By on December 19, 2012

Lately, in no small part due to Michael Moore, the “documentary” film has become the carborundum upon which filmmakers from a variety of perspectives have ground their own axes and then proceeded to chop down the subject of their films. It’s nice, then, to see a documentary made that exhibits some affection for the subject. Wagonmasters, a film made by Chris Zaluski and Sam Smartt as part of their work for MFAs from Wake Forest University’s Documentary Film Program, looks at the great American station wagon with affection. Wistful affection for the now disappeared suburban icon of Americana, but affection nonetheless.

Once, about a fifth of all cars bought in the US were station wagons. Originally commercial or “professional” vehicles that served the hospitality industry as depot hacks, longroofs became known as station wagons before World War Two, when affluent people bought them and used them to get themselves, their families and their luggage to and from train stations, hence the name. Many of these cars had rear bodies made of wood, a luxury touch, what we now call woodies, which is why so many wagons from the mid 1950s on continued to use fake wood of varying quality even into the minivan era.

After WWII, with the baby boom and move to suburbia, station wagons became the quintessential family car. Large enough to carry everyone in the family, and their luggage, on the family road trips so popular on the then new Interstate highway system, and stylish, practical and powerful enough to appeal to both mom and dad. More often than not it was mom’s car, but since dad did most of the driving on trips, it had to suit his desires as well.

So how did wagons disappear from American roads? It was the aforementioned minivan that more or less killed them off, but it was the 1973 oil crisis that mortally wounded them. All that steel and glass adds weight and a wagon will invariably get worse mileage than a comparable sedan.

Using footage of wagon collectors and their own words (and of course footage of their cars being driven and shown), interviews with automotive historians, period photos, advertisements and home movies, Zaluski and Smartt put changing attitudes towards the station wagon within the context of changing American culture. One wagon enthusiast is a Vietnam vet with a Bronze Star. Another drives a Volvo 245 that’s covered with affirmations of peace from famous world leaders. The directors’ choice of music, with the Drive By Truckers‘ Sweet Annette running during the title sequence and opening credits plus other music, mostly by The Bayonets, is meant to convey a sense of timeless Americana.

The film was made with the obvious cooperation of a couple of station wagon enthusiast organizations, the American Station Wagon Owners Association and the International Station Wagon Club, and it was shot on location across the United States and Canada. As many wagons as there once were, the fraternity and sorority of wagon enthusiasts is not large. If most enthusiasts favor two door coupes over four door sedans, one can understand how wagons appeal to a select group of car guys and gals. The wagon world is indeed a small world. About a quarter of the way through the 40 minute film, we’re introduced to Tracy “DJ Munchy” Caldwell, a Detroiter with a very clean 1985 Ford Crown Vic LTD wagon, what I believe is the second youngest car featured in the movie (the youngest being a Buick Roadmaster “bubble” wagon from the mid ’90s). The Crown Vic looked familiar so I checked my archive and realized that I’ve seen Munchy’s LTD at a local car show and photographed it myself.

It may be a small world and while not everyone strives to avoid being a “nonentity”, as one Ford Falcon wagon owner describes his automotive noncomformity, many car enthusiasts do have a warm spot in their hearts for longroofs. While Munchy’s LTD wagon is getting prepared for a car show at his friend’s detailing shop, his friend bemoans how he has a fully customized Camaro but Munchy’s stock looking wagon (the high wattage sound system is cleverly hidden in the storage compartment for the third row seat in the way back)  takes home the show trophies.

Many of the wagons in the film are of the $30,000 restoration on a car worth $10,000 variety, but some wagon enthusiasts love them to pieces, literally. A sequence in the movie shows that sturdy old body on frame station wagons are highly prized by demolition derby racers. At the other end of the spectrum is the owner of a Dodge Coronet Crestwood station wagon that he fully restored after his parents passed away. Sitting in the rear facing far back seat, he shows where he played with his Hot Wheels cars as a child. For you pedants, the GTO station wagon that appears in the opening credits is a one-of-none custom, a Tempest based Pontiac Safari wagon that’s been turned into a quasi clone of the GTO, which was never available in a wagon body style.

