Just Out of Storage: 1953 Willys Overland Station Wagon

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In Witold Rybczynski’s new book The Driving Machine, he discusses the genesis of the Willys Overland station wagon, a very nice 1953 example of which is here on Facebook Marketplace in Grace Valley, California. After the complexity and maintenance-heavy woodies, the Brooks Stevens-designed Willys wagon was simplicity itself, the author writes, a simple “two-box” design—one for the passenger compartment, one for the engine.

The Willys Overland Station Wagon was launched in 1946 with a basic all-steel body. The utilitarian model—they didn’t call them SUVs in those days, and they worked for a living—was in production for 19 years and was offered in Brazil as the Rural Jeep (and built until 1977!).

According to Gooding and Company, which sold a two-toned 1951 example in 2019 for $33,600, “The quintessential American mid-century wagon, the Willys Station Wagon, was marketed as a car for the people. It was equally suitable for commuting to the office and camping trips. Based on the company’s military Jeep, it was stylishly designed and comfortable. Introduced to the market in 1946, more than 300,000 wagons and variants were manufactured during its 19-year production.”

So what we have here is an original, unmolested barn find Willys Overland Station Wagon at 45,000 original miles. It’s had only two owners, the first of whom bought it in Nevada City, kept it there, and left it in storage for decades. “A rare opportunity to own a time capsule 4×4 SUV. Not a Jeep. Something better.”

The Willys looks like a working truck with a worn bed but is in better-than-average condition. It was likely repainted in its original green sometime back. The interior is dirty, and new rubber floor mats and door panels could be used. The seats should be cleaned up nicely. They’re pretty basic, as is the rest of the car. There is no infotainment system in SUVs, then.

The engine bay has a lot of surface rust, but the car presumably runs and drives OK. The terse Facebook Marketplace ad doesn’t say. The $17,500 price seems reasonable. The Classic.com average for 1951 wagons is $19,060. Thanks for the tip, T.J.

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  1. Todd J. Todd J.Member

    How nice! I owned one of these, a later model, and appreciated it for what it was and what it could do. Unless I’m missing something, this looks pretty solid.

    Like 7
  2. Herbert

    Very popular in upscale mountain areas back in the 50s/60s. Got you places that a Caddie or Olds would not.

    Like 6
  3. HoA HoAMember

    I think leiniedude feels a lot better, if he still has his. If I may to the author, please don’t feed into this foolishness, ANY 5 figure amount is unacceptable for this, the buyer will find THAT out on the test drive. “MY GOD, IT’S UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED”,,they’ll exclaim,,too late, check is cashed. Oh, it was the cats rear end in ’53, when comfort, speed, or style had little to do with sales Most people bought these to specifically go where no sedan could go, and they did. Trouble was, the world evolved, and the poor FFW wagon didn’t. These were low mileage for a reason. Still a great find, but people can buy 2 ATVs, WITH A/C for less, I don’t think people will go for this in the future.

    Like 4
    • Todd J. Todd J.Member

      Yeah, these were light on creature comforts and they tended to rattle and shake. But that and the fact they could go just about anywhere was part of their charm. Still, it’s not easy to find one that isn’t a rustbucket or hasn’t been modified in some stupid fashion. The price is high but it will still sell for a five figure amount I would bet.

      Like 5
      • Eric B

        Precisely, Todd. Charm. Some people want to experience the simplicity, even if it makes their teeth rattle. Just as some prefer an old farmhouse that always needs a little something, as opposed to a new, slick condo. While people that prefer this might be becoming more rare, they will always be out there. I’m definitely one.

        Like 9
    • Steven Smith

      For Every Seat
      There is an Ass to Fit It.

      Like 3
    • Steven Smith

      For Every Seat
      There is an Butt to Fit It.

      Like 1
  4. Will Fox

    Actor Terry Thomas would be proud!

    Like 8
    • Driveinstile DriveinstileMember

      Hed use it to collect rare cactus. ” Its under the Big W” that brings back great memories of a great movie.

      Like 5
  5. geezerglide 85

    This one looks pretty solid. Most of these were used in snow country, where they rusted into oblivion from the salt on the roads. Even when you find one with low miles, they were hard miles. Our next door neighbor had 2 of these, that I remember. He used to buy a new one every year or 2. When the new Wagoneers came out in ’63, he had one of the first ones.

    Like 4
    • Eric_13cars Eric_13carsMember

      Exactly. A neighbor of ours in northern Westchester County (NY) had one of these. That was when it was exurbia, not suburbia, and the lakes still froze and the snow plows worked overtime (a neighbor on our road drove one of the plows and guess who’s hill got plowed first). This neighbor lived up a hill (almost a tautology in Ossining and Croton-on-Hudson) and while it was paved, it was steep. His was a little more than a beater and he drove it to death. To say that the interior was Spartan is the epitomy of understatement. It was rough and riding in it was like a carnival ride. I once saw one of these driving down the highway on an angle…literally. Either the frame was bent or they installed the body wrong, or there was something very wrong with the drive train. I was amazed to see it but there it was running along at 50 mph.

      Like 5
  6. Kek

    How soft we have become, unsafe, need air, rough ride, blah blah blah. I think it is awesome!

    Like 13
    • Eric_13cars Eric_13carsMember

      How soft? I’ll tell how soft I’ve become…a camping trip for me these days is a Motel 6. And while I do have a bunch of standard tranny vehicles, I’ve given in to a couple of automatics (my 90 XJS and 2000 Volvo C70) and I sort of like them. What the heck has happened to me? :-(

      Like 2
  7. Eric B

    I bought my Jeep XJ out of Nevada City and the climate must be perfect for preserving cars as the undercarriage is just about perfect.

    The price may be slightly high, but how many are left in this condition? Also, it seems like the fact that a price can always be negotiated never gets considered here.

    Like 3
  8. Denny N.Member

    Looks like it has the F-head 4 cyl. engine. That will suffice for around-town driving but don’t expect to keep up with highway traffic. For that you’ll need the 226 cu. in. six cyl, preferably with Overdrive. Ask the man who owned one.

    Like 2
  9. guggie13

    We had a 1951 , replaced the 4 cyl with a Ford flat head v8 made it a great runner , wish I still had it !!

    Like 1
  10. scrapyard john

    I like it. I think it’s probably more fun to look at than it is to actually drive, but I like it. I think that’s the case for almost all of the 50’s and earlier trucks.

    Like 1
  11. theGasHole

    We had one of these at our cabin in Montana back in the 80’s. It was the first vehicle I ever drove, at the tender age of 8. Eventually sold it to the janitor of the elementary school I went to for $100.

    Like 0

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