Mark Sopko’s 1984 K5 Blazer Heats up the Detroit Autorama

When a local church burnt down recently, the congregation got together and put up a sign for the public to read. The sign stated that the church was, “on fire for the lord!” That kind of resilience and dedication to faith sets an example we can all learn from.

We mention that not because we want to preach to you about faith. Instead, we hope you’ll get a sense of the kind of faith and determination Mark Sopko showed when he built his 1984 K5 Blazer. The truck was recently on full display in all its old-school classic glory at the 2019 Detroit Autorama. When we saw it, we knew we had to get the full story.

Mark Sopko brought his newly restored K5 Blazer to the 2019 Detroit Autorama. This bright red K5 was definitely at stand out at the Autorama.

Coincidently, when Mark saw the Blazer online, he knew he had to have it. The only real hitch was that there had been a small mishap. The previous owner had started a restoration on the rig, but lost interest after it caught fire on the way home from its new paint job. The result of that fire was a pretty severe amount of damage to the engine bay of the truck.

Mark has never been one to duck a challenge. In fact, he didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on the K5. Mark just happens to be the owner of Motor City K5 based out of Brighton, Michigan. That means he has all the expertise and available parts to get the truck restored and upgraded to be the fantastic build you see here. Mark explained, “My company tries to buy a lot of our trucks from down south. That helps us to avoid a lot of the rust that is common on these trucks. This particular truck was a father and son project in Texas.”

Mark sought to capitalize on the duo’s loss of interest by bringing the Blazer up to Michigan. He planned to restore it and then use it as a promotional piece for his business. However, once the truck arrived, he realized that things might have been a little worse than the description on the Internet; we can all relate to that one.

Mark kept most of the original details and badging.

“It was a mess,” Mark admitted with a grin. “It was a lot worse than I expected. Even things you can’t see are affected by fire. The heat melted everything. I took it all the way down and did a complete frame-off restoration,” he explained.

The motor, transmission, transfer case, wiring harnesses, and differentials all needed to be replaced or rebuilt. Every seal was dried out and every gasket was damaged. Nevertheless, Mark pressed on. Over the course of the next six months, all of the damaged parts were either rebuilt or replaced. “It’s what I do day in and day out,” Mark said. “I’m really well versed in Blazers. The fact that it was an overall clean truck did help a lot. The work went pretty smooth, really.”

Due to fire damage, pretty much everything under the hood needed to be replaced.

One of the first things we noticed about the truck were the black accents. Chrome was the standard factory option for the bumpers and door handles when the truck was originally built. The black provides a cool “utility” kind of feel to the vehicle. The rest of the truck’s bright red PPG paint really turned heads at the Detroit Autorama.

The bright red PPG paint is carried from the exterior to the interior.

The original 305 Chevy small block was swapped out for a 350. Since Mark was already getting into it, he went ahead and added some upgrades. An Edelbrock intake and 600 CFM carburetor were added to keep things flowing. A three-inch air cleaner sends air to the intake and is expelled from a 2.5-inch exhaust with a Proflow muffler.

Due to the previously mentioned fire damage, the radiator hoses, water pump, fan shroud, and fuel pump all needed to be replaced. The power steering pump, high-output alternator, and new heating and air conditioning lines also ensure reliable operation. Mark even took the time to convert the A/C system to R134A refrigerant. Did I mention the high-torque starter? Yup, it’s new as well.

The fresh motor is backed up by a rebuilt 700R4 transmission with a new torque converter and flexplate. The overdrive gear of the transmission makes highway cruising an enjoyable experience. Not to mention, the lower engine noise and RPMs help to keep reliability strong. Even the mounts for both the engine and transmission are new.

A resealed NP208 transfer case with the rebuilt original driveshafts keep the front and real wheels turning. The 16×8 black Method Standard wheels are wrapped with 35-inch Goodyear Wranglers. The combination is tried and true, and gets the Blazer anywhere it needs to go.

Method wheels and 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler A/T tires fill the space of the stock wheels and tires.

The original GM 8.5 front and 10-bolt rear axles remain. Both have been gone through and given new seals, bearings, and ball joints. A six-inch Rough Country suspension lift with dual front shocks is bolted to the axles.

Mark also added dual front shocks.

Once again, Mark took the time and effort to replace all of the components to ensure reliable operation. The steering stabilizer, drop drag link, and Energy Suspension polyurethane bump stops keep everything together. New spring eye bushings, and greaseable sway bar mounts promote quiet operation.

Braided stainless steel brake lines were added all around for a nice firm pedal. The rear drum brakes received a complete rebuild with all new components. New rotors, calipers, and pads in the front make sure that when Mark wants the Blazer to stop, it will. The master cylinder and brake booster were also replaced.

The original GM 8.5 front and 10-bolt rear axles remain.

Due to the fire, Mark didn’t want any gremlins hanging around. A completely new wiring harness was acquired from Painless Performance and installed by Mark. Everything from the grounding straps to the battery cables has been replaced.

From the carpet to the weather stripping, almost everything inside the Blazer has been replaced.

Since Mark took the time to make sure that all of the mechanics of the Blazer were good to go, he didn’t want to leave out the interior. He went ahead and replaced pretty much everything inside. A new headliner and Auto Custom Carpet complete black kit give the K5 that new car smell. The original seats were recovered and all of the vinyl inner quarter trim was replaced. Coverlay door panels, new weather stripping, a new vinyl dash pad, and a new instrument cluster bezel round out the finished interior.

With all of the new components, this K5 Blazer is ready to party. Since most of us like to have music at our parties, a new radio system was required. Mark chose a Retrosound radio with USB and hands-free cell phone capability to give the Blazer that modern touch. New speakers including six-inch Kicker mids and tweeters, as well as a 10-inch Kicker sub, keep the party going. The high-output alternator and two amplifiers power them all. Even the back cap got some love with all new weather stripping, stops, and vent window rebuilds.

“People love these Blazers. Every time we do an Autorama, I’m always amazed at the people that have stories about a Blazer they used to have or still do have. It brings back great memories for people and that’s just fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about?” Mark shared. “My life revolves around Blazers and it’s great to meet people and hear their stories.”

We know we have our own stories of past builds and projects. Sharing that with others is what makes this hobby and lifestyle fun. Mark summed thing up pretty well for us. He said, “I like to see people smiling. I love to be able to make that personal connection with people. When you genuinely care about your customers and you treat them that way, then people will come back to you. Even if there is no business that ever comes from us being at the Autorama, it’s still an amazing event. It’s just fun toconnect with so many people who share the same passion.”

Mark’s family also loves the Blazer and are very supportive of the work that Mark does.

Mark could have taken the build any direction he wanted to go. Instead, he chose to try and replicate what he believed the original son and father owners were trying to accomplish. The build quality speaks for itself. Additionally, we think that Mark’s intention to complete their dream speaks a lot to his character as a business owner. It was a pleasure seeing his project and we think he nailed it.

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About the author

Christie Materni

As a photographer, and self-proclaimed "magic maker" for over 12 years, Christie loves to create anything from amazing images to great chocolate chip cookies. Traveling the country with her camera, husband, and sometimes a dog, in search of fast cars and tough trucks is her favorite way to spend the day.
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