Forget The Station Wagon: Family Van!

Illustration for article titled Forget The Station Wagon: Family Van!

We have a lot of love for station wagons around these parts, and rightfully so. However, even though I was a kid in the 70s, during the heyday of the station wagon, my family never had one. This makes me one of the few members of Generation X to have no childhood station wagon memories. No long road trips in the ol' Country Squire or Kingswood Estate for me and my sisters. Instead, we had a van, a real no-frills passenger van. A 1973 Chevy Beauville, with a Q-Jet-equipped 350 and the spartan all-luxury-option-delete interior package.


No bubble windows or 8-track player in our van, just a steel box with a couple rows of cloth-covered seats and a crackly AM radio. Industrial carpet of the sort you'd use for good forklift traction in a warehouse and pop-out windows ideally suited for sucking in HC-rich exhaust. It rattled and squeaked and bounced, and the differential howled like crazy once it had a few thousand miles on the clock, but it always worked. Going to the beach? Just pack everyone in, then invite the neighbors and their kids to come along- you can pack a lot more people when you don't worry about child seats (or even seat belts). The red-and-white Beauville was a family legend; purchased as part of a Minnesota-to-California move when I was six, it survived a rollover accident during the cross-country drive, lived through both gas-line crises of the 70s, and stayed in the family long enough for me to crash it as a young hoon. It lived on long after that, though; according to the BAR smog status website it passed smog as recently as 1997, and it may well still be on the road today.


We always had Suburbans or vans. Went from Michigan to Colorado several times in the late 60's early 70's in Suburbans then out east several times in a 70's Ford van. A buddy in High School had an early conversion van with bubble mushroom shaped windows and "Mojo" painted on the hood.

I keep one around for hauling gear and dirt bikes up north. My current one (my fourth) has 240,000 on the clock, a leaky extended fiberglass top, fridge, sink, 3 captains chairs and two benches that face each other in the back and convert into one giant bed.

Unfortunately I don't have a very frisky wife.