In looking around for car-related angle to celebrate the month of red roses and heart-shaped chocolates, we were reminded of the famous story about how the notoriously prudish Henry Ford tried to design the backseat of the Model T so that it would be too small for any—let’s just say—amorous indiscretions. We’re pretty sure young love prevailed on that one, though definitely not as easily as it did in the cavernous interiors and cargo areas of these favorite classics.
Americans got bit by a serious travel bug after veterans returned home from World War II. Now considered by some to be the “Golden Age of American Road Travel,” it was still an era largely dominated by the one-car household. Back then, many car buyers were content with automobiles that looked stylish enough to drive to work everyday but could also serve double-duty on long weekend road trips and overnight camping excursions. For many, the Frazer Vagabond of the late-1940s and early 1950s (along with its brother the Kaiser Traveler) fit their lifestyle perfectly. The Vagabond never got the “ultimate date car” reputation with Baby Boomers that the Nash Ambassador and Rambler later did, but the fold-down, upholstered rear seats that extended all the way to the end of the trunk is the stuff of some legend where backseat escapades are concerned.
Pretty much any full-size car from around 1956 through the 1977 model-year had more than space for getting comfortable and cozy under the light of the silvery moon. But the Nash Ambassador was arguably the first to advertise the fact that their automobiles could be converted from a daily grocery-getter into a venerable hotel on wheels. As with the Nash Rambler (see below), one of the key selling points for the Ambassador was its roomy interior and the fact that every seat in the thing had the ability to flatten out with the simply pull of a lever.
Despite a boring, family-car image, the iconic Rambler gained a reputation among teens as the ultimate dating mobile throughout the late ’50s, ‘60s and even into the ’70s. The reasons: a huge, three-passenger backseat and a fabulous reclining front seat, which basically transformed the interior into a giant bed on wheels. Marketing material targeted families with small children who liked car camping and long road trips. But young adults of the era who had the chance to fully utilize the spacious interior will probably attest that when the front seat reclined at the drive-in or local lookout there wasn’t a lot of sleeping going on.
And what about the original 1964 1/2 through 1966 Plymouth Barracuda? Early ads suggested Chrysler-Plymouth didn’t know exactly how to market the car. Was it a just a more powerful version of the Valiant or an alternative to the Ford Mustang? Or was it something else—a cargo-carrying specialty car for families on the move? Families that did buy the first-generation Barracuda later passed these cars along to their newly licensed kids who, in the freewheeling 1970s, definitely found the 7-foot, carpeted “anything space” good for more than just hauling luggage around.
How about the Buick Electra? The Imperial Crown? And what about those behemoth 1960s-era American station wagons and the custom-upholstered “sin bin” vans that were popular with the younger set in the 1970s? Tell us below about the car with the biggest backseat in your parent’s garage, or head on over to the HVA’s Facebook page to share and see what other members are saying.