Without question, Ford was once America’s biggest builder of station wagons. From Ford’s station wagon debut in 1929 through 1960, the automaker sold 1,970,785 wagons in total. Concurrent to this family hauler’s rise in popularity, its market segment went from 2 percent of the U.S. industry in 1950 to 18 percent in ’59. It kept rising through ’61, thanks to Ford’s 256,597-unit output, including this Country Squire.
While use of “Country Squire” first surfaced in Ford’s 1950 ads, the emblems weren’t secured to sheetmetal until ’51. It instantly became the division’s top-tier wagon, furnished with equipment that was otherwise optional on lesser models. Further setting it apart, the Country Squire was adorned with faux wood paneling in homage to its origins without the expensive upkeep.
That exterior trim remained on the updated 1961 model, decorated with mahogany-look panels framed with fiberglass maple woodgrain strips. The rest mirrored the upscale Galaxie series, including the concave grille, crisp tailfins, and circular taillamps. Cabins were equally Galaxie-based and, for the first time, the Country Squire was offered with six- or nine-passenger seating.
Coachwork and cabin were supported by a 119-inch-wheelbase chassis, the critical element being Ford’s “Wide-Contoured Frame” that offered, “more flexible inner channels for less harshness and a more gentle ride.” Bolted to it was a “swept back, angle-poised ball-joint” front/rear leaf-spring suspension system. Hydraulic shocks, drum brakes, and 8.00 x 14 tires fitted to 6-inch-wide steel wheels completed the ensemble.
Country Squires came with a 135-hp, 223-cu.in. Mileage Maker Six, or the Thunderbird 292 V-8 rated for 175 hp—power from either was sent through a column-shifted three-speed manual. Two V-8 powerplants were optional, beginning with the Thunderbird 352 Special; its high-lift camshaft and 8.9:1 compression helped produce 220 hp. The other was the new-for-’61 Thunderbird 390 Special, which was essentially a fine-tuned 352 enlarged to 390-cu.in. Equipped with a true dual-exhaust system, higher 9.6:1 compression, and a Holley four-barrel carburetor, it made 300 hp.
A three-speed manual with overdrive was optional, as was the Ford-O-Matic two-speed automatic, available with all but the 390. So, too, was the Cruise-O-Matic “dual range” automatic, offered only against V-8 engines. Other options included power steering and brakes, A/C, radio, electric clock, hood ornament, spotlamp/mirror, and a power tailgate window.