Pampered Poncho: 36K-mile 1975 Pontiac Catalina 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 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) mid-70s “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 on this Catalina. 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 benefitted from a repaint in the original deep red. The vinyl woodgrain appliqué 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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