Setting the Square-Body Blazer Standard
Nestled back on the outskirts of Lubbock, Texas, sits a shop responsible for turning out some of the hottest Chevy C10 pickups currently shaking up the custom truck show scene. Hill's Hot Rods, owned and operated by Jason Hill, has developed a reputation for throwing intense custom style down on the '73-'87 GM haulers, and three square-body HHR creations have already been published within the coveted feature pages of Truckin'. The wild K5 Blazer glowing across these pages adds to HHR's list of accomplishments. Running a shop full of individuals with a do-or-die attitude helps ensure these rides stack up Best of Show trophies and the magazine feature article plaques keep filling up wall space in the shop. When the bell rings at 5 p.m., when most Texans are headed for a TV dinner and the remote, the pros at HHR are running for the welder, the paint gun, or numerous other shop tools to execute one of many custom ideas thought of earlier in the day.
One thing is for sure, the crew at Hill's Hot Rods builds them clean and spends extra time attending to the details. After focusing our lenses on two of Jason's and a customer's square-bodied pickups, the time had come to do something different. The time had come to build a Blazer.
With a rough idea of how he wanted this classic SUV picture to be painted, Jason assembled HHR employees Randall Tharp, Nathan Hunter, and Ron Knowles for a meeting of the custom minds to spearhead ideas for the project. Visions of a two-wheel-drive 'bagged K5 with a welded-on Suburban roof, and numerous other metal modifications, danced in their heads. Now, all they had to do was build it.
The whole concept began with a '78 two-wheel-drive Blazer Jason had resting in the back lot, minus the motor and transmission, front clip, interior, and pretty much everything. After investigating his $750 purchase and finding lots of rust pockets, Jason decided to purchase another Blazer and use the new body on the two-wheel-drive chassis. Having a knack for finding any square-body desired, Jason began the search for a clean, donor Blazer and found an '83 4x4 K-5 in arrow-straight and rust-free condition. The bodies were swapped without haste, but the parts trading was far from over. A '91 Suburban sat in Jason's shop yard just begging to have its roof sliced off and front clip robbed for the Blazer. Out came the Sawzall and some fresh blades, and the construction of one of the wildest old-school SUVs was underway.
Taking on a project of this magnitude requires patience if you desire the finished product to make a strong statement.
Now that all the donor parts and metal were gathered, Jason and the HHR crew were able to start shaping the Blazer into a slammed, shaved, and smooth, automotive sculpture. The original half top was removed from the Blazer and the paint on the 'rails was smoothed off to allow the Suburban roof to be welded in place. Using a steady assembly of hands, the placement of the Suburban roof was carried out, and the structure was welded solid, making the once half-top cruiser a permanent hardtop.
The fabrication fun did not end there, since the rear body and frame sections had to be extended 2 inches to accommodate the Suburban roof. To match the wild roof treatment, the door handles, key locks, side mirrors, driprails, side markers, side molding, emblems, gas door, and taillights were all shaved clean off the body, while the rear was fitted with a shaved Suburban tailgate, a molded steel Sir Michaels roll pan, and a Rod Tronics 54-inch LED taillight. Up front, the look was updated with a '91 Suburban front end complete with a frenched, tucked, and smoothed front bumper. The bumper was also narrowed 4 inches for a streamline look. Keen observers will notice the boxed front fenders to allow the front bumper to be sucked in tight to the body. To make a nice smooth transition between the hood and the windshield, the factory cowl was metalworked as smooth as a baby's backside before being reinstalled.
Now that the body had been treated to a host of custom subtractions and additions and not one square inch of metal had been left untouched, dropping the frame to the ground and squeezing 22-inch wheels and rubber under the fenders was the next step on the list to get this ride ready for show duty. The frame-hammering drop was initiated with Belltech 3-inch drop spindles up front combined with Firestone 2600 airbags from Air Ride Technologies. The Air Ride Technologies upper and lower spring cups keep the 'bag placement in check, while KYB shocks iron out the wrinkles on the Texas roadways. Laying out the rear of this insane K5 was done with a healthy bridge-notch in the rear framerails, coupled with the use of a modified Ektensive Metalworks two-link and Firestone 2600 airbags from Air Ride Technologies resting on Hill's Hot Rods fabricated rear 'bag mounts. KYB shocks were used once again at the rear to regulate ride control. In order to lift the Hill-ified K5 for driving and slam it for show appearances, the adjustable suspension draws air from a 5-gallon reserve air tank from Air Ride Technologies, which is supplied oxygen by one Viair 400C compressor. GCI 5/8-inch port valves teamed with 1/2-inch line take care of air transportation duties and get this wild classic SUV on and off the ground in a hurry. Before the chassis and suspension were blessed with the ultimate double-deuce billet rolling stock and low-profile rubber, the dinky stock brakes were removed and tossed in the scrap pile to make way for an aftermarket set of binders from Stainless Steel Brake Corporation. A pair of polished SSBC four-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors brings the front billets and low-profile skins to a halt, while SSBC two-piston rear calipers and 10-inch rotors slow the rear billets and rubber to a firm stop. Finishing off the kick-tail stance are 22x10-inch Bonspeed Palisade billet wheels wrapped by BFGoodrich P285/35ZR22 g-Force KDW rubber. The split five-spoke design of these Bonspeed rollers successfully blends classic hot rod looks with contemporary billet wheel characteristics for a homerun appearance that is tough to match.
