It seems that the people in marketing at Chrysler in 1970 were somewhat on different pages when it came time to design the sales brochures. On one hand we have a photo of a rather twee bunch of folks standing in front of some pretty light-weight antiques. On the other hand, the text tells us that this is a car that will carry 4×8 sheets of plywood – flat — and tow a hefty 2.5 tons without a towing package. I know looks can be deceiving, but I’m thinking that those folks wouldn’t have much use for plywood. Besides, they need the back seat in position for Mr. Peeper’s in-laws. The guy in the rocking chair…well he doesn’t need to fit, although he absolutely could sit between Mr. and Mrs. on the front bench. Maybe they just told him that, and he’s bumming. I think we’d all be happier if he just stayed behind.
Despite what the copy says, the 1971 Town and Country was clearly aiming for a more rarefied buyer than someone intending to lug around lumber. To me, this is fitting, as the 71 Town and Country that came into my life definitely represented a certain elevation in my family’s lifestyle.
In earlier COAL articles, I explained that new cars weren’t exactly common in my family. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true since the Simca 1000featured last week was technically new. Paperwork indicates that my dad financed it for $1700, so it was probably purchased new. That $1700 Simca would be $14,000 in today’s money (not that one could actually buy a $14,000 new car today). But the Chrysler Wagon was the equivalent of $41,000 today. This was no stripper car, and it represented a quantum leap beyond anything that my parents had devoted to a car purchase before. It was a new car, and then some.
None of this was not lost on me as a 10 year old. It was a matter of family doctrine that we were not the “type of family” (so I heard and learned) that spent money (period) or had money to spend on things other than absolute necessities. The objective truth of that is probably very arguable, and I do not recall a childhood where true necessities such as food and shelter were absent (and in my 21st century mind, I know that this alone indicates a level of privilege that many families then and now do not have). And we did after all have one of the most impractical dogs – bless his heart – ever to consume his weight in dog chow every month.
Nevertheless, contradictions are the spice of life, and in general there were a variety of signs that money didn’t come easy – and certainly wasn’t spent easily – by my parents. For example, there was the constant search (touched upon earlier in these posts) for ways to cut corners on expenses such as auto maintenance. The same applied to things as commonplace furniture (“We have 4 chairs. Why do we need more than 4? Are you going to use more than one at a time?”). We didn’t own a house until almost 5 years after the Chrysler was purchased. My parents had no mortgage down-payment and no ability to acquire one.
And yet, in October 1970, my dad shelled out for a $6000 car…with power windows even ($126.55)? And air conditioning ($421.05)? By the way, I think that this was the real kicker for my parents. I can still recall both of their complaints that they could not get the car without air conditioning and that they therefore had been “forced” to accept that frivolous option.
The broadcast sheet for this car indicates that it was absolutely not a special order and therefore was simply purchased off the lot. Yes, even though the car itself has been gone since the late 1980s, I still have the broadcast sheet, window sticker, invoice, etc. because those things were carefully saved by my parents. Of all their cars, this is the only one where that level of documentation exists. That speaks to the degree to which for them this car was a special, amazing, purchase. Something that they did not expect to come around again and therefore necessary to carefully preserve.
All of that, and it’s not even the car they originally wanted.
This is what they wanted. And to the extent that I had any say in the matter (I didn’t), it’s what I wanted too (I still do). While the Chrysler was clearly more upscale (just a bit though, those horsey folks could be the slightly sportier relatives to Mr. and Mrs. Mad Men in the Chrysler brochure) and larger, the Vista Cruiser had something unique. That would be those skylights reminiscent to 10 year old me of…
I had developed a thing for the Scenicruiser on several childhood bus trips from MD to NYC. Plus, of course, Greyhound.
Another NY World’s Fair branding-connection. There’s still a part of me that wants a Scenicruiser. Fortunately (although that’s debatable if you only ask me) I’ve watched enough of this guy’s YouTube channel to know that there are a variety of things I still might do with my life before I go entirely off the deep end and acquire a 50 year old bus.
