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In 1949, Chevrolet launched an all-steel four door station wagon which won such widespread acceptance by private owners that Ford was left in catch-up mode with its two-door single spinner woody. By 1952, Ford had matched Chevroletís Handyman wagon with the Customline-based Country íSedan four-door all-steel station Wagon and the modern wagon was on its way. As the names suggest, the traditions merged. 

"When a suitable work and family vehicle was not available ... home conversions of British vans were common."

Apart from the Peugeot 203 and a stumpy Vanguard wagon, the only wagons Australians could afford were those based on miserable British delivery vans. Necessity became the mother of invention. 

When a suitable work and family vehicle was not available locally during this period, I recall my father purchasing an Austin A40 panel van. Within a week, it was transformed into a family wagon after he had cut windows into its sides and he and my mother had made up a removable back seat. 

They were not alone as home conversions of ex post office Ford 10 vans, the Hillman-based Commer van and Vanguard van were common. 

These converted vans were shockers. The fixed windows provided no ventilation and their barn doors would rattle and shake over Australian roads and suck in the dust by the barrow load. My country friends got the better end of the deal. They recall travelling for hours on end in the open air in the back of the familyís FJ or Ford V8 ute, rain, hail or shine, propped up against the cabin with thick cushions and wrapped up in blankets. 

But this couldnít go on for ever. As the kids grew up and money started jingling in Aussie pockets, there had to be a better way. 

The British Ford Zephyr wagon was a flawed sedan-based conversion irrelevant to Australia. Holdenís neat FJ wagon prototype went nowhere as it would only have extended the long wait for a sedan, van or ute. 

The turning point was a US Motorama sports wagon concept based on the Corvette in 1954 Called the Nomad, it actually succeeded in making a wagon look as smart as a sedan. Its rear styling arrived on a Nomad production model based on the 1955 Chevrolet.

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Last Updated July 21, 2001

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