks. There were few questions he was not able to answer on these early vehicles. His only hobby is these GM trucks. Most of all, he enjoys the search and collecting rare factory options and dealer installed GM truck accessories. Over the years Steve has obtained almost forgotten GM truck items such as an under-dash CB radio and a truck 8 track stereo player; all pure factory extras with the GM logo on their front.

The Scottish Plaid is a Real Eye-catcher!
He has eleven special Chevrolet trucks of which three are his regular drivers. These are 1959 deluxe short bed ½ ton, 1966 deluxe ½ ton Fleetside with a rare yellow factory color, and this 1972 Blazer (Actually, the Blazer is his Sunday driver only, unless he drives it 250 miles one-way to this large Tennessee truck show). The interior and exterior are beautiful examples of how they were when new.

These special options came from the factory on Steve’s Blazer. The attached inside glove box sheets (in excellent condition) shows what came extra when this Blazer was new.

For details on his Highlander package, see beyond options list:
350 Cubic Inch V-8 With 4 Barrel Carburetor
350 Turbo Hydromatic Transmission
3.73 Geared Differential
Power Steering and Power Disc Front Breaks
Tilt Steering Column
Factory Air-Conditioning
Over Flow Radiator Tank
Hawaiian Blue paint
Yes, GM Offered a CB Radio for Under the Dash. So Rare! A Pure GM Eight Track Stereo!

The 1972 Highlander Option

A different twist! There was a new option in mid-1972 that few people know about, or were even aware of almost 50 years ago. When you see Steve’s Blazer, you know something is very different than normal. Steve’s Blazer came from the factory (last half of 1972) as a pure Highlander.
The focal point of this short lived Highlander is the attractive Scottish plaid nylon cloth seat inserts. Four plaid inserts were available depending on the exterior color.
GM used the 1972 Cheyenne Super seat but instead of Houndstooth inserts, they substituted this unique plaid material. The vinyl seat edging were off-white parchment with all four placed colors.

Actually, the more advertised feature of the Highlander was three pre-installed option packages. Chevrolet put together several popular factory options in the base package in the pickup and reduced the total regular price as much as $260.00. Original equipment option (standard on the Highlander package A) was chrome front bumper, upper body moldings, door edge guards, and Below-Eye-Line door mounted mirrors.

Package B included the above items plus Turbo Hydromatic transmission, power steering and tilt steering column. Package C added the above plus air-conditioning and Soft-Ray tinted windows.

In today’s world, Highlanders has been mostly forgotten. Unless you bought one new or located an original piece of sales literature, it is likely that even GM truck lovers were not aware they existed.

Blazer Trivia

It is said what encouraged General Motors to introduce the Blazer was the U.S. Post Service needs for local mail delivery.

The major car and truck U.S. producers were given the specifications on what was needed. This would be a very large contract for the winner! General Motors was already in the “driver’s seat” to win. The frame length on their short bed ½ ton wheelbase would be shortened from 115” to 104”. Modifying short Fleet sides saved so much in design and tooling. GM was already using the drive train, front sheet metal, seats, window glass, tailgate, dash instruments, and much of the bed sides in their pickups. The other US manufacturers did not have a chance! These Post Office Blazers were sold before production began. What a deal for General Motors!

The Postal Service required the wheel base to be reduced from the 115” on GM’s current short bed ½ ton to 104”. This would allow the Blazer better turning ability to maneuver tight corners on narrow streets in older neighborhoods. They could also back up more successfully in tight places.

Because of using US government tax money, the new Blazers were required to be what we call “Bare Bones”. The engine would be GM’s bullet proof proven 250 six cylinder, no back seat or passenger front seat and no power options. Most were ordered as 2 wheel drive and one color. Even their all stainless steel one piece full wheel covers were used a few years before 1970 on the Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

The old saying “Follow the Money” applies with the creation of the Blazer. General Motors saw great potential in this new postal vehicle. With many more options already on their pickup, it just might become a good seller.

The two wheel drive and the six cylinder engine would be standard equipment at no extra cost. GM sold about 10% of these as the base price but 90% of the V-8 and 350 V-8 engines by the dealers.

GMC Does it Too

GMC also offered this body style so their dealers could be competitive. They are referred to as “GMC JIMMY”. Their name plate will attach to the same fender holes as the Blazer.

So the GMC Jimmy could be different from the Blazer’s Scottish plaid seats, GM turned the material 90 degrees to the side; thus, a slightly different look.