Unfortunately, back then a 1971 Vista Cruiser was not in cards for us due primarily due to what at that time was the longest UAW strike against GM in history. My dad spent time stalking Oldsmobile dealers – and I believe even put a deposit down on a car – but as the strike wound on it became very clear that there would be no Vista Cruiser headed our way. At least one that did not involve a special order and a long wait…neither of which fit with my parents’ car-buying practice.
Thus he wound up at the Maryland Motors lot up Rockville Pike. I know that this couldn’t have been easy, as the main reason why he was in the car market at all was that the 1961 Plymouth had finally expired. Between the continual issues with that car and the shoddy treatment the Simca had received from Chrysler-Plymouth dealers, he wasn’t eager to wind up behind the wheel of another Chrysler product. Particularly not one that cost over $1000 more than the Oldsmobile that he originally wanted.
Still, we needed two cars and by mid-Fall of 1970 vehicles were starting to vanish off of most dealer lots as GM production was still stalled and inventory of other brands was growing increasingly tight. All things considered, my dad was probably lucky to negotiate $1000 off of sticker on the Town and Country.
Plus, we were indeed moving up economically – for a while at least. That fall, my dad was in the first year of his first (and ultimately only) non-government job and had a taste of private sector “riches”. In his case, he had found his way to AAA (yep, the American Automobile Association) as one of their first transportation policy analysts. As a city and urban planner, a big part of that work in those days was transportation policy.
I have very few pictures of the Chrysler when it was brand new. In this picture, it’s already several years old and by then we’d moved to North Carolina. Let’s just say that my dad’s private-sector work (which turned out to be largely developing positions for AAA’s lobbying efforts) wasn’t all that he’d hoped it would be. In his mind it was better to leave the bigger money for a clearer conscience. That’s probably the basis another article altogether. But in relatively short order we were off to another state and another state government job.
Well, we got a nice car out of it. That’s the story for today.
Aside from the upgrade presented by the unheard of luxuries of air conditioning and power windows, the Chrysler had 275 HP compared to the Simca’s 49 (or the Plymouth’s 145). Of course, at 3500 pounds, the Chrysler was a bit more than twice as heavy as the Simca. It truly was Big Car to the Simca Little Car.
And of course the Chrysler had a big dog to haul around.
Frankly, the dog was about the only hauling our Chrysler ever did. One would think that for all its comfort, we’d have taken that car on the kind of road trips that had been the regular assignment for the Plymouth, but that was not the case. Our family vacations in the early 1970s were increasingly by plane and then rental car. For the driving portions of those trips, we usually wound up in Buick Skylarks from Avis.
Overall, our Town and Country never quite lived up to its potential. Arguably one of the largest and most powerful wagons ever to roll down the road, ours mostly did lightweight grocery-getting. In short, our particular Chrysler always seemed a bit too much for my family, and I expect the same was true for many owners.
Never terribly common on the roads – at least compared to Ford and GM wagons – the big Chrysler stood out and thereby only deepened my parents ill ease around owning something so showy. My mom – who was the primary wagon driver – always seemed simultaneously proud and intimidated by the car. She kept the car immaculate, but was also on record as being scared by the power windows due to what she regarded as a sure fact that they would be utilized to “chop off” her children’s fingers. As it turned out those would be my fingers…smashed by my sister gleefully activating the tempting silver switch while I had my hand wrapped around the window frame in a parking lot. I lived…with all fingers presently attached and still mostly functional.
In bad weather, my mom and dad constantly debated whether the “special” (Sure Grip LSD) differential was a good or bad thing with regard to winter handling. It should have been a good thing…except as we know, many innovative automotive technologies – e.g., ABS – that change the ways cars are expected to work can be daunting — and even unsafe – until drivers catch up with how to interact with the technology. Anyhow, in their lack of automotive acumen they assumed that the Sure Grip was an innovation that did nothing productive beyond adding to the car’s price and complexity.
