By on August 5, 2015

At one point few vehicles epitomized the American family car as the station wagon, particularly of the fullsize variety. Today, most car companies are pretty much convinced that American consumers will not buy station wagons. A few of the European luxury brands offer them here, but for the most part wagons are not welcome in the contemporary automotive scene in the U.S. According to Pete Bigelow of AOL Autos, the fault for that lies with the vehicular star of 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation” — the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, a hideous pastiche of just about every bad malaise era styling trend appliqued over a Ford LTD Country Squire.

National Lampoon’s Vacation was released 32 years ago this summer and with its fifth sequel, “Vacation”, in theaters now, Mental Floss posted a listicle of little known facts about the original film. Number one on their list was Bigelow’s 2013 assertion that the movie’s mocking of the traditional American family station wagon fatally tainted the body style in consumers’ eyes:

Clark Griswold killed the station wagon.

You remember the scene. Stony disappointment spreads across his face when he learns his Antarctic blue sports car has not been delivered. His old car, a two-toned puke-brown and pale-mustard wagon, has already been demolished.

He has no choice but to drive the Family Truckster.

In all its heinous glory, the pea soup-green Wagon Queen Family Truckster was a caricature of everything America hated about its station wagons: Its wood paneling, its broad, expansive frame and its boxy headlights, its status as the frumpy domestic hauler.

And Griswold embodied the aloof, American dad. Put the two caricatures together, and National Lampoon’s Vacation made the station wagon, in the eyes of consumers, a toxic product in one three-minute scene. It’s no coincidence that the same year the movie was released, 1983, Chrysler introduced the minivan and found runaway success.

Ever since, the station wagon has endured a sad, slow decline.

Interesting theory, though I’m not sure that I’m going to embrace it just yet.

As Bigelow mentions, the movie came out the same year that Chrysler introduced their first minivan. Do you think it’s just a little bit possible that product planners at Chrysler, which was selling a wagon version of their K cars at the time, might have had an inkling that consumer tastes were changing?

For years I’ve contended that it’s been the buying choices of American women that have moved from wagons to minivans to SUVs to car-based crossovers as they’ve tried to escape the image of driving a mommy mobile while simultaneously choosing practical vehicles that can carry their entire families plus cargo. Chevy Chase’s Clark Griswold was a dork, but he’s the one who subjects his family to it, not Beverly D’Angelo’s Ellen Griswold. One of the reasons why the Family Truckster was funny at the movie’s original release was that by 1983 all that fake wood, “metallic pee” paint (we called it “baby shit green”, everyone offered it in the ’70s), and gingerbread was already passe.

Maybe our autometrician Tim Cain can run the numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that by 1983 sales of American station wagons had already started going down significantly. According to the wagon enthusiasts at stationwagon.com, the decline indeed started in the 1970s, with Chrysler discontinuing their fullsize Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge wagons in 1978. It should also be pointed out that the obviously Ford-based Family Truckster didn’t keep the Taurus wagon from being one of the best selling station wagons ever. The wagon declined, but it went down slowly.

Both stationwagon.com and Gear Patrol say the minivan was what killed the wagon. In a fairly comprehensive history/eulogy for the station wagon by Charles Moss at The Atlantic he, too, blames Chrysler’s people mover. None of them mention the Griswold’s fictional wagon.

Speaking of the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, if you’re dying to show up at your next costume party as Clark or Ellen Griswold, a modified Ford LTD wagon “believed to be” the car used in the film was up for auction by Mecum in 2013, but appears to have been a no-sale at $35,000. If you want, you can apparently still make Mecum an offer.

In any case, Bigelow’s theory is worth considering. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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92 Comments on “QOTD: Did The Griswold’s Family Truckster Kill the American Station Wagon?...”


  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The fuel efficiency mandates also contributed to the demise of the station wagon because a station wagons are considered no different than a sedan for determining mpg standards. Also the minivan craze, the suv craze, and now the crossover craze. It seems that there is some renewed interest in the station wagon but what is considered a station wagon today is more of a sedan without a trunk and these vehicles are neither called station wagons or hatchbacks. My parents always had station wagons and even my father had a wagon long after all of us grew up and left home.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      I don’t think it was fuel efficiency mandates, rather the 1979 oil crisis. People were lining-up at gas stations, begging to be served, and the assumption was that it would happen again.

