Throwback Thursday: The Family Car – Then and Now

This latest installment of our Throwback Thursday: Then and Now series looks at the family car, which has gone through a number of transformations since the 1950’s.

The 1950’s and 60’s

Boomers who didn’t grow up with the station wagon surely knew at least one family who owned one. Previously regarded as commercial vehicles, sales of station wagons took off in the 1950’s until by the end of the decade it was firmly ensconced as the family vehicle of choice, peaking in popularity in the 1960’s.

1966 Ford County Squire
1966 Ford County Squire

Most wagons were “fully loaded” with the basic price in 1960 of about $2,600.

Safety features were almost non-existent, mostly consisting of the driver throwing her right arm across the seat to prevent a child from careening into the dashboard.

In 1956 lap seatbelts and padded dashboards were available as options and became mandatory in new cars in 1966. Seatbelts were unpopular and not widely used until legislated by law – 1976 in Ontario, and as late as 1987 in Alberta and PEI.

The 1980’s

The Chrysler mini van was introduced in 1984. It was instantly popular and become the vehicle of choice for family transportation.

1984 Plymouth Voyager
1984 Plymouth Voyager

It was said that the mini van become popular because people were trying to escape the “mom-mobile” image of the station wagon they grew up with. Average price was about $13,000.

Present day

Ironically, now the minivan is considered the “mom-mobile,” and style conscious buyers are swarming to SUV’s and crossovers instead.

2015 Ford Escape
2015 Ford Escape

Safety features have increased considerably with front and side airbags, ABS, traction control. All child passengers must be secured in an approved child safety seat.

Other optional features include pushbutton start, rearview camera, parking and anti-collision sensors, media centre and GPS.

Basic prices range from $22,000 to $33,000.

Your turn: What kind of car did your family have when you were growing up? What was the first “family car” you bought once you had kids of your own?

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