Jet-Age getaway cars

raustin |

Wagons haul tons of fun to 2012 Concours d’Elegance of American at St. John’s

Story and photos by Angelo Van Bogart

For the past several years, car selection committee members Greg Cockerill and Tony Hossain have helped add color and chrome to the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s in Plymouth, Mich. (formerly the Meadow Brook Hall Concours d’Elegance). Since the duo’s personal interest lies in cars of the late 1950s and early 1960s, they have dazzled attendees with long, low, lithe American cocktail cruisers that would have made Frank and Dean drool. This year, they hauled in more brightwork and splashed more color than any past year with the Jet-Age Station Wagons class, and the July 29 concours crowd loved it.

“We had a lot of fun watching people [react to the cars],” Cockerill said. “It was a generational thing. A lot of people would look at them and say, ‘We remember them from when we were kids.’ Younger people like my kids would look at them and see how it used to be — it was educational for them. For a lot of people, if you had just said wagons, they would have thought of just stodgy old stuff, but to see the variety of styles and colors featured in that class, I would like to think it was a pleasant surprise to people that knew wagons.”

There’s little question that the late-1950s and early-1960s cars that comprised the class are hot, not just for their flash and flamboyance, but because a growing number of people can relate to them through modern pop culture.

“Between TV shows like ‘Mad Men’ and ‘Pan Am,’ there seems to be a lot of interest in that area,” Cockerill said. “It has been really successful for [the show].”

One of the rarest station wagons in the Jet-Age Station Wagons class was 1959 Cadillac collector Robert Waldock’s Broadmoor Skyview station wagon. Just six were built to escort Broadmoor Hotel guests up Pike’s Peak. The wagons were built on Cadillac’s commercial chassis by Superior Coach, a company best known for building hearses and ambulances. As tall as the fins appear, they’re actually about 1 inch shorter than fins on a standard ’59 Cadillac.

For this year’s Jet-Age Station Wagon class, Cockerill and Hossain put together a group of 12 vehicles that would have made even June Cleaver and Jane Jetson fight over a winner. The field was composed of a 1,000-point 1957 Chevrolet Nomad loaded with options, a special-order 1961 Chrysler New Yorker, a 1957 Oldsmobile Fiesta, 1959 and ’60 Buick station wagons, and examples of the super-rare 1959 Cadillac Broadmoor Hotel Skyview, 1958 Rambler Ambassador hardtop station wagon and 1958 Packard 58L station wagon. Acquiring the diverse selection took more than a year’s worth of planning.

“What Tony and I have done from the beginning, we focus on a theme and then from the theme, we lay out if we were king for a day, what cars would we want?” Cockerill said. “Knowing we have to limit it to 10 or 12 cars, we start looking for what we think are the best ones we can find.”

Richard Saute’s 1959 Mercury Colony Park uses traditional wood decor on a jet-age design. The restoration of Saute’s wagon was finished within days of making its debut at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s, and the work was worthy of Mercury’s top-of-the-line wagon offering.

Their mission was accomplished. Your editor judged the class with former OCW editor Terry Boyce and Susan Sage, a Ford Motor Co. design director of interior and exterior color and materials, and the winners were extremely difficult to determine from the strong field. In the end, John and Lynne Cote’s 1961 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon was awarded Best in Class, while Robert Waldock’s 1959 Cadillac Broadmoor Skyview wagon, Joseph Carfagna’s 1959 LeSabre wagon and Richard Saute’s 1959 Mercury Colony Park each received Lion Awards. If there’s one guarantee for next year, it will be that the color and chrome will return, and judges will have another difficult time determining winners.

“Tony and I have had excellent success with the jet-age theme and doing different twists on it, and it would not be unreasonable to expect some twist on that same time frame for next year,” Cockerill said.

To get updates on the 2013 show, visit www.concoursusa.org.

In the  meantime, here are more Jet-Age gems…

OCW reader Milt McMillen’s 1958 Packard station wagon has been famous for much of its life, even when it was sitting in a field in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan many years ago. After McMillen acquired the wagon, other late-Packard fans came out of the woodwork with pictures of the car while it languished, and even while it was on the road. It’s just one of 159 Packard wagons built in 1958, all of which were based on Studebakers.

 

Two finned Buick station wagons graced the Jet-Age Station Wagon class, including OCW reader Joseph Carfagna’s 1959 LeSabre finished in its original red-and-white paint scheme. Carfagna said his wagon was in very solid but tough shape when purchased, but his family now enjoys the amount of effort that went into reviving the “Delta Wing”-styled machine. Although the entry-level Buick station wagon for 1959, this LeSabre was well-equipped with air conditioning, power windows, roof rack, tinted glass and power antenna.

 

Judged to be the most jet-age wagon among those displayed was John and Lynne Cote’s 1961 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon. The Cotes’ car has been featured in OCW, and the Cotes are regular contributors to the Old Cars annual calendar. Their wagon is one of 760 built and was special-ordered for Arthur Knorr, Broadway producer for the Miss America, Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants. The loaded wagon includes dual air conditioning, Sure-Grip differential, power windows, power door locks, power seats and the 413-cid V-8 fitted with dual carburetors with 300-style cross-ram intake manifolds. The car also has special Goodyear Captive-Air tires.

 

The first four-door hardtop station wagon to hit the highways was the 1958 Rambler Ambassador, and of just 294 built, AMC collectors Frank and Elaine Wrenick’s example is one of just two known to exist. Their car has always been loved, and it still retains its original interior, which remains in fine condition. The couple purchased this car in 1981, long after it had been built as a demonstrator at a Holland, Mich., Nash dealership.

 

OCW reader Jack Tokie and his wife brought this 1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 Fiesta hardtop station wagon, one of 8,981 built. This isn’t Tokie’s first 1957 Oldsmobile — he bought a Super 88 Holiday coupe new, and long after that two-door hardtop left his life, he and his wife bought this wagon that had been modified. After much work, the wagon looks new again, and to top off the restoration, Tokie installed the original air cleaner from his first ’57 Olds, which he uncovered in a family member’s rafters.

 

 

 

4 Responses to Jet-Age getaway cars

  1. Larry says:

    I don’t think that the 58 Rambler was the first 4 door hardtop station wagon to ‘hit the road ….below it you show the 57 Olds….. and the 57 Buick may have been one of the first also ..Larry

  2. Ken Ellegood says:

    Besides the 57 Olds FIesta there was the 57 Buick Caballero wich was also a 4 dr hartop

  3. Steve says:

    By 4 door hardtop, they mean a 4 door without a post (b-pillar) like a 4 door sedan hardtop convertible.

  4. charles labella says:

    I was surprised and pleased to see the Chrysler wagon from the show; I saw it at the Grand National show in Shelbyville, TN in June of this year; thought it was really special at that time. Thanks OCW for showing these wagons.

Leave a Reply