      That mindset didn’t clear until after we “won” the first Iraq War a dozen years later. By that time traditional station wagons were mostly extinct (only Chevy and Buick still sold them), minivans were near their peak, and SUVs were starting to connect with buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        The oil crisis was also a contributor to increased speed enforcement. People were barred from driving faster, to nearly the extent cars in the raw would have enabled them to. And when stuck driving at dump truck speeds, why not embrace the advantages of dump truck proportions, like roof heights enabling interior chandeliers?

        In Germany, and consequently Europe, higher allowed speeds, at least on freeways, emphasized the day to day benefit of cars more optimized for dynamics, putting more of a crimp on the bloat.

        A similar dynamic is evidenced in Motorcycles. Legally stuck at snailpace regardless of their steeds’ dynamic potential, Americans saw little reason to ride something that differed much dynamically from what Harley made in the 40s.

        Ronnie is onto something with his mommyfligth explanation, though. In a culture celebrating being a whore as the ultimate expression of womanhood, those selling overt “mommymobiles,” do face an uphill battle.

      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        Dad bought a late model ltd wagon for dirt cheap in 1981 and an Olds Vista Cruiser before that forvnext to nothing as third cars. Wagons had been passé for several years when the movie came out. It was because of the gas shortage.

        At the time the movie came out the family station wagon was already an old joke—just like the rest of the jokes in that movie.

        The stylish substitute would have been a big squared off Suburban. Hard to believe, I know.

  • avatar
    talkstoanimals

    Not only did the Ford-based Family Truckster not damage sales of the Taurus wagon, but didn’t Clark Griswold drive (under a tractor trailer bed no less) a Taurus wagon in Christmas Vacation? I don’t recall sales of the Taurus wagon tanking after that film came out, though Mr. Cain may have the data to prove otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      And in Vegas Vacation they had an Explorer.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I loved it when the teenaged boy won a Ford Aspire, then a whole parking lot of other cars. Seems like there was a Viper, a Hummer, and I dont recall what else, but there were more.

        Vegas Vacation was my favorite of all the related movies. In that one, they didnt make the family vehicle a joke, it was just pretty much what youd expect (especially ordinary compared to the Family Truckster and the what-ever-it-is in the new one). I did love how Rusty (was that his name in Vegas, too? Cant remember) pounds the beer his dad “shared” with him in the original. Probably exactly what I wouldve done…except leave off the “probably” lol. That and the Hefty sack airbag that deploys late and doesnt deflate was pretty funny.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Because Jupither Chevrolet would never do something as underhanded as use copyrighted material without permission to promote itself. That’s Jupiter Chevrolet, just around the corner from the Giant Spot, or visit us at jupiterchev.com.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Lol, I was thinking that too. And if they tell you “We’re not swindlers!” they most likely are.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      Ha! I live within 10 miles of them. I went there to look at a Cobalt Coupe that I was thinking about. They did the “what can we do to get you to buy this car today?” routine when I was really just looking.

  • avatar
    Jimal

    And yes, it is likely a coincidence that the Caravan/Voyager were introduced the same year that the movie came out.

    • 0 avatar
      Crabspirits

      I believe it takes a little bit longer to put a car into production.

      I was riding in the back seat of a flesh and wood-paneled Mercury Zephyr wagon at the time as we sortied to probably 50 dealerships, salivating over Caravans.

      The minivan was the future back then for families. Extreme utility and space, combined with that high tech front wheel drive, and better fuel economy. Who would buy a large sedan with a cargo area ever again?

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        I was 5, and rode in either an aqua on white vinyl Mustang II fast/hatchback with a 2.3L/4spd or a poo-brown 72 Capri. The parents’ new 1984 Voyager LE, metallic poo-brown with wood applique and two-tone brown vinyl interior, was the “MAGIC WAGON” as it so said via a rear window sticker. I learned to drive in that van.

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        Perhaps it was because we were a GM family, but the minivan bug never hit us. Including before I was born we went from a Corvair Greenbriar to a Chevy II wagon to a pair of Vegas (’73 and 75) to a 1981 Olds Cutlass Cruiser to an ’89 Buick Century Estate; the Vegas and the Buick having the fake woodgrain and everything. Even when we got away from wagons we went with a used ’75 Dodge Sportsman window van. The only other non-car was a ’96 Blazer. A minivan never graced our driveway.

