Home » Here’s Some Fantastic Old Ford Club Wagons And A Strange Optical Illusion: Cold Start

Here’s Some Fantastic Old Ford Club Wagons And A Strange Optical Illusion: Cold Start

Cs Clubwagon 1jpg
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The charm of ’70s-era vans I think is pretty undeniable, unless you’ve undertaken some sort of experimental procedure to replace your heart with a wad of Antarctic Ice Shelf ice and wrap it in steel wool and old parking tickets, which I hope you haven’t, because that all sounds terrible. Let’s start today by looking at this 1974 Ford Club Wagon brochure, partially for the glorious Wagons of Club, and also because there’s a weird unintentional optical illusion in here I want to share with you.

That picture up top is so dramatically and unrelentingly seventies in every aspect – the van, the clothes, the hair, the colors, hell, even that waterwheel feels like iconic ’70s stuff. I feel like when I was growing up in the ’70s, there were always day trips to be taken to old water-powered mills and stuff like that. Did we have a sort of quiet waterwheel mania in the ’70s?

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The Econoline-based Club Wagon here is a second-gen one, no longer based on a lot of Falcon parts and now sharing lots of oily bits with the F-series trucks, like the “Twin I-Beam Suspension”  making a more robust vehicle. Design-wise, I always liked how the front end of these feels like a separate unit snugly placed into the body.

Cs Clubwagon 2

That picture right above actually gives me some strange anxiety flashbacks as a kid, taking family roadtrips. We had a Ford LTD Country Squire Wagon, so I never enjoyed that much room (and never had a cool monkey bike like that kid has) but the underlying feeling of chaos feels familiar. There’s so much stuff in that picture, and the unpacking process feels complex and involved, and that dad’s body language over there on the far left feels like he’s about one dropped something from that van from losing his shit.

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These were roomy, useful vehicles, with very clever packaging; the drivetrain was all crammed up front there (well, other than the driveshaft and differential at the rear) and much of the engine protruded into the interior, covered by a big doghouse, but still allowing access to maintenance stuff under that stubby front hood.

I mean, look at the interior layouts here:

Cs Clubwagon 4

I love these diagrams for many reasons. First, do those people seem a bit small? Maybe I’m just not used to the vast amounts of space in a Club Wagon, but they sort of seem diminutive, like, you know, me. Also notice how they’re the same drawings of people, just re-positioned and re-colored as needed. Back in that pre-computer day of design work, I suspect that multiple copies of the people on seats were xeroxed onto transparencies and placed over the van outline as needed? Honestly, I’d love to see the paste-up boards for this.

Okay, let’s get to the weird optical illusion thing:

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Cs Clubwagon Illusion1

This is an interior, in lovely mustard houndstooth, with an optional rear A/C option. But what is going on with this vent assembly? The image looks like there’s some kind of protruding intake or something that flares off the wall, toward the interior of the van, and is separated on its underside from the side wall of the van by, what, four inches? What is that? Is that what these things were like?

Then I saw another picture:

Cs Clubwagon Illusion2

It took me a minute but I realized that parallelogram-shaped end is not curved out from the wall, it’s mounted flush to it, but the angled shapes, fighting with the regular grid of the side wall upholstery, gives the illusion that it’s curving out and into the van. See what I mean? Those shapes mess with my brain.

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Cs Clubwagon 5

Another strange thing: that side mirror there, number 3, is referred to as a “Western-type” mirror, and while I have seen that term before, I’ve never been really clear on where it comes from. I mean, besides the West.

Also, that steering wheel with its separate horn ring feels pretty archaic, even for an early ’70s car, don’t you think? That’s a very ’60s wheel. I guess Econolines weren’t first on the list for the more modern steering wheel updates?

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Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
1 month ago

That Ford van just makes me want to watch the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre – again.

