by: Brian Cotter
January 26, 2021
One of the most iconic movie cars of all time, the fictional “Wagon Queen Family Truckster,” became a cult icon after its appearance in the 1983 movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
Based on a 1979 Ford LTD Country Squire, the Family Truckster was created by none other than legendary car customizer George Barris. 1979 marked the first year for the new 7th generation of the Country Squire; production of this generation continued until 1991. Powered by a 5.0L Ford Windsor V8 engine, the 1979 Country Squire underwent a significant change from the prior-generation wagon, built to be 11 inches shorter and half a ton lighter than the 1978 model. Ford’s redesigned wagon maintained ample storage space in the cargo area and continued to offer an available 8-place seating option that customers had grown to love. Novel optional equipment was available, including a folding metal table and magnetic checkers set for rear-center-facing-seat occupants, and an available factory-installed CB radio.
Painted a lovely shade of “Metallic Pea” (or pee? You decide.) with contrasting adhesive wood paneling, the Family Truckster didn’t look too dissimilar to the Country Squire from the side, but from the front it was set apart by a nauseating combination of eight headlights, a plentitude of turn signals, driving lights and a grille that resembled a wood-burning stove. The gas cap from the Country Squire was moved from the traditional location on the side of the wagon to the passenger side of the hood, which is oddly similar to the location on a Porsche.
Five Family Trucksters were built for the filming of Vacation, as a significant amount of wear and tear was to be expected during filming, which involved various stunts and collisions. (While the Family Truckster is picked up at the dealership by Clark Griswold, a second Truckster can be seen.) Filming took place in more than 15 different locations and in four different states, so these wagons were not simply showcars.
As Vacation plays out, the Griswold family experiences a number of adventures with the Truckster, including the theft of the car’s hubcaps, several accidents and an Evel Kenevil-esque jump in the desert.
Ultimately, the Griswold family and what’s left of the Truckster complete their road trip, arriving at Walley World, an amusement park, only to discover that it is closed. The Truckster, despite numerous setbacks, completes a successful trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, hauling Clark and his wife, two kids, a dog (partially) and grandmother (partially).
Fans of Vacation have created several replicas of the Family Truckster over the years, with an example selling at Barrett Jackson’s Palm Beach auction in 2019 for $100,100. Ironically, an original Vacation movie car failed to sell in 2013 for about a third of the replica car’s sale price.