Author: DAN HODGDON
Photos: LUCAS PRIAMO
From a distance, Lance Fisher’s Okra-painted 1971 K5 Blazer looks like a pristinely restored version of the classic Chevrolet SUV. However, a closer inspection reveals a variety of modern upgrades.
A pop of the hood holds another surprise: a Gen V LT engine powers the vehicle.
“If you’re a hundred yards away I wanted it to look fairly stock,” Fisher said during last fall’s Goodguys Speedway Motors Southwest Nationals in Scottsdale, Arizona. “Then when you walk closer to it you start to notice subtle details.”
Fisher is a native of the Grand Canyon State and works as a commercial general contractor. Today he lives in the town of Cave Creek. His first vehicle was a 1989 K5 Blazer and his nostalgia for it led to him purchasing the ’71 K5 CST model. He found it locally in Arizona, and with the body in solid shape, set his sights on building a restomod.
“It just kind of spiraled from there,” he joked during the last day of the Goodguys event at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
He sourced a low-mileage, 5.3L LT-based engine (known as an L83) from a 2017 Chevy Tahoe for the build, which was performed by AZ Street Custom.
“I had familiarity, I actually also own a 2017 Tahoe and I’ve had many Silverados that had that engine,” Fisher said. “I noted that the LT has a lot of capability to be built and handle a lot of horsepower without doing anything to the bottom end. So, it’s a very stout, solid engine to begin with.”
The build also utilizes a Magnaflow exhaust system, and the LT engine’s square port heads help create a raspy exhaust note. Fisher even had the engine block painted in the famed Chevrolet orange as a nod to the classic power plants from when the Blazer was first htting the market.
Fisher’s Blazer originally featured a 350 cu.-in. V-8 paired with a four-speed manual transmission. For the updated version, he mated the LT engine to a rebuilt 4L60-E four-speed automatic and utilized a heavy-duty ML205 transfer case. Since it was an early LT swap, Fisher also needed to utilize a modified LS Dirty Dingo crossmember since there wasn’t yet one available for an LT-based powertrain.
Although the installation required some creativity simply due to the lack of parts available at the time, the engine fit seamlessly.
“The challenges ended up turning into advantages, they kind of steered us in the direction we wanted to go,” Fisher said.
In addition, Fisher and his team added Positraction to the rear end and a crossover steering setup.
The body had no rust when Fisher bought the Blazer, making it a prime candidate for a body-off restoration. Fisher and the group at AZ Street Customs stripped the body down and boxed the frame to handle the extra power from the LT power plant. They also powder-coated the chassis, stripped and Raptor-lined the tub, and Dynamated the entire interior for reduced noise and vibration.
The Blazer utilizes new Rough Country springs and Blistein bypass shocks to create a smooth ride — even on off-road adventures. The vehicle sits on Raceline Rockcrusher wheels measuring 16 x 10 to clear the four-wheel Wilwood disc brakes, while the accompanying BFGoodrich KL2 tires check in at 33 x 12 ½.
“I wanted to go with an old-school look and have the big sidewalls,” Fisher said. “That’s the look of what would’ve been built back in the ’70s.”
In addition, the Blazer has a heavy-duty Wilco Offroad tire carrier. It swings out for access to the rear of the vehicle but still allows for a tow hitch.
The paint retains the original factory Okra color but is a custom one-off including some pearl touches. AZ Street Customs was responsible for the updated paint job.
Unique Upholstery in Gilbert, Arizona, did the interior and created the brown leather, refurbished the roll bar and created magnetic, removable side panels to access the bolts for the vehicle’s removable top. The Blazer also includes heated electric seats out of a 2017 Tahoe and a custom console with cup holders. A stereo system featuring a Bluetooth-equipped JL Audio head unit and Morel speakers completes the interior.
“Again I was going back to that theme of old-school outside, brand new underneath and on the inside,” Fisher said.
The build was completed in the second half of 2022 and the Goodguys Scottsdale event was only the second show to which Fisher had taken the Blazer. He is a longtime fan of Chevy trucks and remembers his father and grandfather each owning C10s as work vehicles. At the show, Fisher said he “geeks out” on everybody else’s cars and draws inspiration both from famed builders and other owners.
The Blazer has been a labor of love, and Fisher is constantly searching for ways to make it even better.
“It’s been four years of blood, sweat and tears on it,” he said. “And it’s been fun.”