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On the Road With the Griswolds

Vacation Wagon Queen Family Truckster“Iconic” doesn’t have to mean “cool” when it comes to movie cars. National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983 was adapted from John Hughes’ short story “Vacation ’58,” his retelling of his family’s failed trip to Disneyland. Central to this road trip movie is the Griswold’s car, a mishmash of styling cues meant to parody that icon of family motoring, the station wagon. Although superseded by minivans and SUVs, its place in this too-close-to-home classic about road trips has made it one of the most recognizable vehicles in cinema.


The Truckster from the Movie “Vacation”

Although his wife wants to fly, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) thinks driving his new Super Sports Wagon to Wally World will give him a chance to reconnect with his family. However, when he goes to pick up his new car, the salesman (Eugene Levy) tells him it will be at least six weeks before it can be ordered and convinces Griswold to take the Wagon Queen Family Truckster instead. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Griswold’s old car was put through the crusher while he was talking to the salesman.

After enduring graffiti, stolen hub caps, accidents, a playful chase with a Ferrari driven by Christie Brinkley and the deaths of an aunt and her dog, the Griswolds give up on the car, flying home after they find Wally World is closed.



The Real Life Trucksters

Chuck Barris may have had a hand in its design, but the five Trucksters used in the film were built in-house by Warner Bros. Starting with a 1979 Ford LTD wagon, Barris’s design aimed for over-the-top tackiness with eight headlights, four tail lights, a gas cap on the passenger side of the hood and enormous decorative features including giant crowns and non-functional vents on the side of the vehicle.

Although one claimed movie car was put up for auction by Mecum in 2013, the only verified car is currently on display at Historic Auto Attractions in Roscoe, Illinois. However, their Truckster was only used for promotions and wasn’t actually in the film.



Coming Full Circle with a Home-built Replica

Since the originals were built using mostly off-the-shelf parts, it’s relatively easy for fans to build their own cars. In 2013, a real-life Griswold family built their own Truckster, working with local mechanics and artists to recreate the movie car down to the smallest detail. Just two weeks after completion, Steve and Lisa Griswold succeeded where John Hughes’ father and Clark Griswold had failed, successfully driving their new car from their home in Georgia to Disney World in time for the 30th anniversary of the movie’s release.

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