Completion of the stance and metal modifications lead the HHR team to the engine bay, where nothing but a burly, aluminum head-equipped small-block would suffice. Having owned a few Corvettes in the past and recalling how well the LS1 got with the program, Jason chose to slide a late-model Corvette mill into the Blazer. An '03 LS1 was obtained out of a wrecked '03 Vette and placed on an engine stand for detail work. A pair of Street & Performance ceramic-coated shorty headers was bolted up to the factory aluminum heads to provide a bit more ventilation. For show vehicles, it is all in the details and Hill's Hot Rods definitely did not skimp on detailing the engine bay. The factory plenum cover was removed, sanded smooth, and coated with custom paint using the same graphic scheme present on the seamless exterior. Custom fenderwells wearing Auto Air Colors blue paint sit in front of a completely shaved and smoothed firewall, which serves as the perfect mounting surface for the polished SSBC master cylinder reservoir. Adorning the front of the Corvette powerhouse is a complete set of chrome-plated pulleys and brackets from Street & Performance. Taking the LS1 through various rpm ranges and ensuring smooth driveability down the Texas roadways is a 4L60-E transmission linked to a shortened driveshaft, trimmed by Driveline Express, which delivers forward and reverse commands to a 12-bolt posi rearend spinning 4:10 gears. Further enhancing the vocal strength of the LS1 during heavy-footed days is a custom-built 2-3/4-inch exhaust system capped by a Flowmaster three-chamber muffler. The exhaust system was designed and built by Joe Flynn at A&B Muffler in Lubbock. Sparking this raw performance muscle are two Optima batteries relocated to the lower core support area.
The project was starting to come together now that all the metal sculpting, suspension surgery, and drivetrain chores had been attended to, and the Hill's boys were eager to get all the exterior sheetmetal covered with a rich blend of custom paint. After making several trips to the HHR mixing room, Jason emerged with a custom-mixed Auto Air Colors blue which would serve as the perfect backdrop for the elaborate yet classy graphic scheme he had planned for the raw metal canvas. Once the final base color was nailed, Jason drove the Blazer into his paint booth and proceeded to seal all the killer metalwork with several coats of the unique blue hue. Following the application of the base color, the trick graphics were laid out to be later filled in with various shades from Auto Air's line of water-based paints. The lower half between the original taillight locale to the back portion of the front fender was coated in Auto Air Colors Pearl White, which is accented by Mango Orange, dusted behind a simple set of Fuscia tribal flames and Lime Green splatter-style graphics. A hint of black was used behind both sets of graphics to make everything pop, while chameleon turquoise scallops were carried into the blue below the window line. The scallops are subtle, but upon close inspection are nice visual surprises. Sealing all the paint and graphics magic in place is PPG clear, and after everything had time to cure, Nathan, Ron, Randall, and Jason worked steadily to color-sand and buff the fresh finish to a brilliant luster before the Blazer was transported to Stan's Car Stereo in Lubbock for rocking sounds and custom-made speaker enclosures.
Using the professional sound installation expertise and fabrication skills of Jimmy Davis at Stan's Car Stereo, the interior of Hill-ified K5 was turned into a concert hall on wheels. The thunder comes from two JBL Power Series P1020D 10-inch subwoofers mounted in custom-built enclosures in the rear cargo area. Bringing out the wailing guitar licks in Jason's favorite glam-band jams is six 6.5-inch JBL Power Series component speaker sets, dispersed throughout the cabin. At the helm of the system is an Alpine 9815 single-disc in-dash head unit, while the hair-band jams of choice are belted out with authority, courtesy of JBL Power Series amplifiers. Quality audio gear paired with a tight and clean install by Jimmy ensure the Axle Rose screams will be heard for miles when the Hill's Hot Rods crew decides to roll the Blazer out for a little Friday night cruising. Just as Jimmy took extra care in building the custom fiberglass enclosures and making certain that the system was well balanced, he also made sure to use quality wiring, fuse blocks, and RCAs from Hooker Audio to electronically link all the components together. When you cherish Whitesnake's greatest hits like the team at Hill's, it would be unthinkable to have a stereo malfunction interrupt a killer solo. Not only does the system give the ears a jolt, but also eyes are widened at the three T-View monitors enclosed therein. Two screens are mounted in the cargo area on custom mounts, built by Jimmy, while the third screen sits up front in a custom console and is in clear sight to watch various DVD selections delivered to the screen from an Alpine DVD unit. While the audio and video ensemble is certainly impressive in its own right, the custom fabric blend inside Hill-ified K5 makes the inner confines come alive.
To achieve the perfect street-rod and high-tech looking interior, Jason entrusted Mark Fisher and partner Lewis at Fisher Trim in Lubbock to sew up some off-the-hook style. They delivered ten-fold with the application of two shades of gray leather on the seating surfaces, complemented by Peanut Brittle Ostrich inserts. Driver and front seat passenger are cradled by a pair of '03 Chevy pickup bucket seats, while the spacious '78 Blazer rear seat remains intact with fresh fabric spice.
The floorboards are covered with gray short-loop carpeting for a clean and classic look. A close look at the dash shows the shaved glovebox door and ashtray further accented by the graphic-enhanced factory gauge backings. Billet column dress-up components and a Billet Accessories Direct Palisade billet steering wheel with a smoothed and painted trim ring round out the interior styling.
Hill's Hot Rods has constructed yet another smash hit square-body ride that has successfully spun the collective domes of the Truckin' staff. Special thanks go out to Nathan Hunter, Randall Tharp, Ron Knowles, Corey Jilek, Greg Duvalt, "Rapid" Roy Rowland, Jimmy Davis at Stans Car Stereo, Mark Lindsey, and Jason's daughter Stephanie and wife Christine. Jason is also quick to point out that the project could not have been completed without the help of Stainless Steel Brake Corporation, BFGoodrich, Bonspeed Wheels, JBL, Infinity, Hooker Audio, Auto Air Colors, and Sign Design. Hill-ified K5 is proof positive that good things can happen when you get a little crazy with the welder and go full throttle on a few ideas that have been in storage for a while.