Pampered Poncho: 35K-Mile 1975 Pontiac Safari

Station wagons usually live a rough life, covering lots of miles and hauling lots of cargo—and often a bunch of unruly kids too! This super low-mileage ’75 Pontiac Catalina Safari wagon has clearly had an easier go of it, meaning it’s probably one of the nicest surviving examples of GM’s clever (and massive) “clamshell” wagons left. It’s available on eBay from a seller in Lakeland, Florida,with tons of great pictures and a starting bid of $12,500. A hefty price for a malaise-era land yacht and there’s still a reserve to be met, but let’s see if the condition merits the ask.

The GM B-body wagon’s party trick from 1971-76 was its ingenious disappearing “clamshell” tailgate. The window slides up into the roof, while the tailgate falls down into a recess under the cargo floor. It’s all power-actuated, which can be costly if things go wrong, but as we can see here, everything appears to work as it should. This design also meant that there wasn’t a footwell at the very back for a rear-facing third row seat, so nine-passenger wagons like this one have three forward-facing benches—no carsickness here!

This wagon has recently benefited from a repaint in the original deep red. The vinyl woodgrain applique is presumably original; I love the detail of the woodgrain inserts in the door handles. There’s not a thing out of place here, from the whitewall tires around full-disc wheel covers to the prow-shaped chrome roof rack.

Aside from a ’90s-era radio (which the seller promises to swap out for a factory-correct piece), the interior looks just as flawless as the exterior. My favorite detail (and yours too, if you’re going on a long road trip in this all-vinyl living room on wheels): driver and passenger crotch-cooler vents. And yes, the air conditioning is said to blow cold.

Propelling you and your brood on any road trips is Pontiac’s own 400-cid V8. This car has clearly been detailed to a high standard! The VIN indicates that this car should have the high-output, 4-barrel carb version of this engine, but don’t get too excited; smog controls mean that max output is just 185 horsepower. Nevertheless, this is a one-of-a-kind time capsule and anyone looking to take a trip back to the ’70s would do well to check out this pampered wagon.

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Comments

  1. Jeffro

    Ahhhh. Happiness is found! Love this big cruiser. Almost makes me wish I had more kids so to have reason to buy it. Well…not really. These kids are driving me crazy as it is.

    Like 1
  2. John M.

    I rode in the back of a 75 Chevy Impala Wagon that had the very same clamshell tailgate that the dad of a childhood buddy of mine owned. Took us everywhere such as to the beach and to drive ins that showed family friendly films. Man, those were the days.

  3. Rock On Member

    Nathan you must be the new hire. Nice write up!

  4. J.Raley

    Back in the day we had a station wagon that me,,my 2 brothers,,mom ,,grandma would hit the roads and jus ride everywhere in the early 70’s,,we would go to the back window with our Tonka dump trks tied on to strings and let them tail in behind us,,,of course at night when the Tonka’s would roll over it was a bit of a firework show,,,,can you imagine seeing something like that these days,,good times for sure.

  5. Gotter

    A Chevy 1974 version of this car was my first car my sophmore year of high school me and 14 of my closest friends

  6. Moparman Member

    Change out the wheel covers for some Rally II wheels for a REALLY cool
    look!! :-)

  7. PAPERBKWRITER

    Nice car but IMO overpriced. I’m a car guy but when I was raising my kids I had 2 different station wagons. One a small block Ford and the other a 350 Chevy. I hated both of them.

  8. King Al

    What a nice vehicle. Forgot about the clamshell tailgate. Nice as is, or a great starting point to create a Cadillac wagon. Just bolt on some 70’s era Cad sheetmetal up front; graft on some vertical Cad tailights at rear, plop a wreath and crest on the hood, ang you’re good to go. Or if the torquey Poncho is too small, find a similiar fine condition low mileage 70s Fleetwood Brougham with the 8.2 and graft the wagon body on in place of the sedan body. Then take the leftovers and scrap out. As a final touch, with a nod to modern Caddy nomenclature, I’d craft new chrome letter nameplatea reading CTW – for Clamshell Touring Wagon.

  9. Charles

    My parents owned two clam shell GM wagons. One a 71 Gran Safari with an electric rear window and manual clam shell tail gate. The other was an Old’s Custom Cruiser with power on both the window and tail gate. Both were trouble free for many years. Those were both nice cruisers. I would love to own an example such as this one. There are few left in this condition these days. The price may seem high, however someone will probably see it fall in love with it and pay the price. Wagons are hot these days, and old Pontiacs have a strong following.

  10. Wayne

    What is a 2 stage repainted? Is that what we in Australia call 2 pack? Which means catalyst and hardener, mixed together.

    • BTG88

      Layer 1 – Color, Layer 2 – Clear coat

  11. Jeff Day

    I turned 16 in 1972 and we had the Buick Estate Wagon version of this car. Power everything and I remember driving through the Lehigh Tunnel on the PA turnpike listening to the Buick supplied 8 track tape of Mantovani favorites! LOL. We were never able to hear the AM radio all the way through the tunnel before.