        • 0 avatar
          Exfordtech

          Good thing the Vegas had the wood grain, it would hold the rust together in one piece.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          Why would being a GM family preclude a minivan? GM sold a great many Astro/Safaris, and even some squishy dustbusters too.

          My family went from a horribly unreliable Monte Carlo traded in (at like 3-4 years old) for a new 1985.5 Escort 3 door and a 1985 Ranger single cab. In 1990, the Ranger was traded in on a new Aerostar. It was such a plesant change from riding in the canopy covered bed of the Ranger, or taking two vehicles everywhere because we had a family of five and the Escort only sat four. Why my dad didnt get a 5 passenger Tempo instead, I have no clue, unless it was because the Escort was cheaper. He probably told the salesman to show him the cheapest car and pickup they had (the Ranger was the most basic model, with the 2.0L Mazda engine, the Escort was very basic as well).

          Anyway, our Aerostar served us well and it was an awesome road trip vehicle. Despite not having a family of my own, Ive had a few Aerostars myself and found them quite useful for a lot more than just hauling kids, lol (camping, towing, mobile work station, etc).

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        I have a very large hole in my heart that only a Mercury Zephyr with an I-6 could fill…just not a wagon version. Il take a Z-7 coupe, or a two and even four door sedan, but I simply wont have a wagon.

        The only wagons I really ever liked were two doors, like the old Ford Ranch wagon. I guess it being a two door somehow erases the wagon stigma from my brain. If I had a four door wagon, itd be a Focus or an Escort. As much as I love the Taurus, I wouldnt buy a wagon version.

        I think the only two wagons Ive had were an 83 Tercel 4wd SR-5 and another 80s crapbox, albeit a much, MUCH faster one, a Cavalier RS with a 2.8L.

        I hated them both. The Cavalier was stolen by tweakers, I hadnt even put it in my name yet, and I just gave the title to someone who knew them and told them to keep the POS. I was glad it was gone (TCC solenoid was bad so it stalled at a stop if you didnt hit Neutral, I think I paid a whole $50 for it). The Tercel’s 4wd engauged suddenly on the road (wasnt the first time, either) and I ended up hitting a boulder with it. Enough of a hit to bust the radiator, but it was a pretty low speed impact so no major damage. I sold it for $250, I was all too happy to be rid of a car I hated BEFORE it tried to kill me. Sold my neighbor’s late 80s Chevy van to the same guy who bought the Tercel.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Nice try Mr. Pete Bigelow – but totally full of beans. The wagon was already dying and the movie certainly didn’t inspire Chrysler to create the minivan. Heck some of Chrysler’s early advertising referred to the minivan as a “wagon”.

    One of my big disappointments in the remake is that they didn’t make the family vehicle a CUV/SUV. Get a Highlander/Pilot/Explorer/Traverse etc. off of a used car lot, drag it through a Pep Boys store and grab every fake chrome vent and hood scoop you can lay your hands on. That would be satire and comment on ‘Merica.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Jalopnik had a fun piece on it last month. It’s based on a Toyota Previa. I agree it would have been better American auto satire in line with the original if it was based on a Yukon XL with every awful gewgaw imaginable tacked on. Blame it on the globalization of movies, perhaps. China wouldn’t get it.

      Yet another reason if I watch the new Vacation, it will be on Netflix or late night basic cable. It sounds like a complete turkey.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I was thinking they should’ve used a Mercedes GLA, but with Hyundai badges, donk rims, fake landau top (people still buy these), fart can exaust, the ever relevant faulty airbags, and of course a custom $300 engine ECU that just made it run bad.

        Of course a Juke or Aztek would work too.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Drove passed a tuning shop in Albuquerque last week the windows were plastered with “$20 PER HP!” (Meaning 100 hp would cost you $2000) I simply chuckled.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Ford has always, and continues to, refer to its passenger vans as wagons. Aerostar, Transit and Transit Connect, Windstar and Freestar as well as Econoline/E-Series passenger vans (hence the name Club Wagon used for a while).

