Q: Hi Greg and I enjoy your nostalgic car columns in our area newspaper and on the Internet. I’m a retired guy who has always liked the station wagons from the 1950s through the 1970s. I know you like station wagons, so I’m wondering first why more collectors don’t restore station wagons and second some info on the value of these station wagons compared to the cars? Thanks much, William from upstate N.Y.
A: William thanks for your kind words and to answer your first question about not seeing many station wagons, well, that’s easy. The reason is there aren’t that many wagons out there anymore, especially from those golden years of six and nine passenger wagons in the 1950s and 1960s.
Because of this scarcity, station wagons are becoming the favorites of many collectors these days, both amateur and professional. I remember so many great looking wagons from the 1950s, especially when I used to lean forward in the back seat of my dad’s ’55 Plymouth Savoy sedan and look out the back window to see how many station wagons I could count on many a four-hour trip during the 1958 to 1960 era to visit my grandparents.
As for values, most everyone agrees that a station wagon from the 1950s to the 1970s may never bring the big dollars like a 1970 426 Hemi Challenger, but wagons these days just might surprise a collector as to pricing. (OK, there were a few 426 Hemi Dodge Wagons in the mid-Sixties, which I mentioned in last week’s column on the Hemi engines and they are worth big money).
One good example of increasing wagon values is the Edsel, which was produced from 1958 to 1960 and noted as a major flop. Easily the most valuable of these Edsels are the Villager and Bermuda station wagons, which bring two to four times as much as the Edsel cars. And, according to my information, station wagons have increased in value from 10 to 20-percent the last three years with some models over 30-percent. And, as you don’t see many wagons crossing the Mecum or Barrett-Jackson auction blocks compared to cars, trucks, muscle cars and hot rods, the collectors now know that when a 1950s-1960s wagon goes up on the auction block, it’s a rare piece and they give their full attention.
For those reads interested in getting into this fascinating hobby, there are many nice station wagons out there in the $12,000 and less category, including compact and full-size models. Entry level and affordable collector wagons include AMC Hornets from 1970 through 1980 (they were re-named Concords in 1978), and Chevy, Ford and MOPAR wagons through the 1970s. If you choose a wagon from the 1950s or 1960s, they are usually priced higher because fewer are available in decent shape.
I still like the Dodge wagons from the later 1950s, and those Chevy Brookwood/Parkwood/Kingswood wagons from 1958 to 1960. The choices are limitless, and some wagons with real wood on the side known as “woodys” will cost substantially more. Also notable is the 1955-57 Chevy Nomad or Pontiac Safari, which were two-door sporty wagons available with performance engines of the day.
I also remember the Oldsmobile Vista Cruisers where you could look out of the top. As for the really big wagons, you were talking Buick, Mercury, Pontiac, and Plymouth full-size behemoths, followed by the smaller but impressive Ramblers, from Ambassador to compact American. Also on the compact side were the Dodge Lancer and Plymouth Valiant that came to market in 1960. Other compact wagons include the Ford Falcon, Chevy Corvair, Chevy II and numerous compact Rambler wagons of the era.
So, be it a 1959 Studebaker Lark or a 1958 Mercury Colony Park, there are many station wagons out there to enjoy if and when they turn up at the nation’s car shows or show up in my column.
Thank you for bringing back fond memories of the station wagon era, Charles. On the positive side, Buick has a new station wagon in its 2018 Regal line, and they even call it a “Tour-X Wagon.” That’s a nice step forward for us station wagon fans as the words “station wagon” has been pretty much shunned for at least 30 years now in American automotive marketing.