Firing Order: It Began With This 1972 K5 Blazer

Firing Order

Ken BrubakerPhotographer, Writer

My wife strolled into my office the other day carrying a large stack of old photos (you know, those things that pre-dated digital photos). She set them on my desk and cheerily said, “Here you go.” Where I ended up going was down Memory Lane.

My attention was instantly riveted to one faded photo. It was a photo I took in December of 1971 (I only know that because the month and year was written on the back of the photo) of my uncle’s ’72 Chevy K5 Blazer. As I stared at that photo my old foggy brain started to build rpms, memory horsepower began to increase, and surprisingly I began to remember a little about the day I snapped it with my old Brownie camera. It was cold out the day the 7-year-old me took the photo at my grandfather’s Citgo service station in Rockford, Illinois, and I was transfixed by the K5’s size. I remember slowly circling the Blazer, taking in every little detail. Little did I know at the time, that K5 was going to be the catalyst for my lifelong love of 4x4s.

My uncle purchased the K5 brand new from Wolf Chevrolet in Belvidere, Illinois. He says he thinks it had the optional 350ci V-8, but he distinctly remembers the rig had a manual transmission. As a side note, the ’72 model year was the largest in terms of production numbers for the first-gen K5, and over 44,000 were built.

I was impressed by my uncle’s K5 the day I saw it for the first time at my grandfather’s service station, and even today I think it’s a beautiful thing. Look at those lines, the removable top, those basic wheels and hubcaps!

As fate would have it, a few years after I took that photo, I was riding in that K5 on trails near Oscoda, Michigan. It was my first off-road trip, and my eyes felt as big around as the wheels on that Blazer. My young brain was trying to process everything as he piloted the rig up and down steep hills and through mud and water. I remember being bewildered by how well the big machine could maneuver over the terrain. I recall being somewhat nervous as the Blazer tilted in ways I had never experienced in my dad’s Rambler Ambassador. But I decided right then and there that I would have a 4x4.

So, as I sat at my desk in 2019 with that almost 50-year-old photo of my uncle’s K5 Blazer in my hand, I felt as though I was looking at an old friend. My brain began to wander, and I started to wonder if, by some small chance, that old Blazer is still around. That would be cool.

What was your first 4x4 experience? What type of 4x4 was it in? Is there a 4x4 that left an impression on you? We’d love to hear your stories, so drop an email to the address below and tell us about it, and please include a photo!

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