Four Wheel Blazer Pop-up, Finally found one

Zoomad

Senior Member
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289
Location
Colorado
Hey all- I've been looking for a Blazer model 4wheel camper for a very long time. I found it finally last week on Craigslist and checked it out yesterday and ultimately pulled the trigger despite some flaws. First off the target vehicle the camper is destined for. I've got a 1991 Blazer that I'm running a 5.3L LS engine, 700r4 trans, 241 t-case and 8 lug D44 front and 14b full floater rear axle. It's been a long time project that's been roadworthy for over a year now.

100_0910 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr

The Blazer is very off road capable but not a fun place to live out of for a week in Utah. Sleeping inside the Blazer requires cleaning out a weeks worth of gear. So we didn't do that, I used a Hammock or a tent depending on the terrain and if I could hang my hammock or not. This is my second Blazer and Ever since my buddy had a Pheonix camper built to his specs for his 78 K10 I knew I wanted to find one of these special campers.

This is what I found. 1982 model on a 1987 K5.
IMG_20170806_112458422 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr

Sharp eyes will be drawn to the main issue. Yep, the particleboard used in the cabover and front wall is rotten. Meaning there is a leak somewhere. The seller was very forthcoming and indicated the leak was a couple of roof screws that were no longer sealed and a cracked roof vent.

IMG_20170806_112507734 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr

The roof is solid, but the seam to the edge is dried up and missing in multiple areas. The vent is covered currently and the inside is dry. Thankfully the fabric portion is in great shape and not moldy or cracked.

Here's the cab wall.
IMG_20170806_112531387 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Inside the headliner is loose in multiple spots, more likely due to the roof leaking. No water staining though.
IMG_20170806_112654253 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Still the rest of the unit is very solid.
00k0k_euqpFcVK5Aj_1200x900 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr
Cab

Top
00505_5bXLfoJuOjZ_1200x900 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Cabinets:
00S0S_hdTDFugAbdI_1200x900 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr

Bench:
00i0i_3n7x5Dluk2e_1200x900 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr

Cabover right side:
IMG_20170806_120007281 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr

Cabover left side. Yes that's daylight coming through the particle board..
IMG_20170806_115956127 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


The front lift panel is crispy on the outer wings, but is a decent template. Rear lift panel is in great shape. Plan is to bring it home next weekend and get the help of a carpenter buddy that can do the wood portion. I helped him lift his Jeep as he's less than automotive inclined and I'm a hack when it comes to woodworking. We'll replace the particle board with marine grade plywood, with added sealer and possibly a thin fiberglass skin on the outer exposed portions. We will also strip the grungy carpet off of the separate floor section and the carpet on the walls is coming off too. The carpet may be replaced with laminate or remenants of our upcoming wood floor project in our house. Then we can get the heater and stove working. The refrigerator is a question mark. I don't want to spend money here if it don't work. I could buy a 12v portible unit that draws less amperage and isn't locked into this rig.

So that's the basic plan. I will say I picked it up really cheap so I'm not too deep into this moneywise. Usually these units only get sold with the Blazer they are bolted onto. Timing was right as I had the money and was in the area to check it out. The wood was a little understated in the ad, but knowing I've got a buddy that is very capable, I think it is very fixable.

I'll be posting the progress here as well as questions as they come up. The progress will be slow once wheeling season is over and a few house projects get knocked out. But the plan is to have it useable by the spring next year.
 
Nice find! Looking forward to the build. I think I recognize your buddies rig behind yours from ExPo
 
I love to see these older units kept alive, functioning, and providing shelter in the backcountry. Congrats and best of luck with your project!
 
Looks a little crusty at the moment, but totally fixable.
Going to be a cool project. Keep us posted.
 
What a nice project seems like it's in good shape and will give years of good service.
Haven't ever seen that combo out on the road,just photos.
Continue to post your build pictures .
Welcome to the "cult"
Frank
 
I am quite jealous of having a pass-through to the cab. Something I can only wish for in my Tacoma. Never having to climb out and in when using your unit is one headache forgotten. Always liked the multi-function of the Blazer/Bronco/Jimmy design idea of friends rigs, but never seen one with a pop-up. Good luck, please keep us abreast of your project as I would enjoy seeing your progress.
 
Thanks all. Yeah my buddy's K10 is pretty well known on Expo, CK5 and the 67-72 Chevy truck page. It's been featured in 4wheel and off road magazine too. I've had the pleasure of camping out of that rig and knew I had to find a Blazer pop up for myself. The pass through ability is a game changer though. On his, you need to unlock and open the spare and fuel can swingouts, then the gate and then the camper door to get in. I'll be building a bumper similar to his, but if I need to get in quick I just need to crawl over the console and I'm in.