Me? I loved the Town and Country even if I understood that it represented a forbidden level of luxury that I probably did not deserve or need. I was a blossoming child of the modern age and assumed that what Chrysler gave us would surely be in our best interest.
One of my favorite features — the rear window washer — was standard and quite goofy. To use it, it required the driver to roll down the window and press a big chrome dash button. Then, the washer and wiper went about their business in private, out of sight. Washer fluid was added through a chrome cap on the tailgate. Probably all wagons of the day had something similar. I didn’t know that at the time and assumed that this was just one more way the Big Car was fancier than the average car. After all, in all of our other cars if the rear window was dirty, you just lived with it until you got to a gas station (which was often) and then washed it like God meant people to wash car windows. By having the gas station guy do it.
Like many CC readers (I suspect), I loved the sales literature that came home with the Chrysler and I poured through it constantly. It amazed me that cars could be “ordered” (that’s a concept in itself!) with optional accessories. The one that I coveted was #16 – the Stereo Cassette Tape System. This was not because I was thinking of playing cool tunes without relying on radio stations…but because it had A MICROPHONE.
That’s right, you could record tapes in the car!! This was of particular interest to me since at the time I had started carrying around a small reel-to-reel tape recorder, and would record trip narration on longer trips. The overall effect was not unlike many of the World’s Fair rides – e.g., the Ford pavilion where you rode through the narrated exhibit in a brand new Ford. Imagine if one could do that using our car’s “radio” and I didn’t have to bring along the tape recorder??? My 12 – 13 year old head nearly exploded at the thought of that.
I always wanted to get one of those tape decks and install it myself. But by the time I would have been old enough to look into actually doing that, I was done with the Chrysler…having moved on to an actual driving obsession with what will be next week’s COAL installment. Still though, we kept that car for far longer than our typical 10 years or so. It’s not just that it was relatively problem-free (it must have been a good day at the Jefferson Avenue Plant in Detroit when our wagon rolled off the line) but I sincerely believe that my parents wanted to keep the car around because it represented to them such a substantial and awe-inspiring investment for them.
Given its longevity, the Town and Country was the first family car that I actually drove. That turns out to be a short story, as the entirety of my early driving experience with the Chrysler was a single trip on my learners’ permit. I’ll save most of the drivers’ ed stories for the next post, but here I’ll simply say that my first time behind the wheel of the Chrysler was also the first time I’d driven with both of my parents in the car. I’m sure you can see what’s coming next.
It was just a short trip to the store or something, but memorable for its ending. As I drove the car into its parking spot under the carport, I made a typical newbie mistake of letting my foot slide off the brake and onto the gas (releasing some of that power that was capable of towing 2500 pounds) and rolled the car into one of the 4x4s that served as carport roof supports. The 4×4 broke, the car was unscathed, and my mom refused to get into a car with me behind the wheel for – I kid you not – another 10 years. I’d not only managed to fulfill her expectation for disaster (all except for the part about “killing us all”…she wouldn’t give up on that for another 10 years) but just as important, I’d “nearly wrecked” the Big Car. That was pretty much unforgiveable and – as it turned out quite fortunately – sentenced me to only drive the Little Car for the rest of the time I was home before leaving for college.
I’ll wrap this episode by noting that rather ironically — given what I’ve just written above — the Chrysler would get along until the late 1980s, up until the time it gave its life saving my parents’ lives. Totaled by a head-on collision at speed with a wrong-way driver on a hilly Northern Virginia two-lane highway. My parents were seriously, although not irreparably, injured. The occupants of the other (naturally much smaller) vehicle – visiting citizens of a left-side-driving country who sadly were not attentive to their location – were not so lucky. Rumor has it that despite the Chrysler being totaled for insurance purposes, it was deemed to be still rebuildable. They held title to that car – despite it sitting in the back lot of some obviously slow moving garage – until they had both passed more than another 10 years after that.
Wait, I have it right here.
