1963 Chrysler AP5 Valiant Regal Safari.

Bag’n a wagon back in ’63

Back in 1963, if you wanted a locally built, affordable “luxury” station wagon your choice was limited to Ford’s XL Falcon Squire, Holden’s EH Premier and Chrysler’s AP5 Valiant Regal Safari.

Buying one of these wagons indicated to your family, friends and neighbours that you had a level of income which allowed you to buy a hardware hauler that was more upmarket than a plain Holden Special.

Walking into a Ford showroom, the Squire confronted you with its fake woodgrain side panels.

Pure Americana!

Combining deep pile carpet, bright red upholstery accented by chrome trim and a range of engine and transmission options, it was an attractive proposition because the base price was only 10 per cent more than a mid-level Falcon Deluxe wagon.

From this lowish entry price buyers were enticed to option their wagon with a bigger engine, automatic transmission, radio, white wall tyres, heater and other accessories.

The roll down tailgate window was common on all Falcons.

Despite its welcoming price, the fake wood was just too American for Aussie sensibilities.

Potential buyers rejected it.

That said, it is a rare and much sought-after classic these days.

Holden took an all-inclusive pricing approach with the EH Premier wagon.

It was 25 per cent more than the Special wagon, but what was optional on the Squire was standard on the Premier.

Plus, you got bucket seats and metallic paint.

Although its clunky and old-fashioned two-piece tailgate was a drawback, overall the Premier was a competitive proposition.

But for space and pace, the Regal Safari was the wagon for you.

Chrysler priced its cars about 4-5 per cent higher than competitors, but with its fresh from the USA styling, it was longer, roomier and wider.

The larger dimensions meant it could carry larger loads.

Like the Falcon, it had a roll down tailgate window.

Best of all, its 225 cubic inch/3.7 litre slant six had up to 50 per cent more power than the Falcon and Holden.

It was a true 100 mph wagon (160km/h) and the bigger engine made it ideal for towing that new speedboat or caravan with ease.

Regal’s interior appointments gave nothing away to the other two and it had a space-age push button automatic transmission selector on the dashboard.

So cool.

Until the arrival of the SUV, Australia’s station wagons were the must have car for growing families.

In the late Sixties and early Seventies, it seemed that a wagon was parked in every driveway.

Such was the profitability of wagons, Holden considered releasing a wagon with Statesman grille and interior specifications.

Australia’s last local wagon was the VE/VF Commodore Sports wagon, designed by Richard Ferlazzo.

The car was so successful in combining load carrying capacity with sporty style and performance, that at one in three Commodores was a sports wagon.

Of the three from ’63, I’d have a Regal Safari — if I could find one.

They are coveted cars these days.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos


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