1986 Chevy K5 Blazer Overland Build – Rugged & Simple

  • Vehicle: Chevy K5 Blazer
  • Style: Overland Build
  • Type: Classic 4x4 Truck
Lifted Chevy k5 blazer with a 6 Inch lift and 35" tires overland build
On the top Thomas has got a Con-ferr roof rack with 2 flood spot combo LED pods to light up the cargo area
Baja style light rack includes 6 Anzo HID lights with 4 spots in middle and 2 floods on the sides
2011 Chevy Silverado Tiregate with a full-size spare
Lifted k5 Blazer +8
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For some people, simple pleasures are what helps them get through the rough day. For Thomas Guzman from Lakeside California, the classic 1986 Chevy K5 Blazer overland build became his escape from the crazies of the busy world. It’s nice to have something to look forward to every day of the week, and when the weekend comes, go out and about cruising sandpits and hitting mud holes.

In this article, we will examine the Chevrolet K5 Blazer platform to determine what modifications are essential for converting it into a reliable overlanding vehicle. We will review the key upgrades needed to enable extended off-road travel and camping.

After discussing the core elements for an overland K5 Blazer build, we will look at how Thomas implemented these modifications in his own Blazer project. This will involve a closer inspection of the specific parts he selected and how they came together to create his customized overlanding vehicle.

32-inch LED light bar on the bumper

Pro Tips on a K5 Blazer Overland Build

As an avid off-roader and mechanic, I’ve had the pleasure of working on my fair share of Chevy K5 Blazers over the years. This classic SUV may date back to the 60s, but its rugged body-on-frame construction, ample aftermarket support, and timeless styling make it a prime candidate for an off-road build.

Finding The Right Base

When shopping for a suitable candidate to build out for off-road use, prices on 1980s-era K5 Blazers have been climbing from the long-time norm of $10,000 – $18,000 for a drivers-quality example. As these iconic and increasingly scarce SUVs attract more collector interest, you should realistically budget $15,000 – $25,000 on the vehicle purchase itself (Check out current retail pricing stats here). Well-maintained stock specimens with very low miles might even command close to $35,000 today before factoring in any modifications.

While those prices are certainly higher than just a few years ago, the K5 still compares favorably dollar-for-dollar to attempting a similar build on newer trucks. And there remains a vast supply of restorable Blazers out there that can still be snagged for under $10k with some persistence and luck. Just be prepared to spend extra sorting any issues on a cheaper project truck before the fun modifications begin!

Basic Repairs and Maintenance

When putting together a build on one of these trucks, the first order of business should always be getting the baseline vehicle into good working order.

Some of the most common issues with Chevy K5 Blazer:

  • Rust issues
  • Engines burning oil (bad valve seals)
  • Loose front end components
  • Whining rear differential
  • Oil and other fluid leaks
  • Rear main seal oil leak (area between back of oil pan and front of transmission)
  • Transfer case problems
  • Vacuum leak from power brake booster

*It is important to note that these issues may vary depending on the year and model of the K5 Blazer.

As you noted, common issues include rust, worn drivetrain components, and various fluid leaks. Sorting these items out early on ensures you have a solid foundation before piling on performance upgrades. You will find the original Chevy workshop manuals and repair guides on this resource. An LS V8 swap is great for power and reliability if budget allows, otherwise plan for a thorough rebuild of the existing drivetrain.

Off-Road Upgrades

Once any repairs are buttoned up, the fun can begin. One of the beauties of the K5 platform lies in its versatility – you can build it up for fast desert running or slow-speed rock crawling with the right combo of parts. Tire size can range from 33″ up to 39″ depending on the intended terrain, while lift heights starting around 1-2” are sufficient for fitting larger rubber. I’m generally a fan of long-travel suspension kits that allow bigger articulation and cushion impacts, paired with shocks carrying remote reservoirs for superior cooling.

Beyond suspension and rolling stock, be sure to address body protection, traction aids, and recovery points. The aftermarket offers no shortage of armor, skid plates, locking differentials, sway bar disconnects, winches, and other goodies to transform your K5 into a rugged off-road beast (Blazer forums are a good source of info). As always, match the parts to your wheeling style and terrain.

Baseline Repairs/Maintenance:

Expect to spend at least $2,000-4,000 sorting out major issues like rust repair, drivetrain fixes, fluid leaks and general reliability upgrades. This prep work is crucial.