Of course I do. ‘Cause you know, with a car that fancy, you’re going to want to fix it someday, right?
Our lives with cars are on similar paths. Although we didn’t have a small car snd a big car, we had the new car and the old car. We had a 63 Chevrolet BelAir wagon that is a similar vintage to your 61 Plymouth. We went to a 2-car family for the first time in 1972 with the purchase of a 1972 Chevrolet Kingswood wagon. Again, close vintage to your Chrysler. But the cost of that new Chevy was $3,800. I didn’t realize that the Chrysler was that much more expensive. We went to your “big car / small car scenario when the 63 wagon was replaced with a used 72 Volvo 144. So we had a 5 passenger car for a family of 7. But we were getting older then and rarely went anywhere together when we didn’t go in the “new” car. You have a great style of writing and I look forward to see where your personal car ownership path took you. I wonder if it was similar, or wildly different than my own. Either way, I’m sure New England winters took their toll.
I have been keeping an eye on one of these that has been parked in a driveway, for quite a while, one town over from where I live. The back is full of bundled newspapers possibly from an interrupted paper drive from long ago. I’ve knocked on the door but no one answered and I’ve left notes. It’s complete and needs work but I want it.
I was surprised to learn that the Chrysler was $1000 more than the Vista Cruiser. Those Vista Cruisers are great cars.
Did you know that John Lennon once owned a very similar 1972 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon? Back in December 2010, I wrote about the car for my own online magazine, Automotive Traveler. You can read about it here
I wrote this just before the car was sold at auction, to who I believe, is its current owner. As the owner of a copy of the Beatles infamous original Yesterday and Today “butcher block” edition album, I consider it to be the ultimate Beatles/Lennon collectible.
Yes! I remember reading that story back when that car went to auction. Great article.
One would have to be a rock star to think it was reasonable to have something the size of that 72 Town and Country in NYC…although I can imagine also that the experience of trying to park it in the East Village may have been part of the inspiration for his moving uptown to the Dakota. I can also imagine Yoko behind the wheel. She’s just about the size (height) that my mom was (my mom was only about 5′ tall), and it probably was just as entertaining watching Yoko pilot the enormous Chrysler as it was watching my mom. 🙂
My mother has shrunk to 4’8″ and 83 lbs, but back in the day, she was the primary daily driver of our full sized wagon (my Dad drove it on longer trips, after I got my license I pitched in as well).
We moved around a lot because of Dad’s job, but in 1970 were across the border in Manassas, Va, (where my dear departed youngest sister was born). We had a ’69 Ford Country Squire initially, but it didn’t have air conditioning (was bought when we lived in New England) and was traded in on a ’73 Ford Country Sedan, which was more heavily optioned with our first air conditioning and power lock (not windows!) and AM/FM stereo. Dad was doing pretty well by then, he never owned a luxury car, but the wagons were pretty well equipped with options…..the ’78 Chevrolet Caprice Classic wagon was probably the peak, he bought it out of the showroom, and it was probably the closest thing to a luxury car he was ever to own.
Mom had to back the wagon down our long driveway in Manassas, which was on a hill. Motor died once and she rolled down with no power steering, there was a drainage ditch across the street (houses had actual bridges over it at driveway) and she somehow rolled around it without hurting the car much…the ditch was big enough to swallow even the full sized Ford of that era. She’s finally stopped driving, she learned on my Grandfather’s 1951 Chrysler Windsor with semi-automatic transmission.
Always liked the “coved” back end of these full sized Chrysler wagons. Way nicer looking than the GM clamshell tailgates. The Fords were practical but not much for looking at.
I may have well have read your article at the time. I know I have read about Lennon’s Chrysler. He bought the car, because he felt it was less a standout in traffic and afforded a bit of privacy. The “Butcher Block” album is indeed a rare asset.
I am a minor league Chrysler fan and I have to say that some of the options that were available, in the 70s, no less really surprised me.
