Buy/Drive/Burn: American Wagon Life, Circa 1975
Today’s Buy/Drive/Burn setup comes to us via commenter 87 Morgan, who suggested the trio a while ago. For consideration today: Malaise Era transportation for upper middle-class families. These gigantic wagons served as family haulers before the minivan came along and ripped the sculpted carpet from under their feet.
What will it be — the Chrysler, the Mercury, or the Buick?
Chrysler Town & Country
Introduced for 1974, the sixth-generation Town & Country wagon would be the last full-sized version for the nameplate. As we discussed recently, serious downsizing occurred in 1978 when the T&C moved onto Chrysler’s mid-size M-body platform. For ’74, it remained on the full-size C-body, which we’ve also discussed previously. Weight and standard features increased for 1974; the wagon gained 300 pounds and ended up tipping the scales at about 5,200 lbs. Catalytic converters were new for ’75, as well as color coordinated instrument panels, steering columns, and steering wheels. The top-spec 440 V8 powers today’s selection.
Mercury Marquis Colony Park
Over at the mid-level Mercury division of Ford, the Marquis Colony Park wagon had been for sale since 1969. That same year, the wagon variants of Ford and Mercury vehicles started sharing nameplates with their sedan counterparts. Colony Park became Marquis Colony Park. How formal! Sharing a platform with Ford’s popular LTD, the Colony Park managed to undercut the heft of the T&C by a few hundred pounds, weighing in at a little over 4,700 lbs. 1973 brought a big redesign with the addition of 5 mile-per-hour bumpers and a new roof line which encased frameless windows. Proud of its new design, Ford artificially marketed the wagon as a pillarless hardtop. Powering us through our Malaise feels is the 460 V8, borrowed right from Lincoln.
Buick Estate Wagon
Since Cadillac was not in the business of offering station wagons, Buick’s Estate Wagon was the top of the General Motors wagon food chain. Though Buick offered wagon versions of Roadmasters and the Century in the 1950s, there was no full-size luxury wagon from General Motors in the 1960s. Through the 1969 model year, full-size GM wagon enthusiasts had to settle for a Pontiac Safari or Chevrolet Impala Estate. For 1970, the Estate Wagon debuted on the ubiquitous B-body, which underpinned the majority of GM’s full-size cars. Featuring a new and luxurious powered clamshell tailgate at the rear, the Estate made sure there was power up front, too. The 455 V8 pushed about 5,300 pounds of Buick around town. There was a performance “Stage One” package available for the Estate Wagon; it gave the engine an altered camshaft, valves, and a dual exhaust. But that option went away after ’74. Too bad!
Three big luxury wagons to cart around the family in 1975. Which one gets the Buy?
[Images: Chrysler, GM, Ford]
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"For 1970, the Estate Wagon debuted on the ubiquitous B-body, which underpinned the majority of GM’s full-size cars. Featuring a new and luxurious powered clamshell tailgate at the rear" Um, no. Indeed the Estate Wagon was introduced in the fall of '69 as a '70 but it didn't get the clamshell gate until the '71 complete redesign.
Buy: All 3 and add them to the collection. These are hard to find in good condition as the rot monster seemed to attack them the day they rolled off the assembly line. But to follow the rules of the game: Buy: The Buick. We've always been GM at heart and I had a cousin who had this wagon new back in the day. The Cadillac of station wagons that didn't look like a hearse. Always digged that powered clamshell even if it was a PITA. Let's face it, by the time the clamshell started to break down rust already ate away half the body, and the car would be only 3 years old. They bought it to haul their boat. As someone else posted, a 3 ton boat is a 3 ton boat and you need a heavy hauler to pull it around. Drive: The Mercury. This was the Lincoln of station wagons. Lots of power toys and a luxury ride, fronted by a torquey 460. I always thought FoMoCo rode quieter and the inward facing way back seats were unique. Burn: The Mopar. In my neighborhood we were divided not along fault lines of Democrat or Republican but along pro-Mopar / anti-Mopar. No rhyme or reason. We just were. My crowd was anti-Mopar, probably because of all the Dodge Darts driven at 10 mph under the speed limit with their left turn signal stuck on for miles, piloted by little old men wearing hats.