The Full-Size Station Wagon Manifesto

LEAD2

I’m truly excited about the return of the (more-or-less) full-size, rear-drive, V-8 powered sedan, as rendered by the good folks at GM. Now, we need a movement that forces a few manufacturers to bring back the full-size station wagon. To that end, it’s about goddamned time somebody put together a full-size station wagon manifesto. These are our demands:

We don’t need all-wheel drive

Ford Wagons

Crossover SUVs sell because people who can’t drive in dry conditions are convinced that three inches of snow will render their car immobile.

My father drove a 1976 Camaro home during the height of the Blizzard of ’78. How? He owned a set of snow tires. And not those fancy soft-compound Hakkapilettas, either. Old-school bias ply tires that looked like they’d be at home on a Diamond REO.

Spend six hundred bucks on a real set of snow tires, and another six hundred on a class teaching you how to drive in the winter, and we can all drive rear-wheel drive station wagons again.

We had sex at least once, and have a family as a result

Impala Wagon

My daughter recently celebrated her ninth birthday and we took her and five of her friends to dinner. My wife thought we’d need to take two cars, until I reminded her that we have a 1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon in the garage.

I flipped up the rear-facing seat and folded the front seat armrest, and we took six squealing girls and two adults – all with their own seatbelt – on a roadtrip none of us will ever forget. I had to stop every three miles for a Chinese fire drill – can you still say that?  – because the girls all wanted to experience every one of the eight seating positions available.

Do kids do that in your Caravan? I didn’t think so.

We like to sit backwards and sideways

Rear Seat

There’s some magic to sitting in the way-back. You can sit forward in something like a minivan or an SUV, but turning around to face the car following you feels like an adventure.

Last year, my daughter and her friend were sitting in the third row seat facing backwards. I was driving through the center of town. Suddenly I saw blue lights ignite my rear-view mirror. I groaned, imagining a $300 ticket, plus a rising insurance bill for something like a bulb out or a registration sticker I forgot to apply to the license plate. It took me a second to realize that the girls had been waving to the officer and he threw on the lights for their entertainment. He pulled in the police station and waved as he did it.

A wood-sided wagon is like a rolling public relations campaign.

We like cars – real cars – but occasionally need to haul plywood (and falcons?)

Town and Country

There’s nothing that rolls down the road like a full-sized American car. You can talk about European handling and razor-sharp steering, but a big American car has presence on the road, and if it’s properly maintained, there isn’t a car built today that offers that impeccable ride quality.

But every now and then, we need to pick up something of the 4×8-foot variety. Compact trucks won’t haul it, and neither will SUVs. I can lay all the seats down in any Ford, Chrysler or GM full-size wagon and freight it to the roof with sheetrock while the onboard compressor groans to life and fills the rear load-leveling shocks.

And then I can’t go to Lowe’s without having a 20 minute conversation with whoever happens to park next to me.

We haul trailers

Monaco Wagon Towing

For the occasional thing that won’t fit in a wagon’s cargo area – like a motorcycle, for example – I keep a 4×8 utility trailer I made out of an old boat trailer in the back yard. With a receiver hitch, the 1996 Buick Roadmaster is capable of towing 5,000 pounds, thanks to a full frame and the LT-1 V-8 up front.

Five thousand pounds is serious towing capacity. You’d have to step up to something like a Dodge Durango to get close to it, and then you’re into it for $40,000. I’m into my Roadmaster for $3,100, plus $350 for brakes, and I probably get the same fuel mileage as the Durango.

The full-size station wagon: It just makes good sense.

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