By on September 11, 2018

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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78 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: American Wagon Life, Circa 1975...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    My first car was a ’75 Olds Custom Cruiser, so this one’s easy:

    Buy the Buick. Burn the reat.

  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    We’re still driving them, they are called SUV’s. Taller and more powerful but essentially the same.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    In 1975, Dad was driving a ’74 Impala and found it just way too big for the city. He wanted a wagon but all of these were just too massive. The only American compact wagon available was a Hornet, so that’s what he bought. Actually drove great but was not the answer either as the inside was very cheap. He probably should have coughed up the extra cash and got a Volvo wagon.

    Of these the Buick is probably the best just based on looks and despite the problematic clamshell tailgate. But they are all too huge.

  • avatar
    Vanillasludge

    The GM cars handled better but rattled like mad. If I had to live with one I’d go Fomoco.

  • avatar
    thegamper

    I would both Drive and Buy the Chrysler because it has “Family Truckster” written all over it. From the rear wheel skirts, wood paneling, chrome abounds! Though the Mercury appears to have the most square footage of fake wood paneling meaning of course it was probably better vehicle and the luxury high water mark at the time. Hmmmm.

    Burn the rest. Funny how the family vehicles of old all came with roof racks standard it would seem. Now you may not even get rails standard and typically have to buy the crossbars as an accessory. I think Honda likes making you pay extra for both rails and crossbars as an accessory.

  • avatar
    ernest

    In my Elementary and High School days, you’ve just listed the most popular choices for affluent mom’s to drive. The Chrysler was underrated- it handled better, performed better, and got better gas mileage than the other two. Mercury discovered there really was a market for a Town Car Wagon- at least in La Canada/Flintridge Ca. The Buick (and the GM Clamshells in general) never really found their following. Take one skiing, and open the window after a day on the slopes, when it’s been snowing, and you’ll understand why.

    Buy: Colony Park. My wife lives in fear that I’ll actually find a mint, low mileage one. I love these cars- a guilty pleasure.

    Drive. Chrysler T&C. Great cars, taken in the context of 1975.

    Burn: Buick. It took a few years for owners to discover how truly awful GM quality control had become. I’d take a ’69-70 Estate Wagon though.

  • avatar
    redapple

    Back then
    And today.
    One obvious choice.
    General Motors.

  • avatar
    CincyDavid

    The only one I have personal experience with is the Chrysler, a friend’s mother had a 74? T&C wagon, green with green leather as I recall. We spent lots of hours joyriding in that thing during my teen years. It was replaced with an early 80s 4 door Buick LeSabre diesel, which wasn’t nearly as entertaining.

    Burn the Mercury and Buick. Yuck.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    You gotta put Mercury on your list!

  • avatar
    salmonmigration

    The Mopar C-body was one of the great beater cars of the 20th century. Being a unibody car designed before computers, it was decidedly overbuilt. You could see a handful of them in midwestern high school parking even in the 00’s. Despite Chrysler’s hit-and-miss quality control they somehow steered clear of catastrophic failures.

    So buy the Chrysler.

    Drive the Merc. Nothing wrong with the 460, except its exceptionally high brake-specific fuel consumption.

    Burn the Buick. Worst styling of the three, GM quality reached its lowest point around mid-70’s, and the bustleback and weird tailgate made it so you couldn’t haul a coffee table without risking busting the rear glass.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Buy: Chrysler
    Drive: Buick
    Burn: Mercury

    The torsion bar suspended Chrysler C bodies were wonderful drivers and riders, even if the rear suspension dated back to the horse and buggy days. The 440 packed one helluva punch, especially if you’ve ever witnessed a 440/6 Pack at full song. The 440/4 bbl won’t be too far off, but blunted by the heavy wagon body.

    The Buick was a tank. I knew people who had the sedan version of these cars. Substantial is a word that comes to mind. Sadly one of these cars was the panicked reaction to the 1973 oil embargo… A 1975 LeSabre hardtop with the 3.8L V6 in it. You really could measure the acceleration with a sundial.

    The Mercury was Ford’s best update of that pre-Panther chassis, nothing really wrong with it other than the fuel mileage noted in the post. For that reason I would burn.