It’s a charming little movie. It’s smartly edited, with a snappy pace and an obvious sense of humor without some hip ironic distancing from the subject, all while treating the topic of the station wagon in American life seriously. If you’re at all a car enthusiast I can’t imagine you not enjoying this film. Actually, even if you hate station wagons but have an appreciation for American culture you’ll find it worthwhile. It’s hard to watch these somewhat quirky car enthusiasts and the quirky objects of their affection without a warm smile.

The directors hope to promote the documentary with more film festival screenings and there’s the possibility of a television broadcast in 2013, so the DVD won’t be released until sometime later next year. If you’re interested, you can sign for updates at the movie’s website (www.wagonmastersthemovie.com) or with a like at their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheWagonMasterFilmMakers).

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68 Comments on “Baby, I’m So Gone: Wagonmasters, a Documentary About Station Wagons and the People Who Love Them...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I can’t wait to watch this.

  • avatar

    I thought it was safety regulations that doomed the wagon, such as the requirement for car seats.

    D

    • 0 avatar
      MeaCulpa

      And before that they had what? Picnic tables? Bar stools? Lawn Chairs?

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        The 1962 Greenbrair (van version of the Corvair) my Dad owned did indeed have a table in the middle of it, with the second and third row of seats facing it, and no seat belts.

        I wish my Taurus wagon had the optional slide out picnic table with the cupholders built into the cover for the rear jump seatwell; but alas, it does not.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I owned a 1963 Dodge Dart wagon (brown) with a torn up rear bench seat cushion. I just pulled it up and took it to an auto upholstery shop. Then I needed to carry five people, so I put down the rear seatback and told two of them to just lay down in back on a thin mattress cushion. They didn’t mind. When we got where we were going, they were a little disappointed we got there so soon – they said they were just getting to know each other better.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    As an all around car enthusiast, wagons do hold a special place in the garage of my heart. I’ve long wanted to convert a late 60′s/early 70′s fuselage bodied wagon into a modern family/racecar hauler, but have yet to find the right one or make the project space.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    For wagons being exclusively American the Europeans sure love it.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    Station wagons are alive and well, they are called SUV’s. I know they aren’t the same, but they filled the wagon void.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      Or CUVs, the hip new name for station wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      Slab

      Well, kind of. I have fond memories of turning the “way back” of our ’68 Mercury wagon into a play area for my sister and I. We’d have blankets, pillows, snacks, toys, and games (Car Bingo, anyone?). Try that in an SUV and the kids won’t be able to see out of the windows.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      65corvair…

      Actually, I think that several competition-factors killed off the American 1950-1960′s wagon:
      1) The rise of Pick-up Trucks, especially club-cab and crew-cab versions, as family vehicles;
      2) The rise of large SUV’s as the go-anywhere / do- anything luxury vehicle;
      3) The rise of Minivans as the ultimate people-hauler for families with many kids.

      Yes, it is true that a wagon does combine some of those features, but its off-road ability was near zero; its traction in snow and ice were questionable; its gas mileage was only good for $.50 per gallon; and you weren’t about to toss a load of cow manual in the back to fertilize the garden. Maybe Americans just became more “outdoorsy”.

      Then, if you add in fuel mileage concerns and emission regulations, coupled with SUV descendants like the Cross-over, there was just no way that an “ordinary” station wagon was going to survive, much less be resurrected. Which is too bad: I rather liked them….but, hypocritically, I too bought a Dodge D100 Club Cab pick-up in 1974 because the truck a made more sense; was cheaper to buy ($3600); could be ordered with 6-cylinder engine and manual transmission….and got better mileage.

      —————

  • avatar
    d524zoom-zoom

    GTO wagon I need it, want it, and feel it! UMMMM! yummy in the tummy

    As mentioned above I cant wait for this movie to come out

  • avatar
    west-coaster

    Nice stations wagons from the 1960s up to the early ’70s always get my attention at classic car shows.

    After you’ve walked past numerous Chevelle SS’s (or clones),all done up pretty much the same, it’s refreshing to see a beautiful Malibu wagon from the same era. There was even one at a show some years ago that had a factory 4-speed! It was a ’67 that a GM employee had ordered new. That car was getting more admiration than the cliche’ SS454 Cowl Induction…blah-blah-blah…parked right next to it.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      There is a red first generation Taurus sitting with it’s front end on jacks and no front wheel in a trailer park in town. If the rest of the car is salvagable; I dream of dropping the front support, and replacing the power train with a rebuilt one from a Taurus SHO; then putting identical wheels and a stiffened roll bar the back; a recreation of sorts of the Taurus SHO “Billy Wagon” built by Ford for Car and Driver, and featured in the April 1993 issue.

