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Featuring the Holden FE Station Wagon of John Wanner

The demand for a versatile family vehicle led to the development of the Aussie station wagon

Compared to walking, riding in the back of a ute was good enough for Australians before World War 2. But after the war there was enormous social pressure on Australian families to populate every remote corner of the nation or risk losing it. 

The wartime brush with the Japanese in the Northern Territory when Darwin was bombed was too close for comfort, and the fear of the ’Yellow Peril’ sweeping across our wide open land became a national paranoia. 

It sparked a frenzied construction boom that touched every corner of the nation. Young Aussies were encouraged to pair up and produce children, and so the ’baby boom’ was on its way. 

To feed multiple mouths, Aussie war survivors and migrants were forced to become resourceful, often building their own houses and working odd jobs on the weekends to capitalise on a huge labour shortage. The relatively small boot of the first holden struggled to swallow a Victa and you couldn’t build a house with what you could carry on its short roof. A ute’s limitations were painfully obvious by the time child number two was on its way.

The market was ripe for a new style of vehicle. Early US wagons were magnificent affairs with ash and mahogany, but they were never neverknockabout workhorses. They originated as guest vehicles for country clubs, estates and resorts when the masses still travelled by train and had to be met at the station, hence the name ’station’ wagon. Their high square rear sections had to swallow hat-wearing rear seat passengers and luggage. 

The British did something similar. Called estates or shooting brakes, the emphasis was on carrying guns and dogs for the aristocracy.

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Last Updated July 21, 2001

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