    TBH, 1975 was a nadir of USDM automotive production. Almost all of the passenger cars had their compression ratios cut to deal with the double whammy of fuel mileage and emissions controls. At best the emissions controls were rudimentary. I can recall a neighbor attempting to drive a new 1975 Pontiac Grand Prix. The car got out of the driveway and stalled. Then it wouldn’t restart but for a moment and stall again. After a large number of tries (seven or so), it finally “caught” and ran, badly. The neighbor later told us that some thing was not right with the emissions controls. It never really ran right, which was a shame, it was a very nice car by mid-70’s standards.

    This was a scenario that played out over and over again with those cars, all brands, not just GMs. That was just a typical day in 1975. For those of us who lived through it, there’s a reason why we’re so amazed at how good the least good car is today.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Burn the Buick – the clam-shells never stayed in alignment and had a tendency to get stuck in the open position. A complicated solution to a question no one was asking.

    Buy the Mercury – because hidden headlights and likely a level of isolation that would put the modern so-called luxury sedans to shame.

    Drive the Chrysler – although Chrysler kept softening the ride due to consumer demand, they were still the “drivers” cars with the torsion bars providing a modicum of handling.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The new B- and C-Body GM cars debuted for the 1971 model year, not 1970. The 1970 models were refreshed carryovers from 1969.

    Here’s the 1970 Buick Estate Wagon:
    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1970_Buick/1970%20Buick%20Full%20Line%20Brochure/image15.html

    And the 1971:
    http://www.oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Buick/1971_Buick/1971_Buick_Brochure/1971%20Buick-12.html

    • 0 avatar
      bufguy

      No the 1970 Estate Wagon was a one year model riding on the LeSabre, B body chassis and only available with the 455 . It replaced the long wheel base A body Sport Wagon. The Sport Wagon with the shorter A body sedan wheelbase minus the “visa cruiser style roof” was produced 1970 through 1973. The clam shell Estate Wagon premiered as a 71 model and lasted through 1976…It shared its body with Chevrolet, Pontiac and Oldsmobile

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    Even though I’m generally a Buick fan…for truly logical reasons I will…

    Buy the Mercury because it’s the only one with hide-away headlamps.
    Drive the Buick. If only it had hide-away headlamps…Sigh
    Burn the Chrysler. I love the fuselage look of the mid sixties/early seventies large Chryslers but by this year that sleek look was long-gone.

    See, truly logical

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    I suppose there’s no period Mercedes wagon because it would still be running today.

    I’d buy the GM, drive the Ford and burn the Chrysler. That last one was already a fading joke.

    But like the rich family in Ordinary People, I’d get an Oldsmobile because the Buick’s too flashy.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    Posts like these make me thankful for being born in ’91, far ahead of the rust-induced death of things like this.

    • 0 avatar
      bking12762

      IBx1-It will be interesting to see the offerings for “Buy/Drive/Burn” for your generation.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I’m not much younger than you, and I agree. 70s and 80s cars mostly look like crap-boxes to me.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Kyree, you had to live with them. The FoMoCo wagons were broughamed. They carried 8 passengers. You could sit in back rear facing seat and throw things out the window at other cars, while inhaling the exhaust from leaded gas. You could fold down the rear seat and ‘camp out’ in the car. It carried sheets of plywood/drywall.

        Eventually Chrysler just came out with a more practical vehicle. Smaller footprint with as much or more usable space, better gas mileage and the ‘higher’ ride height. The latter helped create the SUV/CUV monster we are now experiencing.

        • 0 avatar
          packardhell1

          “Kyree, you had to live with them.”

          He still can! Buick Roadmaster + Chevy Caprice wagons had rear-facing seats and fuel-injection, so the mileage isn’t that bad. I see some on Craigslist that are still in pretty decent condition (at least mechanically).

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I agree Kyree. I can easily tell you if its an Explorer, Traverse or Pilot 3 cars back, but be damned if I could pick one of these out unless I studied them. I mean the biggest difference between them seems to be the Mercury’s hideaway headlamps, but I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it here.