      This guy on another forum I used to frequent had this whole long drawn out rant on how f’ed up it was that Ford calls the Transit Connect passenger van a wagon, how stupid it was because they had NEVER done it before. I made a similar statement as the one above, and posted a photo of a 1990 Ford Aerostar sales brochure I have that says “AEROSTAR WAGON” on the cover. He chose not to respond, or if he did, I didnt see it. Im not sure if it was the same idiot who also claimed that every Maxima ever built had a 3.5L engine, that the Mercury Mariner was body-on-frame but the Escape wasnt, and that every F-150 built before 2004 was recalled and crushed. Needless to say, he liked to play “fast and loose” with the facts, to say the least. There were other gems, something about the extream reliability of 80s British cars, lol, I cant remember specificly.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    We went from the station wagon to the SUV to the crossover to whatever is currently acceptable, because the need for a vehicle that masterfully handles the frumpy, boring, uncool nuts-and-bolts aspects of raising a family never went away.

    The problem is that everybody wants to be the Cool Dad or the Cool Mom.

    The family vehicle of choice changes every ten years or so because people think they can somehow combine being a good parent with being perpetually 23 years old.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      “…whatever is currently acceptable…”

      Extra-Mega-Super-Extended-Crew-Cab. With “tool” (as in diaper) boxes and tonneau covers making up for the fact that the stroller gets rained on in the trunk….

      Being the traditional forerunner wrt family hauling, how long before Chrysler/Ram introduces the three row TripleCab? For really big “work” crews……

  • avatar
    redav

    Wagons were already uncool by 1983–that’s why that car was selected for the movie. Wagons still sold because they were practical, not because anyone really wanted them. (The same reason minivans sell today.)

    “Do you think it’s just a little bit possible that product planners at Chrysler, which was selling a wagon version of their K cars at the time, might have had an inkling that consumer tastes were changing?”
    – Inkling? Of course they knew–everyone knew! Chrysler was just the company clever enough to introduce a new product that was more practical than the wagon and helped (not solely caused) its withdrawal. (Disclaimer: my family bought one of those original minivans, a white Plymouth woody.)

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    Pretty much anything said in “listicle” form is going to be in serious error.

  • avatar

    DODGE MAGNUM with Pentastar and 8 Speed, 392 HEMI and HELLCAT option – optional AWD.

    If JESUS can come back from the dead in 3 days, surely the Magnum SRT HELLCAT can.

  • avatar
    319583076

    It wasn’t an “Antarctic blue sports *car*”, it was a “sport *wagon*”. The joke was that he ordered the “cool” wagon with CB radio and rally fun pack, but got stuck with the “uncool” wagon. He would have driven a wagon either way – he showed up in a wagon!

    Does anyone else feel the same fatigue and frustration as I do when purported criticism misses the details? The internet has given everyone a voice, although there aren’t many voices worth hearing.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      Was going to jump on this but I figured I better read the comments first. I was not disappointed.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I was going to point this out too. I always imagined the Blue Sport Wagon (with rally fun pack!) would look something like a WRX Wagon complete with rally lights, brush guard and oversized mud flaps. Instead Clark got the horrible Family Truckster. Its like going to rent a car and getting the Aveo… instant disappointment.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, no matter what, Clark’s a dork, and I noticed the sports car vs sports wagon discontinuity when I watched the clip but I get annoyed when people tell me that I got the precise Firesign Theater quote slightly wrong so I wasn’t going to do it to Bigelow.

      Also, just to be a pedant, a “sports wagon” is indeed a thing. Some of the Euro companies use the term, and cars like the Volvo 1800 ES get the appellation too.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Clarks other car was a blue Volvo 244 so I can see why he’d want a “sport wagon”.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        My 3-series “Sports Wagon” is plenty sporty indeed. It just happens to also carries a reasonable amount of stuff. Back in ’83 you could get a Volvo 245 Turbo that would certainly haul @ss and all the presents home from Grandma’s house at the same time.

        Ultimately, IMHO what killed the station wagon for non-premium makes is simply that you can get $5K more for one by jacking and butching it up and calling it a “CUV”. Why would Ford offer the Fusion/Mondeo wagon here for $1500 more than the sedan when they can sell the Explorer for $5-10K more. Or the cheaper to build Escape for much the same price. I dislike it because I prefer practicality AND dynamics, but I understand it.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        As a general rule, if the mistake is inconsequential, I let it pass. However, when the thesis contains the word “wagon” and a fundamental part of Bigelow’s argument is based on substituting “car” for “wagon”, that’s a consequential error and I’ll call anyone out on it anytime. There’s a threshold…

  • avatar
    Wade.Moeller

    Crossover = Station Wagon

    Just look at the Cadillac SRX and say with a straight face that it isn’t a station wagon.

