Taking a K5 Blazer to the Next Level
If you are into the custom truck scene then you know that a truck’s identity is all about stance. It has to be low. Sure we see badass custom trucks equipped with an air-bagged suspension that lays their rockers or frame on the deck. When the bags are purged the wheels are tucked up deep into the wheel wells, laying the truck out on it’s, rockers or frame rails. The sight of a laid out custom ride definitely makes a statement about itself.
Brett and Katie Alworth from Manhattan Beach, California decided to build one of those cool low custom trucks. But with a twist, how about a first generation ’72 Chevy K5 Blazer instead of a pickup, then instead of air bags why not utilize coil over shocks both front and rear to obtain a constant All-Time Low stance.
While attending Cal High School home of the Grizzlies, in San Ramon, California Brett drove a ’66 Chevelle. He has always been into muscle cars of the sixties. Weren’t we all… One of his high school buddies Curt Hill opened a shop that has become well known up in Nor Cal, Hill’s Rod and Custom in Pleasant Hill, California. The two had always talked about someday building a cool custom together. Brett with his passion for muscle cars wanted to use that theme but build a muscle truck (Blazer). With the same muscle presents stance, wheels/tires, paint and power of a muscle car. Brett purchased the ’72 Chevy Blazer and the two-year journey began.
The visual mental impression of a Blazer muscle truck was brought to reality by the gifted talents of rendering artist Eric Reyes. The K5 Blazer body would maintain its factory side molding and trim, mirrors, door handles, windshield wipers, side markers, grille, headlights, front and rear bumpers, gas filler door, and side window glass with wing-vent. To really maintain K5 factory identity Brett wanted to paint it two-tone blue and white.
But underneath this factory appearing Blazer was, a complete modified frame, suspension, wheels tires, disc brakes, engine, transmission, and exhaust. Curt and Ronnie Lagorio at HRC removed the Blazer body from its frame. The drive train, wiring, and suspension were completely disassembled and removed from the frame. Curt then cut the cross members from the frame only to use the frame rails. After the frame rails were media blasted down to the bare metal they were boxed. Curt then designed and fabricated a tubular, triangulated sub-frame. The modified frame was then sent to Maas Brothers Powder Coating in Livermore, CA were it received magnesium gold powder coat. A front torsion tube was inserted through the frame rails to house the Speedway Engineering 1 ¾-inch diameter, 48-splined front “Sprint Car” style torsion bar was used to eliminate front body roll. To reduce weight, the torsion bar arms received lightening holes. A Porterbuilt Street Rods coil-over dropmember was installed raising the suspension pickup points and components on the frame, making the frame rails the lowest point, and eliminating any ground clearance issues. A pair of Porterbuilt 2 1/2-inch dropped spindles were sandwiched between the Porterbuilt ½-inch dropped upper and lower tubular control-arms. A pair of, Strange double adjustable, shocks with Hyper coil springs support the front end weight as well as delivering the ride comfort and dampening action of the front suspension. Front stopping power comes from a pair of Corvette 13-inch diameter cross-drilled, vented rotors with 2008 Chevy Silverado calipers.
Underneath, the original Blazer frame was stripped. All of the frame cross members were removed only the factory frame rails were used. Hills Rod & Custom boxed, notched and stepped the frame rails then designed and fabricate the tubular/triangulated sub frame. A Porterbuilt front “dropmember” and upper/lower tubular A-arms with 2-inch dropped spindles were fitted with a pair of Strange, dual adjustable shocks with Hyper, coil-over springs. To flatten out the body roll a Speedway Engineering front “sprint car” style torsion bar was installed. Hills Rod & Custom were also responsible for the 4-link, panhard bar rear suspension that was supported and dampened by Strange, dual adjustable shocks with Hyper, coils-over springs.
The Porterbuilt front suspension narrows the front trac-width by 1 ½-inches, per side for increased wheel/tire clearance. It also moves the wheel/tire center-line forward, centering the wheel in the wheel well opening, eliminating any tire rub on the firewall which is common when lower the front suspension. Out back a tubular sub frame structure and cross member was constructed to support the rear suspension pickup points for the ’72 Chevy 12-bolt rear end housing that was narrowed 4-inches. The rear end housing received all new inner and outer axle bearings and a pair of Mark Williams, 31-splined axles, with a set of 3.73 gears and a Detroit Locker to makes sure both rear tires were getting the power down. A HRC 4-link suspension and panhard bar anchor the 12-bolt rear end housing. To support and dampen the rear suspension a pair of Strange/Hyper double adjustable coil-over shocks were installed. The rear single piston calipers with 11.5-inch diameter rotors and E-brake came off of a ’78 Cadillac Seville. A Wilwood master cylinder and a MBM 11-inch, power booster delivers ample brake pressure to both the front and rear bakes. The Blazer rolls on a set of Intro Speedstar wheels, 20×8 front, 20×10 rear wrapped in Nitto NT555 Extreme 255/35ZR-20 front, 275/35ZR-20 rear) rubber.
