Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Studebaker Wagonaire was a station wagon produced by the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, Indiana from 1963 to 1966. The wagon featured a retractable sliding rear roof section that allowed the vehicle to carry items that would otherwise be too tall for a standard car of the era.
Studebaker Wagonaire’s unique roof was the invention of industrial designer Brooks Stevens, who was charged by the company’s president Sherwood Egbert to find as many ways possible to expand the company’s limited model range without spending vast amounts of capital on retooling. Ironically, Stevens was also the designer of the Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer, a truck based SUV that remained in production until the 1990s.
The Wagonaire was based on the standard Studebaker Lark station wagon body. What made the car unique was the roof over the cargo bay, which manually retracted into and then locked into position in the foreward section of the roof above the rear passenger's seat. This unique configuration allowed Studebaker to boast that the Wagonaire could transport items (such as standard size refrigerators) in an upright position. Regular station wagons were produced alongside the Wagonaire.
When Studebaker left South Bend, Indiana and transferred production to Ontario, Canada, the company eliminated its "halo" models Avanti and Hawk, but continued to build Wagonaire’s well into the final 1966 model year production run.
Matchbox-Lesney made a miniature Wagonaire, complete with a sliding roof section, which was sold for many years after Studebaker stopped production. Husky also manufactured a Wagonaire similar in size to the Matchbox product.
The concept of the retractable roof was picked up by automaker General Motors for a model in its GMC Envoy "XUV" SUV line in 2003 as a 2004 model. Ads for the new vehicle incorrectly touted the feature as "first ever".
- Langworth, Richard (1979). Studebaker, the Postwar Years. Motorbooks International. ISBN 0-87938-058-6.
- Gunnell, John, Editor (1987). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-096-3.
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