  • avatar
    bfisch81

    When Chrysler introduced the Caravan/Voyager/Town&Country the very next year after this movie came out, the wagon was finished.

    Why would you want something less capable in terms of cargo, headroom and flexibility for the same or more money as a Dodge Caravan?

    Besides, those minivans came upholstered in rich 80’s Chrysler velour.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      Town and Country wasnt a minivan then, it was a K-based wagon (the name has history going back much further). It didnt become a lux’ed up Caravan until like 1989 or 1990.

      As was said above, the writing was already clearly on the wall for full sized wagons as “cool family vehicles” at that point (1983), and Chrysler gets credit for being the first to fill the void with the Voyager/Caravan.

      The movie didnt kill wagons, it played on their slow and painful death quite nicely, though.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Hosanna in the highest. Now we can officially put the “CUVs killed station wagons” meme to rest.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    Style choices by women are clearly what killed station wagons, and are well on the way to killing mini-vans. I expect that before long mini-vans will be the sole province of workers and families that can’t afford the higher prices of CUVs/SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Toyonda is fighting back with ever more ostentatious “Ultimate” editions.

      I doubt minivans are going anywhere. Or any vans. They’re just too bloody optimized for carrying stuff. Pretty much the shape of a shipping container on wheels.

      Ford seems to be doing OK with their Transit Connect Van. Chrysler is moving into that space as well. And Nissan? The trick may be to take a page from the pickup truck playbook: Sell a family vehicle to families, but pretend it is more for “hard working” types, than for mommies.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Oh please. Just like “Wall Street” fans forget that the greedy guys go to jail at the end of the film, wagon haters forget that Griswold got Christy Brinkley out of her Ferrari and naked in a pool while driving the family truckster.

    Clark Griswold couldn’t stand the cold water. That wasn’t the wagon’s fault.

    The bottom line is that any vehicle used to haul your kids around is a family truckster and whether it’s a Porsche Cayenne or a Honda Odyssey, you aren’t fooling anybody. You still aren’t closing the deal with the super-model.

    Then again, my current family truckster is a brown Taurus wagon (hey, it’s paid-for and only has 36k miles on it) so what do I know? I used to have a booster seat in the front passenger seat of my 1984 911 Cabriolet. It was a fun dad-mobile, but I was still carrying my 4 year old around.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Was there a “Jew car salesman swindler” stereotype back then? I was not alive just yet, but I have to feel like that was a very deliberate casting choice.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Eugene Levy was simply playing the car salesman stereotype to a T along with the malaise riff on how the car you were trading in was often better than the new car you were buying (Family Truckster dieseled when shut off etc). No racial connotation to it as far as I could tell.

    • 0 avatar

      The character isn’t that far off from Kurt Russell’s in Used Cars. Levy just looks and sounds Jewish (small wonder, nu?). The film was directed by the late Harold Ramis, who was Jewish himself.

      Come to think of it, the NatLamp magazine crew was a bit WASPish as American comedy goes: O’Rourke, O’Donohue, Hughes, Kenney, Beard.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Eugene Levy may be one of the few “character” actors who never uses a different voice than the one God gave him. I’m sure one of the B&B will be able to site a time but I can’t think of a single incident of him trying to use a voice other than his own for a movie role.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    As I have noted before:

    Station wagon market share in the US peaked in 1959.

    Station wagon sales volumes in the US peaked in 1963.

    So market share peaked when Eisenhower was president, while LBJ had just taken office when volumes peaked. A lot of us weren’t even born yet.

    It was a long slide downward, and it began with the Ford Econoline, which inspired a host of competitors and began to cannibalize the market. More than a decade later, the minivan put the knife in.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      I don’t know if the Econoline was much of a family hauler. Van conversions were popular as such.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        There were passenger versions. I would suspect that the van also would have pulled wagon sales from commercial users who wanted a covered cargo area.

        The point remains that wagon sales peaked decades ago. The decline of wagons was a long gradual slide downward.

    • 0 avatar
      Tomifobia

      I don’t think the Econoline inspired anyone, as the Corvair Greenbrier was released the same year, and the VW Type 2 was around long before either of them.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        Ford’s front-engine design was widely imitated.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          I agree, the next van from GM after the Greenbrier looked like an Econoline with subtle nose job and a bowtie. GM has pretty much played second fiddle to Ford in the van department to this day.

