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Vacation Wagon: 1964

        Our annual salute to the start of vacation road-trip season, first posted here 15 years ago. Everyone buckled in? Let's go!
"Great Falls, Montana. Return after 3 weeks Vacation. June 27, 1964." This Kodachrome of a 1960 Chevrolet Parkwood station wagon is from a box of slides found on eBay. View full size.

        Our annual salute to the start of vacation road-trip season, first posted here 15 years ago. Everyone buckled in? Let's go!

"Great Falls, Montana. Return after 3 weeks Vacation. June 27, 1964." This Kodachrome of a 1960 Chevrolet Parkwood station wagon is from a box of slides found on eBay. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Koolscan software

Dave. What software program do you use with your 4000? As it seems the program that came with it is only works for Microsoft VISTA.

[I use the NikonScan software that came with the scanner, on a Windows 10 workstation. To install the software on a modern operating system, you have to disable Driver Signature Enforcement. And it's Coolscan, with a C. - Dave]

283 V8

Although I agree that a 348 engine would have been a better choice for this station wagon. The 170hp 283 was the base V8 engine with just a single two barrel carburetor. The next option up was also a 283 but with a four barrel which the above wagon may have had, which would have given it a little more passing power.

Nikon Coolscan

I am having a problem with mine. Can you recommend a place that can repair them.

[There aren't any. Try buying them used on eBay. - Dave]

Those deflectors

... were supposed to keep dust off the back window

The 283 V-8

with its 170 gross horsepower is not going to have much highway passing reserve with all that weight. Cross-flags over the V on the tailgate would have indicated one of several 348's which would have given more than enough reserve. That car is 58 years old but properly equipped could have kept pace with most cars on the road today in equal comfort. A 58 year old car in 1960 by comparison was barely even recognizable as such it was so rudimentary by comparison to the 1960 version in its looks and capabilities. The same comparisons held true in all other realms of life comparing 1960 to 1902--homes, conveniences, dress, you name it. Virtually any of those later areas are not that significantly different from their 1960 versions.


We had a 1956 Ford wagon, then '61 Mercury wagon, finally a (I think) 1964 Ford wagon.

I remember one year with the Mercury, my mom ran low on gas. We were up in the mountains in a resort town. To get to the gas station, she had to reverse up hills, turn around for the downhills, turn around again for going up the next hill. What a ride.

Another time, 1965, we were in a typhoon in the current wagon. There were eleven of us in it. Another wild ride driving on a road along the bay. Waves washing over us, my mom hugging the middle of the road (there was an island we could not get across).

Wagons were great.

We've had one built for you.

To BillyB: Station wagon suspensions were designed with the idea that they would have to haul some combination of eight people and their luggage, so they did OK when loaded down. They *were* softer than contemporary pickup trucks, so the back end of the station wagon wouldn't bounce all over if there were only one or two people in it. Especially at the time of this photo, gas was 25 cents a gallon and would be that price forever, so the factory didn't mind spending a little extra weight on a beefier suspension.

Also, most of the really heavy luggage went on the roof rack, which was fairly close to being in the middle of the wheelbase. The back-back, behind the rear seat, tended to contain lighter things, like blankets, pillows, the picnic basket, and - as the trip progressed - bags of souvenirs. If Dad wanted to use the inside rear-view mirror, you couldn't stack stuff much higher than the seats, anyway.

Source: I rode in the back of a '79 Oldsmobile wagon every summer from '79 to '87. I think the longest trip we took in it was from Kansas City to Washington, DC and back.

No Squatting

Looking at all the stuff already loaded, I'm surprised the back of this wagon isn't dragging on the ground. In fact it's sitting pretty level. I wonder if dad had overload springs installed?

Miss station wagons

I miss station wagons. I prefer them to the SUVs that replaced them.
I also miss the bold bright colors that cars use to come in.

Car playground

My folks had a Ford wagon of that era. No seatbelts. Folks put a mattress in the back. Became our playground on long trips. We had no desire to "sit" in a seat.

Buckle up?

A 1960 Chevy wagon probably didn't have seat belts unless the owner installed them. The kids in the back were pretty much free range as long as they didn't make too much noise. Lots of people piled the stuff on the roof and put a mattress in the back for the kids.

It was a great way to go and most of us survived.

[Seat belts were optional on all 1960 Chevrolets. - Dave]

Deflector's actual purpose

Was to break the "vacuum" the "wall" that was the rear of that wagon created which would suck exhaust into the car if that rear window was open even a little bit. The fresh air, the snowless/cleaner rear window were merely bonuses...

Memories of summer trips

We also lived in Montana back then, and our family truckster in the 1960s was a 1963 Rambler Classic station wagon. (Yes, I suffered greatly for it among my friends.) That's what I learned to drive, and we ranged all over the western US and Canada in it.

