Rare Rides: A Studebaker Wagonaire From 1964 - Aka the Earliest GMC Envoy XUV

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a studebaker wagonaire from 1964 aka the earliest gmc envoy xuv

Sometimes car companies have radical ideas that don’t really pan out when it comes time to persuade consumers to part with their money. Today’s Studebaker Wagonaire is such a vehicle. It falls into the unique convertible-wagon-truck grouping, in which the only other member is a GMC Envoy from 40 years later.

This isn’t the first time the Rare Rides series has featured a Studebaker wagon. That honor goes to a peachy Conestoga from 1955. That Conestoga was part of the Champion line; today’s tan beauty is part of the Commander series. Commander was one of Studebaker’s earliest product offerings. Minus five model years, a Commander featured in the Studebaker lineup from 1927 through 1966.

After Stude discontinued the Commander name in 1958, it returned on a line of brand new cars for 1963. The model sat third up from bottom, above the cheapest Challenger and slightly less expensive Lark. Among Commander offerings was the Wagonaire. All Wagonaires were the same four-door wagon style, and all initially featured a trick retractable rear roof.

Wagonaires were based on the Lark wagon, albeit with modifications to its top half. The standard seating count was six, a number which expanded to eight with the optional third-row seat, or shrunk to five or seven with optional front buckets.

Always a fan of saving money, Studebaker management hoped to grow interest and variation in the company’s lineup without spending a lot of cash. The answer came from industrial designer Brooks Stevens, who felt what the customer needed was a unique cargo option on the family station wagon.

The trick roof featured a separate metal panel over the cargo bay. Saving weight and complexity, it was manually operated. Once owners completed an arm workout, the panel was locked into place. The resulting open cargo area at the back meant tall items could be transported easily, offering buyers capability far beyond what a standard station wagon could manage.

But innovation was not without costs. Customers in the first couple of model years noticed that water entered the car around the front area of the sliding roof panel, making for wet journeys. While Stude implemented redesigned seals, it couldn’t ensure that customers kept their roof drainage tubes free of all debris. Studebaker informed customers via informational letters, but the damage was done.

Aware of the problems early on, Studebaker added a fixed-roof Wagonaire to the lineup in early 1964, offering it for $100 less than sliding-roof variants. Fixed-roof models were a custom order, not stocked by dealers.

But blood was already in the water, and Studebaker sank around the time of the Wagonaire. All production at South Bend, Indiana wrapped up, and things moved north to Hamilton, Ontario. Wagonaires were built only in Canada for 1964 through 1966. For ’65, Studebaker’s engines were replaced by General Motors units. The fixed-roof wagon went away for 1965, but returned in 1966.

Visual changes that year meant the Wagonaire was its own model, and no longer a Commander. In its final year, Studebaker produced 618 Wagonaires as the company closed up shop.

Today’s tan beauty is in excellent condition. For sale in Minneapolis with a V8 and a manual transmission, it asks $17,500.

[Images: seller]

Join the conversation
6 of 28 comments
  • DedBull DedBull on Apr 30, 2019

    My mother fondly remembers the Wagonaire they had as a kid. The two things she always remembers is standing up in the back on their bicycles pretending as they drove. They had a homemade wooden box that would go in the back, that is how they hauled coal to hear their house.

  • DedBull DedBull on Apr 30, 2019

    My mother fondly remembers the Wagonaire they had as a kid. The two things she always remembers is standing up in the back on their bicycles pretending as they drove. They had a homemade wooden box that would go in the back, that is how they hauled coal to heat their house.

    • See 3 previous
    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 01, 2019

      @Lie2me Coal was the main source of heat for homes and commercial buildings into the 1950s. It was incredibly cheap, and large buildings could accommodate complicated coal feed systems that made it almost automatic. That ended when the government responded to awful air quality in big cities by virtually forcing conversion to heating oil. Smaller cities converted later. Pictures of Philadelphia's City Hall in the 1950s and earlier showed William Penn and the tower coated in black soot! https://www.shorpy.com/node/9461

  • Kat Laneaux Wonder if they will be able to be hacked into (the license plates) and then you get pulled over for invalid license plates or better yet, someone steal your car and transpose numbers to show that they are the owners. Just a food for thought.
  • Tassos Government cheese for millionaires, while idiot Joe biden adds trillions to the debt.What a country (IT ONCE WAS!)
  • Tassos screw the fat cat incompetents. Let them rot. No deal.
  • MaintenanceCosts I think if there's one thing we can be sure of given Toyota's recent decisions it's that the strongest version of the next Camry will be a hybrid. Sadly, the buttery V6 is toast.A Camry with the Highlander/Sienna PSD powertrain would be basically competitive in the sedan market, with the slow death of V6 and big-turbo options. But for whatever reason it seems like that powertrain is capacity challenged. Not sure why, as there's nothing exotic in it.A Camry with the Hybrid Max powertrain would be bonkers, easily the fastest thing in segment. It would likewise be easy to build; again, there's nothing exotic in the Hybrid Max powertrain. (And Hybrid Max products don't seem to be all that constrained, so far.)
  • Analoggrotto The readers of TTAC deserve better than a bunch of Kia shills posing as journalists.