Automotive History and QOTD: The American Wagons of 1972 – Which Would You Choose?

1972 Chevrolet Wagons-01

Sitting on the lawn mower is always a wonderful time to have some uninterrupted thoughts.  Knowing Wagon Week was coming up, I was pondering which wagon from the year of my birth would most tempt me.  The options were as rich that year as ever, and likely this was the peak of station wagons, as there were small, medium, and large offerings.  So sit down in the time machine as I hand you a pile of imaginary money for you to go shopping.

1972 AMC Full Line-12-13

Not wanting to miss out on a terrific option, we’re stopping at the AMC dealer first.  Wagons are at their pinnacle of variety as even tiny AMC has three offerings, with this Hornet wagon on the petite end.  AMC was getting into the swing of 1970s chic and a person can get their Hornet wagon with some really eye-popping upholstery; who wants conformity?

1972 AMC Full Line-20-21

Stepping up to the Matador gets you the 258 straight-six as standard equipment plus your choice of four V8s, ranging up to the potent 401 cubic inch (6.6 liter) mill.  Wood trim was optional as was an automatic transmission.

1972 AMC Full Line-26-27

While the Ambassador wasn’t a biggie in the same vein as Ford or GM, it was their biggest available.  A V8 was standard equipment.  The green one is painted Grasshopper Green; I would like to see it devoid of the faux wood.

1972 Ford Wagon Facts-08

For years, Ford was much more competitive in wagon sales than Chevrolet.  In looking for brochure pictures, I’m not sure how Ford was so successful, as they dedicated approximately 0.05% of their brochure space to wagons for 1972.  To its credit, Ford provided voluminous amounts of wagon material to their salesmen.  These pictures were contained in a 150-page wagon guide for salesmen; perhaps Ford’s strategy was to carpet bomb prospects with all manner of lurid and tawdry wagon facts?

1972 Ford Full Line Sales Data-E09

The Pinto was still rather new to the market in 1972.  Here’s a picture with all sorts of sales propaganda; a wood grained appliqué for the automatic transmission bezel was standard on the Squire models.  How could I resist such luxurious temptations?  If there were a 302 V8 available, we might be talking.

1972 Ford Full Line Sales Data-B09

I am terminally biased against Torinos; everyone has a car they love to hate.  Such a beautiful name on such an ugly car.

1972 Ford Full Line Sales Data-B10

However, Ford was very good about providing distinct trim differences on their wagons.  One could also get a 429 cubic inch (7.0 liter) V8 in their Torino wagon.  There is the rebellious part of me who wants this engine in an innocuous looking Gran Torino Squire just so I can annoy the neighbors by burning rubber down the street at 5:30 am.

1972 Ford Full Line Sales Data-A11

While I do find the full-size wagons attractive, I just don’t see one as being a good fit for me.  However, lots of folks felt differently, as Ford sold 206,000 of their full-sized wagons in 1972.  It was by far the most popular wagon for 1972.

1972 Ford Full Line Sales Data-A10

I do find the plainer version rather more compelling, and it would be as satisfying as a cold beer on a hot day (or a warm beer on a cold day).

1972 Mercury-14

Maybe a Mercury, seen here in Colony Park trim, would be more my style.  That front end reminds me of the Parthenon for some inexplicable reason, and it provides a certain allure and fascination.  Its face helps balance out the heaviness of the rear for a nice overall look.

While the Colony Park sold quite well, the Marquis wagon sold a mere 2,085 copies, making it the most rare wagon found for 1972.  Even the Mercury Monterey wagon outsold it by a factor of two.

1972 Mercury-14 - Version 2

You can send a jackass to charm school, but it’s still a jackass.  And this Mercury Montego Villager is still a Torino.  Others seemed to think the same thing; Where Ford sold 81,000 Torino wagons, only 15,000 Montego wagons moved somebody to sign on the dotted line.

The choice and variety is simply astounding.  Since we are walking Retail Row, let’s keep going.  Next up is the Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge dealer.

1972 Chrysler and Imperial-20-21

Some wagon names are legendary.  Ford had the Country Squire, a name that conjured up images of portly English gentleman traipsing around the countryside with an air of self-importance. Pontiac had the Safari, giving mental pictures of hanging a rifle out the window, waiting to blast some hapless rhinoceros into oblivion. Even Buick had their Estate wagon, appropriately named as it was about the size of some estates, as we shall soon see.

However, the definitive wagon name has always been Town & Country.  It provokes images of doing various wonderful and exciting tasks regardless of where you are, a wagon that proves its luxurious utility every day with every chore.  Even the full-figured fuselage Town & Country emits vibes of swanky usefulness and comfort.  It’s high on my list.

1972 Dodge Full-Line 28  amp  29

However, the Dodge Monaco wagon trumps the Town & Country.  Maybe it’s the hidden headlights or lack of fender skirts.  Maybe it’s the simply rarity of it, as this is one of the least numerous of the bunch with only 7,700 being built.  Regardless, this Monaco is a looker.  It came with a standard 360 cubic inch (5.9 liter) V8.