Before that, however, we traveled in a 1949 Studebaker Land Cruiser 4-door sedan, which my dad (both inventive and frugal) had outfitted with a set of three back seats that, when covered with the mattress from our roll-away bed, filled the back seat and trunk area with a very passable sleeping unit. That's where I spent most of my time on our travels. At other times, I would climb over the front seatback into the front bench seat between my parents. That's where I was on August 5, 1962, when we were preparing to leave Crescent City, CA, and heard on the radio that Marilyn Monroe had died.

Re: deflectors

In the days before the rear window wiper on a station wagon, some folks put these on and the deflected air current would help to clean off that window to a degree. Not having either, within a mile that rear hatch would be almost impossible to see through. Been there, done that and got the tee-shirt.

This does bring back memories

We had a similar station wagon, but it was salmon (or was it mauve, or ecru?) colored with a white top (I think). It had a 460 a/c (four windows down while traveling sixty miles per hour, some times 560 with the rear tailgate window down). I remember taking a trip from Mississippi to Six Flags over Texas on U.S. Highway 82 (two lane most of the way) in Summer, 1964. The back seats were folded down, and the four of us kids had pillows, blankets, books, and board games to pass the time. It was replaced soon after with a 1965 Ford Country Squire Wagon with a/c, and fake wood paneling on the side. Instead of a rear facing bench seat, it had two small seats on either side that faced each each other.


Every August for years we travelled from Birmingham to Cincinnati for a week of visiting my parents' relatives. Before our last such trip in '69, we went through a black-and-white '57 Plymouth Savoy, a metallic-beige '63 Ford Country Sedan wagon (the one without wood on the sides) and a '67 Olds VistaCruiser. I'd love to have that VistaCruiser back today. Ours was burgundy red and my dad put red stripe Tiger Paw tires on it. Imagine a 442 station wagon.

As for Shorpy's '60 Chevy wagon, I only just noticed the homemade or aftermarket side curtains, with vertical stripes of brown, gold and red to compliment the bright red car.

Thanks, Dave, for showing us this photo again... and including all the original comments, too. Great to relive all the great summer vacation stories with everyone!

Our road trip rig

We had a '76 Chevy Beauville van, a ho-hum light brown rather than red, which made up for the lack of chrome spears with its cavernous interior: two bucket seats in front for Mom and Dad, two bench seats, and a homemade plywood bed. Strangely, all that space wasn't enough to prevent sibling quarrels.

The best story of this van was the return trip of its maiden voyage, when my uncle, who owned a small niche-market manufacturing firm, talked my dad into towing a piece of equipment from South Texas to a parking lot near Chicago, where we would deliver it to his customer from Wisconsin. We quickly got used to being asked at every single hotel, gas station, and rest stop, exactly what was the three-wheeled contraption with the hydraulically-actuated vertical roller-chain conveyor with teeth.

The looks on everyone's faces when my dad told them it was a grave-digging machine: Priceless!

Service Stickers

I remember those stickers that service stations or car dealers put on the inside edge of the driver's door when you got your car serviced. This Chevrolet has two.

Seat belts

bobdog19006 is correct in that seat belts were not standard equipment in 1960. However, they had been available as a dealer-installed option since the 50s. By 1966, they were standard in all Chevys, and by 1968, they were federally mandated.

I spent many a happy hour on family roadtrips in our '68 Ford wagon, nestled in the narrow gap between the second row and the rear-facing third-row seat, no seat belt, of course. Neither did my siblings in the third row.

Seat belts?

I don't think you heard "Everybody all buckled up?" all that much in '64. I'm not sure of the exact dates, but if you had seatbelts back then, you bought them at a discount store or an auto parts store like Western Auto or J. C. Whitney, and they were lap belts only. Three point seat belts didn't come along for several more years, if I recall correctly, and it wasn't until the government mandated new cars with ignition interlocks in the 1970's that "real men" started to actually use them.

Back then, we used to spend our vacations camping, so the car was packed to the gills, including the center of the back seat. My sister and I each got little cubbyholes next to the doors, with just room enough to sit for the trip to northern Wisconsin. My dad drove a two tone green '55 Oldsmobile Delta 88. I saw a picture of that car a few months ago, and as soon as I did, I started remembering a surprising amount of detail about the car's details. It was handed down to me when I went off to college in '64.

3 Adults + 7 Children =

1000 mile round trip to see grandma.

We kids didn't mind a bit.

As Long As

This isn't really the "End of the Road"! That's a scary title for all the Shorpy Faithful.

