The Wagon Queen Family Truckster and all its glory… it was the true star of National Lampoon’s Family Vacation.
In the mid-1970s, the station wagon—by then known as “the sports wagon”—fell on tough times.
America’s dalliance with the station wagon is a story as old as at the automotive industry itself, the original design owing its origins to the railroad industry, where they were used as commercial-only vehicles to shuttle passengers to and from hotels.
The love affair, whose history deserves an article all its own, peaked between the 1950s and early 70s. They were the apex of functionality and practicality: reliable on long-distance trips, replete with ample storage, comfortable, and perfect for families large and small. But by 1973, auto-manufacturers began flying a little too close to the sun.
Designs became bigger, clunkier, more overwrought, and largely thought of as badly, decadently, excessively over-styled. The 1973 oil crisis, which jettisoned gas prices from $3 to $12 a gallon, didn’t help the campaign for these V8-engine wielding mega-cars, but notwithstanding the political climate, the wagons of that era were widely regarded as a P.I.T.A. to drive.
No movie better sums this up than National Lampoon’s Family Vacation:
Enter the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. Built specifically for National Lampoon, it served as a biting commentary on the wagons of the 1970s. And to this day, it counts itself among only two iconic movie cars to actively satirize the American car industry (the other being in the National Lampoon Family Vacation remake), with its not two, not three, but four sets of Dodge Diplomat headlights, two tailgate latches, acres of wood trim, and metallic, pale avocado green paint job.
However, by the late 1980s, American car design cleaned up its act. Though eclectic, the station wagon returned to its roots, moving away from the more ornamental features.
Had Clark Griswold had his way, he would have driven away in the Antarctic Blue Ford LTD Wagon like this one for sale in Austin, Texas.
Want your own Ford LTD Wagon? See what’s available on CarStory lot right now. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find one with wood paneling.
The 1987 Ford LTD Wagon Crown Victoria was the successor to the wagons parodied in National Lampoon’s Family Vacation. Streamlined, elegant, and not a bad drive, either. And so the wagon was America’s ultimate vacation vehicle again… That is until the Dawn of the Minivan, just a few years later.