First thing is just getting back from Denver. My buddy has a small trailer that he offered to carry it with, but these campers are not like conventional slide in 4wheel campers. They have a separate floor unit that goes in and the camper bolts onto the bedrails just like the factory Blazer fiberglass top does. The problem is the back wall with the door hangs lower than the bedsides obviously. So rigging up a solution to ride on a trailer and not have it catch the wind and get blown off of the trailer is a challenging problem. After discussing it the best idea would be to use the trailer to carry the stock top back, load the camper on the Blazer and bring them back that way. At least then it will be bolted down. I just need to rent some camper jacks for the weekend to do the lifting.

We'll drop it at my buddy's place so we can mount it to the trailer so we have a way to roll it around when we work on it.

I'll keep up with the progress as it happens. I really can't wait to have it operational and hit the trail with it.
 
If your work is anything close to Larry's this should make for a really nice rig. Met him at Mormon Lake a couple years ago & got look at his truck up close.

Had almost the same vehicle, '91 1500 Sub with the same rear axle swap and 8 lug front axle conversion. 5.7L/700/241 with 3.73's Ran the now likely unobtainable Rancho K5 Pre-Runner front springs under it and got lots of comments about A) how well it rode & B ) "Those are really Rancho springs?!?!?!" (Not listed in applications, only in the numeric listing. I published the p/n in CK5's 'CoG' sub-forum some time ago.)
Really liked that truck, just for as big as it was not enough stow-away storage. Was always shuffling stuff around. About the only thing that I never cared for was the crude ABS it had. Ended up unplugging it after it caused a short lived flight and never felt it's loss.
 
ntsqd said:
If your work is anything close to Larry's this should make for a really nice rig. Met him at Mormon Lake a couple years ago & got look at his truck up close.

Had almost the same vehicle, '91 1500 Sub with the same rear axle swap and 8 lug front axle conversion. 5.7L/700/241 with 3.73's Ran the now likely unobtainable Rancho K5 Pre-Runner front springs under it and got lots of comments about A) how well it rode & B ) "Those are really Rancho springs?!?!?!" (Not listed in applications, only in the numeric listing. I published the p/n in CK5's 'CoG' sub-forum some time ago.)
Really liked that truck, just for as big as it was not enough stow-away storage. Was always shuffling stuff around. About the only thing that I never cared for was the crude ABS it had. Ended up unplugging it after it caused a short lived flight and never felt it's loss.
Larry is the main reason my current K5 is the way it is. He put a lot of time in doing the LS swap, axles, lift and cleanup/detailing at his place while I was stuck at work or after his girls bedtime. I've been doing the fine tuning, little things to make it mine. But he's taught me a lot to take my time, do it right, make it look factory and easy to service. Besides the ORD parts in the suspension, the only aftermarket parts of the LS swap was the conversion mounts and TV cable kit for the trans, engine harness and controller. The rest is stock GM stuff I can get at most any parts store anywhere.

The Rwal ABS system was a joke on these trucks for sure. We ended up deleting it completely in mine. We removed the module/pump and replumbed it with the lines and prop valve from an earlier truck. Cleaner setup and again factory looking. Easy to service too. We tried bleeding through the old setup when we had hooked up the lines to the 14b and D44. Stupid ABS prop-valve wouldn't stop leaking. After a half hour fighting it we just pulled the junk off.

As far as ride quality goes, mine took a giant leap forward when I stuffed Bilstien shocks under it. They even tamed the rough as hell rough country front springs I'm running. Rear is very flexy with a ORD shackle flip and the stock springs. Eventually I'll put some ORD custom Deaver springs up front, but the camper project will trump that for now.
 
Sunday was a long day. But we managed to get to Denver, swap the stock top onto my buddy John's trailer, pick swap on the camper, come back home, take the camper back off and put the stock top back on in about 12 hours. Had one minor hiccup, but it went pretty smooth.

Before we got to Mom and Dad's place I had made arrangements to buy some camper jacks from a guy in Denver too. He had seen this thread and offered up to sell them to me. He bought the jacks for himself with every intention of buying the camper I got, but his wife was the voice of reason and didn't go for the camper. It saved me from having to rent the jacks. Cool dude for sure, I totally apreciated the offer and took him up on it.
18886 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Since the Blazer was sitting at my Dad's house this week, he helped while we were on the way up by crawling in the back and removing all the bolts to the top. Pretty impressive since he's 78 and still recovering from his 2nd knee surgery in a year. It was a big help since we had the top off within a few minutes.
Top off, Utah dust still inside.

