General Motors produced the Vista Cruiser from 1964 to 1977, and it was their bestselling, most popular station wagon. It is also one of the models that perfectly describes suburban America in the ’60s and ’70s. The Vista Cruisers were all large and could seat up to nine people. Also, they always came with V8 engines. In the ’70s, Vistas had a long list of optional extras like wood grain trim and the Clamshell tailgate.
The Clamshell tailgate was GM’s patent they used on all the big station wagons of the early ’70s. This included Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, and of course, Oldsmobile. This type of tailgate was a power-operated system that would slide the tailgate into the trunk floor. Such a design created unrestricted access to the luggage compartment. Along with the powerful engines and cool styling, the Clamshell tailgate was one of the most popular features of the Vista Cruiser.
The station wagon popularity started to drop in the late ’70s along with the economic recession and fuel crisis. The big, thirsty long roofs weren’t rational transportation anymore because buyers wanted smaller cars or foreign models. However, one of the models that retained its fan base was the Caprice Wagon. And Chevy produced it from 1977 to 1990 with minimal changes. The Caprice Wagon was one of the last classic, boxy American station wagons that featured room for nine passengers.
It came with simple but durable mechanics and with numerous extras. Despite the minivans of the early ’80s and their rising popularity, better fuel efficiency, and price, the Caprice Wagon kept on selling. It became one of the symbols of the ’80s American suburbia lifestyle, along with Chrysler’s K-Cars and the Ford Mustang.
The legendary Roadmaster name returned to the Buick lineup in 1991 after a 33-year long hiatus. And this wagon graced their freshly styled luxurious sedans and station wagon models. The car was basically the same as other offerings from General Motors in the same class. However, the Roadmaster had some more luxury options and one interesting engine, turning this comfy cruiser into a muscle car.
However, the Buick engineers found a way to install a Corvette LT1 5.7-liter V8 engine into the Roadmaster’s engine bay. The LT1 had 300 HP in the Corvette, and in the Buick, it had 260 HP. And this was more enough to turn this heavy wagon into a proper hot rod. Despite the curb weight of over 4,400 pounds, this car could outrun most muscle cars of the day.
For years, Cadillac was without a proper performance series to compete with BMW or Mercedes. But finally, the V-Series was born. It was all that Cadillac lovers dreamed of with its powerful engines and world-class handling. With its suspension setup and exclusive production, the competitors took notice when Cadillac rolled out their new V-Series models. Arguably the most successful was the second-generation CTS-V model they produced between 2008 and 2014. Under the hood was a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 with 556 HP, making the CTS-V the most powerful performance sedan on the market. The suspension and the rest of the drivetrain were advanced and up to the task.
Most car fans considered the CTS-V the full package and one of the best cars available. Cadillac produced three body styles. So the CTS-V came as a sedan, a coupe, and interestingly, as a wagon, too. The rarest of the three was the CTS-V Wagon, which shared all mechanic components with the rest of the V-Series models. However, the wagon body style was something Cadillac buyers didn’t expect. The car was still a blast to drive and extremely fast, but most customers preferred sedans or coupes. In fact, some buyers weren’t aware the wagon existed. And that is why the CTS-V Wagon is rare, but somewhat of a forgotten model and a definitive future collectible.
The Chrysler 300 C is probably the last true boxy-looking American sedan with big V8 power and a chrome grille. But, it is a successful model that has been on the market for almost 15 years. During that time, Chrysler produced numerous variants and versions, but one especially interesting model is the mighty SRT-8 Touring. A competitor to the BMW M5 or Mercedes E-Class AMG, the 300C Touring was the performance station wagon version of the 300C sedan. With a 6.1-liter V8 Hemi engine pumping out 425 HP and a glorious soundtrack coming from the twin tailpipes, the SRT-8 was a fast and capable long roof. The 0 to 60 mph sprint took around 4.9 seconds and its top speed was over 170 mph.
Unfortunately for Chrysler, the recession that shocked the car industry in 2010 killed the SRT-8 Touring and lots of other performance models. But fortunately, an SRT-8 costs approximately $10,000 today, which is a steal. Not only you will get a classic American muscle wagon with all modern luxury features, but you’ll also get timeless styling. Plus it has the legendary Hemi V8 and 425 galloping horses to power it. Moreover, if you don’t like Chrysler’s design, you can always opt for the Dodge Magnum SRT8. It is basically the same car but with a Dodge front end.
The Colony Park was a line of luxury full-size station wagons the Mercury division produced from 1957 to 1991 in six different generations. This was the perfect car for suburban America, fulfilling the need for big, comfy cruisers.
The best generation was between 1969 and 1978 featuring the biggest models with engines ranging from 351 to 460 V8. In those days, the Colony Park had hidden front lights, wood grain panels on the side, and a long list of optional extras. And most car enthusiasts considered the Colony Park as the Lincoln among station wagons.
In the mid-70s, station wagons were limited to suburban families and small businesses. But the Cadillac marketing team thought it would be cool to offer a super-luxury long roof. They based it on their biggest and most expensive model, the Fleetwood, and cash in on the extravagant body style and unusual combination.
They named the finished product the Castilian. It was a massive station wagon they built on Cadillac’s biggest platform, which they equipped with their biggest 500 CID V8 engine. Customers could order those limited production models through a Cadillac dealer. However, CoachWorks LTD built and delivered them to their customers.
In the late ’50s, Chevrolet presented the Corvair, a revolutionary compact car with a rear-mounted, air-cooled, flat-six engine. This was a big step for Chevrolet since Corvairs were the total opposite of other cars from the company. They featured a different concept, technology, and design.
Chevrolet presented the Corvair in few different body styles, but one of the most popular was the station wagon. It wowed customers with its big front trunk and room for six passengers, It even had some respectable space in the back.
Always flirting with bankruptcy, AMC was forced to explore the limits of conventional car classes and present new concepts to stay profitable. And one of those experiments was the Eagle. It was a passenger car with Jeep-derived all-wheel drive and great off-road capabilities in the form of a wagon.
The result was a surprisingly capable vehicle with the comfort and luxury of a sedan. Yet it had compact dimensions and relatively low weight, giving it great off-road characteristics. The Eagle was one of the first crossover models in the world. It is only today you can see how important and influential this car was for automotive history.
For decades, Studebaker was a popular economy car choice, but after World War II, things started to change. In fact, the popularity of the company started to fade, and eventually, the “Stude” was forced to close its doors in 1966. But before that, the company produced one interesting wagon.
The Studebaker Lark Wagon was a compact economy model with cute styling and a wide arrange of engines. Today, people have forgotten the Lark. However, not only was it one of the first compact cars from a domestic car company, it was one of the most successful cars for a while. It also had a unique sliding roof.
One of the coolest American station wagons is definitely the late ’50s Pontiac Bonneville Safari. Interestingly, Pontiac always named its long roof models “Safari” and made them special compared to other similar GM products. One of the things that made the 1959 Bonneville Safari so desirable is the 389 V8 with 300 HP. It transformed this family cruiser into a proper station wagon muscle car.
These family cruisers are the 20 best American station wagons they ever made. If you’re looking for a comfy and spacious vehicle, one of these will fill the bill. Some are classics while others have been lost in automotive history, but they all made their mark.