As long as there have been Cadillacs, there have been custom and coach-built bodies for them. We are most familiar with hearses and other funeral cars today, but all manner of vehicles have been fashioned from Cadillacs. The custom body that has held the most fascination for Caddy drivers not ferrying the dead to their eternal rest was the station wagon, if for no other reason that for more than 100 years, Cadillac wouldn’t make one itself.
One-off custom Cadillac wagons were made as early as the 1920s. But as far as I can tell, the first Cadillac wagon built in any volume was this, the View Master of 1955 and 1956. This flawless conversion that looks like genuine GM was made by Hess & Eisenhardt, a custom coachbuilder perhaps best known for building the limo that carried John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated. This prototype lacks the fake wood paneling applied to the sides of production cars – but can you use the words production or volume when just seven were built?
Caddy wagon fever ratcheted up during the 1960s and 1970s, with other low-volume manufacturers getting into the game. Some 1970 Fleetwoods were attractively converted to wagons. It looks like the coachbuilder dropped on the top from some B-bodied GM wagon. It looks reasonably natural.
Some of these conversions were …unfortunate, like this one, which awkwardly mates an Oldsmobile clamshell wagon top to a ’72 Fleetwood.
Could this conversion be the best known? It’s the one I’ve seen photos of most often through the years, at any rate. While I was surprised to find a Cadillac wagon conversion at an auction last year, I wasn’t surprised that it was this one. Traditional Coach Works fashioned these out of 1975 and 1976 Fleetwoods, calling them the Fleetwood 60 Castilian Estate. By the looks of it this coachbuilder made its own wagon roofs and liftgates. Or on second thought, maybe they’re modified A-body wagon roofs.
This conversion is pretty good, though not as natural looking as the earlier Fleetwood above. I’m sure you don’t want to know what welding horrors lurk under that aluminum landau panel.
In 2010, Cadillac finally built us a wagon. And what a fine wagon it is, based on the widely lauded CTS sedan of the previous generation. I’d have one! And depreciation on these has been steep, putting the early ones within reach.
Or you can just buy one new – Cadillac carried the wagon over, despite redesigning the sedan for 2014. But you have to wonder how long Cadillac will keep offering it. In the five years it’s been available, fewer than 10,000 have sold. Consider that during the same years Cadillac shipped 232,000 of its similarly priced SRX CUV.
Call it bad timing – SUVs and CUVs truly fill the wagon’s former role now. But I have to wonder whether a Cadillac wagon was ever going to be anything more than a curiosity.