It's time for a station wagon rebound
It's not your grandfather's station wagon, but maybe it should be.
The hubby had some work done on his truck last week. The dealership loaned us a car for the three-hour interim. It was a small, SUV crossover. The make and model are incidental; crossovers are like tuna casseroles at a potluck — same basic ingredients but each one a little different.
Riding along in the passenger seat, I fished the sticker out of the glove box to discover we were in a four cylinder, four wheel drive vehicle that averaged 13-mpg. "That's all?" I said in disbelief. The hub's truck gets almost that much hauling a travel trailer behind it.
Aside from wondering if four-wheel-drive is overkill for a little four cylinder putt-putt, I tried to put myself in the head of the target market for this vehicle. All I could come up with was the stereotypical soccer mom (fill in football, softball, volleyball, dance or what have you). SUVs are the all-purpose family transportation for getting kids and stuff from point A to point B.
I suppose 13-mpg is better than a full-size SUV average mileage, so that explains the four-cylinder, Tonka-size, millennial version of a grocery getter. Looking around at the interior, I was pretty sure it wouldn't haul any more passengers than my Volkswagen Beetle, though. And I'd be willing to bet I can get more bags of groceries, garden soil or sports equipment in my little bug too.
Which brings me to the point of this. What ever happened to the good old family station wagon? Like many other things in our youth-obsessed culture, the go-to vehicle for the typical American family with 2.5 rugrats and at least one fur pet has long since lost its cool.
Wait, were station wagons ever cool? Jan and Dean certainly thought so when they sang about their '30 Ford wagon they called a Woodie. I ask you, do you think you can fit a surfboard in a mini SUV, even with the hatch open?
In the summer of 1964, my dad bought a fire engine red Mercury wagon. It seemed everybody in town knew who that wagon belonged to. So my brother's found out the time they waited until my parents were sleeping, shifted the behemoth into neutral and rolled it up the street a few blocks before turning the engine. They returned safely a few hours later and went to bed, thinking nobody was the wiser, but reports of their midnight joy ride started ringing our wall phone off the hook before 8 a.m.
The Red Pig, as the wagon came to be fondly known, took our family of six all the way to the California coast via Route 66 that summer. My sister and I are still wondering who took notes and how it all ended up in a blockbuster movie called "Vacation." For the record, our grandma didn't die (she and gramps were traveling along with us but in their own car) and Disney World wasn't closed when we got there, but everything else in that movie was eerily familiar.
Nevertheless, that big, ugly, red wagon got us and our luggage all the way to California and back in relative comfort and safety, if not style. So I ask you, where have all the wagons gone?
Believe it or not, you can still buy a new wagon — Volvo, Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen carry new models. Subaru offers the Outback and Forester — wagon-wannabes in my opinion. If an SUV and wagon hooked up, the Subaru would be their baby.
Speaking of babies, celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyonce are making them (and being parents) cool again. I predict that the first of the big three automakers to sign a celebrity spokes-family and show them all piling into a station wagon is going to sweep the market.
Move over wagon-wannabes, the new and improved Woodie, is about to make a comeback.
Judith Liebaert writes for Positively Superior and the Duluthian. She is the author of "Sins Of The Fathers," a crime novel set in Superior and inspired by a true cold case. Find her online at judithliebaert.com.