Turning back the hands of time to an era before SUVs.
If you were an American kid growing up in the 1960s or 1970s, chances are good you saw the world from the back seat of a station wagon. In an age long before SUVs, the station wagon was the family truckster of choice. Mind you, it wasn’t your choice, but probably your mom’s. Piling into a station wagon most likely meant you had siblings, and that meant epic back seat battles, real estate wars (Mom! He’s touching me!), diaper mishaps, dumped ice cream cones, and calculating just where to sit so that mom’s flying hand couldn’t connect with your face when it needed to.
If all went well (or not so well, depending on your outlook), you ended up with the privilege of driving said station wagon once you got your driver’s license at age 16. Now that’s what every teen boy wants: to show up at the local hangout with mom’s used-up station wagon instead of a cool Camaro or Mustang. Ours was a 1969 Ford Galaxie 500 Country Squire with the 390ci FE big-block and C6 automatic with trailer-towing package—perfect for towing a wheel camper trailer to far-flung campgrounds with bears that raided garbage cans in the middle of the night.
Before Wagons Were Cool
To a lot of teen boys with freshly minted licenses, the station wagon was a loathsome transport device. You couldn’t be too proud to drive one if you needed a set of wheels to get somewhere, yet enigmatically, if you got caught seen driving one there’d hardly be any reason to leave home. I once pushed it to 120 just to see if it would do it—or blow up trying. I planned my assault at the top of a long hill, then squashed down on the throttle to open up the four-barrel Autolite. If I kept my foot in it long enough to make the bottom of the hill, I could keep accelerating up the other side—and have enough runway to slow down at the top of the opposite hill. That old Ford didn’t break, but I did learn my first lesson about driveshaft balance and brake fade that day. And yeah, I discovered it could top 120 under the right circumstances.
Station Wagons Stage a Comeback
These days, the jagged angst of youth has been replaced by wistful nostalgia, and like a lot of folks my age, there’s a warm, empty spot in my heart where a classic station wagon belongs. So far, I’ve only been able to live the long-roof life vicariously through various wagons I’ve found at car shows, but based on what’s out there, my love of classic station wagons is shared by a lot of other folks. And what’s not to like? Wagons are cheaper to come by than full-blown muscle cars, they carry as many people and as much stuff as an SUV, and you can’t beat the classic styling. Most wagons also share most of their mechanical driveline bits with their sibling muscle car counterparts, so it’s easy to build one that’s truly fast and fun. Which classic station wagon is your favorite? Here’s six for you to ponder, and don’t forget to check out the extra photos in the gallery.
1960 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon
The 1960 fullsize Ford lineup brought with it a brief but beautiful one-year-only shape that was influenced by Ford design chief Elwood Engle in the year before he jumped to Chrysler. Unlike its contemporaries, the 1960 Ford was a sleek, slab-sided masterpiece in much the same mold that we’d see in the 1963/64 Chrysler Corp cars—years before their time. Whether that influenced Ron Erks, the owner of this 1960 Ford Country Squire wagon, is unknown, but he sure knew what to do with it. A product of the Southern California surf scene, Erks imbued the Ford Woodie with a bagged suspension for laying frame but didn’t forget to add more power in the form of a Chevrolet LS3 crate engine and 4L70E automatic overdrive. A Fat Man rack and pinion steering conversion and some Corvette Z06 brakes mean this bad boy can handle, too, but there’s no questioning this wagon’s authentic patina with cool for days.
1961 Ford Galaxie Station Wagon
Compare the previous 1960 Ford Woodie to this 1961 Ford Galaxie wagon owned by Kyle McConkay, and you could be forgiven for wondering if they were even built by the same manufacturer—but they were. The ’61 Ford’s long, low lines are sexy to start with, but when dumped on bags, slathered with mirror-finish black paint, and given a mild kustom treatment with wide Coker whitewalls on Astro Supreme wheels, this 1961 Ford long-roof really sings. Going fast in this case isn’t the point, not when the object is to be seen on the scene. McConkay has retained the factory stock 352ci FE big-block and two-speed Cruise-O-Matic slushbox but lavished mightily on the interior with stitching by Advanced Auto Trim and refined paint by Sean Ornduff Craftsmanship. This one is a far cry from Mom’s grocery getter!
