The 1961 Rambler Cross Country made me realize it wasn’t the only surviving family hauler that caught my eye over the last couple of months. Indeed, I’ve thought of how cool it would be to have any of the next ten Mom-Mobiles.
This wouldn’t be a real station wagon list without the mother of them all: The Ford Country Squire. Ford absolutely dominated the wagon market seemingly forever. Some say the Thunderbird broke down traditional price barriers, but I tip my hat to the Di-Noc wood paneled wagons of Dearborn. They carried a snob appeal that spanned multiple generations. I personally think they looked the best from 1961-64.
This 1964 New Yorker Town & Country was a few thousand more new. But it doesn’t project the same snob appeal as the Ford. It seems decidedly sportier, more active. And it was one of the last Four Door Hardtop Station Wagons. With that 413 V8 under hood, it’s a tempting proposition.
Being an “Oldsmobile Man” it was so hard not to call the number on the for sale signs and at least take this 350 equipped 1973 Vista Cruiser out for a spin. Equally beastly as the Country Squire in size and weight, but with that F-body derived front suspension giving some semblance of handling? Someone beat me to it, because when I went back to take a serious look, someone snapped it up for the $1,300 asking price.
North Berkeley BART brings us this plain Polara wagon from 1966. I see it tool around town every once in a while with bags of fertilizer, so it’s definitely a workhorse that is holding up to the daily drudgery very well for a 45 year old car.
Great wagons come in sizes big and small. And we find the antithesis of the 1973 Vista Cruiser in this 1977 (I think) Corolla wagon. Defying the rust that killed the bodies around their solid drivetrains, this one can be seen crossing the Bay Bridge daily.
Also in the solid seventies survivors from Japan category is this 1977 Datsun 810 wagon. Fastrak transponder in windshield, it’s a one owner car that sports a “four door sports car” sticker pulled from a early 1990s Maxima. My favorite Japanese cars more often than not tend to be Nissan/Datsuns, so this extremely well cared for wagon is one car I’d delight to drive myself.
The hottest day of the year in the bay area last year sent me to the beach. On the way back home I caught this 1965 Chevelle Malibu wagon. Although popular they don’t dominate the vintage wagon numbers the way that the trinity of Ford Wagons do in these parts.
Most often in that holy trinity I see Falcon wagons of all stripes. Not as legendarily indestructible as their competition from Highland Park, they must have been pretty durable, because Berkeley is absolutely crawling with Falcons (and Comets too). Behind W123 Diesels and Volvo 240s, the most common car you see over 25 years old ambling the streets in these parts are Falcons. This 1963 Falcon Squire with a 260 and a 3 Speed Floor shift is almost the ultimate wagon for me.
Another close call for the #1 spot in my wagon spotting desires is the 1968 Colony Park that meanders the streets around the UC Berkeley campus. Not all that different from the one Lucille Ball drove in Yours, Mine and Ours, which was filmed in Alameda, Oakland and San Francisco in 1968. It brings up pop culture memories and station wagon envy all at once.
But the hands down winner of cool goes to this daily driver 1964 LeSabre Wagon. Rather exclusive, with some of the best wagon styling GM ever did, it gets lost in the shadow of the long wheelbase A-body Wagons today. General Motors wouldn’t build Buick or Olds brand B-body wagons again until 1970 and 1971, respectively. With the bike rack on top, you can’t tell this Buick it should slow down in old age, it’s ready to take off to the Mountains or down to the beach in all of its 325hp Nailhead glory.
Terrific photos too.
There’s a mid’-60s Country Squire in nearby South Pasadena that is in spectacular shape; I see it being driven now and then on the weekends. My aunt had the ’71 version, and I remember being sequestered in the “wayback” with the side-facing seats as a small child, and having only the vaguest idea that there were grown-ups in the front seat.
That Datsun is a fantastic find. Stock hub caps even. Looks a photo from a couple decades ago.
The Falcon is quite lovely as well with the wood trim and slot mag wheels.
