A new infographic from H&H Classic Parts shows the evolution in design of Chevrolet wagons, starting in 1935 and ending in 1966. The graphic includes artist renderings and notes for key wagons during this time period, which was arguably the ‘golden era’ of the station wagon.
“The 1935 Carryall was used for work and for passengers, and it was a revolutionary vehicle when it debuted. Of course, today we call it the Chevy Suburban,” says Tray Smith, vice president of H&H Classic. “Like the Suburban, most of today’s popular SUVs and crossovers can trace their lineage back to the classic American wagons from the 50s and 60s.”
The graphic tackles the mixed meaning of the word ‘wagon’ head-on, as the Chevy Carryall is regarded by many to be a truck. The Carryall was mounted on a truck chassis and featured removable seats. For many wagon enthusiasts, the Carryall does not fit in the wagon category at all.
“Is the Carryall a wagon? I don’t know. I can definitely see it either way,” says Smith. “But the fact is, you can’t really talk about classic Chevy wagons without talking about the Carryall, so it’s on our list.”
Many early Chevrolet wagons were used primarily to haul tools and for commerce, but demand for affordable family transportation in the post-war period led to a boom in wagon sales and variety. The 1949 Styleline wagon, for example, sat 8-9 passengers, and buyers could choose a wood-sided or all-steel vehicle.
The 150 and 210 wagons of 1953 sported a grille with five teeth and a large bowtie emblem. Their features aligned with Chevy’s path of catering to families and workers. A family of eight could opt for the lower priced Townsman with a 106-hp “Thrift King” engine or choose one of the upgraded trims. The Handyman advertisements boasted power steering and seats that folded away for “extra loading space.” It too came in several trim levels.
The first year of the popular Tri-Five series included the Beauville wagon as an option. This 4-door wagon sported a slightly boxy profile and sat up to nine passengers. Of course, 1955 was also the year Chevy introduced the 2-door, lower-slung Nomad. In ’56, the Beauville joined the 210 series, but the Nomad lived on through 1957 as a Bel Air. A ’57 Nomad is a particularly rare find but the Nomad nameplate resurfaced in the 1960s.
“If you own any of the 150, 210, or Bel Air wagons from 1953 to 1957, you’re lucky,” Smith says. ”Because so many early Chevy wagons were used as work vehicles, they suffered some abuse and many ended up in the junkyard. I envy those with one of these wagons as a restoration project.”
With the 1960s on the horizon, more American families hit the new highway systems and Route 66 for summer road trips, and Chevrolet introduced four new wagon models. In 1958, the basic Yeoman didn’t even offer armrests, so those with a larger budget could opt for the Brookwood. It wasn’t the luxury model but did include armrests. The 1959 Bel Air series included a Kingswood trim with a third seat. The Bel Air Parkwood was a mid-level that sat only six.
Only 33,000 Lakewood wagons were produced for the ’61-’62 model years, but this rare collectible shares most of its mechanical parts with the Corvair, so it’s relatively easy to restore. The 1962 model year was dominated by sales of the Chevy II and Nova wagons. This was the first time Chevy had the wagons share a nameplate with the car.
Two years later, the Chevelle series reverted back to the tradition of individual nameplates: Greenbrier, Concours, and Concours Estate. The wagons remained in the Chevelle line-up until the series ended in 1977.
When most people of a certain age think “station wagon” a version of the Caprice comes to mind. Introduced in 1966, its simulated woodgrain exterior was a nod to the old woodies of past eras. In production until 1996, the Caprice wagon is frequently seen on TV shows, including Bewitched and The Simpsons.
You can see the full graphical history here: http://hhclassic.com/n-12901-the-early-evolution-of-the-chevy-wagon.html
About H&H Classic:
H&H Classic Parts offers over 20,000 parts for classic Chevys, many made in the USA. Parts are also being added daily in all vehicle catalogs. From the hard to find to the major overhaul parts, H&H has it all. To learn more, visit http://hhclassic.com.