February 26, 2021

Linkage Mag

Geared for the Automotive Life

The Blazer Market Climbs On

Image: Bring a Trailer

Classic SUVs are hot — particularly 1969-72 Chevrolet Blazers. That’s not news. What is news, though, is that they’re still hot after what seems like a very long run — and a challenging COVID-impacted market.

Case-in-point, a ’72 K5 Blazer that sold for $115k on Bring a Trailer on November 30.

If that’s surprising to you, well, you haven’t been paying attention.

Stock rigs have been expensive for several years now, and they continue to do well, routinely bringing $40k and up. Top sales examples include this bone-stock 1972 K5 that made $68,200, this ’72 that made $73,700, and another that was $77,000. This slightly modded stocker, fitted with EFI on top of its 350, did $89,999.

Those are expensive enough, but even bigger money seems to be in tasteful modification. Sales like this custom at $88,000, and this one that was $137,500, and this ’71 Custom that made $143,000, and this ’72 Restomod at $175,000, and the Ringbrothers K5 that set a new market record at $300,000 are becoming more frequent.

Some of that is due to the power of auctions such as Barrett-Jackson, Mecum and Bring a Trailer, which are big enough to sometimes create their own weather systems in the market. Still, frequency here is the point.

This LS3-powered Vintage Air-equipped ’72 K5 made $137,500 at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2020. Image: Barrett-Jackson

Nostalgia and power

All of those custom rigs — and today’s ’72 sale — follow a typical modification formula: stock-looking solid body, nice paint, aftermarket interior pieces added in tastefully, and late-model power, generally coupled with an overdrive transmission. Variations on equipment or quality tend to impact the final price, with the cleanest, upgraded LS-powered versions tending to settle right around the $90k mark at auction. They can be found for more and for less, but any massive discount will be reflected in components or quality.

The formula sounds simple enough, and I suppose it is. I’ve long held that the 1967-72 GM truck market has the largest spread of values in the car world. Enough of these trucks were built to make project rigs easy to find for not a lot of money, and once done — if done right — they can sell for big bucks at auction. Chalk that up to a convergence of nostalgia, drivability, style and comfort.

But that’s the trucks.

First-gen Blazers are an exception. Demand for these has always been high because of lower production — about 83,000 in total from 1969-72. They also have classic “Grandpa’s truck” looks, simple technology, go-anywhere capability, decent comfort and — key here — room for the whole family. What kid doesn’t like riding in a Blazer with the top off? Even the most video game-addicted 8-year-old will drop the Nintendo, grab that roll bar and grin. Truck buyers, of which there are many, generally end up Blazer shopping when they realize that someone gets left behind too often with that seats-three custom truck.

Comfort really means usability here, and that’s important. The Ford Bronco and International Scout may have been first to market back in the day, creating the SUV segment — but the truck-based Blazer did it all better, and end-users hip to that usability keep driving prices for these things. First-gen Blazers look older than they feel — disc brakes, automatic transmissions, power steering and a/c make the experience — hence the stout sales figures for both needy projects and well-done stockers today.

Stock other than Holley Sniper EFI, this ’72 K5 made $89,999 on BaT in September. Image: Bring a Trailer

Add in LS power and overdrive, a nicer interior, and higher-end finishes and you’re making something that’s already usable into something even easier to live with, and that puts us into big-money territory. We can argue all day about the validity of $100k pricing here, but these are following the early Bronco trend, and buyers are clearly willing to spend this kind of money over and over again.

So where’s the value here? Nobody wants to be the last big-money buyer of yesterday’s hot trend right before the music stops, but we haven’t seen much indication that the Blazer wave is losing momentum. One of Barrett-Jackson’s early consignments for Scottsdale is another top-level Blazer Restomod, and it will be interesting to see how it does when it crosses the block in January. I’ll be watching closely. I expect six figures again.

But, beyond that, I think the whole point here is usability, as that’s what a Blazer has always been about. Would you actually drive something like this after spending big money on it? Maybe not — but you should. I like to think of it this way: a new 2021 Chevy Tahoe RST costs $70k, and between one of those and an orange or blue LS-swapped Blazer with overdrive, a/c, leather, and a top that comes off, which has more style? Which will be worth more in five years’ time? Which would be more fun to take camping?

Would you spend a bit more to have similar modern power and economy along with the vintage look? Seems like a good number of buyers would, at least right now.

Faced with that choice, I’d also go with the Blazer and I wouldn’t look back. How about you?