1964 Ford Country Squire wagon
1964 Ford Country Squire wagon. Click image to enlarge

Article and photo by Bill Vance

The first factory production station wagon was introduced in 1923 by Durant Motors in its Star brand, but station wagons didn’t really catch on until after the Second World War. Station wagons got their name from the wooden-bodied vehicles used by hotels to transport their guests from the railroad station. Originally called depot hacks, the term station wagon gradually evolved.

Although several manufacturers built station wagons during the 1930s, the market share was very small. By 1941, annual wagon production was only 30,000, of which approximately half were made by Ford, making it the leading wagon company.

When automobile production resumed after the Second World War, companies returned to building pre-war designs, including wood-clad wagons, but since they were costly to produce and maintain, their market was limited. That changed with the introduction of the 1949 Plymouth Suburban, the first popular car-based all-steel station wagon. There had been the tiny Crosley and Jeep-based all-steel station wagons, but the Crosley was too small and the Jeep didn’t give real car-like driving ease.

Burgeoning new suburbs where public transit was scarce or non-existent were the natural habitat of the station wagon, but there was resistance to the original cost and maintenance of wood-clad bodies. It wasn’t until the introduction of the all-steel body that the wagon’s popularity soared, providing young families with the comfort of a car and the utility of a small van.

Again Ford became the wagon leader, and although they made regular steel wagons, called Country Sedans, it was the wood-clad Country Squire that became the quintessential suburban status symbol. It performed the necessary hauling duties with a measure of prestige. The Country Squire name made its initial appearance in 1950 when Ford began advertising its County Squire station wagon, although the name would not actually appear on the vehicle until the following year.

At this time, another important change took place in the wagon when Ford made the middle seat fold down to produce a flat floor, although the third (rear) seat was still bolted down. With the middle seat folded, the rear seat removed, and the tailgate lowered, a loading platform of over 2,438 mm (8 ft) long was available.

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