        There were a few ouliars of the era, but most cars seem to blend together into one overwrought heavy rolling pile of scrap metal. I was interested in cars from an early age, so in 1989-1993, there were still plenty of 1970s and early 80s cars on the road, especially where I lived near Seattle, and even still, they all looked the same, as in terrible. The tide started to change in the mid 80s and that’s when cars became desirable to me.

        (This applies to your comment below as well.)

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Upper middle class families drove Volvo or Mercedes wagons, no?

  • avatar
    Johnster

    Compared to the current Suburban or Expedition Max the full-sized cars of the early and mid-1970s don’t even seem so large.

    Buy: The GM full-sized wagons with their clam-shell tailgates had good bones, but the annual model year changes resulted in styling that that varied from year to year and 1975 wasn’t the greatest year for the Oldsmobile and Buick. They were good, but 1976 models with their rectangular headlamps were much better looking and I’d give the edge to the Custom Cruiser by virtue of its fender skirts which give it a little something extra.

    Drive: When the full-sized Mercury was redesigned in 1973 I was dismissive at the time and thought that they were too plain and boxy, but as time goes by, they look cleaner, better, and even timeless. The concealed headlamps really give the Merc a bit of something extra. Still, they weren’t that great to drive.

    Burn: I liked the 1972 and 73 Chrysler Town & Country (the fender skirts really distinguished the car from the Dodge and Plymouth wagons), the 1974 redesign was cartoonish, overly baroque and ultimately ugly.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      I have the same tastes in GM clamshell wagons. I’d prefer the Olds, both the pre- and post-facelift editions, mainly for the nicer instrument panels and exterior styling. The clamshell tailgate and wraparound rear side windows are impractical but cool, and the extra-wide rear side doors and forward-facing third row seats are unique in this group. So Buy the Buick, drive the Mercury (smoothest, quietest ride; plushest interior), and burn the practical but unexciting Chrysler which looks and drives too much like a Dodge instead of a New Yorker Brougham.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    And people say modern cars look too similar. From the sides, it’d be hard to tell these apart. They even have the same sweepspear-shaped windowsill.

    I certainly wasn’t around in ’75, but I like the Mercury’s front fascia best of the three, so we’ll go with that one.

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    Buy: My money would be on the Chrysler, obviously. C-body with a 440 for the win. Sure the power was down, styling was over-wrought and the ride softened-up versus earlier years, but so was everyone else’s.

    Drive: I’d happily take someone else’s Buick for a drive. In all honesty I think the Buick is the nicest looking of the three, and the 455 is a respectable engine. I’ve never heard anything good about the clamshell doors though, but lots of bad things once they age, especially in climes that see copious snow and road salt in the winter.

    Burn: The Mercury, along with most other Malaise era FoMoCo products.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Buick, Buick, BUICK! The forerunner to the Century Estate Wagon, in the CRATE!

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    There is literally no difference between these three in my eyes.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Agreed. They are all overweight, oversized, very thirsty, poorly built and under-braked. Today’s SUVs are similarly unnecessarily oversized, but somewhat better engineered.
      I was a kid when these were around. They were awful, at least in my opinion then, and it hasn’t changed. They’re great for a demolition derby, though. Gotta give ’em credit for that.

      The only way to win this game is to not play.

  • avatar
    greenbrierdriver

    I learned to drive in the family’s 74 Caprice Estate, cousin to the Buick. 400-4bbl putting out an incredible 180 hp through a THM375. Ma, Pa and us three kids travelled all over the Eastern half of the USA in that thing. Big Bag stuffed full of gear on the roof Rack, sofa cushions on the rear floor and 12 MPG with a tail-wind, less around town. Never rode in the Chryslers. Neighbor had the Ford Version of that Merc. It seemed smaller, although I dont think it was.
    So, for me – Buy the Buick, although I preferred the styling of the Chevy (no little tail fins). Drive the Mercury and Burn the Chrysler.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Get a Plymouth Gran Fury Wagon and sit on the hood and have a few beers while you watch the Buick in a demo derby. The cabin of the Mercury will eventually fill with exhaust and the driver will nod off and rear-end a Pinto, both will go up in a “CHiPs” style conflagration. The ‘70s rocked, hardcore.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Pass on all of them. I’ll take the Pinto:

    https://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2008/08/09/11/41/1977_ford_pinto-pic-38355-1600×1200.jpeg

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Buy the Merc, the best riding and far and away the most durable overall.