I had no idea any car company offered a rear window washer, much less on a station wagon. And to have it concealed INSIDE the door. I always thought headlight washers were a strictly European invention, but here they are on the list of options for 70s Chryslers…who knew? I knew Chrysler was first with anti-lock brakes but somehow never realized they were available in the early 70s, I think of them as a late 80s-early 90s ” thing “.
My appreciation for Chrysler’s extra engineering has been broadened after seeing that list of optional extras. All this time my thoughts had centered on a company with 2 completely different, indestructible 6 cylinder engines, the use of gauges, when their competitors had switched to idiot lights, and the radical (for an American car) use of torsion bar springing.
Way to go, Chrysler.
I’d be interested in knowing about the internal mechanism that actually washed and wiped the rear window. Frankly, I’d just assumed it was a single rubber blade that came down onto the glass as the window was raised. It would have been the simplest solution and I can’t feature any kind of convoluted mechanism inside the tailgate. Something like that would be just asking for issues.
OTOH, I wonder how difficult it would be to not only change a worn wiper blade, but finding a replacement blade, as well.
I would have assumed that you’re correct in guessing that it was a single wiper blade similar to the trim/scraper on the other windows. But I do recall that there was a lot of electric motor noise generated by pressing that big switch on the dash, and it seemed like it was more than just a washer fluid pump.
And I was right. Here’s more contemporary literature I found that describes “six washer jets” and “three wiper blades” moving against the glass. I sure would like to know more about how the thing actually worked, as you’re right…that seems awfully complicated.
I guess I’ll just have to buy one to figure it out. Takes up a little less space than a bus…
Most definitely intriguing, particularly the use of three wiper blades. I’m going to guess they overlap so as to not have the potential of having a line show up on the glass between the three blades.
Also be good to know how long the option lasted, how popular it was, and how well/long it worked. You just know that their were statistics on these types of options. Did Ford and/or GM ever have anything similar? Knowing Chrysler’s quality reputation, I have my doubts as to the reliability of it, not only the wiper/washer system, but even the motor assembly for just the window. I can easily see their being a problem with dirt being trapped, collecting on the blades, and in the system.
But it’s still kind of cool, particularly if it was available in conjunction with the headlight washers that Chryslers had for a while at about the same time. Also very much like the rear airfoil that directed air over the rear window. Seems like that would be something that could be used to this day on SUVs and minivans, particularly considering that a rear window wiper/washer are virtually standard equipment on anything with a rear hatch.
Everyone knows that Chrysler’s big cars (especially station wagons) never got close to the sales volume of Ford or GM, but they certainly came up with some clever ideas throughout their history and is a big reason they’ve been able to stay in the game.
Well, this might not count, but…I did! This is from a 1974 GM (USA) paper. Sweden’s requirement for brush/wiper type headlamp cleaners lasted until the early 1990s when a pan-European standardisation push meant Sweden had to accept pressure-jet cleaners, France had to accept white headlamps, the UK dim-dip mandate was quashed, and other country-specific lighting requirements went away.
Oh great…Now I want these for my 1976 Volvo.
Although like everything electrical on that car, they’d probably never work.
Volvo had some very interesting headlamp cleaners on the 140-series cars in the home market: a pivot was cemented to the centre of the headlamp lens, and a metal heater strip ran from there down to the bottom of the lamp. The wiper arm parked at the 6:00 position, on the heater strip, so it wouldn’t freeze in winter. When activated, the blade went whirly-go-round on the lens.
This was how I always envisioned the way my own car ownership would be. I would buy something very expensive and keep it in perfect condition for a long, long time. Then when I bought my own first car two things happened: 1) I couldn’t afford something really expensive and 2) I sold it after 2 years. Oh well, life > plans.
I will admit that I did not see this story coming. I figured it would be a used Plymouth Suburban (I did not look closely enough at the hint last week) and that it would be the final straw in a troubled relationship between your parents and Chrysler-built cars. Wrong on all counts.
