The era of the wood-bodied station wagon was just about over when Ford made an important change to its family hauler and gave it a new name -- the Ford Country Squire. Then, when all-steel wagons became the norm, the Country Squire kept alive memories of the past, mixing postmodernism and practicality.
When Ford added a fold-away middle seat to its
station wagon in mid 1950, it began advertising
the two-door, eight-seat car as the Country Squire. See more classic car pictures.
It was in January 1991 that many automotive journalists got their first look at the 1992 Ford Crown Victoria. At the time, they were told that production of the full-size 1991 Ford would end that February.
The new design was offered in just one body style, a four-door sedan. Noticeably absent was a model that had become something of an American icon over more than 40 model years: the Country Squire station wagon.
Long before the minivan was a twinkle in any Detroit product planner's eye, the Ford Country Squire established itself as the archetype of a new kind of status symbol. Perhaps no other name was as synonymous with that chariot of "baby boom" suburbia, the station wagon.
The Country Squire reached this level of fame by the curious trick of making a seeming virtue of the very thing that had previously held down wagon sales: the expensive, maintenance-intensive wood body.
At the start of the 1950s, automakers were rushing all-steel station wagons to market, cars without so much as a matchstick's worth of wood on them as a clear signal to customers that "all that" was a thing of the past. Ford, too, was preparing to embrace the new trend.
But just as the last of the genuine "woodies" was about to depart the scene, Ford brought out a wagon decorated with big swatches of simulated wood. Reserved for its plushest and most-expensive hauler, the look preserved the old image of the wagon as plaything for the leisure class but with no loss of modern convenience. Plus, Ford kept at it year after year.
As the consistent leader in the wagon market, its successes were bound to be imitated by rivals. In time, most every other brand that offered wagons had one with woodgrain decals on its sides. (Ford even copied itself, putting the Country Squire touch -- and name -- on station wagons it brought out as part of new car lines introduced in following decades.)
Find a brief history lesson on Ford station wagons in the next section.
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