          It really didnt help that they changed almost nothing from the mid-70s (?) until the Express was introduced….and it has since been neglected in pretty much the same fashion since it came out. Its pretty bad when you park a new vehicle next to a 15 year old one and struggle to remember which is which.

          The rear-engined vans may have been earlier (VW), but that doesnt mean they were better or were a forshadow of things to come, because they certainly werent.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Station wagons are gone because they stunk at carrying families and their stuff after downsizing. When cars were 225 inches long, you could get a 3-row wagon that had some luggage space with the seats in use. Not much, but some. When the downsized GM cars showed up for 1977, there was no luggage space with the seats up. Minivans can carry people and stuff, and every one of those people is more comfortable than in a wagon. The wagons that exist today are just slightly bigger hatchbacks.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I can think of two real, legitimate wagons on sale in the US market today. With a proper amount of cargo and people space.

      -Flex
      -XC70

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        If you’re including the XC70, the Outback deserves to be right there. It meets and beats the Volvo on cargo capacity seats up and down. Test drove one last Saturday, man everything just WORKED on that thing. It is definitely the modern day Volvo, sales guy was rambling through the stats on what percentage of their buyers are degreed in various upper levels of education, and how many of them pull in 200k+ salaries and buy the cars cash.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          You know why I didn’t put the Outback on? I assumed the cargo carrying was compromised by the sloped rear roof. To my eyes, it’d have much less capacity than the XC70. It also is almost too tall now to be called “wagon,” (as Subaru surely would appreciate it being called something else.)

          Really that’s the sales approach? Poncy education and wealthy buyers? Interesting. Not the path I’d choose.

          Typically Land Rover wins the “buyers with money” award. But I guess that includes leases.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            The roof is a bit deceiving. The Outback is an excellently packaged CUV (although the Forester is even better).

            The similarity in numbers between the Outback and XC70 just goes to show how all that’s separating the wagon and the CUV anymore is a bit of ride height.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Not necessarily the whole approach, but when he learned a bit about us (me being an engineer and her being in medical school) he dropped that bit of information on us.

            I’d also be willing to bet the Outback actually has more space width-wise than the volvo, those P2 platform cars have notoriously poor interior packaging.

            We’re totally the epitome of Subaru’s target buyers: we have two larger dogs, and we need something that can haul a canoe and get us out to trail heads or to remote camp sites. I guess the only thing that could crank it up to 11 would be if we were of an ‘alternative orientation.’

            The one thing that I just couldn’t let slide was when he was talking up Subaru’s reliability and how many of their cars are still on the road, I let him know in no uncertain terms just how many Subarus my brother works on at his shop and what the pattern failures are. Mind you, I’m considering buying a Subaru regardless, all of the benefits outweigh those future repairs. At least they’re a known quantity and fairly predictable.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Tell him you and her are both lesbians, and you’ll get a big alternative lifestyle discount!

            I forget how old the platform is for the XC70. Just another one of Volvo’s shortcomings. Another one (and my issue) is you CANNOT add the options you’d expect at that price range to the XC70. If you want all the nice stuff you gotta buy an XC90.

            I DON’T WANT IT. :(

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Subarus have certain predictable failures (CV joints, cooling system) but are generally quite durable if fed parts as necessary.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            dal, I agree in full. They have a few set and known issues, which aside from the head gaskets (which the FB25 hopefully has finally gotten licked) aren’t terribly expensive to address. That very same brother that wrenches on Subies a fair amount has no issues recommending them to friends, as long as certain things are inspected before purchase on the used ones.

            I hear rumblings of excessive oil use now (due to low friction piston rings and water-thin 0w-20 oil coupled with the boxer engine I think), we’ll see what direction that takes.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      True wagons are just longer hatchbacks, but then CUVs are just jacked up hatchbacks. I like to consider my TSX wagon as a sedan with better access to the trunk.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Stuff–especially kid stuff–also got vastly bigger. The car seats of today are massive armored and shock-hardened cocoons compared to the basic plastic shell with a pillow I rode around in.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t think it is any single factor in the demise of the station wagon but the mini-van, the body on frame suvs, and now the crossovers along with any vehicle with a truck like chassis of a larger size got less restrictive fuel and safety standards (more restrictive fuel standards was a factor in the increased size of compact pickups to midsize). Now trucks are subject to more stringent standards which will be implemented over the next 10 years which is why Ford went to aluminum body F-150s with Eco-Boost engines. Crossovers now are cutting into the sales of the family sedan but I doubt sedans will disappear from the market like station wagons. It is doubtful manufacturers will ever use the words “station wagon” ever again to describe any vehicles that might resemble a station wagon in the future.

