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A Late-Fifties Five-Door Cowboy Pulls Nearly $90k At Mecum Verde Sale

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On: Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 2:39PM | By: Andrew W Davis


A Late-Fifties Five-Door Cowboy Pulls Nearly $90k At Mecum Verde Sale

In between the eras of real wood paneling and wood-look stickers there is a station wagon sweet-spot: the Nifty Fifties. Sure, that era was pretty sweet in general, but it’s special for another reason: Stylists actually styled these babies, rather than just tacked a cargo box on the aft end of a sedan.

As with anything, the results were mixed. But there are a few designs—like the 1957 Buick Caballero wagon Mecum sold at their Verde Collection event Feb. 22-23—that are high-water marks not just in station wagon styling, but styling, period.

[And with a sale price of $89,000, I wasn’t the only one that thought so…]

For decades the name “Nomad” has been used in reverence as it’s tied to the hallowed “Tri-Five” (1955-’57) Chevrolets. It also shows that their three-door configuration didn’t technically make them station wagons.

Chevy cranked out the five-door wagons—in “Townsman”, “Handyman” and “Beauville” guises—with production numbers ten times higher than their sexier siblings, yet fewer examples of them exist today.

Buick, on the other hand, made so few wagons in the average year that making a fancier five-door made more sense than investing in any Nomad-like creation. So for 1957 they introduced the “Caballero” wagon on its “Special” and “Century” platforms.

Each was the highest-priced body style in its class—even more than the convertibles—with MSRPs of $3,706 and $3,167, respectively. Decked out in their finest two-tone duds, these chrome-clad cowboys posted sales numbers of 10,186 for the Century model (like the one you see here) and 6,817 for the $539 cheaper Special.

For 1958, the prices went up while the sales numbers went down, with only 4,456 of the $3,831 Century and 3,420 of the $3,621 Special Caballeros produced in what was to be the models’ last year.

Soon the “hardtop wagon” body style itself would disappear, as buyers stopped putting a convertible-like window area ahead of the cost and complexity that a lack of B-pillar brought to the game.

So there you have it: 1950s glamour, glitz and glass area with the family- and fodder-hauling function you can only find in a five-door. And mark my words: the prices for examples like this are going to rise rapidly as more people discover that with a station wagon you can get all the fun and flash of a two- or four-door with enough room for everyone to enjoy the feeling thrown in for (nearly) free.

Now I just have to wait five decades for 1980s wagon prices to spike like 1950s have. Yes! In 2045 I’ll be rolling in dough!...

DESCRIPTION [Courtesy of Mecum Auctions]

"In the 1950s Detroit stylists were busy exploring the boundaries of their imaginations, going where no man had gone before. The result of these forays to the outer limits produced the hardtop body structure and the all-steel station wagon, two major innovations with differing advantages. The steel wagon meant much less maintenance and more resistance to the woodie’s inherent noise and inevitable structural degradation, while the hardtop was the answer to the buyer looking for convertible-style airiness with the safety of a sedan. Inevitably, engineers and stylists wedded the two in the 1957 Buick Caballero station wagon, a short-lived model that today enjoys great collector appeal. Finished in Red over White with a matching two-tone interior, this 1957 Caballero wagon uses the Century’s higher-rated 364/300 HP V-8 coupled to an automatic transmission and is fully equipped in typical Century high style with power steering and brakes, power front seat and windows, in-dash clock, Sono-Matic radio and air conditioning, all in a stunning package completed with chromed wire wheels, wide whitewall tires, dual exhaust and a special picnic basket and blanket for those sunny summer afternoons at the park or beach."


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