I was voting Country Squire until I saw the Falcon. Real fake wood, V8, manual Transmission. Very nice indeed.
The Town & Country gets my vote. Or did you already know that? This was the only one of the bunch that came with rear air conditioning. Without it, a/c in a wagon was a device for making kids in the back sweat while cool and comfy mom and dad barked to keep the windows up because the air was on. I always loved the hardtop styling on the Mopar wagons, too.
The 64 Country Squire is also a favorite, it was one of the few years that made the fake wood take advantage of the cool body sculpting with the long wood spear that aped the anodized trim on the sedans.
Any Falcon Squire with the wood deserves honorable mention. Why was Ford the only one who made any attempt to make the wood look real? By contrast, the Oldsmobile just glued contact paper on the lower half of the body and called it a job. Also, any Vista Cruiser without the Vista roof should be disqualified. 🙂
Truthfully, I’m a wagon guy, and I would not kick a single one of them out of my driveway. Would one of you guys from California like to trade some fresh Indiana tomatos for a rust free wagon? Just askin’.
The Vista Cruiser had the Pop up Sunroof though! Which probably leaks like mad….
I wonder which of the last Mopar 4 Door Hardtop wagons was rarer: The Dodge Custom 880 or the Chrysler Newport or New Yorker Town & Country….
Man, don’t ask me these questions on Friday afternoon. 🙂 Now I have to know. OK, I have the answer. About 6700 Newports were made, only about 2600 New Yorkers. A bit over 3400 of the Dodge 880 wagons. So you really found yourself a rare one.
I had a 1963 New Yorker wagon for a while. Just a teaser here, I should really write a longer piece about it.
What…no Pinto Squire?
(ducks and covers)
I admit my prejudi. Blazing Saddles, my Texas Pinto, was a Squire wagon…the body was cherry, but the paint was ridden hard and put away wet. And the wood-grain? It failed and faded every way you can imagine.
It did, however, remain glued on.
the aunt who had a Country Squire traded it for a Pinto Squire when the 1973 embargo hit. Then, when the fuel crisis eased, she went for a 1975 Mercury Marquis, which of course was the polar opposite, as if gas prices wouldn’t fluctuate again, which they did. If that doesn’t personify the American response to our fuel supply over the years, I don’t know what does.
I think we’re all wrestling with that one…what car to have, what fuel prices will do.
The solution, I’m coming to see…look. We all buy at least eight or nine cars over our adult lives…most of us here, more. And we wear them out, after nine years or so.
So…why not buy one EACH for EACH situation? The econobox for the high-gas-price season. The Land Barge for the reduced-cost-drive season. Park the unused car in the garage, or out back…take care of it; but there’s no reason to insure it. Or, in many states, even pay for tags.
I’m sort of doing that now. I have two cars…my Toyota for economy, which doubles as my Winter Car; and my Dodge Sin-Bin, which doubles as my trailer-tow rig. One offers comfort; the other economy…whatever fuel prices do, I’m ready.
Great finds. My favorite is the Falcon Squire. I’m a total sucker for that ’60-’63 bodyshell.
I once had the opportunity to buy at junkyard price (literally) a contemporary Ranchero that needed some frontend parts and a matching Falcon coupe that had everything it needed. But I had the Mustang bug at the time and passed on them. Oh, boneheaded youth!
Ive owned lots of wagons and this is a great collection but if your gonna run the datsun remember to carry tools and a headgasket set easy enough to change out but it WILL blow, A mate of mine who is terribly hard on cars ran a 79 Corolla for several years maintenance free he simply never bothered and it kept going and drove it all over OZ loaded to the gunnells on back roads one tough little car. Id take the Falco squire we never had V8 motors in that model but so equipped it should have a Fairlane front end so it shouldnt disintegrate as was their habit.
I’ll never forget being lulled to sleep by the rumble of the four-barrel 390 exhaust as my brothers and I squabbled for space in the back of our ’68 Country Squire LTD…
I’d want the Mercury pictured just for the tail lights which resember Homer Simpson’s car and that D-pillar that is seemingly the same pillar Ford put on all its sedans from the early ’60s, but on those it was of course a C-pillar. They sure loved that Thunderbird pillar, didn’t they?
