First Gen Bronco vs First Gen Chevy K5 BlazerLast Updated August 4, 2019 | Sam Padgett
In the late ‘60s, there was no lack of off-road focused vehicles. In part inspired by the success of the Jeep CJ, many other American car manufacturers scrambled to take a piece of the 4X4 pie. Ford entered the off-roading world with the Bronco, and Chevy entered with the Blazer. In many ways, these two vehicles are quite similar, and are often considered side by side when considering classic off-roading vehicles. Regardless of their similarities, there are enough important differences between these vehicles to consider.
The Ford vs. Chevy debate extends into every corner of the automotive world, so let's examine how their initial forays into the off-roading space stack up. While both the K5 Blazer and the Ford Bronco have had many different incarnations throughout the years, their first generations invite the most comparisons. Given that both the Blazer and the Bronco are being rereleased today, let's look at where these off-road dynasties began.
The Blazer's and the Bronco's Background
The Ford Bronco was launched in 1965, and the Chevy K5 Blazer was introduced four years later in 1969. The Blazer was also given a GM counterpart called the Jimmy that was first sold in 1970. Additionally, both vehicles went through several generations and ended production in the mid-‘90s.
The first generation of the Ford Bronco lasted from 1966 to 1977 while the K5 Blazer had a much shorter first generation from 1969 to 1972.
The first generation of Ford Broncos was instrumental in familiarizing the American car-buying public with SUVs, and the Chevy Blazer further rode that wave. One of the big differences between the two is the overall focus on luxury and comfort on the Blazer. A vintage K5 Blazer seems just like any slightly older SUV you would come across today, from the A/C to the more conventional bucket seats.
All that being said, there are more specific differences between these two off-roading legends. Let’s start by looking at what’s under the hood.
Engines and Performance
As was the style of the time, both the Ford Bronco and the Chevy Blazer came equipped with V8 motors. The Bronco has the 302 Windsor V8 while the Blazer came with a 5.7L V8 engine. They both make similar power with the Blazer edging out. Keep in mind, these are the top of the line engines on both vehicles, meaning that these values aren’t indicative of every engine and transmission combination of either vehicle.
Given the age and size of these vehicles (and their engines), neither of them come remotely close to being labeled a fuel efficient vehicle by modern standards, with the average mpg floating just around 10. That really isn’t that much of a concern though, as most first gen Blazers or Broncos that are being used as daily drivers this day and age are resto-mods.
One thing to consider is that emissions standards were tightening down around the time both of these vehicles were being sold. For that reason, some of there later engine options are detuned in order to meet the emissions requirements of the time.
|Inline 6||170 cu in.||105 @ 4,400 RPM||158 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM|
|Inline 6||200 cu in.||84 @ 3,800 RPM||151 lb-ft @ 1,800 RPM|
|V8||289 cu in.||200 @ 4,400 RPM||282 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM|
|V8||302 cu in.||205 @ 4,600 RPM||300 lb-ft @ 2,600 RPM|
|V8 (post-1972)||302 cu in.||200 @ 4,400 RPM||282 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM|
|Inline 6||250 cu in.||110 @ 3,800 RPM||185 lb-ft @ 1,600 RPM|
|Inline 6||292cu in.||165 @ 3,800 RPM||280 lb-ft @ 1,600 RPM|
|V8||307 cu in.||200 @ 4,600 RPM||300 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM|
|V8||350 cu in.||250 @ 4,600 RPM||350 lb-ft @ 3,000 RPM|
|V8 (post 1972)||350 cu in.||175 @ 4,000 RPM||290 lb-ft @ 2,400 RPM|
A quick note on the transmission options at the time: It’s possible to find both a classic Bronco and a classic Blazer equipped with an automatic transmission. That being said, the Blazer was the first to come with that option. Contrary to the current culture surrounding off-roading vehicles, the early option of an automatic transmission was a big boon to the Blazer. In fact, in MotorTrend’s write up of the popular RV’s at the time (Bronco, Blazer and the AMC Jeepster Commando), they lauded the Blazer for its lack of three pedals.
Sure, this is blasphemous to present day auto enthusiasts who bemoan the disappearance of the manual gearbox, but this was a serious selling point at the time. Don’t worry though, the manual isn’t going anywhere, it’ll just be a bit harder to find.
Suspension and Off-Road Abilities
On the whole, classic Chevy Blazers and Ford Broncos have similar suspension setups. Both have live axles on both ends and leaf springs in the rear. The classic Bronco uses coil springs on the front axle, and the Blazer has another set of overslung leaf springs on the front end.
The Bronco's front suspension is more complex than just a coil sprung live axle. The Bronco's front axle is mounted using radius arms and a lateral tracking bar. This particular set up allows for a tighter turning radius and creates an anti-dive suspension geometry.
Where the Blazer has the edge in terms of raw power, it lacks in mobility, as its longer wheelbase really does a number on its ability to crawl over rocks (its breakover angle is calculated to be a decent bit lower). Beyond that, it is the heavier vehicle as well, having a curb weight 700 lbs higher than the Bronco.
Classic Broncos made after 1971 have a Dana 44 front axle instead of a Dana 30, and they all come with a Dana 20 transfer case and a Ford 9” rear axle as well. The first gen K5 Blazer came with either a Dana 20 or an NP-205 transfer case and a Dana 44 Front axle, plus a GM 12-bolt rear axle.
It should be noted that it's possible to buy a first gen K5 Blazer with RWD. This wasn't an option for classic Broncos as they were all sold with 4X4 capability by default.
Bronco and Blazer Generations
Generally speaking, the later generations of the Ford Bronco begin to deviate farther and farther away from the tried and true off-road capable suspension setups (namely the live axle) and are thus less desirable as a recreational vehicle. If you want a Bronco to use more as a daily driver, then a later gen example will be a better option.
Instead of being based on its own platform, later generations of the Ford Bronco are instead built on a shortened F-100 4X4 platform. Additionally, with each consecutive generation, the Ford Bronco continued to grow in size. While still a fine vehicle in its own right, the later generations of Ford Bronco don’t have nearly the same appeal as their classic counterparts.
The same things apply to the K5 Blazer as well. It grew in size with each generation, with the third being the heaviest and the longest generation of Blazer. Eventually, the Blazer dovetailed into the Chevrolet Tahoe, which maintained a similar body style and functionality.
Classic Blazer and Bronco By The Numbers
Here are some notable stats concerning the first generation Ford Bronco and Chevy K5 Blazer. Overall, the K5 Blazer is simply a bigger vehicle (with accordingly higher power figures). This does mean that while the Blazer suffers in terms of off-roading angles, it has more interior space than the classic Ford Bronco.
|Curb Weight||3,100 lbs||3,807 lbs|
Modern Reboots: New Bronco vs New Blazer
Both of these vehicles are making a comeback. The new Chevy Blazer has already been released, and information is slowly trickling out about the 2021 Ford Bronco. Again, while there is still plenty to learn about the upcoming Ford Bronco, it looks like it is going to be much more exciting than the new Blazer, which is now a regular unibody crossover. If anything, the upcoming Bronco appears to at least look like a Bronco, as opposed to the vague, everyday SUV stylings of the 2019 Blazer.
Sources: Motortrend | Vcalc | automobile-catalog | Silodrome | Wikipedia Image Credit: Hagerty | Wikimedia | Autotrader | Hemmings |
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