In June 27 IssueRussell County NewsBy Ron Cowell, Columnist
At this year’s events, I was really surprised to see so many station wagons restored and brought back to life. They have become something you don’t see a lot of any more. I decided to do a little research and find out about the station wagon and it’s history.
After doing a lot of looking, I did find that station wagon history is not exactly clear cut. Let’s start with the question, what is a station wagon? In the beginning the very first station wagons were called “depot hacks” or the word we used since I was little was “Taxi Cab”. The modified back end made it possible to carry a lot of luggage. Everyone traveled by train back then so a vehicle was needed that could carry several people and a lot of luggage.
Some say Station Wagon History started with the Star back in 1923 and ended in 1996 with the Buick Raodmaster Estate Wagon. As far as I can find a station wagon was said to be “the classic, stretched wheel base, rear wheel drive vehicle that was made from a standard production vehicle, usually a sedan or hardtop chassis.
It’s not really sure when the words “Station Wagon” replaced the name “Depot Hack” but we do know it was sometime between 1923 and 1929 when Ford introduced the Ford Model A. Pontiac produced it’s first station wagon in 1937 also. Its serial number was STAWAG.
Here is a bit of trivia for you. The 1941 Ford V8 Deluxe woody station wagon was the first Station Wagon of any kind that broke the $1000.00 price barrier. There were Woody Station Wagons before Ford though. There was the Dodge Series DH six woody station wagon and the Plymouth woody station wagon appeared in 1938 known as the P6 Deluxe Westchester Suburban wagon. Chevy’s first woody station wagon came out in 1940 with the Special Deluxe.
Until sometime after WW II station wagons were thought of as commercial vehicles like trucks. Production was slow and less than 1 percent of motor vehicle sales in 1940. Station Wagons seemed to jump in popularity in the 1950’s when sales went from less than 3 percent to 17 percent of car sales. Then by the 1950’s Woody station wagons had all but disappeared from the market.
Station wagons by the end of the 50’s was clearly a family vehicle by choice. Even two door Chevy station wagons like the Chevy Nomad were marketed but rejected by the public. Reason being the price tag for the Nomad exceeded $2,757.00.
Then came the 60’s, Muscle cars, Longer, lower, wider and more power. The compact station wagon appeared on the market in the 60’s also. Almost right after the compact station wagon was introduced the mid sized station wagon was produced. Numerous body styles were offered with plenty of options. Through all this the full size station wagon seemed to be the wagon people wanted.
In the 70’s two events caused a big hit in the disappearance of the station wagon. The new emissions specifications in 1972 and the first gas crunch in 1974. Sales of the full size wagon fell in 1974 and 1975 which caused the disappearance of the full size wagon from Chrysler and Plymouth in 1978. They went on to build the mini van and have not produced a full size wagon since.
In 1991, as a final attempt GM introduced the last restyle of the full sized rear wheel drive wagon with the Chevy Caprice. Buick’s version was the Roadmaster. Olds ended it with the Custom Cruise in 1992. The Ford Taurus wagon was still selling well but the Country Squire was put to rest at the end of the 1991 model year.
Ironically, the backlash against the station wagons that started with the Mini Van is hitting back against the minivan with the SUV. Once again the gas prices has slowed down the sales of the SUV also. History repeating itself.
I was amazed at the information out there on station wagons. There’s so much more that could be said but room just won’t let us. Next time you attend a BIG car show take a look at the station wagons that are being restored and brought back to life. It looks good to see them on the road again.
If your Car Club is having an event and you would like us to tell everyone about or someone who you would like to see featured in this article send all information to, firstname.lastname@example.org . All information on upcoming events needs to be in at least two weeks before the event.
If your Club or church or group is having an event and you would like to display some classic cars at that event let me know at least two weeks in advance.
One or all of the clubs in the area would be more than happy to bring the cars out for you.