Engine Swap:

A 5.3L or 6.0L LS V8 swap with supporting mods usually starts around $6,500 for DIY, $10K+ paying a shop. Worth it long-term.

Suspension Lift Kit:

A basic 2″-3″ lift kit with shocks can run $600-1200. Higher end long-travel kits land in the $2500+ range.

Wheels & Tires:

33-35″ all-terrain tire packages come around $1,500-2,000. Larger 37-39″ off-road tires on aftermarket wheels hit $3K+.

Armor & Protection:

Expect to spend $500-1000 protecting vital areas with skid plates, body armor, rock sliders.

Other Mods:

Lockers, winches, bumpers, lights all add up quickly. Allow a few thousand in budget.

Overland-style Gear & Upgrades

As a capable truck for exploring off the beaten path, the Chevy K5 Blazer makes for an ideal vintage overland vehicle. Some key upgrades to consider for extended off-pavement journeys include:

Roof Top Tent: Since the interior space of the K5 isn’t that big, mounting a hard- or soft-shell rooftop tent enables comfortable camping without ground setup. Useful for quick stopovers.

On Board Air: A small onboard air compressor allows you to quickly reinflate tires after airing down, as well as run air-powered tools. Avoid getting stranded flat!

Fridge/Freezer: Keep food and beverages cold with 12V DC refrigerators and freezers. Helps enable lengthy excursions. Popular builds use dual zone or chest styles.

Solar Panels: Keep auxiliary batteries charged via roof-mounted solar. Provides electricity for fridge, laptop, communications gear while stationary. 100 to 300W typical capacity.

Drawer Systems: Custom under-seat and cargo area drawers maintain organized gear storage for efficient on-the-go access to tools, spares, camping equipment and supplies.
>The key is enhancing self-sufficiency through auxiliary gear and mods that support venturing well away from civilization for days on end while exploring off-road.

K5 Blazer Overland Build by Thomas Guzman

The second-generation K5 Blazer proves time and time again that it is strong and reliable enough to compete with some of the modern rigs you see on and off the road these days. It’s not an accident that this model was chosen by the U.S. Department of Defense for military use. Police and other first respondents used the Blazer extensively in the 1980s knowing that the vehicle will quickly get you where you need to go, no matter how bad the weather is or how challenging the road conditions may get.

“Police and other first respondents used the Blazer extensively in the 1980s”

There is something magical in this boxy half-truck half-SUV. It is rough around the edges by design, and it is a perfect project vehicle for off-road enthusiasts who want to stand out from the crowd. What you may need to make it even better – some modern upgrades wouldn’t hurt. The owner of this 1986 Chevrolet K5 Blazer spent a lot of time and money to create the vehicle of his dream, and now he is having a blast every time he take it to its natural habitat – into the great outdoors.

2011 Chevy Silverado Tiregate with a full-size spare
2011 Chevy Silverado Tiregate with a full-size spare

Parts List


  • Small block 350 engine
  • Edelbrock Q-jet carburetor
  • 1-inch carb spacer
  • Spectra air cleaner
  • Headman long tube headers
  • Dual exhaust with H-pipe
  • Dual thrush welded mufflers

Suspension & Lift

  • 6″ SuperLift springs (front and rear)
  • BDS nitro shocks

Wheels & Tires

  • 15×10 Pro Comp 252 series rims with a -44 offset
  • 35×12.50R15 BFG mud terrains

Exterior Modifications

  • Euro headlights with 6k led bulbs
  • 32-inch LED light bar on the bumper
  • XJ pillar pod mount brackets with LED spot pods
  • Baja style light rack includes 6 Anzo HID lights with 4 spots in middle and 2 floods on the sides
  • Con-ferr roof rack with 2 flood spot combo LED pods
  • 6×8 awning mounted to the roof rack
  • Hi-lift jack, two recovery Trac boards, and a shovel mounted to roof rack

This 1986 k5 blazer is equipped with a small block 350 engine, aspirated by Edelbrock Q-jet carburetor with 1-inch carb spacer and spectra air cleaner. Headman long tube headers are paired with dual exhaust with H-pipe, and dual thrush welded mufflers for nice and deep sound.

To fit large 35-inch tires and give his K5 that nice lifted truck stance Thomas has equipped it with 6″ SuperLift springs (front and rear) with BDS nitro shocks. 15×10 Pro Comp 252 series rims with a -44 offset are wrapped with 35×12.50R15 BFG mud terrains.