My folks were Pontiac drivers. My dad had a 68 Bonneville wagon, and then passed it down to my mom when he broke with tradition and bought a Mercury Marquis in 1970.
Sleeping in the back of the wagon was one of my favorite things. The wagon was also the first car I drove all by myself at age 11, as we had a mountain cabin on a private road, and my folks would let me drive up and down that road. For hours sometimes.
All beautiful but my favorites are the 68 Colony Park and the one’s made by GM.
I’ll take the Malibu, please!
About the Colony Park…two weeks before I entered the air force (Sept. 1969), to this day I can’t remember how many guys (10?) were stuffed into a friend’s dad’s C.P., we all went to the show, then to White Castle afterwards and after that, laughing our butts off cruising around, burning his dad’s gas for quite awhile until we aggravated our driver friend so much, that at a stoplight, he shut the wagon off, took the keys, got out of the car and began to walk away – in traffic! We eventually pleaded with him enough so he got back in and started to drive – and the fun began all over again! Good times! Great memories!
1970 Buick Estate Wagon, the first full-size Buick wagon since ’64. It was a one-year model because of the ’71 redesign, and with no Caddy or Olds counterpart, it was the most luxurious and expensive wagon GM made. It was a demo that my dad picked up at the end of the model year and looking back I’m glad he didn’t get a ’71, even though I was wowed by the clamshell Glide-Away tailgate as a five-year old.
Being a family of eight, we had nothing but wagons, and all had to be three-seat models. Seating was in age order, with my oldest brother stuck in the front between my parents, my three sisters in the back seat, my brother and me in the wayback. Or even one of us wedged in the small crawlspace in between.
It had a 510 ft-lb-torque 455 with a 400 Turbo, power windows, power seat, A/C, stuff we never had on any previous family car, which in my lifetime amounted to a ’64 Impala wagon and a ’69 Country Squire company car. Just a Sonomatic AM radio though. My dad grew up around Buicks and was glad to be back in the fold. I know it so well not just because I learned how to work on cars on it but because it held up long enough for every single one of us to drive it.
It was dark green with a green vinyl top and lush green interior. No fake wood, which I think made it look classier. I later learned that other Estate Wagons had things like 4-piston front disc brakes and tape decks, but this was pure luxury for us. Good handling for its size, a positraction rear end let it go through any kind of snow and coilover shocks in the back tightened things up even more.
It did have an engine and tranny swap late in life, but otherwise started when it was supposed to and ran pretty reliably. I did change to ’68 Electra hubcaps and would have loved the Buick mag-style wheels, but by the time it got to me, it had to survive on a college-student budget and a mix of leaded regular and unleaded premium to keep the 10-to-1 compression ratio happy.
About 1974 or so, I was in a carpool with some other kids for confirmation classes at church. In the group was a girl whose dad was a doctor and who liked Buicks. I did not have an appreciation then for the unusual Buicks I got to ride in – both a 67 LeSabre convertible and a 70 Estate Wagon. The wagon was light yellow with brown vinyl interior. It had never really occurred to me that there was no Oldsmobile equivalent or that it was a 70-only model. I was not much of a GM kid, but I liked that Buick wagon.
We had a ’64 Buick wagaon like the one pictured, but in an acqua (sp?) color that was so popular at the time. It seemed to last forever, we had 3 other second cars come and go in it’s lifetime.
What I remember most about that Buick, while I would joy ride in it, unlicensed, when Mom and Dad were out in the other car, was it’s exceptional steering. So easy, with just the right amount of firmness, and for the time, pretty decent feedback.
We had a neighbor who owned a junk yard who hauled it away one day…it resembled a beached whate hooked to that tow truck. A sad day.
Awesome article, with great pictures. Oh how I love wagons.