And isn’t there something magical about being that age when your parents buy a new car? I still remember most vividly almost everything about the experience of my mother’s 1972 Cutlass purchase, as well as the 74 Luxury LeMans.
I suspect this is generally the case with higher-priced cars, i.e., owners tend to take better care of a more expensive car than those vehicles that could otherwise be considered disposable or that the owners simply don’t have the wherewithal to maintain them properly.
The flip-side of that, of course, is that more expensive cars also have have more complicated and expensive sub-systems prone to breakage and replacement. There are certainly many cases of otherwise nice old cars being given up simply because it was just too difficult and expensive to repair some individual non-functioning part.
A case in point could easily be the Ford Thunderbird. I shudder to think about all of the relays and separate electrical components those things had back in the sixties. You really have to be a dedicated lover of your old T-bird to keep all of the systems in operation on one of those. Although with the advent of the internet information age, it’s not as bad as it once was.
Fun read. Thanks. I see that the optional R13 ¨Golden Tone¨ radio cost $92.35. Was it really any better than normal radios in 1970 or did they all cost around $90?
$600 in today’s money. For an AM radio!
That’s the way it was back in the day. I suspect that OEM radios were a ‘big’ money-maker for the manufacturers. They seemed to tone it down after a while when it became possible to buy a decent aftermarket unit that fit into the stock location.
It’s also worth noting that those old factory radios virtually ‘never’ quit working. Say what you will about the reliability of other parts, but you never had to worry about a radio working in an old car. Maybe that was by design: while you were sitting on the side of the road waiting for the tow-truck to arrive, you could atleast listen to the radio.
This car reminds me of the Brady Bunch.
I was waiting for this one. A neighbor and close family friend had one, a ’69 I think, in antique white over maroon, fully loaded, that had been purchased from another more affluent neighboring family used around 1974. The father of that household passed away at a young age unfortunately, and I became very close to the 3 kids, as my Mom and Dad were very close the the widowed single Mom. We went on tons of local day trips and jaunts in that car, as my parents were automotive slaves to fashion who wouldn’t own anything with 4 doors until I was in college. It hauled the mothers and anywhere between 5 and 8 kids, depending on who was around in complete comfort, and I absolutely loved the thing. By 1977 the Mom was working in my father’s office and was becoming financially secure enough to replace it with a Mercury Monarch, which was a total letdown to me at 10 years old. Of course at that point it was getting rusty and was way too thirsty for a single parent’s budget, so it made a lot of sense I suppose. Still, it was basically the only station wagon in my childhood, so to me it was important, because obviously in the ’70’s a station wagon was just supposed to be a defining part of any childhood, right?
I had to chuckle at the line about these wagons not carrying 4×8 sheets of plywood.
Quite true. What they did carry was 4×8 sheets of fake wood paneling to finish the basement and/or rec. room.
That way, a home owner’s basement would match their station wagon.
And a huge wagon as your parents next purchase was surprising indeed!
A great read and what a treat to see the documentation of the car! That destination charge would translate to around $800 today so it seems those have in fact been rising over the years.
As with others, I too had no idea about the internal wiper mechanism, quite interesting. The car itself is fascinating precisely because it’s not the car most people chose back then, thanks for the history re the strike, not dissimilar to today with the chip shortages affecting what is or isn’t available.
My family still remembers our 1972 trip cross country in our 1969 Town and Country wagon in terms of breakdowns.
Universal joints in Rapid City, pushing it into a garage in Lake Louise with failed ignition, overheating the WHOLE WAY across North Dakota.
Seriously, who takes three days to cross North Dakota?
In fact, after 1972 we never used the A/C again, because it would inevitably overheat whenever you did. Unless it was a cold day. On a cold day, you could have A/C.
It continued to ruin vacations for the rest of the time we owned it. One long weekend trip was cancelled when the power steering became intermittent. In a 5200 lb. (according to Popular Science) vehicle that was a handful.
Still my dad was one to stick to a financial plan, and we kept the car until 1977, by which time the engine was accumulating gasoline in the crankcase, the power steering hadn’t worked in years and the gas tank would only hold half a tank.