    I think the higher profile crossover vehicles will continue in popularity for the near future. Maybe the next remake of the Vacation series movies will depict an overdone Buick Enclave.

  • avatar
    tylermattikow

    Here is what Clark ordered…..

    http://jalopnik.com/5928070/for-4500-the-draggin-wagon-wants-to-set-you-straight-line

  • avatar
    carguy

    Every generation hates the cars its parents drove. That’s what’s killed the station wagon, the minivan and that why the remaining buyers full size SUVs are mostly old.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      So far that’s been absolutely right, but I’m sensing a different trend with crossovers. I think they might have one more generation in them. Both the parents and the kids seem to like them for now.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Minvans made the initial assualt on wagons, but I think the death blow was the Explorer.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Wagons aren’t dead, just named differentially and occasionally given dumb slopey roofs.

    Modern cars have gotten so low you need to lift them back up for wagon use.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    As others have noted, to make this leap of logic, one has to assume an automaker can design a new platform and vehicle in about 3 months.

    National Lampoons Summer Vacation was a summer movie (saw it in the movie theater as a kid) and the Dodge Caravan came out that same year in the fall.

    It is just synchronicity that this happened. Generation X was already rebelling against fake wood panels, land barges, and Detroit. The squared off look of the late 70’s that all makers foreign and domestic had embraced was being replaced by vehicles like the 1983 Ford Tempo jelly bean car, and a growing squadron of smaller but practical hatchbacks.

    The station wagon didn’t need Clark W. Girswold to kill it, it was already dying.

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      They also sort of have to forget the fairly well documented story of the minivan’s development, where it kicked around Ford for something like a decade before following Lee Iaccoca (and others) to Chrysler.

    • 0 avatar
      SP

      Whoa, whoa.

      Fake wood didn’t go down without a fight.
      http://www.turbododge.com/forums/f7/f30/381275-1989-dodge-caravan-woody-turbo-1600-a.html

      And some say it still lurks in the shadows, biding its time until the comeback!
      http://www.coastalsign.net/portfolio/ford-flex-woody-2/

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Even the crossover will fall out of favor but I agree they probably have another generation, but the good thing about the crossover is that they are high enough to comfortably get in and out of but not so high that you feel like you will fall out of them once you get out. Also being a little higher the viability is better which is like some of the cars of the early 50′ which were not as low to the ground as later model cars. I do think that is a major reason why crossovers are popular particularly smaller crossovers among those who are older.

    As for sleazy car salesmen it is not fair to stereotype them as being Jewish, more likely they are Gentiles who are after the almighty dollar.

  • avatar

    When Chrysler came out with the minivan, they wanted it to seem as much like a station wagon as possible – they even offered fake woodgrain as an option. (They only stopped offering it on the third gen models because they couldn’t get it to stick to the much curvier sides).

    My parents bought their first minivan in 1989, a blue Voyager. They originally planned on getting a Taurus/Sable wagon, and figured they would hate the minivan. The opposite happened.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The Chrysler minivan is a historically significant vehicle because it marked a major shift in the family vehicle from station wagons and larger custom vans and it was the major vehicle along with the K cars that brought Chrysler out of bankruptcy.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “I think there might be something darker at work here. The more I think about the Truckster, and the impact it had on the Griswold family, the more I think it had some sort of malevolent presence that, while more subtle than that displayed by the killer car in Christine, was no less real. Perhaps the better example would be the Ring of Power that Frodo carries in The Lord of the Rings. Like the Ring, the Truckster was a talisman of doom that brought ill fortune and slowly but inexorably put its bearer under its twisted influence.

    That may sound odd, but just think about it. At the beginning of the film, Clark W. Griswold was portrayed as a successful businessman. He had a pleasant family, a good career, a nice house, two cars, and was apparently happily living the American dream. Up to that point in his life, he had obviously displayed some combination of high intelligence, good decision-making, or luck. All of that abruptly came to an end when Griswold first came into contact with the Truckster.”

    http://www.carlustblog.com/2009/03/wagon-queen-family-truckster.html


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