Robert Swartz
Robert Swartz
1 month ago

That water wheel reminds me of the old mill where the Apple family lived in Apple’s Way, which was full-on seventies at its best and worst.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 month ago

Water-wheel road-trips. Knowing a few cheap-ass type guys from that era, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that going to such a place was mostly a substitute for going someplace with actual carnival rides. “Sure Johnny, you can hang off the side for a spin or two… just watch out for the rocks if you fall. Suzie, keep an eye on your brother, I need to go back and grab my pack of low-tars out of the Vaaaaaan.”

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago

Yes weird looking. I find commercial trucks and personal vehicles based on commercial trucks are generally the last vehicles to get modern designs. Frankly those metal horn rings operate much better than copper horn slats buried under thick vinyl covers. They were desired because they were cheap, reliable, proven, and did the job. Now vehicles cost six figures and don’t do the job anywhere near as good. Why? Because manufacturers want to build one car to do everything. So now cars are expensive because many options, and suck because they don’t do any job well. Except the Miata. Noonwonders why this vehicle is so successful year after year? If they’ll stick with the program MONEY!

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

We lived near several historic sites with working water wheels in the 70s, yuu may be right.
Vans were always interesting to me because they were out of the ordinary, we had sedans and a few friends had station wagons but no family big enough for a van

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

Well back then vans were full sized on a truck frame so okay for churches but uncomfortable for families.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Yeah, station wagons could handle 3-4 kids so only really big families needed a van

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

Well my parents family 5 kids and football practice with football uniforms, American Football, fit just fine. Not too mention usually mom stuck suffering transporting the regrets dad with a Ford Fairlane 500, and other nice rides.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

So mom driving, 2 kids next to her front seat, 4 kids in the 2nd row, and 2 more in rear facing seats. That’s 9 riders all having seat belts and Noone really worried about it. I think you are a young person.
Question of the day. Are you young or old? Did your parents require you to wear a helmet on anything, and did they require you to do do anything more than get home when the street lights come on?

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Oldish, since 4 of us in the way back of a Ford Country Squire was normal, but no friends with more than 3 kids

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Slow Joe Crow

We would have 15 kids in the wagon prior to adding another mom with a wagon.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Old, but quickly after buying our ’64 F100 coach-built crewcab dad added seatbelts for all six seating locations. BTW, I own the truck now and still drive it. My SO does’nt like it as the old-style seat belts (non retracting) are not long enough to suit their girth, so has to ride sans belt. I have some longer ones, but haven’t gotten around to installing them.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Get extenders easy install

Dan Martinez
Dan Martinez
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

My summer vacation routine as a kid in the 70s: Get up, eat breakfast with entire family, do assigned chores, proceeded by free ranging activities like joining friends cycling around neighborhood, going to friends houses, city parks, playing w fireworks in July, just generally screwing around. Had to be home in time for dinner with the fam.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago

The photo of the family “unloading” the van is making me irrational. From left to right: Dad with the outboard motor, where’s the gd boat?! There isn’t even a roof rack or trailer hitch! On to the kid, “unloading the CT70, that thing weighs 150 pounds, what in the actual is he thinking he’s going to do with that? Next is that psychopathic pile of stuff, who does this? Spree killers that’s who! There’s “mom” ready to haphazardly pile up more crap. Next is little Jr. who is basically just acting as an anchor for that absolute unit of a… dog.. I guess? Or someone wearing the skin of a dog. Finally sis, who for some reason is folding dishtowels, she’s obviously the organized killer of the group. Oh or she’s searching and getting ready to burn the clothing and belongings of that hitchhiker they picked up. These people rolled up next to my camp site, I’d be packed up and gone!

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
1 month ago
Reply to  Black Peter

A great and well thought out assessment! I thought the outboard was for the motorbike.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 month ago
Reply to  Black Peter

What the frigging heck is a monkey bike?

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Hey, don’t ask me, I properly called it the “CT70”. I mean I’m not saying there’re aren’t monkeys in the van..

