Heavy Metal Affliction - 1971 Chevy K5 Blazer
“The truck is not completed, I don’t think it ever will be but I thoroughly enjoy it,” James Dean said, yes of his 1971 Chevy Blazer. Yes, that is his real name too. As his Gamertag – RAIDERZFAN – implies, Dean was raised in California. It was here that he gained an affinity for Chevy and for the early Blazer, riding around swinging from the roll bar while his dad drove down the road or for some off-roading fun.
Before his parents got divorced when Dean was 10, his dad had owned several cool rides including that Blazer. Several of them were Chevys, like the 1970 El Camino that Dean crashed into the side of a building after weaving around parked cars. This happened when his dad left the five-year-old unattended while the car was running. Dean just dropped it into gear and stood on the bench seat for a short thrill ride.
When his dad moved away and a new father figure came along, Dean remained a Chevy guy, despite his stepdad being a blue oval man. Times were tough, and while there was always a roof over their heads and food on the table, getting his first car was up to him. When his stepdad brought home a 1971 Dodge Challenger RT he took in trade for some work, Dean thought the Mopar would make an awesome first car.
He made a deal with his stepdad to buy it for $1,000 and by the end of the summer had it almost paid off. Then he came home one day and it was gone. The car was sold unbeknownst to him to someone else to cover household costs. Dean was heartbroken, but it inspired him to work that much harder. He owned several cars through high school each a little nicer than the one it replaced. By his senior year, long hours at two jobs, all the while maintaining a 3.57 GPA, got him enough money to buy a brand new 1991 Geo Storm completely on his own.
Then he moved to Oregon to live with his dad. About a year later, the Storm was totaled in an accident and Dean was stuck with the debt of the car but no car. He felt like he was back in high school having to fix up cheap cars and work his way into something he would enjoy. With a little cash in his hand, he eventually found a 1972 Chevy Blazer. It was a little rusty, but ran good. It brought back memories. When his dad saw it, he said, “I used to have one of those when you were little.”
That Blazer was mostly a daily driver and got used up exploring the local forest service roads and blazing the dunes at nearby Sand Lake. Dean didn’t have the budget to fix up the Blazer but he didn’t want to get rid of it. He bought another car for a daily driver and parked the 4X4 getting it ready for some serious work when the money availed itself.
Then Dean got engaged and wanted to give his bride a wedding she would remember. “She begged me not to do it as she knew what it meant to me,” Dean said, “but she meant more, so away it went.” The wedding was awesome, Dean adopted her two children and they had a child of their own. A year went by and money wasn’t as tight. Mrs. Dean came to him with the tax return check and told him to find another Blazer.
With about $3,500 to spend, Dean knew he could afford either a rig with a nice body and paint that needed mechanical work or a good driver with a rough body, but not both. This was pre-internet and the hunt was on through the trusty Truck Trader publication. After searching for a couple months with the money burning a hole in his pocket, Dean was beginning to lose hope. Had all the good Blazers been scooped up?
Then his mom called and said there was one nearby her for sale. Dean decided to go check it out even though it was more than a three-hour drive. Upon inspection, he found the body was rough all over but it had a new 350 V8 and receipts for a rebuilt transfer case. It also had three-quarter ton running gear and a six-inch lift with dual-shocks. Plus, it had previously earned its keep as a mud-bogger, so it had some proverbial racing provenance.
Dean was 24 then, living on a single income raising three kids with his wife. He’s 43 now. Plainly, the progress that it took to make this rig look so sweet didn’t occur overnight. In his spare time, he took the Blazer apart and a friend sandblasted the entire vehicle. Dean drove it home bare metal, with no glass, fenders, doors, or tailgate. He of course took the back roads to avoid being pulled over.
With a few 2X4s and tarps he built a makeshift paint booth in the driveway and sprayed the color on. “It turned out pretty good for such a small budget,” Dean said, “After getting it back together I was proud to drive it and take it to back to Sand Lake for some 4-wheel action.”
A couple years later the paint started to flake off. After scratching his head, Dean realized that when they painted it, the temperature was too cold to allow the paint to bond properly. Now with a job in IT under his belt and his wife able to work, money wasn’t so tight. Again in support of her husband’s love for his ride, a $3,000 budget was authorized to get a proper paint job.
That may sound like a tidy sum, but it is really just a starting point for professional paint and body work. Estimates were as high as 10K. That included Dean doing all the tear down and re-installation of the body panels. A smaller body shop down the street came to see the Blazer and understanding the budget limitations took it on as a pet project.
The trade-off was that the job wouldn’t get done overnight, or even a month. After a year of work on the part of the body shop and a lot of anticipation on the part of Dean: “This thing is straight as an arrow,” he said. Then the interior was treated to new carpet, fully adjustable seats out of an Acura, and a new rear bench seat. Now the Blazer was really looking right.
This K5 Blazer spent 17 years getting to this point and it wore the same old shoes until Dean and his wife picked the right set of wheels and tires to set it all off. The end result is not only his dream truck, but a rig that has won first place trophies at car shows and has the honor of doing parade runs. Best of all it represents the long way around to getting back to where Dean’s love of cars started.