A Wagon for Wagon Duties

Cruisers can do everything.
Once we put a new battery in it, we took it all the way home with no problems.
The deep red interior is a sign of the times.

True, we’re primarily a sports car magazine—stick shifts, overhead cams and independent suspensions—but sometimes you need a cruiser. Our criteria for this purchase was simple: chrome bumpers, automatic on the column and a V8.

Then we started thinking more. Why not a wagon? Wagons are cool, right? Okay, maybe they weren’t cool when we were 12, but a couple of decades later having something with a way-back seems just so right.

Wagons based on muscle cars can command premium prices. We’re looking at you, Vista Cruiser. Woodies have been priced into the stratosphere.

We figured we’d either go big or go home. Some of the biggest passenger cars turned out by GM were their full-size wagons built between 1971 and 1976, Curb weights were up around 5000 pounds. Room for nine was not only possible but easy. And then there was the Glide-Away tailgate.

These aren’t boring people-movers, either. Check out the lines, including the ones formed by the rear window. These things are actually pretty cool.

After doing some due diligence, we found the right car about an hour away from us: a one-owner, all-original 1975 Pontiac Catalina Safari. It’s not a loaded model, but we like the simplicity. And it still has a 400-cubic-inch engine topped with a four-barrel carb. This particular one came with service records dating back to early 1976. Mileage is just 103,000.

Their a/c no longer works, and AAA needed to replace the battery so we could drive it, but it seemed perfect.

Price? We paid a little less than $4000 for it, and the hourlong drive back from Orlando was totally uneventful.

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View comments on the CMS forums
RHCorley New Reader
8/15/13 2:10 p.m.

Gotta love hot rod wagons. Although this one is 'stock' right now, you have to start with a blank slate and this one looks like it has great potential.

The vinyl seats REALLY need cloth inserts so you won't adhere yourself to them in warm weather, A/C or not.

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