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1964 Plymouth Belvedere Wagon

Dad got our 1964 Plymouth Belvedere station wagon in 1965 or '66--he never bought new cars, always used. He and Mom drove the wheels off it until it disintegrated from rust in 1973 or '74.

1964plymouthbelvederewagon

The Belvedere wagon was about seventeen feet long. That's not hyperbole--it really was seventeen feet long. It was light brown (officially, "Medium Beige"), with a matching interior. The styling was nothing striking, but the straight lines and restrained trim did give it a certain blue-collar honesty, and I always liked how the rear quarter windows wrapped around to the tailgate.

It had an automatic transmission operated by a set of push-buttons on the far left end of the dashboard, which gave it a little touch of that mid-century Drive-the-Car-Of-Tomorrow-Today! vibe. Otherwise, it was a dead-conventional Detroit battleship: big V-8 (probably a 318), power steering, power brakes, leaf-spring live-axle rear end, vinyl bench seats, AM radio. It was comfortable, with a soft ride, but not flashy. No air conditioning, but it had triangular vent windows in the front doors--more of that blue-collar honesty, I suppose.

We used it for all the things big station wagons get used for--hauling groceries, going to school, camping with a canvas pyramid tent at state parks (as shown in the vintage advertising illustration), and epic-length summer vacation trips.

I never drove it, but I did pilot it in a sense. On long trips, I was appointed "navigator" and got to sit in front with Dad. I plotted our course using an oil company map and told him what road to take and gave him periodic position checks. I also got jurisdiction over the radio, subject to Dad's veto. Mom sat in back with Little Sister, where they had control of the cooler and its mission-critical cargo of single-serving Coke bottles and bologna sandwiches. Boston, Gettysburg, Uncle Ralph's cabin in the Upper Peninsula--wherever we went in it, it was always a grand adventure, and we never once had a breakdown.

1964 Belvederes of any sort seem to be fairly rare today, and many of the few that survive have been turned into dragsters (or dragster wannabees) with the addition of a monster Hemi V-8.

64_belvedere_front I'd love to have one, in Medium Beige, restored to showroom condition, but not to drive it. The Belvedere wagon was exactly the kind of car I don't care for. It was big, it had a slushbox and power steering, it had bench seats, it probably burned immense quantities of fuel and didn't corner worth a darn.

No, I'd like to sit in the passenger seat again, with a cold Coke and an oil company map and top-40 AM radio, and be ten years old. "Go south at the next exit, Dad, we're almost there."

The photo of the timeworn Medium Beige '64 Belvedere wagon comes from this Spanish-language car gallery. The detail shot of an early-Sixties Chrysler push-button transmission comes from "I Remember JFK," blogger dedicated to Baby Boomer nostalgia. He has a nice writeup on pushbutton trannies to go with the photo.

--Cookie the Dog's Owner

Pushbutton_tranny_5

Comments

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*sniff* Well done, Cookie. My folks had a big Plymouth when I was a kid, and it was sold off above my raised cries of protest, so this hits close to home.

Good lord, that thing is pretty. Massive wagon, distinctive styling, mid-century design aesthetic - yes, please. I don't know where you get those mid-century advertising sketches, but I completely love them. The car in the sketch almost looks lowered - I love its stance but can't imagine the actual car sitting quite that low.

It really did sit that low. There's a rear quarter photo of the brown wagon in the same place I got the one color shot from. (http://img186.imageshack.us/img186/6411/10015146941702140aef5mr4.jpg) See for yourself.

Small nitpick: 318s were Mopar's smallest V8. :) It was basically the smallblock of their lineup. Mopar small blocks= 318, 340, and 360cid. Big block mopars were 383, 392, 400, 440, and 426.

One really cool thing about old mopars was that they were of unibody construction, not body on frames like Chevy garbage. They also had torsion bar front suspension, so you could adjust the height of the front end. Good times!

Hey, you know what else had unibody construction? The Apollo Command Module!

Hahahaha. This car is like a space ship! It even has a clock!

Everything I need, I have... in my Belvedere.

(Just wanted to get that out of the way.)

I actually ran across an old Chrysler fairly recently (same vintage as the aforementioned Belvedere - not sure what kind, though) that had the push-button tranny. It completely blew my mind. Unfortunately, the owners of the car knew PRECISELY what they had on their hands, so, even though it had hornet nests in the doors and the paint was faded (to put it generously), they still wanted a rather princely sum to dispose of it. Fie on them.

eh... I think they thought they had more on their hands than they really did. They aren't particularly desirable unless it's a performance model. And they're even less desirable now that you need to be rich in order to keep them fueled.

CookieTDO: "I'd love to have one... but not to drive it... I'd like to sit in the passenger seat again, with a cold Coke and an oil company map..."

The entire article was great, but that twist completely made this article for me. It launched this beyond the realm of excellent reportage. A remembrance of times past without saccharine nostalgia - nice. We never had a Belvedere when I was growing up. But I remember seeing them. Those wrap-around rear windows combined with the proportions of a rolling-air-strip were points of fascination for me. Oh and oil company maps were really cool - I liked the ones from Gulf.

This car disintegrated from rust after 9 years? I'm flabbergasted. It doesn't look like a unreliable car at all, it looks like a car that you can basically ignore for years on years, then one day you need it and it starts up immediately and saves your ass. I've got a '61 Tempest with similar looking push-button doo-dads, very nostalgic.

@Brian: "This car disintegrated from rust after 9 years? I'm flabbergasted."

You've never met Northeast Ohio road salt, perhaps? It's like battery acid, only meaner.

Were it not for the road salt, that old Belvedere would still be running today.