    I would turn the air cleaner over so the 455 ci engine would make that lovely sucking sound when floored. Loaded up with 9 of my closest buddies we would drive the 50 miles to the NY state line and buy our beer since PA’s driinking age was 21 at the time while NY’s was 18. I did more crazy things in that car than I can ever remember and would love to have one in my driveway again. This car and the one before it which was a 1969 Riviera. Dad would do burnouts for we boys once in a while on our way to the HS dances.

  12. JRATT1956

    My Dad had one of these I am not sure what year, but not worth the price IMO.
    They just do not handle as good as the sedans or coupes.

  13. Wayne

    This one does have the electric clamshell. As the manual had little thumb/finger nubs to twist when unlocked with the key. Put one of the new Throttle Body fuel injection units on this car and it would gain about 3-5 mpg and about 20 HP.

  14. John Feldt

    I sold a 1972 Red Chevy Kingswood estate with a 454 on e-bay in January for almost $11,000.

  15. Jubjub

    Nice wagon. The 71-73 Custom Cruiser is probably the best of this generation but this one is great and still exhibits major design extravagance. Compared to say a Suburban, we really haven’t come very far.

    If I’m not mistaken, these full size GM wagons actually ended up with less interior space than the A body wagons. So many of these lost to the derbies.

  16. Charles

    My parents towed an Airstream travel trailer with their two GM clam shell wagons. We thought that the clam shell design was great as one could lower the tail gate with the trailer hitched up. The Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser had the Olds 455 engine and even so it had some problems towing the trailer. Mostly it wanted to run hot. We did some research and found out that the gear ratio in the diff was ridiculously high, something like 2.3 :1. I was told that was done in an effort to improve the fuel economy, however those cars were gas hogs regardless. Dad had the gear swapped to a 3:73, updated the speedometer gear to match and the car towed like a pro. Fuel economy did not change significantly but the car had a lot more grunt off of the line. Those smog era big block engines developed a good amount of torque even if the HP ratings were low.

  17. RoselandPete

    If that’s the original woodgrain, I’m astounded that there is no bubbling under it.

  18. Bruce Fischer

    Got to love it if its a station wagon!!!Bruce.

  19. jaymes

    this was on ebay last year, out of new york, they got the rust looking good, it needed a back bumper too i belive

    • nessy

      Not this guy again. You are correct jaymes. Way overpriced like most of his other listings that get rerun again and again with no sales. I heard many cars from this dealer are doctored up cars that still have issues. Try dropping your starting prices and maybe something you list will sell. I don’t know how he keeps afloat. Nothing meets his reserve prices.

  20. Mrvans Member

    Woodgrain has been replaced. The original had more sheen to it. As mentioned in an earlier post, this car was recently sold in NY. This dealer in FL is known for putting lipstick on pigs and asking outrageous prices.

    • nessy

      Outrageous prices on cleaned up pigs from this Florida flipper/seller is an understatement Mrvans.. Keep rubbing that motor oil into faded paint and keep the Armor All on those interiors. My poor friend went all the way down to Florida from New York to see just that. A doctored up over priced no sale car and a salesman who could care less about the wasted trip. Not trying to be a jerk and pick on a seller just trying to make a buck but this is not a place to try and do business with. The super high starting prices which are never met are the first warning to our possible fellow buyers. Sorry seller but you need to make some big changes in your listings.

      • RoselandPete

        These Florida guys must be magicians. I thought this car looks great. The only “flaw” I noticed was that there was no trim plate for the radio.

      • CapNemo

        I did business with these guys once, and it’ll be the last time. I wish I’d’ve researched them further before I acted, I was doing my purchase out of state. Never again, and I make sure to put the word out. Run from them.

      • nessy

        Agreed CapNemo, you are right about this place. Barnfinds should boycott on posting anything in the future from this dump. Too many people complain about this flipper each time one of their cars is posted here.

  21. King Al

    So, what you’re saying is: bring a magnet, a paint thickness indicator? Buyer beware.

    • jaymes

      caveat emptor

  22. BTG88

    When I was a kid we had the Chevy Kingswood Estate version with the 454. As I recall, the window went into the rear door (and not the roof) and then the door went into the floor.

  23. Big Mike

    Raise the top of the car 8″ and you would have a John Wayne Cruiser. John Wayne loved the Pontiac station wagons, but would have Chuck Barris raise the top so he could ride in them without having to take off his hat. That and he was 6’4″ tall
    I saw the 1972 he owned at his birthplace museum in Winterset, Iowa earlier this year.

  24. RoselandPete

    I don’t know about banning this seller from Barn finds. Even if they are shady, I still enjoy reading about what they are selling and seeing the pics. I just wouldn’t buy from them. But I have to admit, they sure know how to make their cars look good…at least in the ads.

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