IMG_20170813_112605615 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Top on Trailer.
IMG_20170813_112618079 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Topless.
IMG_20170813_114728557 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Not bad looking top off.
IMG_20170813_122005971 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


The donor and transplant patient.
IMG_20170813_130235603 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Pretty clean inside, but the carpet is going out, the shag on the walls is going away as well as the dingy curtains.
IMG_20170813_130447811 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Plenty of room for activities!
IMG_20170813_130452836 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


The resident engineer checking out the donor. (aka Dad)
IMG_20170813_131141147_HDR by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


This is where things would get interesting. We needed to figure out if the jacks had enough lifting height to get the camper high enough to reach my truck. The donor is stock all the way down to the tires. Mine is sitting on 35" tires and 4" worth of lift. It was quickly found that the camper jacks just barely reached the stock Blazer, so some technical jenga work was in order. Multiple chunks of wood to get the jacks up higher so we could get one truck out from under it and then crank it up and pull mine in under it.
IMG_20170813_133200019 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Just as we started lifting and looking for any missed bolts we realized there were two still clinging on for dear life. Front two on the drivers side. At first you can't see them, that is until you take a few screws out and slide the fridge out slightly.
IMG_20170813_140710044 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr

This is where we ran into the biggest issue of the day. The most forward bolt had it's caged nut in the body strip out. I had tried to snap it loose with my 1/4" drive matco cordless impact but it just spun. His Blazer still had the interior side panels so the only way to see the bottom side of the bolt was to remove the ashtray, but we still couldn't get anything on it to hold it. So a sawzall was brought out to take the head off. We lost the better part of an hour screwing around with one bolt.
IMG_20170813_141908767 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Me goofing around taking pics while the guy gnaws away at the bolt.
IMG_20170813_142008963 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


It's off! We then had to remove the floor from the other blazer to set it into mine prior to dropping the camper on.
IMG_20170813_142906896 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


After a nerve racking few minutes of backing up, re-aligning and backing up again we finally got it lined up to lower the jacks.
IMG_20170813_150719087 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Other side.
IMG_20170813_150733505 by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Back in Pueblo. This time at John's place. I was able to pop the top fully with both lifting panels. It's not as smooth to lift as Larry's is, since the lifting mechanisms are completely different, but it works. We will have to rebuild the front lift panels due to water damage. Top needs cleaned, but is free of rips and tears.
IMG_20170813_192341476_HDR by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


Other side.
IMG_20170813_192354186_HDR by Rob Zulian, on Flickr


After some organized chaos getting the camper back off again, we dropped it down closer to the ground and could see all the issues with the roof that caused the damage. Screws loose, exposed and the vent that is blasted but covered with a chunk of tarp and tape are the main issues. No tears in the roof itself though. We got the stock top back on in the dark and called it a day.

The 2hour drive down was interesting. The hole in the front of the roof was gulping in more air than any part of the windows would let out. Anything past 65 mph caused the top to develop some lift I could see in the mirrors. So we kept it at 65. This will go away when the wood is replaced. I will say it didn't feel much different to drive with the camper on.

Now having the practice of removal and installation twice in one day some ideas have come to mind to fix for the better. One is a slight modification to the camper jacks to avoid the use of the blocks to gain the elevation needed to reach my lifted K5. One of my co-workers suggested to cut the pipe about a foot up from the base and fit it with a sleeve that fits over the existing pipe and attached with a pin or bolt. The sleeve at least a foot long with holes every couple of inches. The end of the pipe with the jack on it would have a matching hole at the new bottom that would allow it to fit into the sleeve and allow the height to be adjustable by fitting a pin through the assembly at a specific level.

Another modification to the camper itself will be how the it mounts to the cab. The way the guy had it mounted only has the forward wall of the camper butting up to the back edge of the top. No camper tape or seal of any type was used. This is a major source of a leak if you were to be driving in a rainstorm for sure with water being forced into this area. The stock top fits down into a channel just ahead of the edge the camper is poorly sealing too. By the camper only butting up to it, the channel is exposed and where the dome light wiring comes down to the bedrail is a perfect spot for water to wick down into the interior. Thats no Bueno in my book. You can't cut the opening wider on the camper front wall as that would shift the camper forward the width of the wood you use. This means the rear wall with the door would be not able to fit correctly to the rear body with the gate off. I'm thinking of adding a section that would bolt to the front wall of the camper that has the exact shape of the channel that would allow two things to happen. One, the stock seal could be used in the channel to seal the area off. Second, it would allow a solid point to attach the camper too through to the stock body/top bolt holes that already exist. I'm not keen on the camper attaching to the body with only 4 1/4" diameter bolts per side. The frontal area is getting a lot of force pushing on it when traveling at highway speed, it could be seen the faster I drove. I could see the gap between the cab and the front of the camper grow when I got above 65 mph. If I backed off it settled down.