  • avatar
    nikita

    Dad bought our first one in 1959, a bat-wing Chevy Brookwood. A decade, and a couple more station wagons later, we had moved on to a Dodge Sportsman van. The full-size passenger van was the beginning of the end of the American station wagon, especially as options like power steering and air conditioning finally became available. The SUV (Travelall and Suburban) on the other hand, hardly made an dent in sales back then.

    Especially with wood bodies, wagons were often the most expensive car in the lineup, even more than a convertible. Even later, a fully optioned Buick wagon had to cost as much as a Cadillac sedan.

    At the other end of the price/size spectrum was the Chevy II wagon. A friend had one his father factory ordered with the 283 4-bbl and four on the floor.

    If I could find one, my favorite would be a 2-door Chevelle wagon, the one with the sliding side windows. Unlike the Nomad a decade before, they were the cheap 300 trim level, so few survived.

  • avatar

    The thing that doomed the wagon was not the minivan, or OPEC. It was the CAFE loophole, which nailed wagons but let SUVs and minivans roll right through, which resulted from lobbying by the D3. (See High and Mighty: the Dangerous Rise of the SUV by Keith Bradsher.)

    Alas.

    Wagons certainly weren’t the exclusive province of America. My family drove all over Europe in a Peugeot 404 wagon in ’65-’66. The Volvo brick wagon is an icon. Subarus are mostly wagons. (The Forester can call itself an SUV or a CUV, or a whateverUV, but it’s a wagon.) But American wagons of the ’50s and ’60s were special, and the GM bubble wagons of the ’90s have that same class. Yeah, I’d happily see the documentary.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      In later years Detroit was able to have a few traditional station wagons classified as light trucks. The Chrysler PT Cruiser and Dodge Magnum are a couple examples. I’m not sure about the Chevy HHR, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was also classified as truck.

      • 0 avatar
        86er

        I wonder how come GM wasn’t able to classify their 91-96 wagons as trucks? My guess is because they shared a name with their sedan counterparts and the whole legacy thing.

        Those wagons are trucks in many senses of the word. Same engines, trannys, rear ends, you can slap on some 235/75/15 tires mounted on 1/2 ton rims, you name it.

      • 0 avatar
        Lemmy-powered

        Wasn’t the Outback classified as a light truck in the US, while the Legacy wagon was considered a car?

      • 0 avatar
        Joe McKinney

        I don’t know, but it appears that as time passed the government become more liberal in its application of the light truck designation. The Chrysler 300 was a car but the Magnum was classified as a truck. The Dodge Neon was a car but the PT Cruiser was classified as a truck. We all know the Magnum and PT Cruiser were cars too, but somehow Chrysler was able to persude the government to say otherwise.

      • 0 avatar

        trucks have to have a certain level of ground clearance.

        I wouldn’t classify the PT Cruiser as a wagon, but I sure wouldn’t classify it as a light truck, either. But it’s amazing what a company can do if they can make or save money off of it.

    • 0 avatar
      Neb

      It could be that manufacturers got more adept at gaming CAFE regs…or maybe lobbyist pressure opened a few loopholes.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        IIRC Subaru raised their ground clearance a few 1/10 of an inch to hit the SUV/CUV bar and Chrysler got the PT Cruiser classified as a “van” to fit the regulations.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    To quote Red Forman. “That’s a Vista Cruiser! You can literally cruuuise the Vistas.”

  • avatar

    As a kid I saw most of western Kansas and eastern Colorado from the back of Chevy, Olds and Volvo station wagons. Would have been a lot more fun if it weren’t for my 2 older brothers…

    • 0 avatar

      We crossed the country twice in the ’57 Chevy wagon (and once before that in the ’50 Studebaker coupe). It was wonderful. In the Studebaker, Mab, the dog, used to sometimes lie across the back seat, pushing my brother and me (6 and 4 respectively) onto the floor. We didn’t have that problem in the wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Western Kansas & eastern Colorado aren’t fun, period.

