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Bronco vs Blazer: First Gen SUV Shootout

The Ford Bronco and Chevy Blazer are two of the most iconic vehicles each manufacturer has ever built. They represent the first effort to replicate the Jeep in their own interpretation. The Bronco vs Blazer battle continues today. Here’s how they match up.

Except for drivetrain, the Bronco was a completely unique vehicle within Ford’s truck catalog. The Blazer shared many components with Chevy’s C10 pickups which came out in 1967.

Bronco-Blazer-001
Bronco-Blazer

First Gen Bronco

Ford’s first Bronco debuted in 1965 as a 1966 model. Since 1969 was the first year for the Blazer, we’ll pit it against the 1969 Bronco even though it had a bit of a head start. Each company’s approach was different from the other, so you can see what made these off-road pioneers so unique.

By 1969 the two-door Bronco was on a roll. Production since 1966 was between 16,000-18,000 a year but 1969 would see it hit almost 20,000 units. It was also the first year for the enlarged 302 ci small block. A three-on-the-tree manual was the only transmission. No power-assist nor disc brakes would arrive for years as Bronco options. This was just a basic off-roader developed around the dimensions of a Jeep. 

First-Gen Ford Bronco | Ford-006
First-Gen Ford Bronco | Ford

Interiors were spartan, with a lot of painted sheetmetal. A Dana 20 transfer case would be carried through the entire first-gen run. Besides the 302 a 170 ci straight-six was the base engine. It would remain so through 1972. The stout and versatile nine-inch rear end hung in the back on leaf springs. 

Bar-Bones Bronco Beauty

First-Gen Ford Bronco | Ford-006
First-Gen Ford Bronco | Ford

Bronco dimensions are similar to the CJ-5 Jeep and International Scout. These first SUVs would be considered mid-size today. The 92-inch wheelbase was right between a Jeep and Scout. 

Flat, C-section bumpers, flat glass, and a common left and right door, before hardware was configured, all made for a utilitarian and cheaper vehicle. Body styles included a wagon and a half cab pickup. The open body roadster was not offered in 1969.

First-Gen Ford Bronco | Ford-006
First-Gen Ford Bronco | Ford

First Gen Blazer

First Gen Chevy Blazer | GM-004
First Gen Chevy Blazer | GM

The Blazer debuted in 1968 as a 1969 model. It was obviously based on the pickup so it was larger than the Jeep/Scout/Bronco trio. While the Bronco was bare-bones, the Blazer shared options available on the pickups. Air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, three- or four-speed manuals and an automatic transmission were all available. 

Blazer Big and Bold

Even engine options topped the Bronco’s offerings. Two V8s and two six-cylinder engines were available. 

This is one of the main distinctions between the two. The Blazer was larger, not in the vein of the Bronco. It could be optioned out, while the Bronco could not. Being larger, it could appeal to both the CJ-5 and Bronco fans, but also the Jeep Wagoneer. 

First Gen Chevy Blazer | GM-004
First Gen Chevy Blazer | GM

So they started with a shortened K10 pickup frame.  The length was 180-inches long, while the Bronco was 151.5-inches. The Blazer was 10-inches wider than the Bronco and the Scout at 79-inches. 

It had an open body with a fiberglass top, and the back-half looked like a standard pickup bed had been short-sheeted in a die to reduce the length. Same with the door skins, looking like stock Suburban items. So, while the dimensions were up, the tooling costs and time saved made it an attractive approach for Chevy.

Blazer Beats Bronco

In the end, a bit less than 5,000 Blazers sold the first year. Nowhere near what the Bronco had done, but that would change quickly. By 1971 sales topped 17,000, and in 1972 the last year of the first-gen, sales went up to over 44,000 Blazers.

First Gen Chevy Blazer | GM-004
First Gen Chevy Blazer | GM

While initially looked at as too big to Baja, the Blazer quickly proved the nay-sayers wrong. Though hardcore off-roaders still want as narrow a vehicle as possible, the appeal of the Blazer could not be overlooked. More room and more choices were all things the Bronco lacked.

More Collectible: Bronco or Blazer?

Yet, the Bronco is the more sought after collectible today. Being smaller is not a bad thing in 2020. Nor is the uniqueness of the Bronco. Not sharing sheetmetal, it’s stripped-down character, and truck style Ford imbues in all of its commercial offerings gives it the collectible edge. 

First Gen Chevy Blazer | GM-004
First Gen Chevy Blazer | GM

All of that combined is what many are looking for in the new Bronco set to launch soon. It’s a powerful mix of qualities that has endured to the extent Ford sees an opportunity in 2020. 


First Gen Ford Bronco | Ford
First Gen Ford Bronco | Ford