5 Potent Station Wagons From the Golden Age of Muscle Cars

1963 Pontiac Tempest Super Duty Wagon 15 photos
Photo: Mecum
1963 Pontiac Tempest Super Duty Wagon1963 Pontiac Tempest Super Duty Wagon1963 Pontiac Tempest Super Duty Wagon1966 Dodge Polara Wagon1966 Dodge Polara Wagon1966 Dodge Polara Wagon1969 Ford Country Squire 4291969 Ford Country Squire 4291969 Ford Country Squire 4291970 Buick Estate Wagon1970 Buick Estate Wagon1970 Buick Estate Wagon1970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser 4551970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser 455
During the sixties and early seventies, American carmakers didn't settle for stuffing their most powerful V8s into the engine bays of two-door coupes and convertibles but also made them available in otherwise plebian station wagons.
For some enthusiasts, myself included, there's nothing more appealing than a high-performance wagon.

Blending sports car-like performance with unrivaled practicality, these vehicles have been pushed to the brink of extinction by SUVs in recent years, but they're still around.

Factory-built performance wagons reached their peak in terms of popularity during the 2000s and early 2010s when AMG Mercs, M-badged BMWs, and even American models like the Cadillac CTS-V or Dodge Magnum SRT-8 were available in wagon guise.

But wagons with potent engines have a long history on the market, and although not as popular as their two-door hardtop, fastback, or convertible siblings, they were around during the golden age of muscle cars.

1963 Pontiac Tempest Super Duty Wagon

1963 Pontiac Tempest Super Duty Wagon
Photo: Mecum
Though the trend of transplanting a powerful V8 engine from full-size to intermediate models started many years earlier, when Pontiac introduced the GTO package for the Tempest-based LeMans, it kickstarted the most exciting era for American, factory-built performance.

But, a year before launching the GTO, Pontiac built a limited-edition Tempest wagon that became a cult hero on the drag strip.

Built to compete in the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) factory experimental class, the wagon was another near-forgotten development of the Super Duty program that gave birth to several Pontiac-badged, drag-strip legends during the early 1960s.

As the name implies, the cars were powered by the iconic 421-ci (6.9-liter) dual four-barrel Super Duty engine capable of delivering well over 400 hp.

As Pontiac engineers were looking to gain an edge over the competition, they figured out a way to transplant the race-bred V8 into the engine bay of the compact, first-gen Tempest.

In the winter of 1962, the engineering team put together twelve Super Duty-powered Tempest, of which six were two-door coupes and the other six were four-door wagons.

The latter, which were chosen for their near-flawless 50-50 weight distribution, became the fastest grocery-getters of their era, achieveing quarter-mile runs in the low 12-second range.

Though theoretically street legal, the six Super Duty Tempest wagons only saw action on the drag strip.

1966 Dodge Polara Wagon

1966 Dodge Polara Wagon
Photo: Hemmings
First introduced in 1960, the Polara became Dodge's all-new full-size model range, a status which it held until the early 1970s - albeit with a three-year exception (1962-1964) when it became an intermediate.

Produced in four distinct iterations, the Polara was available in various body styles, including a four-door wagon.

In 1966, a year after the launch of the restyled, third-generation model, the range welcomed Chrysler's new 440-ci (7.2-liter) big-block V8.

Naturally, the humongous wagon that was almost as long as a school bus could be ordered with a 440 under the hood.

With the 335-hp big block between the shock towers, the land yacht became a pretty potent family car. Without a trunk full of stuff and no passengers, it could sprint from 0 to 6- mph (97 kph) in 7.5 seconds, which was pretty impressive for such a large car.

Today, a 440-powered 1966 Polara is extremely hard to find since the model was never as popular as the two-door hardtop version.

Consequently, we were unable to track down a restored example of a 440-equipped version, so the survivor pictured above is actually a 383-powered '66 Polara.

1969 Ford Country Squire 429

1969 Ford Country Squire 429
Photo: Mecum
Ford helped make the station wagons popular, and for more than four decades, its main family-oriented model was the Country Squire.

A trim package for the first two generations and a stand-alone model for the following six, the Country Squire also popularized woodgrain side panels and the famous Magic Doorgate that allowed the rear door with its power window to fold down like a classic tailgate or swing open on its side like a passenger door.

Though building a performance-oriented version of the Country Squire was never on the menu, for the 1969 model year, the freshly redesigned seventh-generation received a potent 429-ci (7.0-liter) big-block V8 on the optional engine list.

While it still looked like the typical family car, the 429-powered Country Squire had 365 hp on tap, which helped it accelerate to 60 mph (97 kph) from a standstill in 7.5 seconds, which was pretty impressive for a 4,586-pound (2,080 kg) wagon.

1970 Buick Estate Wagon

1970 Buick Estate Wagon
Photo: Bring a Trailer
Since 1964, Buick was out of the wagon game, intead foucing on upscale full-size sedans or full-blown intermediate gentleman's muscle cars.

However, that changed in 1970 when the Estate Wagon was added to Buick's full-size lineup.

Based on the B-body platform, the new Estate shared its front end with the Buick Electra and aimed to compete against the Mercury Colony Park and the Chrysler Town & Country.

Under the hood, the 5,000-pound (2,500 kg) upscale wagon hid Buick's 455-ci (7.5-liter) big-block V8 mated to a three-speed TH-400 automatic.

Though it wasn't the high-performance Stage 1 version found in the GS and GSX, the standard 455 was still good for 350 hp.

While that power-to-weight ratio meant it felt nothing like a 1970 muscle car, the gargantuan Estate Wagon could smoothly accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (97 kph) in a respectable 7.8 seconds.

1970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser 455

1970 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser 455
Photo: Bring a Trailer
In 1964, Oldsmobile introduced the Vista Cruiser as a new intermediate station wagon.

Built on GM's A-body platform, it was the Oldsmobile counterpart of the Buick Sport Wagon, Pontiac Tempest Safari, and Chevrolet Chevelle Greenbrier.

In 1968, the entire GM intermediate model line was redesigned, so the second-generation Vista Cruiser was born.

With the front fascia borrowed from the Cutlass and its exclusive fixed-glass, roof-mounted skylight, the Vista Cruiser was available in either six or eight-passenger configurations.

Until the end of production in 1972, the Vista Cruiser was powered by three versions of Oldsmobile's big-block V8, with the 455-ci (7.5-liter) being the most potent.

Rated at 390 hp, the 455 helped make the wagon feel more like an actual cruiser and less like a four-wheeled snail. With a 0 to 60 mph (87 kph) acceleration in the low 6-second range, it actually felt muscular—albeit without passengers and luggage.
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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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