    Drive the Buick, the 455 is great however the rest of the car wasn’t so good, the clam shell gate was a pain to use, even in the power version and didn’t hold up very well, neither did the door panels.

    Burn the Chrysler. The 440 is the worst of the bunch, use it hard like towing your boat or trailer and you’ll burn exhaust valves or crack the exhaust manifolds often in as little as 60k miles. Despite what people have led you to believe it is not a good handling car nor is the ride very good. The only bright spot was the 727 transmission which was just middle of the pack, being slightly better than the TH400 in the Buick but significantly behind the C-6.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    I refuse to participate. All three are better off as the Roper appliances they have since become, found in cheap apartments all across the land.

    I’d rather drive a Datsun B-210 Honey Bee from the era, just because it isn’t a big lumbering wagon.

  • avatar
    gkhize

    I spent countless hours riding in and later driving a Ford Country Squire and would most certainly buy the Merc. I’d burn the Chrysler since it probably rattled like a box of maracas as it left the lot new. I’d drive the Buick and after the body rusted through behind the faux wood decals two years later, I’d sell the 455 to my cousin to put in his hotrod pulling tractor.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I was going to say buy the Buick, but a little checking revealed that the ’75 Estate Wagon used the LeSabre grille and round instead of rectangular headlights. Disappointing and not suited for a “luxury” wagon. Burn it.

    Therefore, buy the Mercury. It might drive like a soggy horror (I speak from experience with malaise big Mercurys) but it’s probably the most reliable of the bunch.

    Drive the Chrysler. It may not be built very well but the torsion bar front suspension would give it some smidgen of handling and the drivetrain is stout.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      There was a period of about three years, from 1975 to 1978, that automotive modernity was defined by whether or not your car had rectangular headlamps. As you noted, the Electra had them but the LeSabre didn’t. Sort of a subset of broughaming, a styling fillip that distracted you from the fact your new car ran like crap. This was primarily a GM game as both Ford and Chrysler were a little late to this party.

  • avatar
    northshoreman1

    I’m with Scoutdude–Buy the Mercury, Drive the Buick, Burn the Chrysler–but for an additional reason: the interiors.

    The Buick had the equivalent interior of the LeSabre Custom; the Chrysler, Newport Custom. Neither was anything particularity luxurious. But the Colony Park started off with the interior of the Marquis (including thicker carpet and a “flight bench” seat with wide center fold down armrest). Many were equipped with the “Grand Marquis Brougham” trim, which included unique sew-style “twin comfort lounge” seats with the further option of passenger reclining seat back. That trim included either leather and velour or all leather seating. And regardless of the seat trim selected, the doors had console-style armrests with power window and door lock controls and extra long elbow pads and separate door pulls. (The Chrysler and Buick used molded door pads, with power window switches in the concave door trim face.)

    After all, this was the Brougham Era and the Colony Park simply out broughams the other two.

    The Buick drove well, but the clamshell repairs were ungodly expensive.

    The Chrysler, at this point, wasn’t as solidly built as either Mercury or Buick, and you always took a pretty good risk in buying one. If you got a good one, it was great; get a bad one, it’ll make you either suicidal or homicidal.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      I’d long noted the decontented interiors of the GM wagons, which was especially disappointing since all of the ’71-’76 clamshell wagons were built on a stretched body that was more like the “C” sedan body (Electra, 98) than the shorter “B” body (Impala, 88, LeSabre) and would have accommodated the fancier door and seat trim off the Electra and 98 had they wanted to. The Mercury’s exclusive use of their upscale full-Brougham trim continued after they were downsized in 1979, by which time the GM wagons actually did use the smaller B body.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    There really isn’t much of a difference here, but the Buick was better than the others. While none of these engines was any damn good, the 455 suffered less from the emissions and economy voodoo of the day. The trick tailgate was the coolest thing until Star Wars, although I realize that the hardware didn’t hold up well.
    That Mopar was the last generation of truly huge Chryslers, the ones they introduced in 1974 as the oil crisis loomed. These cars almost killed Chrysler, as the cost of development was never amortized. That government loan brokered by Iaccoca was to pay off these unsold monstrosities.
    The Merc’s brother, the Ford Country Squire, was EVERYWHERE during the 70’s. A buddy of mine drove his mom’s old one well into the late 80’s but it was so crapped out- floors gone, front suspension suspect, interior looked like Cujo got to it.
    It’s no wonder the Chrysler minivans were such a hit in 1983, even the early ones were light-years better at family hauling than these things. So-