In summary, the Blazer has been one of the success stories in GM history. Today, a nice well-kept Blazer of the early years far surpasses their value of 50 years ago! Thank you, US Postal Service!

Oops! Let’s not forget the special Blazer made fiberglass top.

Blazer Top Facts

At a recent truck show a 1972 GM Blazer was so original that several special points should be shown on the vehicle’s unaltered fiberglass top.

Two dome lights are on the left interior side. This allows light for passengers on the front and rear seat. These lights are the same as in the pickup and Big trucks above their rear window.

As this fiberglass top is made to be removed, GM installed an electric plug warning plate. This was to remind the owner that when removing the top you must remove the electric plug from the top. This connected the main wiring harness to the wires in the top that lead to the two dome lights. As the top is fiberglass, there must be a ground wire in the harness to allow for current flow to the body.

A clothes hanger hook is behind the front dome light.

Another touch that added to the Blazer’s popularity was the removable fiberglass top. Two people could remove it, and you then had an open vehicle for nice days! Of course, if you were away from home base and a rain storm developed, you immediately looked for an overpass, parked in a coin-operated car wash, or maybe got under a tree!

“Warning Plate” to Remind Owner
To Pull Plug When Removing Top
The photos above are from “our” 1967-72 tech articles under Features. http://oldchevytrucks.com/blog/index.php/2014/09/blazer-top-facts/
You can contact Steve McDonald at: oldtrucks@charter.net

1959 GMC ¾ Ton 4×4

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

It’s the late 1960’s and John Berry of Lehi, Utah, needed another pickup truck for his ranch duties. He was not particular of the brand but just needed a dependable older pickup for his general hauling requirements. The best he found that seemed affordable was a 10 year old local GMC. John used to tune the truck and service it for the original owner. Its solid 270 six cylinder engine was still in place as was the original 4 speed transmission and two wheel drive. A factory 4.57 ratio differential would be just right for his needs at that time. GMC referred to the color as Seafoam Green.

This GMC was of the age that some repair parts could be found in local salvage yards and a new GMC dealer was in the area. Just right! It could haul heavy loads and was dependable. A little slow on modern highways but that would not be a problem on the ranch.

Now enters his son Max. As he grew into his driving years, this GMC was a big help in accomplishing his work duties on the ranch as well as driving to town for supplies. Young Max had a good mechanical aptitude and quickly learned how to make many occasional repairs when parts were required to keep it running.

A few years later this talent really started him thinking how he might make some serious changes to this work truck. The GMC had become his main ride! Max found himself attached to this GMC! Could he make it a more impressive truck when hanging out with friends and not lessen its ability to be a hauler on the ranch? After all, during the 90’s trucks in the US had grown very popular as fun driving vehicles. Many were no longer parked behind the barn on Friday night and the sedan used for an evening out. They were now even seen in the church parking lots on Sunday! What a change.

As luck would have it, Max’s hopes came true when he discovered a for sale used 1978 Chevrolet ¾ ton, with a 350 V-8, more modern 4 speed transmission with a higher speed 4.10 ratio differential and power disc brakes. Best of all, it had a factory installed complete 4 wheel drive system. Could anything have been better to transfer to his 1959 GMC?

It would be an exciting major project for Max. Of course, at his young age he had the enthusiasm to make it all fit together. Keeping the original frame and springs, failure was not an option! He searched locally and found some others that had been successful doing this type of change over so that gave him confidence it was possible.

What a major learning experience! So much was all new to Max but he never gave up. He knew if others had been successful, he could do it too. Maybe he was a little slower than some but it would be completed. It was almost like going to a college technical class but he did it mostly alone!

This story does not end here. It actually continued many years later with Max’s young son Jacob. Of course, why wouldn’t it? Jacob grew up with this 1959 GMC! When working on the ranch and Max driving on local errands, Jacob was riding with Dad! It was natural that the GMC was the vehicle he learned to drive first. Certainly, he really liked the way his father had changed it to a more socially accepted pickup and could still be used for work duties.

As time has passed, this 60 year old pickup has become an eye-catcher to those that notice unusual vehicles. There was nothing like it in the area, however it is said “nothing stays the same.” After many years of using the GMC it was beginning to show its age. Yes, it was still mechanically strong but the normal wear and tear was definitely causing the pickup to look well worked. It is those little gradual things that are not noticed in the beginning but outsiders would sometimes draw attention to worn areas. When Max or Jacob wanted it to look its best for an occasion, so many places just could not come up to standards. For appearances, it might then be considered a “25 Foot pickup!” In other words, it looked good if a person did not get closer than a 25 foot distance.

