Hi all. Honored to be asked to be long roof of the month for July.
My love of Station Wagons started in the back of my Fathers 1968 Dodge Coronet. It was the stalwartly family car for 12 years since purchased new. Unfortunately it did not have the 3rd seat as it was a complete base model but I loved it even then and appreciated its usefulness. We made many cross country trips in that wagon and most of the time, due to being the youngest; I was relegated to the way back meaning I lay down on top of the luggage facing forward. It was pretty cool and I will always cherish those road trips. Since it did not have A/C, my father would open the wing windows all the way and secure them open with bands so as he drove it forced a breeze in the wagon. We also taped up newspaper on the rear quarter windows on the side the sun was beating down to try and keep the wagon cooler. It was the 1970’s and a simpler time!
Here it is around 5 years old.
Sadly, that wagon ended its life in the middle of North Dakota as we were in a catastrophic accident that literally broke the wagon into two. My father, mother and I miraculously survived it. A semi truck passed us and clipped the wagon getting back into the lane which put us at high speed directly into a concrete overpass barrier. We all 3 were hospitalized for months.
Here it is after the accident. The front end was actually dislodged from the rest of the wagon on the driver’s side.
I have always been a mopar man owning only Chrysler products (until my wagons). My favorites were a 78 Dodge Diplomat Medallion (Fully loaded with every option available) and an 85 Doge Diplomat Medallion (again fully loaded). These were my favorite cars as I loved the boxy design, comfort and I was able to work on everything on them! I also always appreciated a car that was not overly produced so they were uncommon and unique. Both had the hearty 318’s but the 85 had that nasty Chrysler “lean burn” system and sucked gas like it was going out of style.
I had been looking at getting a station wagon on and off for many years researching all makes and models. I have beagles (12 and 14 years) and always wanted one for their comfort too while road tripping. I really wanted to get a 68 Coronet Wagon in tribute to my childhood fondness of that model (and crash worthiness) or I wanted a last year (1980) Dodge Diplomat Wagon. I was also trying to find a late seventies last model of a Dodge or Chrysler wagon as they were so massive and not many made. There were detractors for all of these though. For practicality, I set my sights on late model Boxy designs having all the elements I was looking for. I always had remembered seeing a 90’s Caprice station wagon pull up to a crosswalk as I was crossing back in the mid-nineties while in Downtown Seattle. I remember it being a very unique design and one that no other auto makers were copying. It was a style that made you stop and look (and I sure did!).
So a few years ago I located a 94 Roadmaster DCM w/woodgrain (Tow pack) in the Portland Oregon area that the owners just could not drive well due to its size. They had bought it off of ebay and flew down to California and drove it back to Portland; they owned it less than 9 months. When I arrived to test drive it and pulled up behind it I was in love. It had some bent and missing trim and a dent at the rear quarter but the wagon had what I was wanting, that commanding larger than life look about it.
While I was test driving it, I could barely believe the condition of the interior. The carpets were trashed and the car looked like it was lived in from the food smears and crap everywhere in the wagon, stickers on the seats and windows, etc. Gotta love kids nowadays. The owners wanted a large car for their family but they felt this was too much to handle. The wife was the one that caused the dent, burnished paint bumps on the bumpers and bent trim about the car.
Well I bought it and drove it back to Seattle. It drove like a dream. I just could not get over the cushy smooth gliding drive of the wagon. Once I got it registered and some insurance on it, I brought it to my mechanic to have the engine and tranny gone over. It got a complete tune up, new opti, new radiator (was cracked), muffler repair, etc… It was expensive, but it really needs to be done when getting a used car.
I spent the next few months cleaning it up. New carpet, missing trim pieces, having some touch up paint done, etc. I took the spare tire out of the quarter and pushed on the dent and wham, the dent popped right back out and there is absolutely no sign it was ever pushed in! The wagon is not perfect, but in great shape. I want to keep it fairly original but have done a few cosmetic mods (listed on this forum) like removal of the rearview mirror for an auto-dim/compass version, small overhead console with awesome interior lighting, fender mounted turn indicators and added new rear coils springs with airbags and hooked the factory compressor to operate the bags. I took most of the interior out and deep cleaned and it looks pretty good and stock. I do not paln any mods for the engine.
After some clean up and adding tint:
I found a wealth of information on this forum so I joined and have learned a tremendous amount. Even my mechanic has been on when a few engine components stumped him. My login name stems from the fact that when I brought the wagon home, a fellow said “wow, a station wagon and it’s still in the shipping box”. I thought that was a hoot.
Of course these wagons can be addictive like it has for many, and I came across another in Portland but this time a 1996 LDM (towpack) w/woodgrain. The great thing is that it had the same tan interior as the 94 and bits and pieces that I had been squirreling from the wrecking yard could be readily used. This was a native Oregon car so I was not deep probing for rust. But I have been finding it! I have most of the interior out chasing leaks and found bits of rust here and there and wire brushing it and rust priming it. I want this one with a bone dry interior before I button it back up. I pulled each door weather-strip off and have found bits of bubbled rust. Also the driver’s D pillar had a dime sized rust bubble and after one winter has grown to 2 quarter sized. This is why I took the luggage rack off and am resealing/priming/sealing everything up nice and tight so I won’t be chasing leaks down the line. I have the carpet out and will try to chase the elusive firewall/seams/grommets/A-C hose/Evap tray leaks before piecing it all back together. I know both side quarter windows leak so I am dealing with that right now. I will get the car spot painted in a couple of places when done.
On this second wagon, I have attached and wired in power rear vent window operators (write up on this forum) but do not have the front door switch in yet. A mod I am contemplating on this one before I put the interior back together is to install inset electroluminescent opera lights in the rear door sail “fly away” trims. It just looks like it should have had them. Also going to put in a set of the Cadillac rear fiber optic eyes in the headliner facing forward since the headliner is out and I can access everything nicely.
Here is a photo of my beagles in the wagon in April of this year. They love the roominess of the wagon on our road trips!
This photo means more to me now that since drafting this, we just had to put the smaller beagle to sleep due to advanced heart disease. She got one last long (1400 mi) road trip at least!
Overall I have been delighted by these big Buick Wagons but disappointed by some of the engineering. I have to think that GM knew even before 1990 that the wagon was on the way out and this was their last version and their focus was to have a unique looking wagon over practical components and to use up parts. There are things that just shouldn’t be like the light weight tailgates, poor quarter glass/vent window design, non-locking down second seat, proper seam sealing, doors that do not open very wide, etc…
I plan on keeping both of these wagons as long as I can. What is spooky is that I have had 3 instances where people have come to my front door and asking if I would sell my wagon(s). The last guy rang the bell, knocked on the door and then started pounding. When I came to the door he gave me a long story of how he hated the look of these wagons when they first came out, but that now the look has grown on him. He was just insistent that I should consider selling to him. I told him “thanks but no” several times. He walked away but then came back! He said, “What about in the future? I said I plan on being buried in one of them and the other will be the flower car. He was not amused.