1964 Dodge 330 Altered Wheelbase Station Wagon
At the opposite end of the spectrum from low and slammed is this high and mighty altered wheelbase 1964 Dodge 330 station wagon built and raced by a pair of thirty-somethings from South Slocan, British Columbia, Canada. Owner Chris Carlson and driver Pat McInnis have an unusual fixation with nostalgia altered-wheelbase machinery from the mid-’60s; their Dodge 330 wagon called El Chupacabra II is ripped right out of the drag racer’s handbook, with a 45/55 weight split that is well orchestrated by a relocated (10 inches forward) straight axle from a 1967 Dodge A100 van, some deft sheetmetal work to reposition the 8.75-inch axle 12 inches forward, and a 437ci Max Wedge making upwards of 640 hp. That’s all a huge oversimplification that makes this Dodge 330’s 11.1-second quarter-mile e.t.s sound easy, but what’s really impressive are the 2-foot wheelies El Chupacabra II is famous for!
1964 Pontiac Tempest Wagon
It’s one thing to take an existing car design and fix it up, but it’s quite another to create a model out of thin air that never existed. That’s exactly what Ed Roethel did to create this one-on-none 1964 GTO station wagon. Starting out with a four-door 1964 Pontiac Tempest station wagon, Roethel embarked on his GTO project by securing the all-important two-door Chevelle wagon sheetmetal pieces he needed for the two-door conversion. New Lemans quarter panels, a healthy frame from a 1965 Buick Skylark, and the hood from a 1964 GTO were mated to a junkyard LS1, 4L65E automatic overdrive, some C5 Corvette brakes, and a truckload of restomod handling pieces from Global West, Hotchkis, and Penske. With the flawless application of 2002 Cadillac Vermeer Green and 18-inch Torq Thrust wheels wrapped with Nitto rubber, it all comes together in a package that looks as if it rolled off the assembly line this way.
1960 Chevy Parkwood Station Wagon
John Dodson has the heart of a hot rodder but the practicality of a seasoned dad: When he found this 1960 Chevy Parkwood wagon with perfect patina, he realized it would make the perfect hot rod to let his kids climb on outside without inducing a coronary in him. He’s also road tested the LS2 long-block and its companion 76mm turbo to the tune of 164 mph on the open freeway—apparently that’s the point where the raw turbo power is overcome by wind resistance. The LS-transplanted Parkwood has lots of help cranking out mid-11-second timeslips, thanks to a built 4L60E automatic overdrive, a Moser 9-inch rearend with 3.50:1 gears, CPP 12-inch disc brakes, and a brace of suspension upgrades from Global West, CPP, KYB, Hotchkis, and Ridetech. Dodson’s long-roof was all built by him; as a dealership mechanic, he not only has the chops to get it done, but thanks to an understanding employer he also had a place to do the work late at night after clocking out.
1974 Chevy Chevelle Station Wagon
If you feel envious of large aftermarket companies with deep pockets, unlimited budgets, and engineering resources as far as the eye can see, you might want to temper your judgement that without them doing important research, we’d have a very hard time piecing together our relatively ordinary hot rods. This 1974 Chevy Chevelle station wagon—owned and tweaked by Holley—has all the hallmarks of the perfect project car. Its A-body chassis was built by the millions across four GM divisions, and as a wagon was picked up on the cheap with intentions to develop the many Holley LS swap parts offered by the company. This sweet ride has quite the pedigree; a boneyard 6-liter LQ9 truck engine is fed boost via an air-to-air intercooled 76mm turbo, and it has no problem pulling down high 10-second timeslips. And yet as a wagon, it makes for an excellent calling card on HOT ROD Power Tour with room for eight and all their stuff. It’s been a labor of love for the Holley engineering crew, and you never know what new products you’ll see on it at this year’s LS Fest! Do yourself a favor and check out all the deep details of this Chevelle wagon here.
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