      • 0 avatar

        Not if that’s all you’re seeing, but in the context of a cross country trip, it’s all fun. I bicycled across the country after college, and even North Dakota was fun–if not nearly as much fun as the Idaho Panhandle and western Montana (including Glacier).

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    When I was a kid in the 1970′s my parents owned two Ford wagons – a 1969 Fairlane 500 and a 1974 Torino. We went everywhere in these cars. Trips to visit grandparents. Summer vacations in the mountains. Weekend getaways to the local beaches. For the camping trips my parents had a Serro Scotty camper that was towed behind the wagons. In those days there were no child restraint or seatbelt laws and my sisters and I had all that space in the backseat and in the cargo area behind the seat. Those were good times.

    Eventually my parents decided to downsize for more efficient vehicles. The Fairlane was traded for a 1976 Mazda B-1600 pickup (the only Japanese vehicle my parents ever owned) and the Torino for a 1979 Plymouth Horizon. They eventually returned to station wagon type vehicles. In the early 1990′s they bought their first Dodge Grand Caravan and mom currently owns her fifth Grand Caravan.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    The 1990′s LTD was our spring car from Ohio State campus to Mexico. Two guys, a girl, and a Golden Retriever rolled in style with brown faux wood over light blue with blue leather.

  • avatar

    Ironically, though I personally love longroofs, I’ve never owned one and my parents always drove sedans. Of course, riding carpool as a kid I was in my share of Colony Parks, Buick Estate Wagons and Vista Cruisers. Just don’t put me in the motion sickness inducing rear facing third row seat. Having owned a 740 Turbo, I’d love to have a 745 Volvo, though if I had to pick an American wagon to drive, it might be a Ford from ’57 or ’58. The best fake wood evah!

  • avatar
    jhefner

    There were six of us kids in the family, so the family car was always a wagon or van. Dad owned a total of ten wagons or vans; the first one was a 1962 Greenbriar, the last was a 2001 Saturn SW wagon; the last car he bought for mom.

    His favorite was most likely the 1967 Country Sedan, the wagon version of the Ford Fairlane. He kept it till about 1983; he had the front seat recovered along the way. My sister was the last one in the household driving it; one day, the brakes went out in it; she still drove it home; stopping it by slamming it into park at the stop lights. It then went to one of my brothers, I believe; he got most of Dad’s cast off cars.

    I love the scene in “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” when the kids pile into the back to go to grandmother’s house; it still brings back wonderful memories of my childhood and an America that has all but disappeared.

    Mom passed away in 2009; Dad last year. I am keeping their 1994 Ford Taurus wagon alive in part as a tribute to my wagonmaster Dad; still putting 700 miles a week on it.

    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3784289020266.143949.1668226073&type=3&l=549dc9a414

    • 0 avatar

      Jeez, you’re driving a fricken lot of miles!

      My parents’ last car was a ’95 Volvo 940 wagon. They were both gone by 2002, but my nephew still has it.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Live 20 miles south of Fort Worth. Have a special needs child who goes to a special school in Arlington. Until this month, was working at Love Field in Dallas; 67-70 miles one way, five days a week.

        The “Blue Goose” is perfect at my age for my commute. Relax in the “lazy boy” bench seat, plug my iphone with all of my music into the aftermarket radio, set the cruise control for 60-65; and relax all the way to work and back. Most of my traffic is around Ft. Worth; the rest is usually not bad. Even after 17 years and 158K miles, the body and motor are still quiet; only has a small blind spot on the driver’s side, and it still averages 25-27 MPG. Only disadvantage is that it is slow accelerating on the highway ramp (has the 3.0L Vulcan OHV motor); and it leaks oil through the rear main seal. At least it is not going to depreciate any less while I continue to drive it.

  • avatar
    larrbo

    The first vehicle that I ever bought outright was a tan ’77 Malibu Classic wagon. Just moved to Alabama and found it on the side of the road. New crate motor, new paint job, 3rd row seat, but broken a/c. A new compressor and 60 ounces of R12 later, my wife and kids had the most comfortable cruiser ever.

