Remembering the Classic Chevy Blazer & Lessons Learned from the SSR

We guess it’s natural. As some vehicle models rise to the top, others head out to pasture. But it pained us to watch two Chevrolet icons disappear: the infamous SSR and a natural born legend, the Blazer. On the surface, these rides are quite different, with one enjoying a long, storied history and the other a short lifespan. Likewise, one placed its value on aesthetics, while the other was a utility beefcake. With Chevrolet cycling through so many models during the past twenty years, it’s no surprise these vehicles found themselves on the chopping block. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a minute to appreciate their worth and the lessons learned from early production.

Blazing Along

Born in 1969, the original Chevy Blazer was based on the C/K truck chassis. As a competitor of the Ford Bronco, it had many of the same features. This included both a removable top and rugged suspension. It was naturally paired with the same engine options of the brand’s full-size truck line up. Over the years, the Blazer became a favorite of the American public. Absolutely no surprise considering these vehicles were off-road capable, bad to the bone, and its SUV platform made it extremely practical. With the Bronco on its way, we’re glad to see a return of the Blazer.

Throughout the lifetime of the full-size Blazer, there would only be minor changes to the body style. And most of them coincided with alterations to its sister platform, the C/K truck. One change in particular didn’t sit well with many Blazer lovers: the swap from a removable top to a fixed roof in 1976. Such a modification didn’t change the fact that the lifespan of the full-size Blazer ran all the way until 1991.

Unfortunately, the Blazer died when Chevy decided to discontinue the C/K lineup in favor of the nameplate’s hero ride, the Silverado. The Blazer name returned to the Chevy lineup when it was paired with the smaller S-10 platform in 1992. Though, it wasn’t the same as its beefier big brother, this truck was still very much loved by Chevy customers and would run all the way up until the year 2005. The concept of the full-size Blazer, however, really lives on in the modern Tahoe. 

SSR, Short Lived with a Lesson

A utility icon for many years, the Blazer was a vehicle of choice by the US military. In contrast of this work-hard-play-hard model, Chevy proved it was capable of producing a truck for mere pleasure. Shortly before the retro rebirth of contemporary muscle cars, Chevrolet already began its retro styling phase with the SSR. This truck took a lot of inspiration from the 1940’s Advance Design platform. Despite the fact that these trucks offered a much-needed return to an era of classic styling, the project landed right on its face in terms of sales. The truck had a super short lifespan, with production only lasting three model years—from 2004-2006. This $40,000 modern hot rod sold well under the expectations of Chevrolet, so it’s no wonder they decided to shut down the line entirely.

With such dismal results, you’re likely wondering the value in even discussing the SSR alongside the Blazer. After all, they are two very different audiences with two radically different styling preferences. Well, because brands don’t always discover their potential while sitting at the top. Don’t misunderstand our position here. The Chevy Blazer was a huge success, and it paved the way for future models that were arguably even more successful.

But in many cases, we tend to learn hard yet valuable lessons when calculated risks don’t pan out the way we planned. Similarly, the retro SSR was paired with some of GM’s top performance engines of its time. It would go from 0-60 in just 7.7 seconds and run the quarter mile in 15.9 seconds. Not record breaking, we know. But such production was a tell-tale sign of the wheels that were turning to perfect retro styling in a way that would be irresistible down the line. In a way we know all too well today.

Next Steps for the Blazer

The Blazer is set to hit lots for the 2019 model year. The resurrection is more closely aligned with the S-10 Blazer than the full-size. Will it live up to the name? Will it be the Blazer we’ve been waiting for? If there’s a lesson in this vehicle comparison, it’s this: don’t mess with a winning recipe and when you do screw up, because it happens, then come back even stronger. As a crossover, the 2019 Chevy Blazer bears no resemblance to its past badge power. And the SSR, well, we think Chevy’s got a nice handle on its retro styling these days.

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