“It continued to ruin vacations for the rest of the time we owned it.”
That’s a terrific line, and should be the basis of its own article.
Was the AC on that Chrysler aftermarket and without a replaced radiator and fan? I’m wondering because I never knew of an American car with factory air that had any overheating problem. For example my family went across the country in a 1963 Falcon with factory (but hang-on aftermarket style) AC and a roof rack full of luggage with no budging of the heat gage above normal. Falcons like that had a different radiator and fan than the non-AC models. Same thing with Omnirizons.
Nope. It was factory Air Conditioned air from their fully factory equipped air conditioning factory. (This is a Firesign Theatre reference, BTW)
Had the “AirTemp” sticker in the window to prove it.
It was the first Air Conditioned car my parents bought, and the experience was so bad they eschewed AC until Mom’s 1987 Civic Wagon.
That sounds like a cruddy dealer service department. Those cars had excellent air conditioning systems that did not cause engine overheating unless something was the matter.
Many solutions were tried, multiple radiator flushes, no dice.
Other owners reported good reliability from the fuselage Chryslers, so I guess we just got a lemon. Back then manufacturing consistency wasn’t what it is these days.
Thanks for the Firesign Theater reference! It’s one of my favorite lines from Ralph Spoilsport Motors advertising. But the line is actually: “…factory Air Conditioned air from their fully factory equipped air conditioned factory”. [Not “conditioning”.]
The original line indicates that the car contains air inside that came with the car, when it was built in the air conditioned factory! Love it!
And to paraphrase from the same album, concerning T & C’s exterior trim: “Genuine imitation Di-Noc, with the look of real wood!”
I had to paraphrase, because our car came with more than just the air from the factory. At least initially.
My parents tended to trade off to a new car(s) every 2 to 3 years. with one notable exception. The 59 Bonneville 2dr sport hardtop he ordered and purchased new in late 58. it was loaded with all options escept, curiously, the 3 spinner wheel covers. this car just had the standard full wheel covers shared with lesser Pontiacs. It was White with a tri tone interior and most notably ,Tri-Power. Where the usualy trade history goes off track is in 61. Dad bys a 61 Bonneville, trading in Moms 58 Mercury. Mom was not happy with the size of the Bonneville (as if the Mercury was much smaller) so she got dad to look at the new compacts form GM. Being a Pontiac family, ypou might think. Ah. new Tempest. Nope A corvair. nd surprisingly, no trade in. the 59 Bonneville stayed. and my Older brother, a newly licensed 16 yr old in 61, was given that car. Yep, A skinny 16 yr old with the HS moniker of “Spider” due to his long limbs, was now wheeling a tri powered Pontiac through the streets of St. Louis. (he only got one ticket) Western Suburbs. When Big Bro left home after HS school graduation. the Bonneville stayed/ My Father letting me know it might well be my 1st new car And so it stayed. waiting for my becoming a driver in 67. Driven occasionally by my father. “to keep the tires round”. Plans were not to be…In Jan of 67, 4 months before my 16th Birthday. A tornado dropped the remains of a 60s bar and lounge on top of it. Dad had parked it there to meet a colleague and they drove said colleague downtown for a meeting. The Bonneville was well beaten up But it still started and drove. It was declared a total loss, And my 1st car was a much smaller and easer to handle 64 Cutlass. Such is the saga of the longest time, 8 yrs, my parents held onto a car.
Great story. Obviously, this is what I would have wanted for the family covered wagon, but that was not to be for several reasons, one of them being that it would have been impossible to get into the garage, due to the very strange layout of our driveway and lower-level garage, which necessitated an extremely tight 90 degree turn.
But a kid can dream, eh?
I find it fascinating to read about the different personalities of the parents in these COALs, like your mother’s refusal to ride with you behind the wheel for ten years.
