Not all concept cars are far-future, starry-eyed fever dreams of a future populated with atomic self-driving space shark-pods; sometimes they’re just a normal car with one more pretty good idea jammed in. That’s pretty much just what the 1966 Ford Galaxie Magic Cruiser was: a mostly normal Galaxie with one very cool feature, a feature that I’m kind of baffled never made it to production on any car I’m aware of.
That feature was this: the Galaxie coupé was given a long, steep fastback design, something that was becoming very popular at that moment, and unlike most fastbacks of the era, the rear wasn’t just a trunk, but an actual hatchback. More significantly, it wasn’t just a hatchback, it was a hatchback that, when raised, would convert the car into a badass, three-row shooting brake/station wagon.
I’m pretty certain that anyone who has ever owned a hatchback has lifted the tailgate up to a level where it’s horizontal, forming a nearly unbroken line with the roof of the car, and imagined how the car would look as a wagon, and perhaps even wondered what if there was some way to fill those two triangular and one rectangular area with glass or metal to somehow transform the hatch into a little wagon?
You’ve done that, right? It’s not just me. Of course, you have.
I know that designers at Ford considered it, which is why they instructed famed car customizer George Barris to convert the Galaxie into such a wonderful metamorphosing beast. Ford seems to have requested that the transition from fastback to wagon happen very quickly. In the end, the car was able to hydraulically and electrically lift that hatch into the wagon configuration in seven seconds.
I think the result is pretty fantastic; the car can be a normal, sporty two-row fastback, but when you need to carry more cargo, people, or both, you lift that hatch into the wagon configuration, pop up that third-row seat and boom, you’ve got a wagon.
I mean, sure, you could just always have a wagon, but we all know damn well that cars are not rational things, and something that converts like this is just fun and, as a result, worth doing.
It’s not entirely clear if there was a way to simply open the hatch without opening the full wagon configuration, but it’s easy to imagine how such a setup could work, with the side panels able to be latched or unlatched from the hatch at will, and the rear window sliding up from the tailgate:
That’s a very quick sketch, of course, but you get the idea: the hatch can be raised normally, or latched to the side panels to form the wagon’s roof.
Aside from a bit of extra weight, this type of system isn’t especially complex, and could have been applied to any number of production cars; it’s certainly less complex than the hardtop powered convertible roofs we’ve been seeing for years, for example.
Manufacturers have played with some degree of fastback-to-wagon conversions, but it’s always been pretty clunky, either requiring swapping out rear roof panels (think Nissan Pulsar NX) or using inadequate materials (Pontiac Aztek tent) so while there’s been some interest in the concept, so far no manufacturer has decided to really do it right.
This 50-plus year-old concept from Ford does do it right, though, and I feel like it’s time for a production model to give this a fair shot. Now seems like a good time, anyway, as there’s interest from carmakers in selling half-ass fastback versions of full-sized SUVs—wouldn’t it be way cooler to have a much more dramatic fastback design that converted, excitingly, into a bigger, boxier SUV?
Of course it would!