Monday, March 31, 2008

Cooler in the 70s: Station Wagons

1977 Buick Century, looking all tanned and buff
Back in the days before people travelled around in off-road vehicles that are too low to go off-roading in, and military vehicles that the military wouldn't touch with a no-bid contract, American moms reached their right hands back to smack their kids in the back seat of station wagons. Station wagons lack many of the features of the SUV and MiniVan we have come to know and love today - the in-car entertainment system was not a multi-disc DVD Player, but an AM radio, with a built-in 8-track player if you're lucky, and the GPS system consisted of a dad who refused to stop to ask for directions. Dual zone air conditioning was provided by allowing the back windows to roll down as well as the front, and unlike an SUV, you could actually see past it if you were backing out of a parking spot next to one.
1976 Cadillac Castilian - If it were black, it'd be a hearse
Unlike an SUV and even some MiniVans, a station wagon was never, ever, cool. But they were incredibly useful hiding up to 8 children if they lay flat in the back. In the UK, we had similar cars that about 2/3 the size and were called Ford Granada Estates.
1976 Chevy Caprice - The sides really are made from wood
On of the characteristic features of a station wagon, that for a while held over into the realm of the minivan is wood paneling. Why designers felt that a stretched out version of a sedan needed a fake wooden patch over the side and back, I'll never know, but there it is above on the Chevy Caprice.
And again, below on the Chrysler Town and Country.
1975 Chrysler Town and Country - Strangely brown
The Town and Country, of course, is now a minivan.
Oh, look! A 1978 Dodge Monaco!
1978 Dodge Monaco - How could anyone tell the difference?
The way this one's parked, it looks like they were designed to blend into the suburban environment.
Someone had the audacity to name this one the Plymouth Gran Fury:
1975 Plymouth Gran Fury - Feel the wood panel rage!
And, just for the record, here's the heretoforementioned Ford Granada Estate, from my own personal childhood. I didn't have one, mind, I was running around in a Triumph Dolomite, but back in 70s swinging London, you couldn't spit without hitting one of these.
1978 Ford Granada Estate MkII - As seen in the movie Sweeney 2

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not to pop your balloon, but the '76 Caprice estate's "wood" sides were vinyl decals. My mom had one, I know. Detroit changed the wood trim to decals in the 60's. I could be wrong but believe the "last" American wagon not using decals to be the mid-50's Ford Country Squire models. Your second picture of the big Cadillac appears to be a '76 Fleetwood Brougham sedan that someone had custom made into a station wagon - The Cadillac division of General Motors never produced a station wagon model (short of today's SUV's). Of the many seen on the Internet, all were coach-built custom jobs done post-sale of a sedan. Apparently this was quite a popular way to display one's wealth in the mid-20th century. Those desiring an 'off-the-rack" luxury wagon could choose Chrysler's town & Country or step down a few rungs at GM and go with an Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser (not to be confused with the "mid-sized" [but still huge] Vista Cruiser). Old's Custom cruiser was built on the same chassis as their 98 model, using the same chassis as Cadillac's "lower-end" DeVille sedans. At the time I saw your blog, the car pictured with the description as a Granada Estate is actually a picture of a mid-70's Chrysler product, either from Dodge or Plymouth, sold under a n endless array of model names, all sharing that same "full sized" platform (I can't tell which it is from that picture-sorry, but would guess a Plymouth Gran Fury).

Ridski said...

I bow to your greater wisdom regarding the 76 Caprice. I wasn't living in the US at the time, as you may have guessed from the other posts, and I never imagined that there was real wood paneling on the sides of any of the cars. But thanks for the clarification.

As for the Ford Granada, that I do know something about. If you look closely at teh front symbol, you'll see it definitely is a Ford, and this was taken from a screenshot of the British movie Sweeney 2, in which it appeared. Whether it looks like a Dodge or Plymouth, I couldn't tell you, but if you look up Ford Granada, you'll see that this definitely is an Estate (Station Wagon) version of the same car.

Thanks for the comment!

SamBlob said...

The thing is, the US Granada of the mid-late '70s was entirely different from the European Granada of the same time, so Americans unfamiliar with the European Granada wouldn't recognize it.

A shame, really, since the European Granada was MUCH better looking than the American one.