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1973-91 Chevrolet/GMC SUV Vehicle History


Chevrolet and GMC Full-Size SUVs (1973-1991): Blazer, Jimmy, and Suburban

From 1973 to 1991, Chevrolet and GMC significantly shaped the full-size SUV market with their Blazer, Jimmy, and Suburban models. These vehicles were celebrated for their robustness, versatility, and the role they played in defining the SUV as a family and recreational vehicle in North America.

Introduction of the Blazer, Jimmy, and Suburban

Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy: Introduced in the early 1970s, the Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy offered a blend of off-road capability with the comfort of a full-size vehicle. They were among the first SUVs designed to be as comfortable on the highway as they were capable on rugged terrain. These models were particularly noted for their removable rear tops, which allowed them to transform into semi-convertibles.

Chevrolet Suburban: Having been in production in earlier forms since the 1930s, the Suburban models of this era solidified their position as pioneers in the full-size SUV category. They were known for their substantial size, three-row seating, and exceptional cargo space, making them ideal for large families and commercial use.

Engine and Transmission Specifications


  • Small-Block V8s:
    • 350 CID (5.7L) V8: The staple engine for these models, offering about 175 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque, known for its reliability and reasonable efficiency.
    • 305 CID (5.0L) V8: A smaller V8 option available primarily in the early years, producing around 160 horsepower and 245 lb-ft of torque, focusing on improved fuel economy.
  • Big-Block V8s:
    • 454 CID (7.4L) V8: This larger engine, available in later models, provided up to 230 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque, favored for its powerful towing and hauling capabilities.
  • Diesel Engines:
    • 6.2L Diesel V8: Introduced in the 1980s, offering better fuel efficiency and robustness for heavy-duty use, this engine produced around 130 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque.

Transmission Types:

  • Automatic Transmissions:
    • Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 (TH350) 3-Speed Automatic: Common in early models.
    • Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 (TH400) 3-Speed Automatic: Known for its durability and used primarily with the larger 454 CID V8 engine.
    • Turbo Hydra-Matic 700R4 (TH700R4) 4-Speed Automatic with Overdrive: This transmission was introduced in the mid-1980s to improve highway fuel efficiency, supporting a smoother driving experience at higher speeds.
  • Manual Transmissions:
    • SM465 4-Speed Manual: A choice for those who preferred manual control or needed a robust transmission for demanding tasks.

Special Models and Significant Year Changes

1973-1991 Chevrolet Blazer and GMC Jimmy:

1973 Major Redesign: This year marked a significant redesign for both the Blazer and Jimmy, offering a more modern look with improved chassis and suspension systems designed for better handling and ride comfort.

1981-1987 Updates: During these years, the models received incremental updates that included improvements to the engine line-up and the introduction of more luxurious interior options.

1973-1991 Chevrolet Suburban:

1973 Redesign: Alongside the Blazer and Jimmy, the Suburban was redesigned with a focus on more space and comfort. It featured one of the first instances of a dual-rear-door option, later evolving into the more common tailgate and rear window configuration.

1981 Refresh: The Suburban received a facelift that included a new grille and interior upgrades, such as better seating and optional air conditioning.

Advanced Features and Technologies

Four-Wheel Drive Systems: By the mid-1970s, these models offered optional four-wheel drive, making them some of the most capable vehicles off the road and in adverse weather conditions.

Luxury Features: Throughout the 1980s, GM began introducing more luxurious features into the Blazer, Jimmy, and Suburban, including power windows, power locks, and improved audio systems, reflecting the evolving consumer expectations for comfort in utility vehicles.

Legacy and Ongoing Influence

The 1973-1991 Chevrolet Blazer, GMC Jimmy, and Suburban played pivotal roles in popularizing the full-size SUV segment. They demonstrated that utility vehicles could be both rugged and comfortable, catering to a wide audience from outdoor enthusiasts to large families. Their legacy continues to influence modern SUVs, which balance off-road capability with luxurious amenities. These models remain celebrated for their durability, classic design, and pioneering role in automotive history.