Usually we find features for Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road on the trail. Why? We like spending time on the trail, and we also like sharing info on rigs that are built to use off-road. Still, sometimes we find vehicles in places that we don’t really expect to find them.
This clean and seemingly mildly built yellow 1972 K5 Chevy Blazer popped up on our radar on Facebook of all places. We’ve known the owner and builder, Ryan Kennelly, for several years. He has been posting images of the Blazer since he bought it. You see, Ryan is a project manager by trade and has spent many years dabbling with lots of projects, mainly for his employer, Pro Comp Suspension.
Ryan apparently decided he needed a project, and he has always been a fan of this generation of Chevy trucks. The plan is and has been to build a rig with period-correct looks but with modern features. That plan sounds familiar to us, and it’s more than just a great idea.
After a long while of looking for a 1967-1972 short-bed pickup, Ryan found the Blazer near, Gardnerville, Nevada. Although the truck was a bit rougher around the edges (and the floors and rocker panels) than Ryan had envisioned, he took the one-owner Blazer home with him to serve as the canvas for his ideas. He hit the bull’s eye with the project, creating a retro-cool rig with more than just a few modern tricks up its sleeves—or in its wheelwells.
After seeing the Blazer come together on the internet we were finally able to meet up with Ryan again and get our first in-person look at this truck at the 2018 Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari near the Salton Sea in Southern California (covered in Aug. 2018 and here: bit.ly/2Hs0lKz). To learn all of the truck’s secrets, and some of Ryan’s, check out the photos and captions below.
That mustard-yellow paint is the truck’s original color, and pure 1972. Although we might prefer seeing patina and all the original tales the paint could have told, more bodywork was necessary than even owner Ryan Kennelly had planned. The extent of the rust repair warranted a full paint job. So is this just a restoration, or are their subtle changes on the old rig? If you answered the latter, you’re right.
Do you see the tow points peeking through the factory front bumper? Did you notice the similar tow points on the rear bumper? Those are custom. Also, a subtle custom low-lift suspension with a hodgepodge of parts from (you guessed it) Pro Comp and 4Wheel Parts gives a little extra clearance for those tall and skinny 33x10.50R15LT BFGoodrich KM2 tires.
Under the hood you might expect to find the stock 350ci V-8, and you’d be partially correct. This engine is more than meets the eye. The block is original to the truck, but stock it’s not. An Eagle rotating assembly has the 350 stroked out to 383, and aluminum Edelbrock heads cloaked in Chevy Orange breathe way better than the iron lungs ever could. The intake is an Edelbrock RPM Air Gap unit in disguise that resides over a custom-ground roller cam from Crane. Those stock-looking stamped steel valve covers gain clearance for the high-lift cam and Howards roller rockers with 3/8-inch spacers. Fuel comes not from a factory carburetor but rather a Holley Terminator fuel-injection system.
The interior of the Blazer looks mostly period correct, with fresh carpet and houndstooth seat fabric. It still needs a little finish work on the A/C system. Keen eyes will see modern switches mounted in front of the center console to control the driving lights, backup lights, ARB air compressor, and pair of ARB Air Lockers.
In the back of the Blazer Ryan added quick mounts for trail tools. A subtle and nice addition is the color-matched spray-on bedliner.
The factory tire carrier was massaged for modern utility by Ryan. The nice new top is from Softtopper (softtopper.com). The sides and rear of the top roll up for a little extra breeze, and the top can be folded down in just a few minutes if Ryan or his passengers want to soak up the sun.
Up front a Smittybilt XRC10 winch hides under the factory bumper and is tied into the tow points mentioned earlier. Ryan leaned on Pro Comp’s sister company, 4Wheel Parts, to find the two period-correct incandescent Pro Comp driving lights that were part of two long-forgotten store display units.
Here’s a better look at how the tow points grab the frame and then pass through the factory bumper, thus retaining the factory look while adding utility to the rig.
The A/C system from Vintage Air is fully functional and blows 39-degree air at the occupants. On the day of our photo shoot the Blazer was only recently finished and lacked front inner fenderwells and a proper radiator overflow bottle. We can relate to the improvised sport’s drink bottle overflow. We have built a few of those in our day.
The front axle is the factory original open-knuckle Dana 44 with disc brakes. Crossover steering is one nice upgrade on the Blazer, and the diff cover hides another: 3.73:1 gears mounted on an ARB Air Locker.
The Holley fuel-injection computer runs a 1996ish 4L60E transmission, which adds an overdrive ratio to the old truck. Off-road, a twin-sticked NP205 directs power to the front and rear axles.
The Blazer’s original 12-bolt rear axle still pushes the truck around with 3.73 gears and another ARB Air Locker. The fuel tank is a custom-built unit that Ryan himself put many hours into. The tank also houses a new in-tank fuel pump for the fuel injection, using parts from a 4.0L Jeep Cherokee.
We have already mentioned the tall skinny 33-inch BFGs that look right at home on this period build, but the wheels that look factory are actually 15x8 Wheelsmiths. Locking hubs are from G2.
1972 Chevrolet Blazer
Engine: Chevy 350 stroked to 383 with flattop pistons, Edelbrock heads, Roller cam, and so on.
Transmission: GM 4L60E
Transfer Case: Twin-sticked NP205
Front Axle: Factory Dana 44 with 3.73:1 gears and an ARB Air Locker, G2 locking hubs
Rear Axle: Factory GM 12-bolt with 3.73:1 gears and an ARB Air Locker
Springs & Such: Hodgepodge of springs from Pro Comp and 4Wheel Parts with leaves added and removed to yield about 2 inches of lift over stock, and Pro Comp shocks
Tires & Wheels: 33x10.5R15 BFGoodrich KM2s on 15x8 Wheelsmith wheels
Steering: Crossover steering conversion
Other: Period-correct Pro Comp driving lights, custom tow points piercing factory bumpers, hidden Smittybilt XRC 10 winch, custom 40-gallon tank, modified factory tire carrier, color-matched bedliner sprayed interior, Vintage Air A/C, soft top from Softtopper