Jb996
Jb996
1 month ago
Reply to  Black Peter

You’re misreading this.
They aren’t unloading the van, they are loading it. They have been camping nearby on the property of friendly old Mr Smith, who owns the water wheel / cabin. But they killed him last night, and now they are loading the van with anything of value from the cabin. This is why there is such large amount of strange things, and why the father looks a bit grumpy. He’s in a hurry to get out of there. They can’t take Mr. Smith’s entire boat (no hitch on the van), so the father is just stealing the motor. The son is personally excited to steal the bike, while the mother and daughter are packing up various other valuables. For some reason the daughter really wanted to steal Ms. Smith’s nice linens.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jb996
JumboG
JumboG
1 month ago
Reply to  Black Peter

The boat is inflatable!

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
1 month ago

That… thingy.. appears to be a chase to get the HVAC into that duct above the passengers.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
1 month ago

I thought the optical illusions was going to be how it looks like a row of small windows in the back when the side door is open. But for me the illusion in the photos is a happy, carefree 70s. Not a good time for me.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 month ago

Pop is clearly a bootlegger just down from the still. They’ll head over to Jumior’s house, disguised as a typical suburban family. Once there, they’ll decant the corn squeezins’ into smaller jugs fitted into a false trunk bottom in Junior’s ‘55 Chevy. Junior will hotfoot it to Harlan County and make roadhouse deliveries while Pop and family head to the county fair. It may be the 70s, but change comes slow in the hills.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago

There’s something off about that interior for a seventies van.
Where are all the ash trays with springy metal lids.
They should be in the arm rests, seat backs etc.
You know, for the kids.

Last edited 1 month ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
OttosPhotos
OttosPhotos
1 month ago

Ash trays were the best place for bubblegum (to my dad’s dismay).

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago
Reply to  OttosPhotos

I left some sea shells in one of them in my dad’s van after a trip to the beach.
He didn’t drive the van often so they sat in there for about a week baking in the sun.
He was not pleased with the smell when he went to drive it next time.
Turns out one of those shells I found still had the mussel inside.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

We used to flip them open and closed when we were bored until Dads head valve popped and we’d get reamed.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

I can hear the creaky spring and satisfying metal on metal snap just thinking about it.
We too treated them like percussion instruments until dad lost it.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

Variations included kicking the seatbacks slugging your seatmates, emitting heavy sighs. The parents needed the half-gallon jug of CC, Crown Royal or Old Grouse if only to keep from murdering us in our sleep.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
1 month ago
Reply to  James Carson

We were back there perfecting the art of infuriation.

Timing our ashtray clicks, punches, seat kicks and sighs to the rhythm of the road. In tune with expansion joints and wiper squeaks.

Bdmp bdmp kick snap ow quit it squeak

Bdmp bdmp kick snap ow quit it squeak

Bdmp bdmp kick snap ow quit it squeak

Bdmp bdmp kick snap…

Then dad would join in with a growl like he was the lead singer of our little punk band.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

Ahh the memories, like yesterday. The behaviors appear to be genetically transmitted as all of my offspring exhibited variations of the symphony. No more ash tray clicking though as that’s now npc and have been supplanted with fighting over ipads, gamepads, DVD choice, headphone sharing and other implements of advanced civilization.

BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
1 month ago

Same

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
1 month ago

From the first passenger vans (VW Type2 “Station Wagon”, Ford Falcon “Station Bus”, etc.) The interiors of passenger vans have always felt like an afterthought. “Here’s your van. We threw in some windows, uncomfortable bench seats, and carpet, if you’re lucky.” Even to this day, the interior of the Chevrolet Express Passenger Van makes it look as though they barely care. That’s what gave rise to the 80s-90s conversion vans, the only way to get a van with a cushy (if short-lived) interior.

Last edited 1 month ago by Eggsalad
MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
1 month ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

The family vacation-mobile growing up was a 1978 Econoline with 351 Windsor and a 3 in the tree manual. I drove it for a while in my late teens/early twenties and that thing could hold near infinite amounts of skis, BMX and mountain bikes, beach stuff and a bunch of people of various states of intoxication. I miss the old Shaggin’ Wagon!

