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Vintage Road Trip:: Station Wagons.

Image via: Lennoxnehar

Before there was the mini-van, there was the station wagon. And all was right in the world.

For many people, summer brings back memories of family vacations, which for most people in America usually involved some time spent in a car and that car was usually a station wagon.

I remember trips to Cape Cod in the family station wagon.  Towing a fishing boat no less. All of the boys crammed into the middle seat and me all the way in the back seat with the cat and the cooler and my Raggedy Anne. I mean, really. If you looked at your family photo albums, I bet you probably have a photo somewhere in there that looks like this:

Images via: Station Wagon Forums and Lah Rah.

But before the station wagon became the family car that millions of teenagers learned to drive in and make out in the back of, it was more of a transportation vehicle for people traveling on trains in the thirties.  The modified back ends that made them “depot hacks” were necessary to carry large amounts of luggage – everyone traveled by train then, remember, and you needed a car that could comfortably carry people and large amounts of luggage from the train station to home–as opposed to a truck.

Image via: Traveling mamas.

Image via: Flickr user gem66

One of the most popular early station wagons pre-WW II was the Woodie. They were made with real wood–hence the name and harkened back to when people used wooden coaches to transport large groups of people. And they are gorgeous aren’t they?

Image: Akeem’s blog.

Image: Curbside Classic.

Image: Nihat’s blog.

But the real golden age of the station wagon was during the 1950s, when baby boomers’ parents needed something to travel on all those new highways in style! I love the ads the most! Every family had one! And the wood was replaced with steel although of course faux wood paneling was still popular for many years.

Image: 55 Classic Chevy

Image: Adclassix


Image via: Paulmanon


The sixties, we started to see more European versions, like this sweet Volvo.

Image via: Fontaine Maury.

Image via Flickr.

But the “wood paneling” stayed .. And the station wagons started to get smaller (think Pinto) but still were loved.

Image via:

But the 80s were tough on the iconic gas guzzling station wagon and the mini-van pretty much signaled the death knell for these gorgeous cars, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still love them.  Vintage station wagons are still available and you can’t help but smile when you see one on the road and perhaps think back to your own childhood.

Image via: Striderv

But before I go, I must admit, I’m not just a fan of vintage station wagons, I’m a co-owner too!

We bought this sweet car the first year of our marriage with dreams of fixing it up and filling it with our kiddos for our own road trips.  And it is pink. How can you not love that? Right now it is getting more of a work out as the Peach’s playhouse, but we have dreams of future cross country trips in that beauty.

Here’s to future road trips!

PS: Speaking of road trips—our girl Jenny at Frecklewonder is having a blast of one. I highly recommend you check out the pix in progress on her Instagram (“frecklewonder”)!
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Posted in Best of Dottie, Vintage Childhood.

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29 Responses

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  1. Amber Liddle says

    I love station wagons!! We had a huge blue boat, and I distinctly remember going to Florida in it. The back was folded down so there were no seats, we just all hung out in the back playing the whole time. No car seats there!!

    Your pink one is dreamy. I bought an 81 Civic station wagon when I lived in Portland and I loved that thing even though it was a total money pit.

    • Dottie says

      Don’t think Pinkie as we call our station wagon is anything but a money pit. What we do for car love…

  2. Danielle Hardy says

    Oh my goodness!! I SOO remember my family station-wagon with the wood paneling!! Too funny 🙂

  3. Melinda says

    When Bailz was traveling, he told me that he had just rented a great car–a Malibu! I said, A 78 wagon with a V8 engine? I drove one of those.

  4. Alice says

    Love it. My baby seat was the “way back”. Ahhh, the 70s.

  5. John says

    Love those wagons. Still have one, but it’s not the same. A Mercedes wagon is like a sedan compared to the Ford Country Squire that we drove to the Cape each year. And, remember the bluefish smell that permeated that old wagon after a trip to the Cape? What a memory!

    • Dottie says

      Dad, do you remember the smell of bluefish on us? And how we caught dozens in one day and the boys tried to sell them on the side of the road?

      • John says

        Indeed, I do. And the day we motored the boat in to met you at the beach–and embarass Mom–by lugging a string of bluefish up the beach and back to car so we could go after more.

  6. jeannie says

    Loved the ones with the wood paneling! My parents had a big old white one in the 80s. I remember loving that back back seat. I also remember my dad eventually sold it to some guy that was going to turn it into a cab in Detroit.

    • Dottie says

      that must have been some sweet cab, Jeannie!

  7. Peggy says

    We not only had the kids,pets,etc. but we took many comic books, only allowed on road trips, to keep the kids quiet, and lots of otherwise forbidden candy, sodas, chips and cookies. We had few complaints from the kids.

    • Dottie says

      Except the 4:00AM wake up, but we just slept! I did enjoy the Betty and Veronica comics, tho! Thanks, Mom!

  8. adriana says

    i spent every summer of my childhood on cape cod. eastham to be exact. and every year in an old crappy station wagon. i remember when my parents finally upgraded to one with ac and i nearly died from excitement!
    this post totally took me back.

  9. jenny says

    sweet jiminy christmas I LOVE THAT VOLVO WAGON SOMETHING FIERCE!!!!!! what a beauty.

    i had a little fantasy of making our trip in a new wagon of some sort- oh, the room! but gas mileage won and we crammed ourselves into our little hybrid 😉

    fantastic post, miss dottie! and thanks for the love!!!!

    • Dottie says

      Yeah, the Volvo wagon is my fave too!

      Jenny, your pix have been the reason I keep checking Instagram daily! They are WONDERFUL! Thanks for taking us all along!

  10. Sara Sophia says

    I remember riding around facing backwards in the one my Mom had 😀 Such great memories……the best though was our Volkswagon campbus she purchased when the old station wagon bit the dust. Sigh. My Mom has always had the best taste 😉

    Thanks for this lovely bit of nostalgia <3

    • Dottie says

      Volkswagon camp bus? That might be the next vintage flashback post I do! I DREAMED of being that cool!

  11. Alix says

    I love this so much….it really brings back awesome memories. I love a good station wagon! Our family drove from Michigan to California every summer from the time i was 8 til I was 14….the first trip was done in a VW stationwagon, no A/C, no FM radio and certainly no ipads or “movies”!!!!! My parents were brave people!!! We finally “upgraded” to a 2 door Chrystler LeBaron. We were still crammed in there but at least it had air conditioning!!

    Briliant job. And I want to go for a spin in that pink lady!!

  12. 3 ring circus • heather says

    ah memories of station wagons! and sara our orange volkswagon camping bus was replaced by the big brown station wagon! no wonder those are my two dream cars!

  13. danielle thompson says

    oh my goodness, love this post so much Dottie! we had a wagon in the eighties.. looooved it. : ) Your pink one is AH-MA-ZING! 😀

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