Vintage Review: 1955 Station Wagons – Motor Trend Helps Fifties Families Pick Their Wagon Wheels


(first posted 8/24/2016)     In America circa 1955, the Baby Boom was in full swing, postwar prosperity and optimism were strong, and new suburban developments were cropping up across the land.  All good reasons to get a new car, and one vehicle type that was tempting buyers in ever greater numbers was the station wagon.  Though the wagon body style had been around for decades, during the 1950s the vehicles became family favorites, and domestic automakers offered a broad array of choices.  So it was only natural that Motor Trend would take a comprehensive look at the station wagon segment, pointing out pros and cons for all the U.S. brands.


Open the August 1955 issue of Motor Trend and on the first page you’d see an ad for the Plymouth Suburban.  Excellent placement given the cover headline topic, and Chrysler Corporation was the only automaker to run wagon advertising in that issue.




For the ultimate in family cookouts on the go, check out the Camp-‘N’-Wagon.  The $295 accessory ($2,649 adjusted!) provided a water spigot and cooking area to make meals a cinch no matter how far into the woods a family dared to venture.


When it came to the inside of “covered wagons” for the 1950s, surely no other make could top the Plymouth with its ribbed “rubber resin alloy” headliner.




Though really more truck than wagon–and a true precursor to today’s SUVs–the Willy’s was still showcased in the wagon article, though Motor Trend noted that it was more of a rugged backwoodsman than a versatile family hauler.


There were plenty of choices and configurations available for American wagons in 1955, from the thriftiest 2-door, 2-seat 6-cylinder all the way to a glitzy 4-door, 3-seat, V8-powered “luxury” wagon.  Plus, for the first time, you could even get air conditioning factory-installed on a wagon, on the new Chevrolet and Pontiac A-bodies (that must have wreaked havoc on the Sloan Ladder of price and prestige: the more expensive Buick wagon, with the slightly older-design B-body, did not offer built-in A/C).

So imagine you were shopping in 1955 and had decided a wagon was the right choice for your needs.  Which one would you pick?

For me, I’d have gone with the Ford Country Squire, V8 of course.  Ford durability and functionality would be perfect for a utility vehicle, plus who could resist Di-Noc wood paneling for a little Fifties-style showboating?