27 October 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #13

I was looking back over the cars I've selected for my Fantasy Garage so far, mainly because I'd reached the end of the 1960s and I was feeling like I might have overlooked something. Of course I can always circle back, but my compulsive nature makes me do things like this.

One omission that became obvious right away is the lack of any station wagons. This is interesting because I've always liked wagons and have a couple in mind for later installments. Last year I wrote about my appreciation for a 1960 Chrysler Town & Country, which led to the first car in my Fantasy Garage, the 1960 Chrysler 300F convertible. There must be other wagons from the '60s that I'd want to include, right?
1964 Plymouth Valiant wagon (Old Car Brochures)
Sure, and I especially like smaller station wagons, from that period in roughly the first half of the '60s when carmakers were offering a range of models in different sizes, trying to have something in their lineups for everyone. Chevrolet had the Chevy II/Nova; Chrysler had the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Valiant; and Ford had the Falcon and Mercury Comet.
1965 Dodge Dart 270 wagon (Love to Accelerate)
The small wagons didn't last, though. The Chevy II/Nova was gone after 1967, the Valiant/Dart after '66. The Comet moved up to become Mercury's midsize model in '66, and the Falcon wagon from that year on was just a variant of the midsize Fairlane wagon with a Falcon front clip, so it could no longer be considered a compact. (It is interesting that the car companies returned to smaller wagons in the '70s, but I think I'll discuss those another time.)
1965 Ford Falcon Futura wagon (Old Car Brochures)
That leaves the period from 1960-65 when all three compact models were available as wagons. But of course, this is where things get a little tricky. In 1960 Chevrolet's compact wagon was the rear-engined Corvair, but I never thought it was all that attractive. The 1960-62 Plymouth Valiant was a curious beast, somewhere between compact and midsize, and hobbled with peculiar styling. There was a Dodge variant for '61 and '62 only called the Lancer, with a slightly better-looking front end. (When I was a very young child, around four or five, we had a next-door neighbor who had a Lancer wagon.)
1962 Oldsmobile F-85 wagons (Love to Accelerate)
The Dart was also an oddball, the lower-priced and less attractive of Dodge's two full-size car lines. It wasn't until '63 that the Valiant and Dart became platform mates and true compacts. Meanwhile, for 1962 Chevrolet introduced the Chevy II as a more mainstream alternative to the Corvair. The Falcon and Comet got a restyle for '64-65 that improved their looks considerably. So those are my semifinalists, along with a couple of GM's other compacts, the 1961-62 Pontiac Tempest and Oldsmobile F-85. (Those got enlarged for '63 and, in my opinion, were made less attractive in the process.)
1961 Pontiac Tempest wagon (History of Cars)
These cars, with six-cylinder engines, offered the best combination of economy and utility available at the time. Anecdotally, I've heard that Falcons and, to a lesser extent, Valiants and Darts have become the preferred transportation of hipsters in certain cities, so that lowers the likelihood that I would choose one of them, though the renowned durability of Chrysler's Slant Six engine might nudge those cars back into contention.
A 1963 Chevy II wagon in a season four episode of Mad Men
Really, any of these wagons would be a fun addition to the FG, but for me I guess it ends up in a three-way tie between the various GM models. I'll stipulate that if I chose a Nova, it would be a 1965, only because I prefer some of the small details like the grille and tail lights.

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