The power comes from a Dart cast iron Chevy 406ci engine block that was fitted with a pair of Brodix IK210 aluminum cylinder heads. Joe Ortega at Joe’s Engine Shop in Concord, CA performed the machining, assembly and dyno/fine-tune of the burly powerplant. An Eagle forged crankshaft anchors the bottom end. The internal components and rotating mass was internally balanced with Eagle 6-inch, H-beam connecting rods and SRP forged aluminum pistons. Clevite bearings. To insure precise synchronization of the crank and camshaft a Cloyes dual roller timing set and chain were installed caped with a Cloyes two-piece timing cover. The cylinders were plugged with a set of SRP forged aluminum flat top pistons and rings. A Crane camshaft was inserted to give the 406, its pulse and rhythm. The valve train rotating mass is linked with a set of Comp Cams push rods, lifters, rockers, valves, springs and guides. Chevrolet Performance aluminum valve covers cap the valve train assembly of the Brodix heads. A Melling oil pump maintains continuous oil circulation of the block and cylinder heads, inside a Moroso seven-quart oil pan. A Holley high volume fuel pump feeds the Holley Pro System 750cfm carburetor, filtered by a K&N air filter, that sits atop the Brodix dual plane intake manifold. The electrical energy was produced by, an MSD Blaster II coil that delivers the electrical juices to the MSD distributor. A set of MSD ignition wires link the electric impulses to each of the spark plugs. Not wanting the headers to hang below the frame rails, Brett had a pair of custom 1 1/2-inch dia. headers, built by Carbs Unlimited and Performance in Kent, Washington. The headers collect and flow into a 3-inch dia. exhaust system muffled by a pair of Borla Transverse Flow oval mufflers. To maintain cool engine operating temperatures a Ron Davis aluminum radiator, was equipped with dual Spal electric fans. An Art Carr 200R4 automatic transmission with a 2800rpm stall convertor was bolted up behind the mighty 406 that, was linked to the Chevy 12-bolt rear end with a Mark Williams custom driveshaft. When all was said and done the 406ci engine produced 495 horsepower and 510 lb. ft. of torque!
Like most bodies that have been exposed to mother nature’s elements for the past 40-years, the Blazer sheet metal was a little weathered. After the body was media blasted it uncovered some previous harsh bodywork performed on the rear corners and lower rocker panels, actually from the lower door hinges down. The crew at HRC replaced the lower rockers and rear corners with new NOS pieces. Some minor sheet metal work was performed to get the body straight and smooth. The factory fiberglass removable top had many man-hours invested to smooth both the inside and outside surfaces. Also fiberglass is notorious for spider web cracks due to the roof flexing over the years. Custom inner front fenders were formed by HCR to obtain header clearance. Brian Jennings (Bay Auto Body) prepped the Blazer body for paint using PPG primer, before block sanded the body surfaces to perfection. The two-tone paint scheme features PPG “Marlin Blue and PPG “Ermine White” water basecoats that were buried in multiple coats of clear. After some time to cure the clear was cut, buffed and polished to a deep, glistening shine. To maintain the original factory appearance, an all new ’72 front grille insert, grille shell and bumper were installed to the Blazer’s leading edge. The Blazers did not come with upper trim molding, so the upper trim molding was from a ’72 C10. To dissipate the sun and glare the windows were tinted.
The interior stitching was done by Sid Chavers at Shaver’s Upholstery in Santa Clara, CA. The floor, door, and quarter panels received a layer of sound deadening Dynamat before laying down the German gray, weave carpet. The custom center console side panels and armrest were covered with light gray leather, while the top was painted body color Marlin Blue. The “Marlin Silver/Blue” painted dash received a padded light gray leather dash cap. A custom gauge cluster insert was configured then filled with a set of Autometer Ultra-Lite II silver face gauges (Speedometer, Tachometer, Trans. Temp, Oil Pres, Water Temp, Voltage, and Fuel). The ididit tilt steering column was also painted Marlin Blue and capped with a ’69 Chevy Chevelle Rosewood three-spoke steering wheel. The universal bucket seats and rear seat frames were shaped with hi-density foam to replicate factory ’72 Blazer bucket seats. Then covered with paneled light gray leather.
The crew at HRC kept the audio system simple starting with an equalizer with iPod unit that was fused into the center console, powered by a JL amp that orchestrated the vibes through a pair of 6x9s and a pair of 5 ¼ dia. speakers. The heavy base was handled with a single 13-inch dia. JL subwoofer mounted in the passenger side rear corner panel.
From its debut, Brett’s ’72 K5 Blazer has received numerous awards including 1st Place in its class at the Grand National Roadster Show, Sacramento Autorama, Goodguys Gazette Pick, Meguiar’s Magnificent Masterpiece, and ‘70’s Pick. Recently, the Blazer competed in the autocross and road race competition called the Optima Challenge. Brett would like to thank those who made his vision become a reality, Hill’s Rod & Custom, Sid Chavers, Steve Fernando, Maas Bros., Bob Smith and Walker Custom Chrome
Brett and Katie Alworth
1972 Chevrolet K5 Blazer
Manhattan Beach, CA
Text by Bob Ryder
Photos by Ron Kimball/Kimball Stock