    This was last year. As a wagon lover I plan on dumping time and money into this vehicle because it is the blend of uniqueness, practicality, and bygone 70s design. (Fuel economy? Ask me after I throw in an O/D tranny)

    Nice to see that I’m not alone…

  • avatar

    I’m sorry, but this just reminds me of the movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation”–a movie that’s quite a bit older than I am–and the whole “Wagon Queen Family Truckster” lampoon.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagon_Queen_Family_Truckster

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, an early draft of this review mentioned the Family Truckster and how that movie is almost 30 years old and that many young people’s image of the station wagon is formed by George Barris’s Wagon Queen, not by any real contact with station wagons. That movie came out in 1983. The Chrysler minivans were introduced in 1984.

  • avatar
    LTGCGIC

    Looking forward to seeing this. Grew up in a station wagon family – parents had an ’83 Caprice wagon that they bought when I was 2. Years later I learned to drive in it. 17 years of family hauler/truck duty in snowy Ohio winters and over 200k miles did take its toll though, and the old beast was finally put to pasture.

    My grandfather used B body wagons (mostly Caprices but there were some Pontiacs in there too) for his John Deere dealership, and they were used much like pickup trucks for towing/hauling. The fleet included some pickups but they were never as reliable as the wagons. Many of the wagons made it north of 200k, some up to 300k miles before they were retired.

    I’d love to have another B body wagon, maybe a ’94-96 for the LT1 though I’d love to find a ’77-90 like I remember growing up with – but they’re getting pretty hard to find in decent condition. Currently I’m making do with an A body wagon, a 1990 Celebrity. It’s not as capable as a B body but still gets the job done and it has proven to be a solid reliable vehicle.

    Long live the wagon!

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Was your grandfather’s dealership in Continental, Ohio?

      • 0 avatar
        LTGCGIC

        Yep, indeed it was the one and only Henry Implement.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        My dad was Joe. Lawn and Garden salesman and sometimes parts guy from the late 70s till, well he still works for Northwest Tractor that bought your Grandfather’s (Kenny) franchise when he retired. I mowed your Grandfather’s lawn for years during high school always using something off the “used tractor” lot. Kenny always said it was “good advertising” and he sold many of those tractors that I “demonstrated” in his front yard.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep I remember Joe pretty well. Dad still goes up there once in a while for parts for the tractor but that’s not too often as it’s been a good one. Been quite a few years since I’ve been back there as I now live out in the DC area… and I’ll admit I have one of those red things to mow my yard with. My brother and I took over mowing grandpa’s yard in our middle/high school years back in the mid/late 90s until I left for college, and indeed oftentimes we’d have to choose something different out of the used lot each week, as that nice JD 318 or similar tractor one of us had used the previous week had been sold.

  • avatar
    Neb

    Just the other day, I rode my bicycle past a really good condition Crown Victoria Colony Park. Maybe I’m just drawn to the rare and unusual, but I thought it was pretty sweet. I came of age in the Minivan-SUV era, but have always had a yen for getting an old-fashioned American wagon; a Buick Roadmaster, or a Caprice. I think they’d make great road trip cars.

    Maybe I’ll be one of those weirdos who ends up redoing an old hearse.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    My first car was a ’63 Rambler Ambassador 990 wagon. Hands down the most comfortable seats around, and they reclined! lots of memories in that car, I gave it up when an upper ball joint gave out and the left front wheel collapsed. 144K on the clock. There were so many other things it needed it was pretty much used up. Interestingly, there was a latched lid in the right side of the cargo area right behind the wheel well. It had a plastic liner, and a drain hole, it fit a 6 pack + a little ice.

    @ Larrbo,
    That was the last year of that series. When first married and one on the way, We bought an 8 year old ’73 LeMans with a 400 4-barrel and TH400 with a tow package and factory dual exhaust. It was crazy fast, thirsty and took a huge amount of abuse. Like 12 sheets of drywall strapped to the roof rack, and another time, 27 bags of readymix to fix our earthquake-damaged foundation in ’89. Wifey caught air on the ride home.
    That was one strong wagon–root beer brown and fake wood FTW!

