Good morning! It’s time to get back to work from the three-day weekend, but the good news is that it’s only a four-day week. Today we’re looking at a couple of long-roof people-haulers that you don’t see too often. But first, let’s see where you landed on Friday’s flatheads:
Looks like the Hudson wins this race. Honestly, I expected it to go the other way, based on the comments, but the Hudson’s rarity and electric-blue paint seem to have given it the edge.
In the mid-1980s, the minivan was just beginning its ascendancy in the family-hauler market. But every manufacturer made a station wagon variant of almost every sedan they made. Because of their utilitarian nature, most wagons got used, and used up. This makes them a rare sight these days, but here on the west coast where cars don’t rust, it seems there’s at least one good example of pretty much anything you can think of still kicking around. Today, I’ve found what was once a common station wagon, and a contemporary that was a rare sight even back then. Let’s take a look.
Engine/drivetrain: Turbodiesel 2.3 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Woodburn, OR
Odometer reading: 193,000 miles
Runs/drives? Runs great
Peugeot diesels aren’t very well-known in the US, but in some other parts of the world, they’re legendary. This car and its predecessor, the 504, are still in regular use in Africa, particularly in station wagon and pickup truck form (yes, Peugeot made pickup trucks once upon a time). Peugeots are the cars folks can count on to get the job done, whatever the job may be, sure as Kilimajaro, well, you know. In the US, the Peugeot 505 competed against other midsized European cars, all of which were moving upscale in the mid-’80s. Hard thankless work was the furthest thing from its mission here; this car was meant for the affluent suburbs.
A rough, clattery diesel engine didn’t really fit the mission of an upwardly-mobile ’80s lifestyle, but if Mercedes could get away with it, so could Peugeot. Diesels had a brief burst of popularity in the US around the time of the second gas crunch, but US consumers lost a lot of confidence in oil-burners after the Oldsmobile diesel fiasco. But diesels not built by GM are actually very durable and reliable. This one runs very well, according to the seller, and has had a lot of recent work done to it to keep it running well. It still has a few issues, mostly electrical. It does have a small coolant leak, but the way the seller describes it, it sounds like it’s just the reservoir leaking.
Inside, the 505 fits the yuppie-mobile brief a bit better. This S model came with leather seats, but a previous owner swapped them out for velour. At least they’re in nice shape. And in the grand French car tradition, the 505 rides very smoothly.
The rest of this car is in good cosmetic shape as well. It was repainted about ten years ago, and it never had any rust. The seller swapped the US-spec 7 inch rectangular sealed beam headlights for the composite glass European ones, and installed 15 inch wheels from a newer 505 along with new tires. Owning and driving a car like this isn’t a casual endeavor like owning a Camry or something; you end up becoming an expert in the marque, and it sounds like the seller is eager to pass on their knowledge along with a ton of spare parts and service manuals.
Engine/drivetrain: 305 cubic inch overhead valve V8, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Washougal, WA
Odometer reading: 188,000 miles
Runs/drives? Daily driven
But not everyone in the ’80s was turning to flashy European cars. For lots of folks, a new car meant a trip to the Chevy dealership, and if you really meant business, you passed right by the Cavalier and Celebrity and Malibu wagons and went straight for this big boy: the Caprice Estate. There are no surprises with this car: a cast-iron V8, a separate body and frame, a column-shift automatic, and a solid rear axle are all present and accounted for, just like they had been for thirty years prior.
This big Chevy wagon, introduced in 1977, was actually downsized from the previous generation. Not a lot; it’s about nine inches shorter than the 1976 Caprice and rides on a five inch shorter wheelbase. It’s still a big car. But more importantly, it’s almost nine hundred pounds lighter, which makes it easier for the smog-choked 305 V8 to haul it around. This one is said to run beautifully, and in fact this car is in daily use. Everything works including the air conditioning.
[Editor’s Note: Look at that ’72 or ’73 Vega in the garage! – JT]
It’s not perfect cosmetically; there are some missing trim bits around the rear bumper, and it sounds like the rear door handles don’t work. But for a thirty-nine year old car that was intended to haul kids to baseball games and on family vacations, it’s in remarkably good shape.
I guess you’d be looked at funny if you hauled your kids around in an ’84 Chevy Caprice wagon these days. It has no ABS, no airbags, no driver aids, and it probably crumples like tinfoil in a crash, at least compared to today’s safety-caged crossovers. But folks my age all spent our childhoods in wagons like these; we fought over the “way back” seat and rode around without seatbelts on and somehow lived to tell the tale.
Station wagons are essentially gone now, and no matter how much some of us might want them to, they probably aren’t coming back. You have to lift the suspension a couple of inches and slather the lower third of the body in matte-black plastic if you want to sell wagons these days. (Thanks a lot, Subaru Outback.) But what you can do is buy one of these, and say to hell with the crossovers. All you need to do is decide which one is more your style.
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)