Mr. Frick
Mr. Frick
1 month ago

I miss striped bellbottoms

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
1 month ago

You see, these ’70s vans are by no means luxurious, but decently appointed inside, with car-like surfaces. My experience was different. I’m the youngest of 6, and we needed a family hauler on a shoestring budget.

My dad’s solution was first to order a ’72 Dodge Sportsman with a couple of benches in the back and NOTHING else. It was a metal box, no A/C, no radio, three on the tree, white painted steelies and bumpers.

Next up was a ’75 Plymouth Voyager, essentially the same van in a different, darker color to concentrate the summer heat better, but with an extravagant automatic. So no, I have no fond van reminiscences to offer.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
1 month ago

I wonder if the vans had extra-large steering wheels (would they have had power steering?). If so, then it wouldn’t have been shared with any of the passenger cars, so yeah, far down the list for replacement.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
1 month ago
Reply to  Jason Roth

Yeah, the vans would have had power steering. It was pretty standard on larger vehicles by then.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
1 month ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Oh well, so much for that guess.

Jason Roth
Jason Roth
1 month ago

I think it’s funny that the family is dressed the same in the first two pictures, but with different vans. That’s one way to handle the impending divorce.

PS You’re totally right about the water wheel thing

Jb996
Jb996
1 month ago
Reply to  Jason Roth

Jeeze, how did Torch and others not notice this! This is the biggest “optical illusion” here!!

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

Ah, “Club Wagon”…the best model name for any vans except for the GMC Vandura.
Still bitter they removed the “Club Wagon” moniker around the turn of the century.

“Wanna come back to my exclusive club?”

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago

“Western style” mirror must have been the Ford copywriter’s adaptation of “west coast mirrors”, the name commonly given to what had become the most common type of semi-tractor mirror — a tall rectangular mirror mounted on some sort of bars extending from the top and bottom of the door windowsill.

We need an Autopian deep dive on the history behind the “west coast” mirror appellation! I’ve seen apocryphal stories that the larger mirror style originated in Western states, where better rear visibility when rounding sharp curves on narrow mountain roads was an advantage. Prior to their popularity, trucks generally made do with little round car-type mirrors mounted on a longer metal rod that got the mirror stuck out far enough to be useful. But the image was still tiny. There are some tales that the originals were made by a company named the “West Coast Manufacturing Company” or similar, but I’ve never seen any proof. However it came about, the term has stuck.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 month ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

I was going to say, I’ve known about “West Coast mirrors” my entire half-century Autopian life, but “Western mirrors” was a new one on me, too.

Dale Mitchell
Dale Mitchell
1 month ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

better rear visibility when rounding sharp curves on narrow mountain roads ‘

The West Coast Jr mirrors on my 71 F100 are especially bad for roundabouts; the block my view of the vehicles entering the circle to the left.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago
Reply to  Dale Mitchell

With a semi, or really anything towing a long trailer, you need to watch where the trailer is tracking on sharp bends — that’s one of the reasons behind any sort of wide-spaced, large mirrors. (Anybody remember “trailer mirrors” that clamped onto the hoods of big station wagons?)

Big mirrors are always a blind spot headache. It’s why the low-mount but still large mirrors got popular on pickups and vans. some of the newer aero mirrors on semis still incur a big blind spot, but since they often attach with only one support or maybe two, but without all the bracing in the way, they still manage to cut down the blind spot a little more.

Der Foo
Der Foo
1 month ago

That AC system just seems to be a bolt on affair, which it was. I have to remind myself that back then AC was still an option……and rear AC in a van was an option of an option you selected when ordering.

My mom’s 1980 Econoline (or maybe it was a Club Wagon) had AC, but no heater in the rear. Not sure if this was by design or a missed ‘option’ when ordering it.

Later her 1989 van had a heater in the rear, but most of the time no AC*.