Love the wagons! We had a ’66 Ranch wagon, the next step down from the Country Squire. No 3rd row but that didn’t mean us kids couldn’t ride back there.
I remember how controversial the ’73 Colonades were with their one piece tailgate, and the universal bumper lights. Anyone know why they were named the Colonades?
I delivered for a florist in HS; he had a ’74 Corona wagon (with wood!). That was my introduction to Japanese cars and how refined they were regarding handling and efficiency.
@ Anyone know why they were named the Colonades?
When you are stuck with a lemon, you make lemonade.
When you are stuck with a colon . . . . . 🙂
My great aunt told me a story about when she was young there would be a group of 10 people heading in to town for the Saturday night dance in a 50’s Plymouth wagon, doing 90mph down the narrow dirt farm roads – when they hit the irrigation channel bridges they would be flying for 50-100 feet!
My mother had a 84 Mazda 929 wagon that I also drove, with a 2 litre 5 speed, a bit underpowered but a good solid bus.
I had a couple of Falcon wagons as work cars, a 2004 BA and a 2007 BF Mk2. They were 4.0L 6cyl, 4sp auto, the latter running LPG only. The petrol one was about 250 hp/285 lbft – they have a tall 1st gear (>55mph) that kills the 0-60 time but do 50-75mph in about 5sec dead. Too bad that they were killed off by absolute lack of development being basically a fleet car only for the last 6-7 years.
Ford never planned to introduce the B series but since noone wanted that ugly AU they had to do a hasty restyle just to sell cars, This seems to happen every time they introduce a new model the XL fell apart 71 XA rusted in the factory the EA was half baked and rubbish and the AU was horrid to look at but a good car so the restyle worked. The only wagon they got right first time was the Territory it made the truly awful Explorer look like the POS everyone knew it was and still is. Putting a Peugeot Diesel into the Territory seems to have eaten up all Ford AU development money but fleets were always Fords market.
My parents had several Volvo wagons, a ’73 1800ES, ’77 245DL, ’86 240DL, and ’89 and ’90 740GLs. The nostalgia made me buy an ’06 V50, which I still have. Wagons are so thin on the ground these days, but they used to be everywhere. And I rode in the ‘way back’ of those wagons many times!
Great article, great photos, and some very nice wagons.
I’m a long-roof fan too. My wife and I got our first wagon soon after we came home with a new ’70 Firebird. It was an irrational purchase, but we seem to enable each other … oh yea, let’s get it … why not?
So, needing a car with some actual utility, we traded my wife’s El Camino for a used ’67 Ford wagon. It was huge! Slide in 4X8 sheets of plywood, and close the tailgate … no problem. The handling however was a problem, so after some experimentation and some “improvements” that weren’t …. we ended up with heavy duty springs (and stock ground clearance), Bilsteins, wider steel wheels (with stock hub caps), bigger Michelins, and Police package anti-roll bars and bushings. The ride and handling were transformed … but the steering was still from another galaxy.
The Ford was the first of several wagons in our garage. Most of the others were new Oldsmobiles because of a family thing … “What do you drive to Thanksgiving dinner?”.
We ordered them “Our way”, and then added wheels, tires, shocks, and other tweaks as needed. The Michelins and Bilsteins are worth the price … the improvement on ’70s and ’80s Detroit iron was astonishing. We had utility almost like a Suburban, yet with (relatively) low mass and low center of gravity.
The best wagon of the lot was a ’78 Olds Custom Cruiser … and the worst by far was an ’83 Olds Custom Cruiser … our last car from GM … Thanksgiving be damned.
It’s starting to look like wagons might make a comeback. The young folks seem to like them … a good sign I think.
If I could buy any used station wagon, I’d buy that Datsun 810. Its size would be perfect for anyone who would want to use it for personal use, for family transportation, or even business. Condition is everything. It doesn’t have to be Concours D’Elegance condition, that’d make it too expensive to buy, and I don’t like cars that look too nice to drive every day. But I also wouldn’t want something that’s so rusted out that water leaks through the windows and it’s ready for the junk yard.