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A FAMILY AFFAIR

Passed From Mother to Son, This ’78 Blazer Is Considered One of the Family

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Picture of Josh Kaylor

Josh Kaylor

Story and Photography

In the summer of 1977, a young couple expecting a son decided to purchase a new family vehicle, one that would provide ample room, safety and the ability to handle their love of camping and the outdoors. After deciding on a Chevrolet, the couple headed out and purchased a new ’78 two-wheel-drive Blazer from a dealer in Knoxville, Tennessee. Optioned out nicely for the time, the Blazer was equipped with A/C, a 400-inch small block, an automatic transmission, power disc brakes and a factory tach-equipped instrument cluster. 

After driving the Blazer for several years, the couple decided to present it to their son, Travis Griffin, as a 16th birthday present. He drove the Blazer to and from high school, and then was given the opportunity to have the Blazer painted for graduation. He opted to have several of the trim pieces removed, welded up and painted over during the application of the DuPont Black. To complement the fresh paint, Griffin installed a 3/4 static drop and cruised the Blazer for several more years. 

During college, the Blazer resided in an aircraft hanger, out of the weather, seeing short trips only on weekends to and from local cruise-ins. After graduation, Griffin decided to once again build the Blazer, giving it a modern touch and implementing several components he had always wanted but couldn’t afford.

Starting at the chassis, Griffin stripped the frame down to the bare minimum. Since the exterior paint was still in such great shape, special care was taken not to damage the sheetmetal. Beginning with the front clip, Griffin began by rebuilding the front suspension, replacing the coil springs with 2,600-pound Firestone airbags. To achieve the desired drop, Griffin added Belltech 3-inch-dropped spindles, along with Belltech dropped shocks. 

Out back, Griffin removed the stock 12-bolt and added an Eaton differential with 4:10 gears. Utilizing a flip kit and air-over-leaf combination, Griffin reinstalled the 12-bolt more than 9 inches lower. The Firestone air suspension is controlled with KP Components gauges and switches, combined with a Viair 450 compressor, SMC 3/8-inch valves and a polished five-gallon air tank.

With the frame modifications complete, Griffin focused his attention to building the drivetrain. The original 400-inch small block had seen a pretty soft life, so Griffin made the decision to simply rebuild and modify the original engine, rather than replace it. Beginning with a bare block, the local machine shop punched the 400 to 406 cubic inches thanks to a 0.030-inch overbore. Griffin opted to simply turn the crank and reuse the rods but installed new pistons and a Comp 292 cam and lifters. The restrictive cast heads needed severe reworking, and even at that would have been marginal power wise, so they were replaced with a set of Dart II aluminum heads for improved air flow and horsepower. To deliver the much needed air and fuel to the new heads, Griffin installed an Edelbrock Air-Gap manifold and Holley 750cfm carb utilizing Lokar linkage and kick down cables. The engine drive is made up of Powermaster accessories and a polished water pump spinning a set of billet aluminum pulleys.

Since so much of the engine was either polished or plated, Griffin decided to paint the valve covers and custom fiberglass air cleaner to match the exterior. This subtle but effective treatment balances out the appearance of the well-detailed engine. To transfer power to the pavement, Griffin originally installed a 700R4, but that burned up and has been temporarily replaced with the current 350 Turbo. However, a stouter modified 700R4 is in the works to replace the 350 Turbo. Before reinstalling the refreshed engine, Griffin opted to remove the A/C hardware, smooth the firewall and paint it body color. 

Believe it or not, the crew at SouthPaw Customs, located in Knoxville, Tennessee, painted the Blazer more than 12 years ago. Ahead of its time, Griffin chose to have the SouthPaw crew remove the side trim and emblems, and install a steel cowl induction hood. This time, however, Griffin opted for a few additional changes; first the front bumper was removed and two small foglights were recessed into the bumper before smoothing the mounting bolts and painting it body color. After reinstalling the bumper, new tri-bar headlights and trim were installed, along with a polished aluminum grille. With the paint already completed, the last piece of work was the addition of the massive Billet Specialties Vintec 20×8.5- and 20×10-inch rollers. 

Inside, Griffin brought the style and comfort of the interior up to par with the rest of the truck. The transformation started by removing the old tweed interior from the first build, and installing ’03 Suburban front bucket seats and third row seating, along with a front console. After a trial fit, Griffin delivered the new seating to Jerald’s Kustom Upholstery. Jerald’s removed the original material and replaced it with new two-tone leather. Rather than use original-style door panels, Griffin custom fit a set of RodDoors panels and upholstered them to match the seats. 

The stock dash, like so many from this era, had cracked and faded long ago, so Jerald’s stitched up a leather dash to complement the interior. To help cleanup the cluttered dash, Griffin began by removing any unneeded components, like the A/C controls, and added billet inserts and a custom gauge panel filled with white face overlays for a more modern look. Since the stock column was in such great shape and still tight, Griffin simply repainted it and added a billet steering wheel. 

Unfortunately, Griffin’s mother passed away just as the truck build was completed, however, the bond these two shared all those summers ago, camping and traveling in this Blazer, will be memories preserved for years to come. Griffin’s son, Ethan, has already claimed the truck, but he’ll have to wait until it is his turn. For now, the elder Griffin is enjoying the fruits of his labor.

78 Blazer Buildup

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