Quality was NOT “Job 1.” at Ford back in 1989. Every 2 years the seals would fail in the AC system and the refrigerant would leak out.

Last edited 1 month ago by Der Foo
Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 month ago

Gosh dang, I miss the age of church vans. Sure, you can still get the Nissan NV Passenger Van, but somehow it lacks the same je ne sais quoi.

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

Not in the U.S., to my knowledge.

And Chevy and Ford will still oblige with 15-passenger vans; they’re just safer than the most dangerous offenders (the high, rearward center of gravity of the 15-passenger E-350).

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
1 month ago
Reply to  VanGuy

15 passengers or go home. I’ve almost been tempted to have a large family just so I could justify buying one.

VanGuy
VanGuy
1 month ago

I’m the youngest of 6 and my family had a ’99 E-150 with a layout much like the bottom-left one in the image above. I think that was the best of both worlds because it had room for people and tons of gear. Plus, for fewer passengers, the benches came out to make more room for stuff.

BigOldAndy
BigOldAndy
1 month ago

I love 70’s vans as well. Alas, we did not have one either – I looked out the back window of a Grand Fury. It absolutely did not contain the Honda Trail 70 I wanted so badly. My 70’s dad would have absolutely had a heater hanging from his mouth during all loading, unloading, and driving. And a lot of cursing.

Chris D
Chris D
1 month ago
Reply to  BigOldAndy

The ad has some subtle sexual overtones, as ’70’s ads tend to.* Dad is almost touching his son who is posing as if removing the minibike, and recoiling to get away. The daughter is showing a little leg over there under the canopy. Everyone’s location and posture are well thought out before the shots are taken. How this would help sell a van, no one really knows.

*Google “subliminal advertising”. It’s a real eye-opener.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago

Speaking of WTH is going on in the pics, in the lead image, does Mom have a box of donuts? And is that an economy size bottle of liquor slung over Dad’s shoulder?

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

It would appear so. And, indeed, why not? Who doesn’t like donuts and booze?

SAABstory
SAABstory
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Why the giant bottle of booze? Because Doris freaking insisted they all go on this damn vacation, and it’s the only way he’s getting through it. I mean, he’s about ready to fill a big glass when Bobby’s dropping his bike off the back for like the millionth time. He just can’t wait to finally sit his ass down, take a sip and fire up a Tareyton.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 month ago
Reply to  SAABstory

Tareyton: the cigarette of choice for frustrated dads…

Car Guy
Car Guy
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Apple cider and donuts is a big thing in New England and upstate NY.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
1 month ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

That economy size bottle looks like a big jug of apple juice or apple cider; back then those jugs would be made of glass and have a finger loop by the neck for easier handling (provided you had strong fingers, lol, those suckers were *heavy*)
My family was pretty large (7 kids) plus we often had friends & long-term houseguests all on one college professor’s salary (to be sure it was easier to raise a family on one salary back then but this was at a southern university infamous for paying their professors diddly-squat though that’s since changed with very substantial increases but that was after my dad retired, alas) so we would economize with measures such as getting those big-ass jugs of beverages, especially on road trips, and big boxes of doughnuts were a treat usually reserved for such trips or other special occasions so that brochure picture, with the jug o’ apple cider and the box o’ doughnuts, is indeed wonderfully evocative of a typical large family outing in the 60s and 70s. My family didn’t have vans like that but we always had three-row station wagons, with our last one being a positively gargantuan 1973 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser in a lovely light blue with a white roof, with a roof rack, that served us well for many years albeit with woefully frequent stops at gas stations. Doubtful that such vans, with the exception of VW buses, would have been much better in terms of fuel efficiency…

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
1 month ago

This era of Econolines offered the venerable 240 and 300 c.i. inline sixes besides the 302. So there was a less thirsty option.

James Carson
James Carson
1 month ago

We had the Vista cruiser. Was the all purpose space shuttle used to move ski, hockey, football, rugby, soccer teams. Transport groceries, school kids and versitile camping transporter.

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