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.

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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.

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DISCUSSION

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.