Did the Belvedere's rear window roll down?

This piece hits so close to home for me. My parents owned a 1965 Oldsmobile F-85 wagon, and Cookie's narrative could easily be substituted for my own or one of my brother's. Might we see a comeback of family wagons, or are we stuck with minivans and SUVs as family haulers? I would buy a good-sized wagon, but will never buy a minivan . . . except perhaps a vintage VW Bus.

@Old Car Guy: "Did the Belvedere's rear window roll down?"

Yes. There was a crank hidden in the chrome gewgaw in the upper center of the tailgate. You had to roll the window down before you could lower the tailgate.

Cookie the Dog's Owner: "Yes. There was a crank hidden in the chrome gewgaw in the upper center of the tailgate. You had to roll the window down before you could lower the tailgate."

Just like on our Olds. One of the many things I love about my old 4Runner (and my former full-size Bronco) is the roll down rear window. It's great for our dogs, too -- better than having their heads out a side window. Few vehicles have roll down rear windows now. The new 4Runner still does, and I believe the Sequoia and the Land Rover Discovery do, too, but that's all I've been able to find. I suppose it's cheaper to have a hatch window, as our Suburban does, or a fixed window. But having the rear window rolled down, even if only a few inches, makes open air motoring more of a pleasure. It does away with most of the side window turbulence and noise.

Toyota seems to understand the need for roll-down rear windows more than anyone else. It's one of the best things about their trucks; I went on a camping trip with my girlfriend's family and their last-gen Tundra has a roll-down rear window which allows air to blow in nicely from behind you. It's amazing how well air on the back of the neck will keep you cool.

My first car was a '66 Belvedere sedan, auto tranny (stick on the steering column) and a 318 V8. Being the early 70's when I had it I put shackles on the rear springs to raise the back, lowered the front torsion bars, put dual exhaust with Thrush mufflers on it and chrome wheels all around (wide "70s" on the back of course). It was a good little cruiser that wasn't too bad on 50 cent a gallon gas. Good times, thanks for the memories.

I've already thanked you for reviving good memories, but I have such vivid pictures of my 10-yr-old self in our family "boat", my father always driving (mom would fall asleep as soon as we'd gone a block or so), and that feeling of complete freedom and security. Even though me and my sisters argued almost constantly, those car trips were when I had the best conversations with my dad. I don't remember the car ever breaking down, but it must have. But I was just a kid, my dad worried about stuff like that! Time for an overdue thnx to my parents, they probably would have liked, at least occasionally, to go off somewhere for a peaceful drive without the noise and scuffling and whining food requests, but they rarely did.

One of my great memories involved a '65 Fury Wagon with a 318, towing a 14' boat on a trailer. It was a family vacation when I was 15 and had my learner's permit. A State Patrol car pulled alongside and waved my Dad to pull over - he got a warning for impeding traffic on a two-lane. The Trooper said it took him 5 miles to catch up to "the problem". Dad was a sloooow driver. So, I got the wheel with law enforcement sanction to make use of that 318 V-8 (OK - it was no 440!!!).

A 1964 Plymouth wagon was the car I learned to drive (except for my older brother letting me drive Dad's 1962 Valiant sometimes). The wagon was equipped (?) with a 225-inch Slant Six and 3-on-the-tree. Truly a stripper, bought used. Manual steering and brakes, AM radio, no options. Extremely slow, which was good because the brakes were pitiful.

It never stopped running but rusted out (in Northeast Ohio). The gas tank was hidden up under the left rear fender and started weeping gas so Dad somehow removed it and repaired it.

Lots of memories in that car, until I got a job and bought MY first car, a 1966 Mustang, well-used.

I just bought a 1964 plymouth wagon. It is the brown color that is in the picture with a white top.It is the 318 with the pushbutton automatic, power steering , power brakes , am radio. It has the brown vinyl interior.It does not have air conditioning. It has been garage kept in southeast Texas (Houston area) its whole life. It does not have a single rust hole anywhere.It has 73000 original miles. I have not started it yet , but have spun it over.I would consider selling itr for the right price.

I have a 64 Fury Wagon. Same body, different trim package. My Grand father bought it new and it has been in our family ever since. It was the car I rode in as a child and the car I learned to drive in. It does fire right up everytime I go out to start it. Powder blue, 318 wide block, push button trany, Power rear window. Could be my favorite car of all time.

I boughtr a 64 bellevdere station wagon years ago it is in 90% plus show room condition no rust original everything its white with red stripe molding and red interior was wondering what its worth and if i paid 2 much for it it does have the 318 motor with push button tranny and luggage rack

I understand this stuff all too well. My first ride in car (literally, after losing my umbilical cord) was in the family's 1964 Belvedere four-door sedan, which was relegated to spare-car status when we got a 1970 Fury II wagon. Wanting to feel AT HOME in a car is why I now have a 1970 Fury III convertible. :-) I wish I could have driven the 1964 sometime - 3 speed manual, 318, no ps/pb/ac. Yeah, they're hard to find in nice, original, non-drag condition. fury1970@hotmail.com

HELP...

I have a 1964 Ply Belvedere. Poly 318, push button Automatic. I just took out a loan to fix the rest of it up. I am thinking of pulling out the push button...but that would be an abomination to this classic beauty. Is there any other trannies that i can put in it. And also where can i find a complete new push button assembly>

Thanks for the mention and the link. Nice article!

Ron E.

my dad had a64 belvedere wagon when i was a kid it made many many trips from connecticut to vermont and canada for 16 years he then gave the car to my older brother with about 190 000 miles on it my brother ran it for almost three years after that it finally had about 250 000 miles on it when it finally said I HAD IT

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