Story and Photos Mike Spicer
Station wagons, once the ultimate family car, are a dead memory on US highways today. Fortunately, while the days of streets and parking lots filled with station wagons may be gone, the wagon legacy lives on. Now the sight of a good old wagon makes everyone smile.
In 1984, Chrysler introduced minivans and the demise of the station wagon began. SUVs, minivans, and crossovers have since taken the station wagon’s place, and America is smitten with all-wheel drive. The ability to go anywhere now includes off-road, so freeways are filled with 4×4 cars and trucks rather than wagons.
Name Game: The name “Station Wagon” came from their use shuttling cargo back and forth from train stations. Hotels all over the world also used these cars to pick up guests from airports. In Europe, you might hear them referred to as an “Estate Car” (if you had a second home) or “Shooting Break”, as hunting parties relied on them to carry their food and supplies when they would take a break.
Bigger Is Better: Cars became bigger in the 1970’s and the station wagon fell right in line. Being a big car already, manufacturers took full advantage of the large chassis and made some of the longest cars of the time.
Style, Style, and More Style: Design cues were influenced differently then, but it still wasn’t easy to make a utility vehicle cool. Upping their game, automobile stylists of the day used faux-wood paneling and chrome to make these cars stand out from the pack. They also optioned them to the hilt so you could compete with the neighbors.
Do You Have Wagon Fever? I have the affliction known as “Wagon Fever”. Every time I come close to an old station wagon I feel good and am compelled to check it out. Old cars bring back memories and old wagons take us to a simpler time. No social media, no cell phones – just stare out the window and dream.
Where Have All the Good Times Gone? Europeans still seem to love their station wagons, as today the only availability is from foreign manufacturers. Maybe the large American SUV’s have no place in Europe or can’t park or maneuver around the small cities. Either way, it is good to see somebody carrying the torch.
I say, bring back wagons and the USA will eat them up. Whose kids can’t resist sitting in the back, back seat? There has to be a way to do this safely and it makes long road trips fun. Don’t rely on the DVD player – look out the window and see the world!