Ask our Experts, we're here to help!
Electrification seems to be on the tip of every automaker’s tongue these days. And we get it – there’s a lot to be excited about. Instant torque delivery, nearly silent driving, and emission-less operation are all characteristics that can elicit stoke.
The latest K5 Blazer build from the Ringbrothers embodies none of these attributes, but we can’t stop thinking about it. It reminds us that terms like “classic” exist for a reason, and the handiwork applied by these craftsmen has elevated this sport-utility icon to a standard that Chevrolet couldn’t have dreamed of fifty years ago.
The Spring Green, Wisconsin-based restoration shop is best known for their distinctive pro touring-style muscle car restorations, which are not only built with impeccable quality but often modified in ways that most shops would never dare. It’s not uncommon for the Ringbrothers to alter the wheelbase, reshape the body, or fabricate a range of components in order to achieve the look they’re after with a project, as evidenced by builds like Valkyrja and Unkle.
In recent years, interest in Chevrolet’s body-on-frame two-door sport utility has ramped up significantly. It’s a trend that did not go unnoticed by Jim and Mike Ring, who produced an example for hip-hop artist Future last year. But this 1970 K5 Blazer ventures into entirely new territory for the Ringbrothers: It’s the first vehicle they’ve produced for the purpose of giving it away. Built in cooperation with Omaze, the proceeds from the associated sweepstakes will benefit Team Rubicon, a non-profit organization that helps mobilize veterans to assist with disaster relief efforts.
The contest began back in June and runs until September 16th, but in the meantime, the truck’s been spending its summer vacation in Southern California. Fortunately for us, the Ringbrothers were gracious enough to hand over the keys and point us toward the coast so we could find out what’s in store for the lucky winner.
Though a bit milder in scope than some of their other projects, this K5 – dubbed Watchmen – has been comprehensively reworked both aesthetically and mechanically. From a design standpoint, the Ringbrothers decided to leave well enough alone with the bodywork for the most part, but details like the side marker lights, tail lights, door handles, machined gas cap, and badging provide subtle custom touches that are evident at a glance.
The cowl hood – a custom fabricated piece made out of carbon fiber with billet heat extractor inserts – hints at the additional power on tap, while the roll bar and bikini top conversion provide the Blazer with more fun-loving charm than removable factory hard top ever did.
The 18x12-inch HRE wheels wrapped in 33-inch all-terrain rubber help to give the Blazer an authoritive presence, but perhaps the most striking visual aspect of the truck is its paint, a BASF shade called Growler Green. Its gold pearlescence glows in the sunlight on the massaged and straightened bodywork, and it’s perfectly paired with the leatherwork applied to the seats, dash pad, center console, and other interior bits by Upholstery Unlimited.
Power is supplied by a 6.2-liter, 430 horsepower LS3 crate engine from Wegner Automotive. The mill sits four inches further back in engine bay versus the factory location (thanks to a custom fabricated firewall) in order to accommodate the Bowler three-speed automatic transmission without modifying the factory driveshafts.
On the chassis front, QA1 shocks and sway bars are equipped to curtail body motions while also improving ride quality, and disc brakes with Baer six-pistons calipers have been outfitted at all four corners to provide the stopping power. The factory front and rear axles were also overhauled during the build, along with the transfer case, and Warn locking hubs are installed up front to ensure that the Blazer is ready to tackle the rough stuff – should its upcoming owner be so bold.
Along with the leather upholstery, the cabin of the Blazer scored an array of upgrades like Dakota Digital gauges, billet switchgear, and LED lighting. The Ringbrothers also installed a bangin’ Kicker sound system with a Kenwood touch screen, as well as their own custom door handles, window cranks, and steering wheel.
While this build isn’t a total re-think of the K5 Blazer, it’s stunningly well-executed, and we couldn’t wait to get it out on the road. To see how the truck fares in motion, we pointed the nose toward Pacific Coast Highway by way of the Malibu hills.
After taking a moment to soak it all in, we got behind wheel and fired up the LS. Thanks to a custom stainless steel exhaust with a pair of Flowmaster Super 44 Series mufflers, it springs to life with an authoritive bark before settling into a nice, choppy burble. The engine’s soundtrack is ever-present at speed in the Blazer’s open cockpit but not overbearing, and the soft top does a surprisingly effective job of protecting front seat passengers from the elements. Expect to be able to chat with your on-board cohorts, but it might be best to save the conference calls for the office.
Besides, this truck is really all about maintaining chill vibes. Even with more than double the horsepower of any K5 that ever rolled out of Chevrolet’s assembly plants, this is still a Blazer that’s at its best when driven at a relatively easy-going pace, and it’s truly at its best when humming along PCH at about 50 mph on a warm, sunny day. The old school gearbox plays a part in that character, but it’s the solid front axle and big all-terrain tires that really drive the point home. Still, for a fifty year-old truck it tracks admirably straight, there’s not a lot of on-center slop in the steering, and brakes are a monumental improvement over the factory hardware.
Although the truck’s original character has been retained, there’s also a premium look and feel to everything that you interact with. The turn signal stalk, for instance, is made from 6061 billet aluminum and clicks with mechanical precision, much like the door handles and seat adjusters do. In many ways, it’s the collective fantasy of vintage K5 ownership realized, embodying everything we love about convertible body-on-frame trucks without the crude componentry and archaic driving experience that we tend to forget about while daydreaming. And judging by the attention this one got out on the road, the appeal extends beyond the hardcore gearheads among us despite the fact that the concept of a hopped-up truck with a roaring V8 is becoming increasingly at odds with the contemporary automotive landscape.
If you want one of your own, be ready to plunk down about a quarter million bucks and wait patiently for the Ringbrothers to work through their waiting list of customer builds. Alternatively, you could enter the Omaze sweepstakes for your chance to take this one home in time to enjoy the fall weather with it later this year. We’re not saying there’s a right answer here, but the math for the latter looks pretty good to us.