24 May 2013

A summer romance with Vera the Vista Cruiser

The Vista Cruiser came into our lives at Hagerty as the result of an intense search to find a classic wagon to take on a classic summer vacation and write about it for Hagerty Classic Cars magazine. While all of us love the look of classic American wagons from the 1950s, they've gotten expensive and niceties like seatbelts, A/C and disc brakes don't figure into the equation. The sweet spot, we thought, would be the late 1960s to the early 1970s, where we'd stand a chance of getting some of the above while still retaining a classic, wood-sided, don't-make-me-come-back-there wagon look.

It came down to a Ford Country Squire or an Olds Vista Cruiser. We started by trolling two of our favorite sites, ClassicCars.com and Bring-a-Trailer.com. BaT posts great stuff and their rabid fan base seems to snap up things fast. We just weren't quick enough on the draw with several of the promising cars that they posted. Eventually, we found what looked like a suitable candidate on Craigslist in New Jersey. North Jersey isn't exactly my default location when looking for a classic car, but this one looked the part. Nice, dark green metallic paint with a green interior and rally wheels.

After getting a Road Ready Certified report from ClassicCars.com, we bought the car and had the always-reliable Reliable Carriers ship it back to Michigan. After a tune-up and an A/C charge, it hit the road with our VP of Finance Dan Beutler and his family for the classic summer vacation story. Other than a tire issue, the car performed just fine for more than 1,500 miles. We used it in a couple of holiday promotional videos (in this one, Hagerty PR Manager Jonathan Klinger famously ties the Christmas tree to the roof backward), and stored it for the winter. Our plan was to feature it on Bring-a-Trailer and Classic Cars.com but we let the cat out of the bag via Facebook and we were inundated with interest. So now, Vera the Vista Cruiser, as Dan's family named it, is starting a new life in Pennsylvania and hopefully has more than a few classic vacations left in her.

6 Reader Comments

  • 1
    CORVAIRWILD Schuyler Falls NY June 4, 2013 at 23:55
    Good choice for American Excess, or Exceptionalism... a friend of mine bought one of these in 1980 for $40, drove the wheels off of it till it disintegrated, and a few years ago, found a partially disassembled '72 from California. After many many hours of TLC, he's driven it to many car shows, and even to visit me 400 miles from his home near Toronto, to look at the 2 cars I bought at the same time he found the 1st VC... I have a video of his car roaring past the barn where the mice nibble on my long dormant junkers. If the link doesn't work, got to CORVAIRWILD Vista Cruiser Flying on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtQI1D3Glv4
  • 2
    Gary Ricker NY June 5, 2013 at 09:54
    actually it started a new life in NY
  • 3
    Hardtop61 Oh August 4, 2013 at 10:48
    Had a couple of these back in the 70's. A white 68 that was a bit rough(bank repo), was a parts runner/loaner for my shop and a dark green 69, much like Vera, that I acquired as a customers car with a blown 2 barrel 350. I bought the car and as I had a 455 out of another customers Custom Cruiser I thought it would make a fun wagon. Fixed the 455 and got it into the Vista Cruiser. It wasn't going to win all the time but a lot of guys were surprised by watching the back end of that Olds wagon disappearing in front of them. My two boys had a lot of seat time in the back of that and many other wagons we owned back then. Ah, the memories.
  • 4
    Vistabrat 72 Toronto, Ontario, Canada August 24, 2013 at 22:35
    Hi, I am the fellow 'Corvairwild' is referring to. I have a '72', green, though in a lighter shade then 'Vera' featured here. All the adventures the Beutler family went through we can very much relate to as well. The conversations, the stories, the people we meet when on yet another journey with our own '72 Vista Cruiser, named 'Sammy', are always enlightened by the smiles the car brings to so many. We don't miss cup holders, ipods, etc, but having nice A/C does help with our long drives. Feeling a liitle wound up after a hard day? A drive in this car leaves all the nonsense behind. I think this car will be part of our lives for a long time to come! More of the car can be seen under 'Vista Cruiser' on a You Tube channel I have called spikedpunk.
  • 5
    Judie Tenenbaum Rhode Island September 8, 2014 at 15:34
    I had a 1969 vista cruiser which I loved until it got creamed by a speeding driver. What happened to the Vista Cruiser that you took on your trip?
  • 6
    jethro philadelphia January 12, 2015 at 01:24
    I have a 1971 Vista cruser in the garage for the past 15 years. Is it worth fixing up? Some possums shredded the interior seats.

Join the Discussion