Original 1969 Chevy K5 Blazer unveiled at UAB football game, five things to know

UAB unveils Chevy Blazer as the newest icon on campus.
Written by: Haley Herfurth
Media contact: Alicia Rohan


    The original Blazer, a 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer, has officially rolled onto the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s campus to commemorate the university’s 50th anniversary.

    Debuted Saturday, Sept. 21, in Blazer Village at the UAB versus South Alabama football game, the vintage automobile will live at UAB and make appearances at athletic and institutional events around the campus and Birmingham.

    UAB and the 1969 Chevy Blazer share many things in common, including a birthday, pride, innovative spirit, leadership and community. 

    It shares a birthday with UAB.

    General Motors rolled out the K5 Blazer to the Chevy line for the 1969 model year — the same year UAB became an autonomous campus.

    Originally created as a degree-granting branch of the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa, UAB became independent in June 1969 when Governor Albert P. Brewer announced the establishment of the University of Alabama System, and on Sept. 5, Joseph F. Volker was named UAB’s first president. 

    It has UAB pride.

    Decked out in its original green-and-white paint with dark green vinyl interior, the Blazer colorfully represents UAB.

    “When we learned that Chevy’s Blazer model was also celebrating 50 years in 2019 and an original green-and-white one was available, we started to think of all the possibilities,” said Allen Bolton, senior vice president for UAB Finance and Administration. “Through the UAB Education Foundation, we were able to make this investment in new and existing traditions of which the Blazer will be part.” 

    It embodies UAB’s innovative spirit.

    When GM introduced the Blazer in 1969, similar options such as the International Harvester Scout and the Ford Bronco were already on the market, aiming to compete with the short-bodied Jeep CJ series. To compete, the Blazer included increased interior space and reduced production costs by creating a set of common design, engineering and production efforts and major components that could be used across a number of GM vehicles. Plus, it offered luxury amenities such as air conditioning and an automatic transmission right from the start.

    Much like the Blazer, UAB is no stranger to innovation. In 1977, the world’s first effective treatment for a viral disease, the deadly herpes simplex encephalitis, occurred at University Hospital. And more recently, artificial intelligence agent mediKanren, created by a team of researchers at UAB’s Hugh Kaul Precision Medicine Institute, helped institute director Matt Might, Ph.D., search through every paper ever published in medical literature find a solution for a patient’s yearlong vomiting mystery — in just 2.127 seconds.

    From encouraging faculty to pursue novel instructional practices and educational delivery options to working to create a campus environment and opportunities that facilitate innovative opportunities for collaboration, research, scholarship and patient care, UAB’s continued dedication to innovation is outlined in its strategic plan, Forging the Future.

    It quickly established itself as a leader in its field.

    By 1970, just one year after the Chevy Blazer was introduced, it was already outselling the Scout and Bronco, and manufacturers such as Dodge and Jeep started selling shortened pickups Ramcharger and Cherokee, respectively. Within three years, Blazer sales had increased tenfold.

    In its five decades, UAB has proved itself a leader. Just this year, UAB was ranked the No. 1 young university in the United States for the second year in a row — and No. 12 worldwide — in the Times Higher Education 2019 Young University Rankings, and was named the best college in the state for LGBTQ students according to BestColleges and Campus Pride. UAB also earned nearly $300 million in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, making it 23rd on the list of universities receiving funding.

    It’s already fostering community connections.

    As outlined in Forging the Future, UAB is committed to engaging with the community — and the Blazer encourages that. Local dealership Edwards Chevrolet will maintain the 1969 Blazer at no cost at their downtown location, situated at Third Street North and 14th Avenue; the Edwardses are longtime UAB supporters.

    “We’ve always been thankful for the Edwardses’ support of the UAB mission, and we’re excited to partner with their business on the upkeep of our 1969 Chevy Blazer,” said UAB Vice President for Advancement Tom Brannan. “With Edwards Chevrolet’s help, we hope to keep this UAB Blazer running for another 50 years and beyond.”