    Buy the Buick to run in your local demo derby.
    Drive the Chrysler at your local demo derby.
    Burn the Merc at your local demo derby.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Drive: The Mercury, because at least in our geographic area, FoMoCo seemed to rule the full sized wagon segment. Maybe due to those commercials with Coach Ara Parsaghian demonstrating the patented 3-way tailgate. Also road isolation which was very big in that era, was the best in FoMoCo vehicles. The 460 cid engine is/was relatively robust.

    Buy: The Chrysler. Strong construction. The biggest (when that mattered). And built when Chrysler actually had a reputation for building durable and reliable transmissions. Would make a great ‘beater’ for longer than the other 2.

    Odd man out: The Buick. The clamshell tailgates were problematic. The styling was slightly ‘off’ for the tastes in that era. Too bad as mechanically it was ‘good’ for that period.

    As someone else posted the era circa 1973 to 1977 was quite possibly the worst in modern history for D3 vehicles. They had not yet quite figured out how to get the emissions controls to work reliably with their engines, and therefore turned to ‘broughaming’ everything to take attention away from the inherent performance problems.

    • 0 avatar
      thornmark

      The 727 transmission was much better than the Ford transmission, legendary in fact. Transmissions have always been a weak spot for Ford.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        No the C-6 is superior to the 727. The fact that it doesn’t pump oil in park means that when they get old and sit for more than 24 hours say hello to waiting for the trans to go into gear as the torque convert is filled.

        The throttle valve is a bit of a pain and it is easy for some yahoo to mess up the adjustment and have an improperly operating transmission that can in the worst case scenario have a very short life because of it. The vacuum modulator used on the C-6 and TH400 was a better load sensing device. However the vacuum modulator is a problem for the TH400 as it relied too much on it to make the shift so when they failed they would frequently shift off of the governor alone, meaning max rpm shifts.

        The other place where the C-6 is superior to both is the ability to start out in 2nd gear. Put the TH 400 or 727 and it will still start in 1st. It does make a difference in the ability to get the vehicle moving in slippery stuff.

      • 0 avatar
        road_pizza

        Yea… right. As good as the 727 is the C6 was world’s better.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Buy and drive the Chrysler T&C – it’s really top drawer.

    Burn the rest, esp the Mercury.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    You look at that era and the full-sized cars just exuded excessive model bloat compared to the previous generation.

    Buy: Mercury-The 351/400 and 460 are the better engines of the era coupled with the C6 automatic. Interior design is the best of the three with the twin comfort lounge seats and rear side facing jump seats. Three way tailgate and hide away headlamps do it for me.

    Drive: Buick-The 455 and TH400 was a nice combination. The clamshell tailgate was too narrow so it would not pass the all important 4 x 8 plywood sheet test. The 69-70 B and C bodies were better designed and constructed.

    Burn: Chrysler-Lean burn? Too excessive compared to the nice fuselage era 69-73 models.

  • avatar
    ernest

    I bought a ’74 Country Squire in ’76 to tow a 7000 lb boat. In case any of the younger guys are wondering why people still buy big SUV’s (I mean Suburban sized, not Explorer sized), there’s your answer. A three ton boat still weighs three tons, and the type of vehicle needed to pull it hasn’t changed in 50 years.

  • avatar
    nifticus

    My first car was a Colony Park, almost identical to the one pictured, with the same wheel covers. The only difference: mine was a ’77 and was silver. Great car. 460, a/c, power everything. Great long-distance cruiser!

