Tag: Murilee Martin

What Year Was Peak Wagon in America? – Murilee Martin @Autoweek

What Year Was Peak Wagon in America? – Murilee Martin @Autoweek

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MERCURY DIVISION, FORD MOTOR COMPANY

There were two model years when American car shoppers had 47 station wagons to consider. Care to guess?

With the rise of the minivan in the 1980s and the SUV in the 1990s, most Americans lost interest in buying station wagons. Oh, sure, you can still buy a new wagon here today (all of which come from European marques, if you still count Volvo as European), but there was a time when the station wagon was so mainstream that American car shoppers could choose from dozens of different longroof models. The important question here is: what model year had the most new station wagon models available in the United States? Yes, we’re going to determine the year of Peak Wagon now!

As was the case with my still-controversial dive into the subject of the final two-speed transmission offered on a new car in Americadefinitions become all-important here. There are some very important such definitions involved here, and I assume you will be very angry about my interpretation of each of them. Just as with the maddeningly wrong and probably malicious definitions I deployed when I wrote about the Chevy Rat Motor, subjectivity comes into play.

First, calling your van a wagon doesn’t make it a wagon. Yes, Volkswagen of America called the Type 2 Transporter a station wagon in its marketing materials. Chrysler did the same with the Dodge A100, as did Ford with the Econoline and GM with the Corvair Greenbrier. Warlord-grade trucks aren’t wagons, either, so you Land CruiserLand RoverJeep and International Harvester fanatics might as well begin wailing and gnashing your teeth right now. I will allow that sedan deliveries are wagons— that’s a tough call, because some of the early ones are pretty truckish and/or not-so-wagonlike— but you’ll see that the sedan delivery model count doesn’t have any effect on determining the year of Peak Wagon in America.

Second, ordinary Americans had to be able to obtain a mass-produced wagon from a licensed dealer in America, and it had to be highway-legal here at the time of sale in order for it to count toward Peak Wagon scoring. That means no oddball wagons imported by servicemen stationed in Naha or Grafenwöhr, no backyard-built wagons with hand-carved poplar bodies and steam engines, no swoopy atomic-powered wagon prototypes built for World’s Fairs, no onesy-twosy imports of Soviet wagons by spirally eyed fly-by-night entrepreneurs (this one really hurts, because I was dying to include the available-here-in-theory GAZ Pobedas and Volgas, not to mention the Moskvich 402/407), no bracketed-by-asterisks homologation specials, no wagonified Detroit luxury sedans or muscle coupes custom-commissioned by high-ranking Detroit executives for their wives. No, no, no!

Read on

1966: INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER MAKES LUXURY PICKUPS – Murilee Martin @Autoweek

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Some suspension of disbelief required.

In the middle 1960s, North Americans weren’t limited to just Chrysler, Ford and GM when shopping for a new Midwest-built pickup truck — they could buy a Gladiator from Kaiser-Jeep or a C-Series made by International Harvester as well. Here’s a magazine advertisement for the 1966 IHC pickups.

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JUNKYARD TREASURE: 1985 PONTIAC FIERO 2M4 – Murilee Martin @Autoweek

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Like the Chevrolet Corvair that preceded it by a couple of decades, the Pontiac Fiero became a pretty decent sports car… just before The General killed it off. The 1984-1987 Fieros had Chevy Citation front suspensions in the back, Chevy Chevette front suspensions in the front, weighed 200 pounds more than the Toyota MR2… but looked pretty sharp for cars intended for low-cost penny-pinching commuter duty. You won’t see many Fieros today, but I see the occasional example in junkyards, especially in California. Here’s an ’85 in a Silicon Valley self-service yard.

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1972: J.C. WHITNEY OFFERS COMPREHENSIVE SELECTION OF PENNY-PINCHER HUBCAPS – Murilee Martin @AutoWeek

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Want GTO or Mustang “wheels” for cheap? Magnificent mags? J.C. Whitney had you covered in 1972.

Chicago’s J.C. Whitney has been around for 104 years now, though most of its business today happens online. Back in the printed-catalog era, the J.C. Whitney catalog was the source for parts and accessories

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JUNKYARD TREASURE: 1977 OLDSMOBILE CUTLASS SUPREME COUPE – Murilee Martin @Autoweek

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One of the biggest-selling motor vehicles of late-1970s America, now used up.

The 1973-1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass, and particularly the sporty-yet-affordable Cutlass Supreme, proved perfectly suited to the automotive needs of a gigantic swath of North American car shoppers during the dark days of the Malaise Era. The Cutlass was comfortable and reliable, and it looked sharp; it stayed at or near the top of the vehicle best-seller charts during its production run. Though millions of these cars were made, you won’t see many of them today. That makes today’s Junkyard Treasure an especially noteworthy one.

Read the article and see the photos here

Car Clock of the Week: 1984 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Brougham – Murilee Martin @Autoweek

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A bit of fun from Autoweek

We return to the Car Clock of the Week series with a type of clock that was all the rage in the 1970s and well into the 1980s: the mechanical “digital” timepiece with motor-driven reels. Honda used this style of clock in Accords and Preludes and Ford installed them in Lincolns; General Motors ran mechanical-digital clocks in some higher-end cars of the period, but nearly every last one I’ve tested has been dead for decades. Yes, you were lucky to get five years out of one of these clocks, but I’ve found one in a discarded Olds in Denver and it works perfectly.

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JUNKYARD TREASURE: 1987 MERKUR XR4TI – Murliee Martin @Autoweek

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The Sierra XR4i was very much the poor relation of the Sierra Cosworth in the UK back in the day. The Detroitified version of the German-built Ford Sierra XR4i, now in a Denver junkyard.

North America gave a lukewarm-but-not-inconsequential reception to the European-built Capri and Fiesta during the 1970s, and so Dearborn decided to give another shot to Euro-Fords during the 1980s. The Merkur brand offered two models: the Scorpio luxury sedan (aka Ford Scorpio) and the sporty XR4Ti hatchback (aka Ford Sierra XR4i). I used to see at least a couple of XR4Tis per year, during my junkyard adventures, but the supply appears to have dried up in the last few years. Here’s an amazingly well-preserved ’87, complete with biplane wing, in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.

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