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.
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.
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