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    “there was no full-size luxury wagon from General Motors in the 1960s”

    Buick continued to make full-size wagons into the early 1960s. My dad and his brother took their families, me included, on a grand western road trip for three weeks in 1965 in a 1961 Buick full size wagon. I spent that whole three weeks loose in the wayback; today a three year old would be strapped tightly into a car seat. Still one of the prettiest wagons of the 1960s. Fantastic proportions.

    Buy and drive a 1976 Olds Custom Cruiser or Buick Estate wagon. Burn the rest.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    What kind of nonsense selection is this? The only pick is the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, obviously!

    Mom had the Mercury, alas. Massive thing. But she replaced it with a ‘68 Lincoln Continental, bought cheap from an old lady who feared she’d run out of gas in it since you were only allowed to fill up every other day during the gas crisis. It got 10 MPG. “Fill it with leaded premium!” Mom would bark at the gas station attendants—remember those—literally every other day. Dad picked up a ‘73 Mercedes 450 SEL for pennies on the dollar in similar circumstances. It also got 10 MPG. The gas crisis made otherwise rational people do crazy things: sell their six-figure luxury car for four figures, convert their sharp new Chevy Caprice Classic to propane, and most of all, buy their first Japanese car and never buy American again.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The Vista Cruiser was the mid size wagon. The 64-72 had the Vista roof hence the name. The colonnade 73-77 just had a pop up sunroof.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        The Vista Cruiser and Sport Wagon were oversized midsize and were stretched a couple of inches to accommodate that 3rd row seat. That also required the bump in the roof to give enough head room, and allow for the vista windows. Part of the intention was that it was supposed to compensate for the fact that they didn’t have a full size based Wagon at the time. Further evidence is that you could still get a short, non Vista version if you wanted a “true” midsize.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Yes, we are still buying them!

    Tahoe, Suburbans, Expeditions…. By 70s standards, it is amazing they weigh even MORE than the wagons, punch a bigger hole in the air, and yet get more mpg and are quicker.

    Of course, the ‘more mpg’ is kind of moot, since the people buying them today drive longer distances. Many of today’s exurbs were farms, fields, or forest in 1977.

    So in the end, people driving the big beasts are using more fuel.

  • avatar
    DEVILLE88

    It would be rediculous to burn any of these as they are all worth some kind of money as well as history. that said, i’ll take the Buick it’s the Cadillac of station wagons!!!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I much prefer the station wagons from 1961 to 1970 and then the GMs from 1977 to 1989 and the Fords from 1979-1991. Most of the early to mid 70 wagons are overly bloated. My parents had a 1964 Impala 9 passenger wagon with a built in luggage rack and then later a 77 Impala wagon without the 3rd seat and no roof rack. Both were great cars and had lots of space for hauling things. My father used them constantly for hauling things. Never cared much for the cam back tail gate GM wagons from 71-76. I do like the dual tailgates that Ford introduced that GM used later.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    The first generation of Vista Cruiser (1964-68)is the rarest with a raised roof with split skylight that began over the second-row seating, with lateral glass panels over the rear cargo area. Sun visors for second row passengers, with a third row of forward-facing passenger seating available as an option. These were expensive for GM to build.

    The second generation of Vista Cruiser (1969-72) replaced the split skylight with a one-piece unit, and stretched the wheelbase 1″ to 121 in (3,073 mm).

    The third generation of Vista Cruiser (1973-77)The model’s distinctive skylights gave way to “Colonnade” styling, which partially offset the loss with frameless door glass that increased side window area. A pop-up sunroof over the front seats was optional. This was the generation where GM really started its cost cutting measures.

    The first generation would be worth the most with the second generation worth the second most.

    I had a friend in high school whose parents had a light blue 69 Custom Cruiser. Beautiful car and really neat when you were riding in one.

  • avatar
    road_pizza

    Buy the Colony Park.

    Buy the Electra 225 Estate.

    Buy the Town & Country.

    That was easy :) , I love big wagons!

  • avatar
    road_pizza

    “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.

  • avatar
    justVUEit

    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.


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