Lets face it: We’ve become a country of Nancys. That’s right—a bunch of Hula Hooping, tie-dye-shirt-wearing, vegan-diet, hybrid-driving, hairless-chested Nancys. Now, if you’re reading this and you haven’t choked on your meat-flavored tofu yet, you most likely fall into the minority and do not fit the criteria of this mass-generalization. Congratulations, you don’t need to drop and give me twenty, and I can take my R. Lee Ermey gunny-hat off now.
Now to the point: If you’re a 4x4 enthusiast and of the general outdoors persuasion, you’d probably be lying if you said you’ve never pondered the thought of needing to put your rig into active duty during a time of emergency. Don’t worry; it doesn’t make you a nut job. It’s better to have and not need than the other way around, as the saying goes. Being prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best, is America’s M.O., and being a prepared American is, well, pretty American.
When shifting gear from fight to flight, considerations of what’s important in a vehicle that can help sustain you and your family in times of turmoil can really be boiled down to the attributes that will facilitate self-sufficiency. These include, but are not limited to, gear storage, path-less-traveled capabilities, adequate emergency sleeping quarters, being at least somewhat nimble in densely-wooded regions, bulletproof reliability (figuratively and, depending on how serious you are, maybe even literally), and the ability to mow down or bust through a hoard of zombies or would-be pillagers as if your life depended on it—all of which requires a bigger hammer than a Toyota RAV4.
Enter the ’73-’91 Blazer: Our escape-and-evade tool of choice for impending doom. No matter the year, solid axles, stout drivetrain components, ample power, a healthy physical presence, and simplistic reliability are all highlights of the breed. Of course, we can’t forget about similar rigs like the Dodge Ramcharger and Ford Bronco (especially the solid-axle ’78 and ’79 versions), but due to their availability, popularity, and corresponding level of aftermarket support, we decided to go GM this time around. We were on a mission to track down a clean ’73-’91 fullsize Blazer that didn’t need major sheetmetal surgery, but thanks to healthy doses of winter road salt in the Northeast, finding old-iron with its original sheetmetal intact and in good shape is like trying to find a lawyer with a good moral compass—they’re few and far between. Craigslist and eBay are always decent resources, but sometimes the best deals you’ll find are hiding in the grass rootstype forums, like coloradok5.com (or CK5, as it’s known). This is where we discovered our ’88 Blazer we’ll be turning into an end-of-world survival platform, or B.O.B., as we’ll refer to it from here on out.
Its sheetmetal was original and rust free, it had a factory-equipped SM465 four-speed manual tranny attached to a throttle-body-injected 350ci V-8, and was in above-average shape from bow to stern. After striking a deal over the phone, B.O.B. was shipped clear across the country to New Hampshire. A week later it showed up on our doorstep, just as you see here.
The plan for this build? The goals are pretty simple really: reliability, fix-it-yourself simplicity, and off-road capability. Parts that are known for their durability—those that tend to survive when tested beyond practical means—are the ones that make the cut. This, and with a “when in doubt, over-build the bejeezus out of it” mindset steering our direction, we should end up with a rig that’ll be damn near impervious to an apocalypse.
To give you an idea of where our heads are at with this build, we’ll be pairing the lowest center of gravity possible with the biggest meats we can squeeze in the fenderwells and without going gonzo with the Sawzall. Tire size will be kept in the realm of reasonability (thinking 37-38 inches), and we’ll tailor the suspension, steering and drivetrain to suit. You can count on seeing top-notch storage solutions, sleeping accommodations, and probably (OK, definitely) a home-brew gun rack or two. The convenient thing about this particular series is that the same build principles can be applied to the K5’s brethren of the same era. Whether it’s a pickup or Suburban, commonality between the ’73-’91 solid-axle rigs runs strong. In the end, you can take this article series as a tongue-in-cheek guide to building a capable backcountry trail/camping/hunting rig, or you can take the “bug-out” angle literally. Doesn’t matter; our efforts will steer you in the right direction either way.