    • 0 avatar
      nikita

      ’63 Rambler, sweet! The first car I ever drove was a ’63 Classic 660 wagon. I was too young at the time, but those Nash “make out” reclining seats could have been quite handy a few years later.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    From about age 7 till I graduated college my father’s employer supplied vehicles were all B-body wagons. My father works as a John Deere lawn and garden equipment salesman and his boss concluded that the B-bodys were the most effective way for his salesmen to tow a small trailer with a tractor on it out to demonstrations, to make calls with parts, etc. I loved those cars.

    Big, quiet, soft riding and most of them had at least 6 speakers (two up front two in the middle and two in the back) which made them sound like a concert hall to me. Pontiac Parisienne is still my all time favorite although there was a satisfying utilitarianness about the rare 78 Impala wagon with power nothing and vinyl seats that passed through the fleet. God I loved those beasts.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember as a kid riding in grandpa’s ’85 Caprice, the only one he bought new IIRC. That one made it up to at least 300k before it was done. I too liked the Pontiacs the best… I mainly remember a light blue one (an ’87 or so) that somehow for a long time escaped the green and yellow treatment that grandpa would let mom and dad borrow as a loaner when one of our cars was at the shop. One thing though about the ’77-90 wagons is I always liked the Chevy 305-powered wagons over the Olds 307-powered versions. The 305 just seemed to have more power throughout, whereas the 307 ran out of steam pretty quick if you laid into it.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I liked the light blue Pontiac best too, I was permitted to borrow it a few times to move all my stuff in and out of the dorms at the start and end of college school years. If I would have had a little more money at the time I would have tried to buy it off your Grandfather.

        I live in New Mexico now and I would love to find a 89 or 90 Caprice sedan with the TBI 305. It’s a dang shame the wagons held on to the 307 quadrajet for so long. Even when the 305 was carbed the power difference was 170hp for the SBC and 140hp for the Olds 307. I once burried the needle on one of the Chevy powered wagons flying between Miller City and Continental down old Ohio Hwy 613. That car was more rock solid at speed than it had any right to be.

      • 0 avatar

        I never did get to drive the Pontiac as I wasn’t of driving age yet, but I could tell it rode a lot smoother than our ’83 the few times I rode shotgun in it. There were a few other really nice ones I would’ve loved to have had before they turned green and yellow.

        I never buried the needle on our ’83, but on one of my first outings ever behind the wheel on the road after getting my permit I had it rolling down Lincoln Highway toward Delphos about 70-75 and didnt’ realize till I looked down at the speedometer. Despite the high miles the beast just floated down the road. Of course once I got my license I was relegated to the ’84 Celebrity as dad kept driving the wagon as his work car, and it felt nowhere as solid on the road and the iron duke was pretty gutless. I did eventually get the wagon for a time during high school, and my brother and I fixed it up using some parts off a wagon grandpa had retired. I turned it over to my brother who traded it shortly thereafter to grandpa for a ’92 Lumina once he got his license. Wish I would’ve kept it but it would’ve been a lot of work as the rust was really starting to take over, and the ol’ 305 was getting pretty tired.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I actually like the wood, fake or not. It would be cool if Subaru made it an option on the Outback.

    I never really had much of a say on Stations Wagons (still SUV/Truck person), then I got my Outback and realized how useful they are. I dig the wagon,

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      http://www.rvinyl.com/woodgrain.htm#.UNI1nKyHiy1

      Hmmmmmmmmm I wonder if you can put that stuff on the outside of the car?

      http://tinyurl.com/c9cbaxd

      Or maybe I should just get a Ford Flex with a wood kit. :P

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    When I was younger Daddy received Ford sedans as company cars so the station wagons were Mom’s cars . The first one he bought was a 1956 Pontiac Chieftain 2 door wagon . Even as a kid didn’t care for the styling – I thought it was frumpy , even though I was only 3 at the time. This was traded in on a 1960 Bonneville Safari wagon- quite a change of pace for Daddy . As a 7 year old I was so excited when we picked it up I just about wet myself . It was an acid green metallic with a roof rack , avocodo Morrokide interior ,power windows and air conditioning , a first for us . I thought it looked like a space ship. Unfortunately Mom wrecked it pretty soon . It was replaced with a much more basic 1961 Catalina wagon , and then a 1965 Catalina wagon , both blue . After my older sister wrecked the 1965 wagon he never got another one, and thereafter bought mid-sized Pontiac sedans or coupes .

