Home » One Of The Best Wagon Designs Ever To Be Sold By A Horse: Cold Start

One Of The Best Wagon Designs Ever To Be Sold By A Horse: Cold Start

Cs Studebakerwagonaire 1
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Today is, as you likely know, the 3st of July, the day before the, lemme get my calculator, fif– no, fourth of July, which is, for those who aren’t aware, essentially America’s Bastille Day. As such, it’s a big deal holiday, so we’re giving everyone the day off, and today is going to be a bit of a more limited day, with a bit fewer posts. But, we’ll be serving up some of that great, flame-broiled automotive content you crave, because we care, dammit. Starting with this amazing Studebaker Wagonaire ad.

By the way, did you know there is a song called the Third of July and the odd-looking fellow on the cover here is someone I encountered a few times, decades ago? This song, and this guy:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

So, this is from that early ’90s time when lots of alternative little bands from the South were taking off. I was in Atlanta at the time, going to a college I couldn’t come close to affording on a grant that was rapidly running out, and while there I would occasionally go with friends to a weird little restaurant off Ponce DeLeon called the Unknown Surfer Cafe, or something like that. The guy on the cover up there, Lefty, he was always there, and sort of acted as wait staff, though I never quite got the impression he actually worked there. He always wore that big leather jacket, too.

Anyway, the Studebaker Wagonaire! What a machine! Studebaker had the brilliant idea to make a wagon with a retractable roof, essentially transforming it from wagon to open-bed pickup truck.

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Cs Wagonaire Ad

Thee were really clever cars, the idea coming from Brooks Steven’s series of Scimitar (not that Scimitar, another one) concept cars, one of which, the All-Purpose Sedan, which was actually a wagon with a retractable roof. The concept made it to production in the Wagonaire, along with some nice details like a little flip-down step on the tailgate.

If you look at the top image, you can see in the upper right it looks like that dude is trying to put a damn horse into that thing! A horse! Weirdly, horses were strangely present in the Wagonaire Cinematic Universe, as a talking one was employed to extoll the virtues of the Studebaker:

I like the whited-out cargo box effect there. That must have been tedious to do back then!

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I love this concept; I know it had a sort of chance at a comeback with the GMC XUV:

…but it never really caught on. Why not? This seems fantastic! I think some daring automaker needs to take at least one more crack at it. It’s just too damn cool.

Anyway, have a fantastic almost-holiday!

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Myk El
Myk El
11 months ago

I’d drive that Studebaker up to Fresno to see my friend!

One of my favorite car songs.

Kim Johnson
Kim Johnson
11 months ago

Very similar to the old jeep Wagoneer, except for the removable top.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

Came here for the MR SAFETY comments. These 1950s vehicles dont have the safety equipment of my 2023 Volvo why are they allowed on the road? I would never drive one with my kids in it.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago

The Isuzu Amigo had a manual one of these. I loved mine.

Richard Mason
Richard Mason
11 months ago

I remember seeing a number of these at Expo 67 in Montreal, the current site of the Canadian Grand Prix.They were still being built in Canada and they were all outfitted as ambulances for the event site.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
11 months ago

Studebaker had a product placement deal with Mr. Ed, probably a huge expense for them at the time, since they were already circling the drain. Alan Young/Wilbur drove an Avanti for awhile.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
11 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Even as a child I knew Wilbur’s poor Studebaker Lark didn’t have a chance.

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

Emory? SCAD maybe? I lived in Inman Park when Jody Grind was across the tracks in Cabbagetown. As a nerdy Georgia Tech student I was a little afraid of those Bohemian types. Then I learned they had good music and weed.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
11 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

I stuck with deadheads, better music, better drugs, better chicks. They bathed and shaved.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
11 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Deadheads that bathed and shaved?

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
11 months ago

Not in this world!

Patchouli is not a substitute for bathing.