Looking at old red cars

makes my elbows hurt! Seemed like some of those old single stage paints, reds in particular, had to be waxed every two weeks to keep them looking decent. The widespread adoption of clearcoat finishes in the late 80's to mid 90's freed modern kids from the dreaded frequent waxing chore, thereby giving them the leisure time to start the video gaming revolution...

Re: Family Truckster

Just saw this item on TV yesterday about a real family named Griswold that had their station wagon modded to look like the Family Truckster from National Lampoon's Vacation movie for their trip to Disney World.

Procedure for Accessing the Cargo Area

We had one of these when I was a kid as well. Ours was a silver gray color. See the chrome disk on the trunk door? Upon arriving at destination, here's what you had to do:
1) Put trunk key in center slot (separate keys for ignition and trunk back then)
2) Open flap (as seen in photo)
3) Rotate flap several times till rear window is fully down
4) Reach in and grab handle to drop tailgate
Simple, huh?

See the USA in Your Chevrolet

For our family, it was a 1962 Buick Invicta wagon. Huge car designed for doing massive mileage on the interstates and that's what we did -- six or seven hundred miles a day from Indiana to the Rockies for our annual vacation.

My Favorite Car

was a 1960 Chevrolet Impala 2-dr hardtop. Bluish gray with white segment on the side, red and white interior. The first car my wife and I bought. Paid $1750 for it used in 1962. We made some wonderful trips in that car.

What a picture!

This picture takes me back almost 40 years to the road trips our family did during summer holidays when I was a little boy. It feels like I myself am stretching my legs after coming home. The colours, the moment -- one of my favorite pictures in Shorpy.

Sunday rides

We had that same car, only in light blue.

No seat belts or infant seats for us! We'd put my baby sister in one of those deathtrap baby seats that hooked over the front seat and off we went!

Third Row Seats

Fords had third-row seats in 1955. I'm pretty sure Chevy had them by 1958 at least. Chevy didn't offer woodgrain sides until '65.

Thanks for the memories

My folks had the four-door sedan version of this car, in sky blue & white. My mom used to have a station wagon, don't remember what kind, but it was memorable for its pushbutton transmission on the dash instead of a gearshift! However my favorite "finned" car was our family's Buick Invicta. Now that was a car!

Road Trrip

We had to make do with pillows & blankets. A mattress would have made it actually comfortable. I don't know if Dad didn't have the imagination for that, or just not the money. I suspect the latter.

We'd sing sometimes. It was 12 hours from north Georgia near the North Carolina line to south Georgia, near the Florida line, where my grandmother lived.

I see the moon; the moon sees me.
The moon sees the one that I want to see ...

Let's go!

I loved car trips, and I never had DVD players and Nintendo. I watched the scenery and kept a travel diary. those were some of the greatest times of my life.

Nostalgia Ain't What it Used to Be

Don't look at this picture and pine for the old days.

Change the car to a green Olds Vista Cruiser and that's us in 1969. Back then, dads bought a new station wagon to kick off the summer vacation. Dads don't buy an SUV today for that reason.

Without repeating some of the horrors already mentioned below, there was the additional joy of Mom sending back a Coca Cola bottle for one of her sons to use in lieu of a loo. If the girls had to go, we had to pull over. Not so with the boys.

Watching mom backhand-fling a Coke bottle out her window, filled with fluid far different that what was originally intended, and seeing it bounce and spill along the shoulder as we whizzed along at 75 mph (pun intended), that's about the fondest vacation memory at least from the car perspective.

Today with the daughter hooked up to a video iPod and the sons enjoying their PSP, it's a pleasure to drive for distances. Back then, we didn't play License Plates. We played Punch Buggy and Slug Bug, etc. Fistfight games.

Westward Ho

In 1951 our family, my wife, son and daughter, living in Detroit, started taking trips to Cheney, Washington, to visit my WW2 buddy. All on old state highways, no air conditioner, 4½ hours to get through Chicago and the kids loved it. Took these trips out west to the 1970s. We still go west to see my buddy and my daughter in Seattle and we enjoy crossing Nebraska on old U.S. 30. It is a treat to be off of I-80.

Road Trip

Most all of my long-distance car trips were connected with moving as my father was in the USAF. In August 1954, after being in the UK 2½ years, we got in our in our '53 Chevy coupe and went from New York City to the SF Bay Area, mostly along US 40. Entertainment consisted of looking at the scenery and checking off the towns on the free roadmaps that the service stations provided in each state. Iy being the pre-Interstate era, one did go thru many towns back then! (Excepting on the PA Turnpike) Burma-Shave signs relieved the boredom in the rural areas. We had a car radio (AM only, of course), but for some reason I can only recall it being used while crossing the salt flats west of Salt Lake City.