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    the Lemans woodgrain actually had a reflective quality, only embedded in the lighter hues of the faux wood design.

    It was touted as a safety feature, making it easier for another motorist to see the car after dark.

    it was only installed below the beltline, which looked really cool..there’s a piece of GM promotional literature out on the web somewhere that depicted that exact car–I can’t find it, but here’s a link to one like it–

    http://www.google.com/imgres?hl=en&tbo=d&rlz=1C1LENP_enUS479US479&biw=1144&bih=635&tbm=isch&tbnid=GaC1-4EAzIbg3M:&imgrefurl=http://paintref.com/cgi-bin/colorcodedisplay.cgi%3Ftype%3Dsample%26ditzler%3D2435%26syear%3D1972%26smanuf%3DPontiac%26smodel%3DGM%26name%3Dpontiaclemans1972springfieldgreen%26scomm%3DLeMans%2520Safari%2520Station%2520Wagon&docid=gmoSa8zQA_9eLM&imgurl=http://paintref.com/graphics/sample/pontiaclemans1972springfieldgreen.jpg&w=800&h=353&ei=XzrSUNuhFOqj0QX2xoGoCw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=607&vpy=333&dur=2342&hovh=149&hovw=339&tx=135&ty=127&sig=110683627731492263054&page=3&tbnh=133&tbnw=272&start=36&ndsp=24&ved=1t:429,r:52,s:0,i:250

    Same wheels, too

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Loved the Olds Vista Cruiser wagon with its glass near the roof-line.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    Ronnie,

    Thanks for the plug ! I’m that guy who owns the 1975 Dodge Coronet Crestwood Wagon! She’s draws alot of attention whenever I drive it. I’ve actually had people walk over to where it was parked and strike up a conversation about how their parents had a car like that!

    And for the record, I also own a 2007 Dodge Magnum SXT, so I’m still cruzing in a wagon !

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Big part of demise is fashion and women’s role in choosing the family car in the past 25 years. Used to be Dad would buy the cars, mom would drive. Now, mom’s say “No way am I driving that to the mall!” So, SUV mania, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      +1000

      Changing fashions, culture, and women’s role is what killed the wagon off; and not mileage. Best as I can figure out, my Taurus wagon weighs roughly 350 pounds more than the sedan, or slightly more than 10% of the total vehicle weight. I doubt you could measure much of a difference in mileage between the wagon and sedan versions of most cars.

      When I was growing up in the “wagon era” of the 1950s-1960s; most women were housewives. Many of them had large families like ours (six kids); the wagon was used both to haul her large family around, as well as buy groceries for them. It is the image I have of my own mom.

      By the 1990s; most women were in the workplace instead of housewives. Their families were much smaller; the common image then was the “soccer mom” with her 1-2 kids and maybe the rest of the team; piled into a minivan or SUV.

      The housewife portrayed in the commercial in the short clip above is how most woman nowdays think of their mom; and disdain that image. The minivan was an interium fashion thing; but many woman now look on them with the same disdain as the station wagon.

      People are less “outdoorsy” now, and not more. The SUV and pickup truck preference are a reflection of our view of a more hostile world post-911. Women now picture themselves driving alone commanding traffic in their SUVs.

      It is also the reason why most if not all “wagonmasters” nowdays are men. And when you get to see this film; I think they make the same case as well.

      As the comments and this blog suggests; Detroit could have had the wagon reclassified as a truck if they really were still selling like hotcakes. But even the Taurus wagon did not sell well in it’s day; the minivans were already taking over. I also don’t think they would still be selling well in Europe, where gas prices are higher; if mileage played any role in their demise.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    One of these days/years/decades I will get around to stuffing my built 340 into a 64 valiant wagon, because I (and quite possibly only I) will love it.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The oil embargo of 1973 did not kill off the station wagon. Many people still had fairly large families in the 70′s and station wagons continued to sell. Station wagons were not that much heavier than their sedan counterparts, not enough to make a noticeable difference in fuel mileage. The 2 long windows along the sides did not add much weight, and the long roof replaces what would be a trunklid on a sedan. If I remember correctly a wagon weighed around 200-250 or so lbs. over it’s sedan sibling.
    What killed the wagon was the introduction of the minivan, yet at the same time sales of fullsized factory conversion vans also peaked during the 80′s.