Kevin McCraw
Kevin McCraw
11 months ago

I finally met someone who also owns Lefty’s Deceiver! I think I need to sit down

Dead Elvis, Inc.
Dead Elvis, Inc.
11 months ago
Reply to  Kevin McCraw

Hey man, can you scoot over? No no, don’t stand up – I’ve got a copy, too!

I suppose if the Jody Grind was gonna come up anywhere in the autoblogosphere in 2023, it would be here, but I’m just as surprised as you.

(I found my way backward to the Jody Grind via Kelly Hogan’s first solo stuff)

AlienProbe
AlienProbe
11 months ago

I had the pleasure of viewing a junked one of these up close in Keene NH long ago. That retractable roof looked like a nightmare once it quit working. Cool concept but not for long term use haha. Also, these make great wasteland rigs… I just made one a few weeks ago 🙂 https://www.instagram.com/p/Ct7IJ_eLrUm/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link&igshid=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==

DysLexus
DysLexus
11 months ago

Wow What a photo!!!
Reminds me of the good old days in the feedlots near Plains Kansas.

Where all the men wore cowboy hats and the women, including young girls, were constantly putting their hands up to an ear and pulling stuff out.
(Look again and you’ll not unsee these things)

TheWombatQueen
TheWombatQueen
11 months ago
Reply to  DysLexus

You’re absolutely right. What on earth are they doing?

Jonee Eisen
Jonee Eisen
11 months ago

It was an idea that almost killed two car companies. Maybe not in actuality, but they both spent a lot of money on those roofs and didn’t get it back.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
11 months ago

Ha. Looking closely shows the horse to have a hoof on the ground just below the rear bumper so it would seem the horse is merely in the background rather than being ill-advisedly stuffed into the Wagonaire. (One hopes!)
As late as the mid- & late-90s here in East Tennessee a local plumbing company used a Wagonaire (they might have had more than one, actually) where the utility was indeed…utilitized. Mighty cool that any business in the pre-internet 90s would keep obscure 30-year-old vehicles from an extinct marque running as part of their fleet.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
11 months ago

This is cool. I’d love to ride in “the way back” with the roof open!

Unrelated site question: Did you guys discontinue RSS updates? My RSS reader (Feedly, if that matters) isn’t showing any Autopian articles today, but I was able to get this one and a few others directly from the website.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
11 months ago
Reply to  Duke of Kent

Never mind on the RSS comment. Today’s articles just showed up — they were just on a bit of a delay.

Thanks for including and maintaining that feature. It really makes it easy to keep up with the site’s content.

Cyko9
Cyko9
11 months ago

Damn, I think I need the swingingest wagon that’ll ever be! Can’t imagine there are a lot of Studebakers around now, though. I wonder if they leaked any less than a Jeep Liberty?

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
11 months ago
Reply to  Cyko9

Unlike the Liberty, with good weather seals, Wagonaires were reliably weathertight. The seals do age out, but replacements are still available. Clogged or crimped drain tubes could back water up in the drain channels, but that’s true of any sliding roof configuration. The Liberty was just an unfortunate design.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
11 months ago

The Studebaker Wagonaire, forward control Jeeps, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile (or Frankfarter, whatever they’re calling it these days) — we need a Brooks Stevens in today’s auto design studios.

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
11 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I’d like a deep dive on Brooks by either the Bishop or Adrian. Would be interesting to get their perspective on his body of work.

BubbaMT
BubbaMT
11 months ago

I was amused by: “’63 Cruiser-America’s First and Only Limousette”, which I guess was a Lark with a “formal” roofline.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
11 months ago
Reply to  BubbaMT

Indeed. I’d like to see an article on just what constitutes a “limousette”. Just how much of this was real luxury and how much was aspirational marketing?

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
11 months ago

I have fond memories of these, I had two of them in the early 1960’s, one of them had a boat very like the one in the advert, the other came with a sporting gentleman and a gun dog. The shooty man had a big adventure, the doctor had to rescue him from my little sisters nose.

Matchbox cars No. 42.

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