Max occasionally got the hint from Jacob to make it nice again but he tried not to say much. After all, upgrading the many items would get deep in someone’s bank account. Just maybe it was Jacob that was responsible for the pickup’s face lift that we see now.

Max realized that the time was right during Jacobs’ late teenage years. Jacob would be on a two year assignment about 2,000 miles away for his church. Max and Grandpa Dale Jones decided this needed major restoration would be a great surprise for Jacob’s homecoming after his out of town work was finished.

Max took this GMC to his father-in-law’s shop. Here he painstakingly completely restored the truck with a frame off restoration and body upgrade. Starting in February of 2019 and finishing on Dec 19th,2019. Almost every night of the week including weekends were spent with family and friends restoring the truck. Many dinners and late nights were spent in that garage next to Jacobs dream. Occasionally Jacob would write home and ask if the truck was still where he parked it.

Big surprise: When Jacob returned home, his parents told him the tired truck he grew up with was needing a new battery and tires. The new parts were down at grandpa’s shop. Jacob was excited to get the old truck road worthy again and suggested they get working on it and maybe paint it. When the garage door opened, what a shock! There sat his old but new 1959 GMC.

Wish we all could have seen that moment!

Birth of the Blazer

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The debut of the famous 4×4 Chevrolet Blazer was in 1969. It had little competition and stood alone as a combination off-road and daily driver utility vehicle. Chevrolet truck dealers were taken by surprise! Waiting lines soon occurred requesting this new and unique car/truck vehicle.

By 1970, production was in full swing. GMC also entered the project this second year by replacing the Chevrolet and Blazer insignias with GMC letters and a “Jimmy” emblem. A major addition in 1970 was the introduction of the two wheel drive Blazer and Jimmy. This was partially due to commitments by the U.S. Postal Service. Fewer than 1,000 of these were produced or less than 10% of overall production. Most government orders were in six cylinders though some V-8 two wheel drive models found buyers in the private sector.

Sales of this unique vehicle spiraled. By 1972, production had increased the volume of the introduction year. It was named, Motor Trend’s “Utility Vehicle of the Year.” In the April 1970 issue of Car and Driver magazine, they said “The drivetrain pieces are well designed, rugged, and long proved by use in Chevy’s light trucks.” GM referred to it as their do anything, go anywhere vehicle.

The demand for these car/truck vehicles today is stronger than ever. Its short 107″ wheel base, ease of handling, and many parts interchanging with pickups, make it an excellent investment vehicle to drive daily or keep in storage.

birth of the blazer 1

birth of the blazer 2


GM’s First 4×4

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The momentum of four wheel drive popularity definitely began after World War II. The need for this off-road extra during the war forced 4×4 technology to develop at a fast pace. Thus, during the early 1950’s, several independent companies began to appear offering a four wheel drive kit for light duty trucks.

Major pickup manufacturers were not yet offering this as one of their factory options so a great opportunity existed for new companies. Kits from emerging companies such as Marmon Harrington, NAPCO, American Coleman, and Fabco were designed to fit specific makes of trucks. For those that traded their vehicles regularly, these kits could be removed and installed under a newer truck. This was a big selling point as the finished product plus labor usually retailed for almost as much as a new light truck.

It didn’t take long for General Motors and other major light truck producers to realize a 4×4 option should be made available to their new vehicle buyers. Why should their franchised GMC and Chevrolet dealers be taking new unsold pickups to nearby independent installers to add the 4×4 option?

General Motors solved this problem and with less investment capital! Rather than engineer a totally new system (4×4 were not big sellers nationwide), GM installed an assembly line unit that was already being used. The Northwest Auto Parts Co. of Minneapolis, MN (NAPCO) was contracted to provide kits to one of GM’s truck assembly plants. As NAPCO was already the main installer of 4×4 systems under GM vehicles, this marriage was a natural.

NAPCO would continue to have their franchised installers in most major cities, however GM would offer the same system from their assembly plant. Of course, when GM used the system in 1957-59, they left off the chrome NAPCO trim fender plates and did not refer to the word NAPCO in their shop manual. The large letters NAPCO were always cast in the front axle housing in view to a person looking under the front bumper.

The following pictures are from an original 1957 Chevrolet 4×4 brochure. Note the emphasis on rugged use.

GM's First 4x4

GM's First 4x42