  • avatar
    Ankur

    Love it guys. Wagons are part of America’s DNA. At least to people like us.

    Shameless plug: My Facebook group called “Wagon Bros” Join us!

    http://www.facebook.com/groups/271026116319198/

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Owned a 77 impala wagon that did a 600 mile per week commute across houston. I owned the road with the rattle can paint job and the 2X8 bumper. Nobody wanted to mess with it. With four doors it was the best work vehicle I ever had for service work. Newly married and wife thought it was ugly and I needed better so I made a bad decision. Could get it repaired anywhere and most of the parts were truck parts.

    Followed with the resurrection of my two door 57 handyman special which was not as good for a handyman as the impala had been. Had a 67 el camino at the same time so don’t know what it was with all the sevens.

    Gas prices. Todays utility car would have to be the pt cruiser/hhr or the scion/cube. I drive a cube and the 32 mpg make it hard to exercise my nostalgia.

    • 0 avatar
      Moparman426W

      Starvingteacher, all domestic trucks in those days shared engines with the respective maker’s car lines. Chevy trucks used the same small and big block engines that the cars used, ditto for Ford and Chrysler. Of course the parts were interchangeable between the car and truck engines, they were the same engine. Didn’t make any difference whether it was a sedan or a wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        Moparman: I wasn’t really referring to the engine and/or transmission although they certainly interchanged. U joints, brakes, wheel bearings were all truck. That was what surprised me. Far as I am concerned it was a truck with a wagon body. I did know what you just explained, however, I didn’t know the rest.

        Bill: I drove from a Conroe mailing address to Galena Park and then to Broadway where 610 and 45 intersect to work with special kids. When I drove the impala nobody wanted to get in a fender bender and assumed that I just didn’t care. It’s a lot tougher to do with a shiny car. That long legged thing would run and it woulc carry. I carry lots less today but am considering a trailer hitch. I’m pretending to be a farmer now so I still have to have a truck.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Again the 6 cylinder and small block powered half ton chevy trucks used a 10 bolt rear end,and turbo 350 transmission, neither being a paragon of strength. The Ford and Chrysler wagons hadn’t yet been downsized in 77 and the Fords still used the 8.8 inch and 9 inch rear ends, and the heavy duty C6 transmissions, all shared with the Ford trucks. Likewise the Chrysler wagons still used 8-3/4 and 9-1/4 rear ends and the 727 trans, used in the Dodge trucks. The Ford and Chrysler wagons were more mechanically robust than the GM wagons. There was a reason why so many GM drag racers used Ford 9 inch and Mopar 8-3/4 rear ands and Ford top loader and Chrysler 833 4 speeds in their cars.
        As far as the brakes go, the fullsized Ford and Chrysler cars and wagons also used the same brakes as the half ton trucks. GM’s fullsized cars used the same brakes as the half ton chevy trucks until 77, when they downsized them. The sedans and coupes got smaller brakes that year, while the wagons continued to use the larger truck units.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I second that . I live in Houston , often use my first gen xB for delivery work . Perfect vehicle for that , never gets under low thirties mileage per tank ( with the 5 speed ) , roomy and looks utilitarian enough to not get kicked out of a loading dock . Perfect car if you’re getting paid mileage and completely reliable . Still have a soft spot for small sized station – wagons though .

  • avatar
    sray_ATL

    I would have to agree with “Chicagoland” in regards to the change in the modern family having an effect on the station wagon. I was born in the late 70′s at which time my dad drove a full size conversion van and mom drove a formula firebird. It was dad that continued to wind up with the “family car” and mom the nicer sedan. Dad got traded is conversion van in on an “all new for 1984″ Plymouth Voyager. He kept that until he couldn’t stand the under power P.O.S. that it was. He traded in on a 1987 V6 Grand voyager that somehow lasted 10 years and a hard to believe 300K+ miles. Mom had turbo volvo sedans and other yuppy cars. The weird part is after my little sister was driving age and i had long since been out of the house. Mom bought a Volvo Cross County and currently drives a Subaru Forester XT. I always thought that was funny that she refused to have a station wagon or minivan while we were growing up, but has now had two station wagons in a row.


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