I have a huge crush on the early ‘80s S-10 Blazers. I can’t exactly explain why, but there was something so inherently right about the look of these compact SUVs that debuted before the Jeep XJ Cherokee. Why do I feel so odd in my S-10 appreciation? A lot has to do with what GM did (or didn’t) do the little trucklet, as one history recounts.
This is a short history by the wonderful Paul Niedermeyer initially posted on The Truth About Cars and recently re-posted on Curbside Classic. It’s the story that starts off noting how GM was first to the road-biased compact SUV game, as far as American carmakers selling in America is concerned:
Before any mud-slinging begins, lets define the new category that this Blazer blazed. Sure, the Jeep CJ was always compact, as were the first generations of Scout and Bronco. But they were, first and foremost, uncompromising and gnarly 4×4 off-roaders,. The1983 S-10 Blazer was the first of a new wave of compact and reasonably comfortable four-wheelers that were every bit as much (and perhaps even more) at home on the road than off it.
The baby Blazer appeared during my L.A. years. And what a godsend it must have been to the Chevy dealers in the decade Californians started treating domestic passenger cars like airline passengers with hacking coughs–especially GM and Chrysler dealers, as Ford was still getting some Sunshine State love for its Taurus, Mustang and T-Bird. During its first couple of years the Blazer was a hot item, especially with the ski set. My Peugeot 404 wagon was looking a wee bit archaic in the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge parking lot amongst the shiny new white and red Blazers driven by blonde ski bunnies.
GM, characteristically, was far from a supportive parent, and gave the Blazer cheap-but-crude engines and cheap-but-crude body-on-frame design. But there was something worse, as Niedermeyer notes:
Still, the Blazer’s deadliest deficiency was the lack of two rear doors. Once the four-door Cherokee appeared, the Trooper and Montero quickly sprouted extra doors; in fact, those two small Japanese firms managed to bang out four-door versions in no time at all. Compact SUVs were becoming the station wagons of the day, and who wanted to return to the contortions of the long-gone two-door wagons, especially with baby seats and seat belts?
Even so, it took GM almost eight years to take a Sawzall in hand and carve out some damn rear doors. By then the Cherokee had long stolen the show, at least until the new Ford Explorer appeared in 1991.
You should read the full history by Niedermeyer, as it fills in some more details of what things were like when the Blazer debuted, and how it suffered at GM’s lack of investment over the years.
Now if anyone could explain why I love these things so much, please let me know so I can stop bothering other people about it.