1975 Chevrolet Wagons Brochure
When the wagon was king
Although not entirely extinct, the legacy of station wagons in North America is sort of like that of the dinosaurs. Each for a time was prolific, but then curiously and en masse retreated to the annuls of history.
As debates continue over what caused the dinosaurs’ demise, there is certainly no shortage of theories and speculation. Same holds true for the station wagon.
But in 1975, things were different and the wagon was king. I present to you a 20-page brochure that showcases Chevy’s offerings for family-size and utility needs that surpassed what four doors and a trunk could provide. I also included some old pictures from the early 1980s of my parents’ wagon, a 1975.
Okay, I’m going on record stating that a 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Estate station wagon, with simulated wood paneling, is a part of the foundation of my love of cars.
Now that I’ve come clean, I’ll add that it wasn’t the only or necessarily most influential car. Nonetheless, it left a significant impression on me because of the time I was exposed to it as a youngster. It was the same period I realized my interest in cars.
Rambling nostalgia aside, the subject brochure is not limited to information on the Caprice or even its equally capacious Impala and Bel Air brethren. No, wagons were so popular in the 1970s that Chevy left nary a front uncovered.
The “practical family of wagons”
The cover, below, offers a summary of what’s inside the brochure. The first wagons presented are described by Chevy as their “regular-size” (i.e., full-size) models, followed by mid-size and compact offerings, then a full-size van and two sizes of sport utes. The level of attention each receives in the brochure seems proportional to its standing on that front page pyramid.
(Each of the brochure’s pages in this post have been provided in two sizes, my usual gallery size and an extra-large version; click on the “L” and “XL” buttons next to each image to view the corresponding size. Naturally the “XL” files will take longer to load.)
Full Size: Caprice Estate, Impala, Bel Air
The first pages inside the brochure show the very model of car that helped shape my earliest perceptions of cars, the Caprice Estate wagon. Ours was just like the one shown in the pages immediately below, complete with Dark Brown paint, faux “Mozambique” wood paneling, brown vinyl interior and disappearing rear door and glass.
I’m less verbose on the other models in the brochure. This one simply brings back a lot of first hand recollections I wanted to share.
Pages four and five, below, discuss the Impala and Bel Air wagons, the “value” and “basic” models, respectively. (It’s sort of a tragic irony that Bel Air had been relegated to the lowest model by this point. Over the course of about two decades the nameplate took a spectacular plunge in meaning. In 1953, when it was introduced, Bel Air was the brand’s top-of-the-line option.)
Perched atop Chevy’s 1975 model hierarchy, the Caprice Estate was bestowed a unique front end, as can be seen when comparing the brown car above to the green and red cars in the image below. Most noticeable outside, the headlights were made more prominent on the Caprice, the grille continued into the bumper, and the front and front-side marker lamps were relocated to the bumper and lower on the fender, respectively.
Above, the right panel demonstrates two features that I remember playing with on the family car. First, the Glide-Away tailgate, with optional power operation. There was a key slot just above the right tail light. Turned one way (I forget which) the window slid up, into the roof, and was stoppable at any point; turning it further made the door slide down; turning it further yet made both retract simultaneously. When the key was turned the other way, the door and glass would close, similarly. Ingenious. The design still allowed room for a large concealed storage compartment below the rear floor panel. The power assist option also included a dash-mounted switch (toggle style) that allowed for remote operation from inside the car.
The farthest right panel, directly above, shows how access was gained to the third row. Seating in the rear was for two that were separated by a large carpeted mound, the rear differential (although, to my Hot Wheels it was a menacing hill of doom). Funny thing, after several years of family-style wear and tear, that carpeting and a layer of insulation had separated along a seam at the top. It didn’t take long to figure out that long trips made the differential really hot.
On most long trips we traveled with the seats down and sleeping bags rolled out anyway, which provided plenty of room for three kids. In fact, if you read page four of this literature, you may have noticed that, even in 1975, the ability to handle the ubiquitous 4×8 sheet of material was considered validation of cargo carrying credentials.
Continue to page 2, below.