On the top Thomas has got a Con-ferr roof rack with 2 flood spot combo LED pods to light up the cargo area
On the top Thomas has got a Con-ferr roof rack with 2 flood spot combo LED pods

As far as the exterior goes, you can notice the new euro headlights with 6k led bulbs, 32-inch LED light bar on the bumper, and XJ pillar pod mount brackets with LED spot pods. Baja style light rack includes 6 Anzo HID lights with 4 spots in middle and 2 floods on the sides.

On the top Thomas got a Con-ferr roof rack with 2 flood spot combo LED pods to light up the cargo area to assist his overland-style adventures. 6×8 awning is mounted to the roof rack along with a Hi-lift jack, two recovery Trac boards, and a shovel.

Among other mods on this truck are 12 bolt rear end with Detroit locker and 4.56 gears (front and back), billet pinion yok, custom double Cardan driveshaft with 1-ton U-joints and slip yok, 700R4 transmission with b&m shift kit, Np208 transfer case, and warn manual locking hubs.

Baja style light rack includes 6 Anzo HID lights with 4 spots in middle and 2 floods on the sides
Baja style light rack includes 6 Anzo HID lights with 4 spots in middle and 2 floods on the sides

Interview With The Owner

How did you become interested in off-roading?

Ever since I was a kid I’ve always been interested in it, growing up in the country, having plenty of dirt to play in, and friends that shared the same interests. From riding dirtbikes to offroading trucks or even cars. I always liked adventures and challenges.

Why did you choose this particular model for your project?

I went with a k5 because I’ve always liked older Chevy trucks and was able to get this one on a good deal. I wanted a straight axle and full-size truck with good power that could take a beating, and still be dependable. The k5 or CUCV blazer was used by the military so why not?
– It’s been tested tough.
– It has plenty of room inside too for gear or even passengers and my dog.
– It’s also easier to work on older trucks, and the classic look is always a plus.

See Also
Lifted 1997 Suzuki Sierra SJ80 / Samurai with offroad modifications

Badass lifted Chevy K5 Blazer Squarebody

What challenges did you face while putting it together?

Time mostly. I work a full-time job, almost 6 days a week sometimes, so having to work on it little by little. But in the end, its what I like to do and what keeps me busy. Trying to figure out what parts I can use for modifications, cause everything usually has to be custom on a vehicle like this. So it’s always a trial and error.

15×10 Pro Comp 252 series rims with a -44 offset are wrapped with 35×12.50R15 BFG mud terrains
15×10 Pro Comp 252 series rims with a -44 offset are wrapped with 35×12.50R15 BFG mud terrains

What do you love about your vehicle?

I love that it’s unique and stands out everywhere I go. All I see are Jeeps and my truck is different. It might be harder to customize and build, but it’s nice to stray away from the crowd.

Is it your daily or a weekend ride?

I drive it daily sometimes but mostly just for weekends since it doesn’t get the best mpg.

Do you take it off-road? If so, where and how often?

Yes. local trails around San Diego, Corral Canyon, Valley of the Moon, Ocotillo wells.

Lifted Squarebody Chevy K5 Blazer

What are your plans for this vehicle?

I would like to do an LS swap and link the front with coilovers. It’s not a perfect truck by far. It has dents scratches rust, but that’s what it’s all about. Why have something you’ll worry about scratching during off-roading? Keeping it simple, it’s the best way to have a good time!

Overlanding in a Chevy K5 Blazer


In total, it’s reasonable to spend $10K-$15K for a comprehensive off-road build on a K5 Blazer. Going to further extremes with a custom rock crawler can require $30K+. As always, match the budget to your goals – both modest and high-end builds can enable epic adventures!

With so many build options and an abundance of interchangeable parts with other GM trucks, the K5 Blazer is a virtual blank canvas for off-road creativity. Whether built for overland travel or extreme rock crawling, a properly set up K5 will tackle trails and keep up with 90s and modern 4x4s. For anyone wondering what does it really feel to own and drive a vintage K5, I recommend reading this interview with Kyle Cheromcha, editor-in-chief of The Drive and an owner of another 1988 K5 Blazer.

Grey Chevy K5 Blazer Off-road and overland build

Thomas Guzman’s K5 build featured in this article is the perfect example of a simple and reliable Blazer project. Watch the build progress and find out more about this lifted Chevy project by visiting the Instagram profile of the owner: @The_Heavy_Chevy!

Stay tuned for more project reviews on Offroadium.com – Follow us on social media, and share this write up if you enjoyed reading it!

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