I always wanted one of these when they were at the very bottom of the depreciation curve, but rather sadly that was not to be, as one never turned up at the right space time continuum. Your family got everything that car had to give out of it!
I can see why they really wanted the Vista Cruiser – it looks fantastic..
This made me think of my first car- a 73 Catalina 4 door. For the time fairly loaded with AC, FM single speaker radio, 400 V8, vinyl roof and rally wheels. But like so many of this era and this wagon, no passenger side mirror. Seems strange such a useful and inexpensive item was so uncommon.
The first car I drove was a 1969 Chrysler town and Country that had been demoted to “teen car” in 1979. My father ordered it new, well equipped. We did not have power windows or locks, but it did have AM/FM 8 track tape, front and rear air conditioning, and the rear window washer just like the one described.
The 440 still ran pretty well – it would press by back into the seat when I floored it, and we had the posi-traction as well.
It got 8 mpg, so when we had the energy shortage of 1979, and one of the front torsion bars broke it was donated to Goodwill.
Your story reminds me of friends of my parents who swapped out a well worn and sunburned 61 Rambler American for a new 70 Mercury Colony Park Wagon loaded with just about every option. Talk of an upgrade.A 14 year old me was so jealous for family vacation times with us just having a 67 Fury 2 Sedan with no AC in TN.
An interesting comment about your parent’s constant efforts to save money, and to avoid the appearance of putting on airs, by buying something that looked, and actually was, pretty expensive. They were a bit uncomfortable with any display of affluence. My parents were much the same. Though they would buy a new car regularly. It was okay as long as it was working man’s car, like a Chevy or smaller Pontiac. My family was first generation American, as well as blue collar. They were also quite frugal, and my Dad was quite adept at fixing things around the house. They saved up money for the important things, they bought their first home in the mid 1950’s after only being married a couple of years, and sent all three of their kids to twelve years of Catholic school. I’ve tried to follow in their footsteps and now I prefer to drive Fords, another workingman’s car.
In the early1990s I was part of a large group of people who drove about 150 cars, bikes & trucks, from Washington DC up to Chicago, and then by route 66 all the way to the Pacific ocean.
Passing thru a small town in Arizona, we discovered an interesting gent who ran an old time barber shop, his name was Jose Delgadillo, Sr.
So I was wondering if you might be related, perhaps the Jr. to his Sr.?
RE: the rear tailgate wipers:
We had one of these wagon come into our shop for repairs & service. I vaguely remember the guys replacing the tailgate wipers because apparently the wipers were in contact with the glass each time it was raised & lowered, and they wore out quickly, especially for people who used the tailgate a lot.
What I remember seeing and remembering, was the tailgate glass having to be removed to access the wiper blades. The 3 blades were fastened to a holder that was difficult to remove from the narrow opening the glass slides in.
The car we worked on also had leaks in the water tank. We believe the cracks were the result of the tailgate repeatedly being slammed shut too hard. We were unable to quickly source a new tank so we repaired it, but it broke in another location a year or so later. The tank could be filled when the tailgate was down, and a flush-fit screw cap gave access to fill the tank.
Very similar story with my parents 1972 Buick wagon. By 1972 our family had grown to 7 with 5 kids. We were outgrowing the 69 Buick Special DeLuxe wagon and needed a third seat. We were a single car family with my mom a stay at home mother and my dad a teacher who commuted daily from Buffalo to Niagara Falls, twenty miles away. In addition to the third seat he wanted A/C…the first car we had with A/C. We were a Buick family and my dad negotiated a deal on a 72 Estate Wagon. Options included the third seat, A/C, roof rack, AM radio, remote control drivers mirror, power tailgate and whitewall tires. Crystal blue with blue vinyl interior The only engine available was the mighty 455. I believe the sticker was about $5600. The car weighed approximately 5000 lbs
I’ve never got the thinking behind a remote control drivers mirror. It can be easily reached from a driver’s seat. The passenger side on the other hand – not so much.
It’s so brown. Nixon brown. Brezhnev brown. It is the essence of of brown.