Meet the unlikely star of National Lampoon's 1983 movie Vacation.
Nothing screams Forced Family Fun like the Griswold’s 1983 Ford Wagon Queen Family Truckster.
Drawing a blank? It’s another unsung hero actor, and the awful cross-country transportation for Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and family, in the first of the National Lampoon Vacation movies.
Our star is a metallic avacado-green station wagon, with faux wood paneling, eight headlights, four taillights, a hood-mounted gas tank filler, and a signature airbag made with a trashbag.
Five Wagon Queens were built for the movie, primarily to be wrecked for the vehicle’s never-ending series of mishaps. For the iconic ‘turn off the highway scene’, stunt coordinator Dick Ziker made a bet against other crew members that he would be able to jump the Family Truckster more than 50 feet before crashing into the desert floor. Ziker won the bet.
The Wagon Queen had every tacky design element you could exaggerate past the boundaries of good taste, (including 70%-coverage in faux wood paneling,) which created the world’s greatest, and most unattractive, vacation road-trip vehicle in history. So horrible was the stigma this station wagon created, that after the movie’s release, station wagon sales, on a whole. plummeted, and the vehicles disappeared, unanimously replaced with minivans, as the family favorite.
In the gas station scene where Clark can’t find the gas cap on the rear of the Truckster, (because it’s mounted in the hood,) Chase didn’t mean to throw the plate when he pulled it off. It flew out of his hands, nearly hitting the actress standing behind the adjacent car. Chase’s serious look of concern was genuine.
In the ‘Art Imitates Life’ department, Director Harold Ramis noted the “dog tied to the bumper as the wagon drives off” gag, however morbid, in the movie, was inspired when the film crew actually observed and stopped a family pulling out of a hotel parking spot with their dog still tied to the bumper.
And as for the upright, tarp-covered lump on the roof-rack for part of the movie. Well, that was Aunt Edna. Watch the movie to learn more.
In the 2015 film Vacation (a miserable sequel to the original), the Wagon Queen Family Truckster reappears courtesy of real-life humans Lisa and Steve Griswold, who painstakingly re-created the film-star, to take family trips in, with their two daughters. In July 2014, the actual Griswolds drove across the country, from Atlanta, Georgia, visiting the locations featured in the original film, and ending their journey at the gates of Walley World (Six Flags), in Valencia, California. (Here is their re-construction story.)
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