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YAK Extra: A review of “Wagonmasters” — the movie.

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Ownership of a station wagon isn’t necessary for the watching of the documentary “Wagonmasters.” Although it wouldn’t hurt. Or at least, to have been a kid during the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s — perhaps the Golden Age of the long-roofed cars, as they’re affectionately known to people who still drive them.

 There are clubs devoted to station wagons, such as the American Station Wagon  Owner’s Association (ASWOA), and the International Station Wagon Club (ISWC), and Facebook pages like the “Station Wagon, Estate Car, the Long Roof Page” for enthusiasts to share their love of these big ol’ machines.

 The documentary, produced and directed by Sam Smartt and Chris Zaluski, is a 38-minute long tribute to these one-time workhorses, whose popularity blossomed with the advent of the suburb, and whose ending began when the minivan hit the market in 1984. “More family experiences happened in the wagons than in other cars,” we’re told at the beginning. And I guess I find that hard to argue with, coming from a family which owned a couple of them during my formative years (a ’61 Chevy Parkwood, and a ’63 Ford Country Sedan). Along the way we are treated not only to a parade of old wagons, but a parade of old wagon lovers. Like Sparky Cox of the ISWC, whose vast property holds more cars and parts than the eye can see. He’s unmarried — well, to another human anyway (I guess he is married to the station wagon and all it stands for). “I didn’t get along with female types,” he tells us, as the camera scans the fields full of old wagons behind him. I imagine it would take the right kind of woman to put up with that.

 And they are out there, if he looks hard enough. In the movie we meet one who just had to have the ’57 Chevy wagon she saw for sale one day. The footage of her driving and managing that huge, skinny steering wheel is a hoot. Other owners out there bought their cars new and hung on to them for decades, or maybe bought one which brought back family memories. Some drive them because they hate minivans. You meet all of them watching “Wagonmasters.” 

 Wagons aren’t dead. There are still Volvos, Mercedes-Benzes, and BMWs out there to be had, to name a few. But none of them conjure up the same image as a large, wood-sided, old-fashioned American station wagon with four or five kids hanging out the back window. If you’ve never had one of those memories, after watching “Wagonmasters,” you might just find yourself on eBay, starting up your own family tradition.

 Pre-order of the DVD, and more information about the movie, is available at wagonmastersthemovie.com

— Jim Corbran, You Auto Know