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.