Retro 4×4: Introducing Project Offline
If you’ve been paying attention to the most recent trends in automotive enthusiasm and car collecting, you’ve likely noticed that vintage four-wheel-drive trucks are hot and getting hotter. We’d like to think we were ahead of the curve on this one, because about two-and-a-half years ago, we acquired a 1976 Chevrolet K5 Blazer as a project vehicle. Of course, like so many old car (and truck) projects, this one has taken a bit longer than anticipated, but now that it’s starting to really take shape, it’s time we began reporting on its progress.
Why a Blazer? Several of us at Hemmings are Chevy truck fans and have long appreciated the different approach the division took with its first sport utility vehicle back in the 1960s. By shifting from the original plan to produce a small 4×4 on par with the IH Scout or Ford Bronco and instead using the existing light-truck platform, Chevrolet effectively created a new genre of truck. The resulting Blazer had familiar looks, a rugged chassis, and plenty of room inside, despite having a shorter wheelbase than any other Chevy truck. By the time the next generation of Chevy trucks debuted for 1973, the Blazer’s popularity was really taking off and soon they were quite commonly seen on the roads coast to coast, even in areas that didn’t typically have lots of truck buyers.
So, when the idea of a vintage 4×4 project was raised in our offices, a Chevy seemed a natural choice. Then, when local friend and occasional accomplice Glen Sauer announced that he’d be selling his personal ’76 K5 project, we jumped on it.
Glen is a car enthusiast but also a metal fabricator, and he’s worked with us on projects in the past. He’d acquired this ’76 Blazer from California some years earlier and drove it in stock form for a time while planning his own project. The Blazer had an excellent body, seemingly with no rust and still wearing much of its factory paint. Glen’s intent had been to upgrade the truck’s mechanicals and leave the weathered paint, and initially we intended to just pick up where Glen had left off. Things have, of course, escalated since then.