Family Truckster

We had a green Ford station wagon, not nearly as nice as this, and with our family of six, it was a masochistic experience to take family vacations. Every summer we said that's it, we will never do this again, until the following summer when we did it again. The best part was arriving home again, but I will say that NOT having DVD's and high tech electronic gadgets forced the kids to look out the window and they gained incredible geographic knowledge from seeing the U.S. I could truthfully call these annual trips "purgatory on wheels."

Slide Conversion

How does one convert slides to digital photos? Any website links or advice?

[You'd use a film scanner. I used a Nikon 4000 ED for this one. - Dave]

The luggage rack

is something you don't see anymore. It hung on the wall of the garage when not in use. Once my dad, who was in a big hurry, didn't secure the tarp on top properly...

We played car games, like Alphabet, Road Bingo, and License Plates, read books, colored,sang songs and squabbled. You took your chances with local restaurants. We hadn't got used to entertainment on demand, so we didn't miss it.

And to Dave Faris: It's the film. I once assured my daughter that colors when I was a kid were the same as today. "The Fifties," she said, in her narrator's voice, "were an oddly-hued decade."

Chevy Wagon

Chevy's Parkwood and Kingswood wagons could both be had with a third-row seat. And back then, for the record - wagons WERE the "SUVs" of the day!

[According to the 1960 Chevrolet sales brochure, only the Kingswood was available with third-row seating. The International Travelall and Chevy Suburban Carryall were two of the SUVs of the day. - Dave]

60 Chevy

Sadly, the third row seat had not been invented as of yet and the deflectors were used to deflect air into the rear of the stationwagon at slower speeds. I may not be an expert but I'm old enough to have ridden and slept in the back section of a folded down stationwagon. We didn't know about SUV's yet.

I still drive a '59 Chevy

I recommend owning one. In 2000 We took the ultimate road trip with mine from near the Canadian border in Washington State through the desert to Las Vegas and back up through California and Oregon. There really is nothing like seeing the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet. Cruising the Strip in Vegas was a blast. We might as well have been driving a space ship with the reactions we got. Sadly, these Chevrolets were mostly scrapped and very few survive.

Chevy Parkwood

This is a 1960 Chevrolet Parkwood. Parkwoods and Kingswoods both use Bel Air trim (mid-level). The Kingswood, a nine-passenger wagon, has the third-row rear-facing seat, and two steps on the rear bumper (one on each end just outside of where the tailgate would come down). Less obvious is that all Kingswoods have power tailgate windows, an option on the other Chevrolet wagons.

My jaw dropped

Once again the red stationwagon family blows me away. The color composition here is perfect.

These are Parents of the Year... my book. Can you imagine going across country now without all of the luxuries and Wendy's and portable DVD players and Nintendo and cell phones and credit cards?

These parents did it all the HARD way...and I'll bet they made a lot of memories that summer!

Family Truckster

This is probably what Clark Griswold's dad took the family on vacation in. It's a 1960 Chevy, and I'm guessing it's a Kingswood model. The Brookwood was the more stripped down model and I think the "full dresser" was called a Nomad. This one isn't completely chromed-out and it has the small, dog-dish hubcaps so I'm thinking it's the middle of the line model.

I think the rear air deflectors also helped keep exhaust gas from entering the rear passenger compartment when the vehicle was moving with the tailgate window was lowered. Though it doesn't look like there's room for anybody in the third row of seats for this trip. With the window up they also helped keep the rear glass clear of snow and dust.

family trips in those cars

I also spent some hot days in a car like that on the way to the grandparents. My mother flattened the second seat, put a mattress on the floor and loaded three of us and the stuff in on top of it, us and the stuff equally loose and not tied down. We whined and fought and slept our way to Cape Cod from southern NJ. My father always "had to work" (they were her parents), so she did the drive alone, I think maybe 12 or 16 hours? Seemed like forever.


As I remember it, this was less than a year after the assassination of JFK, there were race riots in the south and we (I was 14) were all starting to question attitudes towards women, blacks, hispanics, homosexuals and the culture we had grown up with. One of the more minor cultural things was the importance of your front lawn.

The Astroturf look... my eye, seems to come from the little flowers (or toadstools?) that are in the lawn. At the smaller image size, they look like specular reflections, making it seem like the grass is shiny.

[The white flowers are clover. - Dave]


These people still had a bright future ahead of them, full of great hopes for the days to come. They hadn't gone to the Moon yet, and to them, by 2007 we'd have personal helicopters and robots would run everything. The possibility of the President being indicted for a crime was unthinkable. My job as a web designer hadn't even been invented yet.

The lawn looks like it's literally astroturf. Were the colors really like that, or is it an effect of the kodachrome?

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