The Polara wagon, propelled by a standard 318 cubic inch (5.2 liter) V8, sold a smidgen better.

1972 Dodge Full-Line 26  amp  27

Now for this being 1972, odds are many people will have a garage designed for a wagon somewhat less full-figured than the Monaco or Town & Country.  If that’s the case, this Coronet is just the ticket.  Not all Coronets wound up as police cars or taxi cabs, and this would be an attractive car for you and the family.

Skip the slant six; go for the optional 440 cubic inch (7.2 liter) V8.

1972 Plymouth Wagons-04-05

Who would have guessed?  Dodge wasn’t the only one with hidden headlights available on their wagons; Plymouth also had them on their Fury.  I still prefer the Dodge, as the bumper doesn’t look like it’s trying to consume the front of the car.

The Fury wagon outsold the combined production of Polara and Monaco wagons by about 3 to 1.

1972 Plymouth Wagons-08-09

As a child, I watched entirely too much television.  This brown Satellite wagon is even about the same color as the one from The Brady Bunch.  I have to pass on this one simply for the association.  We’re car shopping, so we can discriminate all we want for whatever reasons we like.  Plymouth’s Satellite wagon would outsell the comparable Coronet by a factor of two.

Since there is no Checker dealer for us to check out an Aerobus, let’s peruse the GM store.

1972 Chevrolet Wagons-18

Chevrolet has their nifty Vega Kammback wagon.  Rumor has it there are a few engine issues starting to crop up, so let’s keep looking.

1972 Chevrolet Wagons-12-13

This Chevelle looks so bug-eyed and very 1968.  By 1972 any mechanical wrinkles should have been ironed out long ago and it’s likely as solid and robust as anything here.  The porky Torino still outsold it by a 25,000 unit margin.

The 250 cubic inch (4.1 liter) straight six was standard equipment, as was a three-speed manual.  A Powerglide could still be bolted to this engine or the optional 307 cubic inch (5.0 liter) V8.  On the other end of the power spectrum, one could obtain a 400 cubic inch (6.6 liter) V8 with a four-speed manual.  Now that would help overcome that bug-eyed face.

1972 Chevrolet Wagons-04-05

While Ford again stomped Chevrolet in wagon sales, Chevrolet’s sales figures for wagons were still the second best of this bunch with 160,000 built.  Of those, 158,974 would meet their demise in demolition derbies around North America.

Four different V8s were available.

1972 Pontiac-26

Maybe it was deemed suitable, but I pity whoever chose a Pontiac LeMans wagon with the standard 250 cubic inch (4.1 liter) six-cylinder.  Maybe it works out well for the pillow salesman whose territory is primarily flat prairie ground.  I have been in several precarious situations due to a lack of engine power, so I would go with the available 455 cubic inch (7.4 liter) V8.  It’s 1972 so fuel economy is not a pressing concern.

1972 Pontiac-24

For those aiming to have an air-conditioned journey in Africa (or visit a drive-through animal park) there is the Pontiac Safari, based upon the Catalina.  For those overachievers who want mahogany-looking wood and an extra 55 cubic inches of motivation, there is the Bonneville based Grand Safari.

There were two Safari wagons sold for every Grand Safari.

1972 Oldsmobile Prestige-40

Being barely more popular than the Monaco is the Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser.  Unlike Pontiac LeMans wagon, the Oldsmobile A-body Cruisers had a 350 cubic inch (5.7 liter) V8 as standard equipment.

With the Olds, the Vista Cruiser is what captivated buyer’s attention, outselling the Cutlass Cruiser by over a factor of four.

The Vista Cruiser has certainly played a wide number of roles over time.

1972 Oldsmobile Prestige-38-39

For the discerning Olds buyer who wanted something more traditionally sized, there was the Custom Cruiser wagon.  Not wanting to disappoint its customers, the 455 cubic inch (7.4 liter) V8 was found under the hood of every Custom Cruiser wagon.  At around 5,000 pounds it doesn’t weigh that much more than a new Honda Odyssey minivan.

1972 Buick Prestige-06-07

The last stop on our excursion is the Buick dealer.  Despite the slathering of attention on every type of Skylark, Buick didn’t see fit to place the A-body wagon in their brochure.  While this might seem to be a turnoff to prospective buyers, it apparently wasn’t, as Buick unloaded 14,400 of them.  Like over at Oldsmobile, a 350 V8 was standard.

1972 Buick Prestige-28-29

Two out of three Buick wagon buyers went for the 455 V8-powered Estate Wagon.  While these weighed about the same as their Oldsmobile counterparts, these do look more lithe and svelte.  Maybe it’s the open wheel wells in the rear.

1972 Buick Prestige-26-27

You could certainly stuff a lot of kids into these Buick wagons.

So which would you choose?  Would you take a ’72, or do you need to re-enter the time machine to reach your year of birth?  What tantalizes you?

After looking and thinking about it, I know I’ve made my decision.  There are 401 compelling reasons why I chose it.

1972 AMC Full Line-20-21