Read This: Thank God Chevy Never Made the Pre-K5 Blazer Concept

It’s the 50th anniversary of the K5 Blazer as we know it, but the history of the name stretches back farther still. As reported by Hagerty in an excellent piece on the topic, Chevy had been planning a completely different Blazer in 1967 before the hated bean counters stepped in and stopped it.

Except that, in this case, the bean counters were right. First of all, no matter what designer Harry Bentley Bradley says, the Blazer shown in pictures is neither as handsome, nor as interesting as the K5 Blazer that would eventually come out in 1969.

More importantly, though, the K5 was a true innovation in the segment. The Bronco, the Scout, and the Jeep were all much smaller, single-purpose vehicles. While the Bronco introduced a little brawn to the equation, the Blazer introduced mass appeal.

All of the above-mentioned vehicles struggled to sell more than 20,000 units per year. That, argued the GM accountants, wasn’t enough to warrant a whole new chassis. The Corvair, which had its own chassis, sold more than 167,000 units in 1965, to give you an idea of the figures GM was accustomed to.

So, instead, Chevrolet used its already rugged truck chassis, to which it could affix Ford-rivaling inline sixes and V8s and something great was born.

Although it took a few years for sales to rev up, by 1972, the K5 doubled the Bronco’s best ever sales years, and things only got better from there.

Rather than trying to keep up with the Joneses and pick up the scraps of a small market, GM gave the off-roader mass market appeal. It’s no replacement being the originator—Jeep is living proof of that—but it’s a good way to establish yourself in a saturated market. And it’s something Chevy could learn today with its latest Blazer.

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