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Functional as they were, station wagons were generally marketed as upscale. Not that low-end models weren’t available, but ads and commercials for wagons generally put a luxury spin on the situation. And, at least for a while, inextricably linked to the premium wagon experience was the woodie look.
On any given weekday, I receive at least half a dozen story pitches, all of which arrive via email, and most of which include links to digital press kits.
To perform a quick case study on how different the automotive world is today from what it was in 1979, consider the following:
By 1979, there was light visible at the end of the tunnel for performance-car enthusiasts. Though horsepower was still wanting in most cases, cars were growing leaner, and arguably better built.
By the time the 1976 model year rolled around, the trusty round headlamp had been an auto-industry norm for more than 70 years. Much of what drove this stylistic consistency was the easily replaced one-piece sealed-beam lamp, the use of which became U.S. law in 1940.
What price luxury? In 1979 terms, that price was around $8000… because that’s about where the base prices of the near-luxury Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight and Buick Electra kicked in. Just a little higher up the dollar tree we find the Chrysler New Yorker.
Big is a relative term. In regards to American passenger-car engines, “big” in the early Seventies meant 460 cubic inches from Ford; 440 cubic inches from Chrysler; and 454, 455, and even 500 cubic inches from General Motors.
by Don Sikora II
Note: The following story was excerpted from the October 2015 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine.
What has two doors; is 218.2-inches long; and is white, pastel yellow, and wood-grained all over? If the first thing that pops into your mind is the special-edition 1979 Buick LeSabre Palm Beach, you may have just identified your perfect set of cheap wheels.
Sometimes, automotive models names aren’t so much bad as they are inappropriate. It’s worth noting that when Cadillac rolled out a compact model based on the Chevrolet Cavalier, the brand came up with a new name for the car—Cimarron—instead of carelessly appropriating a heritage moniker along the lines of LaSalle Sport or Deville II.
For American compact cars, 1979 was really the calm before the storm. Though the clean-sheet Ford Fairmont had been rolled out the year before—and with it a Mercury clone dubbed Zephyr—the move to front-wheel drive was yet to come, a transition that would introduce Americans to a new generation of cars dubbed “X” and “K.”