Me and my buddies that are helping me with this have a few other ideas while we are here. The stock base for the bench seat is again nothing but particle board with cheesy "L" brackets joining them. It's going to be rebuilt with marine grade plywood. We will be testing the propane appliances to check operation while we are here. I've been warned by the 3 way fridge being the jack of all trades and master of none, meaning it's pretty horrible on any type of power source, 12v-110v-propane. The budget won't allow a complete gutting and replacement, but I'm not against a more modern 12v off road type fridge with a nice low amp draw. problem is finding a place to stuff one that isn't in the way.

I'm going wheeling this coming weekend so it should be one of the last trips sleeping on the ground. We may get started tearing down in the next couple of weekends after that.
 
Wonder if a damaged donor OEM top could be found for the cab-rear sealing geometry and be grafted to the front wall of the camper?

2-way compressor fridges can be found in a range of exterior sizes to fit existing openings, and for not much more than what an Engle, ARB, etc. would cost. We're seeing a dramatic improvement in performance of our new 2-way over our old 3-way and we haven't even left on its first trip yet!

That said, the best performance that we got out of the 3-way was on propane. Ours would stay lit at speed (not all do) and barely sipped fuel, even when set on Max (which was frequently required to maintain 36° or colder in the desert).

If the camper doesn't have it's own battery perhaps one could be set up for it using the diesel K5's LH battery tray?
 
Thom, getting another stock top to use the front section to aid in mounting isn't a bad idea. Just not sure I can execute it by joining fiberglass the wood section. One of the guys helping me is a great carpenter, so I'm pretty confident we can build an interface to lock it on.

As far as the fridge goes, it's going to be a try it out and see. This little project in total blew out the idea of me getting a portable unit for now. I just know this I need something as there isn't room to be carrying 1 large cooler or 2 smaller ones. If the fridge works and keeps food cold, I can survive with a smaller cooler to carry my required beverages.

One step ahead of you on the battery situation though. Early in the Blazer build I had located one of the aux battery trays for the drivers side. I wanted one to be able to run the winch without fear of killing the starting battery so it's setup on solenoid for isolation when the key is off. So I'm ready to run a circuit back to the camper when the time comes. I may still plan on a 3rd battery inside the camper depending on needs for power with possible solar later.
 
Zoomad great write up on the camper for your Blazer. Your Blazer looks good on those 35's. Have fun refurbishing, as I like to read this types of threads (hint , hint).
All kidding aside its cool you were able to get what you wanted, happy for you.
Russ
 
CougarCouple said:
Zoomad great write up on the camper for your Blazer. Your Blazer looks good on those 35's. Have fun refurbishing, as I like to read this types of threads (hint , hint).
All kidding aside its cool you were able to get what you wanted, happy for you.
Russ

Thanks Russ. The 35's strike a nice balance for the size and ride quality. It's higher than stock, but not overly tippy or top heavy.
It should be fun to go through the process to refurbish the camper. The initial goal is to get it fixed and weather tight. Then we can focus on the appliances. Then we can install and trim it out. The big test is the annual desert trip a bunch of my friends take every year. A week out in Utah or Nevada should prove out any issues or new changes. June next year isn't far away.
 
Hi Zoo

Congrats on all the hard work of getting that camper for your Blazer.

It always amounts to lots of effort to drive a long ways, solve problems with the transfer and get it back home safely.

Good for you.

David Graves
 
Got the Blazer partially packed up for a 3 day off road weekend. Wish the camper was already done for this, but one more weekend on the ground isn't going to hurt (much). I do have my hammock loaded just in case.

This will be a different trip than normal. My buddy John and I are teaching a couple of guys that are new to playing off road. One is his brother and one is my nephew. His brother has gone before, but he tends to drive like bull in a china store so he needs to be taught some finesse. My nephew on the other hand is a true noob. He's ridden with me on some snow runs as a kid, but never driven himself. He's an adult now and bought himself a Rubicon after getting his masters degree. So he's got a very capable rig, but he wants instruction. Good thing John and I have winches just in case.
 
I was looking at options on the fridge issue for the chalet. I am thinking an arb style with dual compartments and a sideways slide made by socal teardrops. I suffer from the wood working issues as well. I suck. I need to find someone in junction who doesn't also suck who can help plan the chalets new interior.

Very happy to see you saved her!

DW
 
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