Seven Chevrolet Station Wagons America Never Got
Bowtie brand longroofs you won't find on local Craigslist
We're all accustomed to thinking that Chevrolet gives the U.S. market a first crack on everything it sells, from sedans to trucks, but the Bowtie brand has almost always fielded a different lineup of vehicles in other countries.
What could be more American than a Chevy family wagon? In South Africa, the role of the Chevrolet station wagon was played by an Opel, kind of like when Robin Curtis took over the role of Lieutenant Saavik from Kirstie Alley in "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" without explanation. Before that, even Australian Holdens guest-starred as Chevrolets.
Here are seven Chevy longroofs that were never sold in North America:
1. Chevrolet Caravan
The Caravan was the station wagon (or rather shooting brake) version of the Chevrolet Opala, which was itself a mix of Opel and Chevrolet parts-bin items. Built in Brazil for internal consumption, the Caravan and Opala borrowed equally from Opel and Chevrolet exterior designs and used the venerable 250-cid straight-six engine, in addition to the Chevy 153 engine. The Opala and Caravan were continuously updated over a long period of time but remained very basic under the skin. A facelift updated the fascia you see above, but you can tell that the sides of the car are basically from the 1960s. This was not all that unusual for Ford and GM models in South America.
Was America denied something awesome? No, we had dozens of wagons to choose from, most of them far larger than this and with woody siding.
Can I import one? We suppose so, but once again there are more interesting models that could be imported if you're already spending the money to bring something over.
How will I be able to explain this at classic car shows? "It's the station wagon version of the Opala. You know, Opala. Ahh, forget it."
2. Chevrolet Ipanema
Based on the GM T platform, the Chevrolet Ipanema was basically an Opel Kadett station wagon rebadged for Brazil. The Kadett was available in many different forms throughout the world, including as a Daewoo, but North America only received the Pontiac LeMans in two-door hatch and four-door sedan form. If the U.S., had a station wagon version, this is what it would have looked like, though it's unclear if GM would have badged it as a Pontiac.
Was America denied something awesome? On one hand, a small Chevy wagon seems like a good idea given the solid demand for Chevrolet Celebrity station wagons. Dealers probably would have tried to upsell customers to slightly larger GM station wagons of the time.
Can I import one? If you do, you will likely have the only one in the country. On the other hand, there are far more interesting cars to import from Brazil if you have the opportunity to bring something over.
How will I be able to explain this at classic car shows? "It's what a Pontiac LeMans station wagon would have looked like."
3. Chevrolet Commodore
Before GM of South Africa threw in the towel with the Bowtie badge and basically started selling Opels as Opels, it had a number of unique Chevrolet models borrowed from Opel in Germany and Holden in Australia but fitted with Chevrolet engines.
One such car was the Opel Commodore, positioned just below the Senator flagship and for a time GM of South Africa sold it as a Chevrolet Commodore, not even bothering to come up with a unique name. Under the hood were 3.8-liter and 4.1-liter inline-six pushrod engines, which were definitely not on the menu in Europe as they were just too thirsty. After a while, selling German engineering with a Chevrolet badge and engine got too weird, even for GM of South Africa, so 1982 was the last year for these.
Was America denied something awesome? The Commodore was a pretty warm seller in Europe and certainly looked sleek for the time; it would have likely given the stateside Chevy and Buick range a run for its money with its much crisper handling and European interior styling.
Can I import one? It's much easier to find these as Opels in western Europe than try to track one down in South Africa.
How will I be able to explain this at classic car shows? "It's what we could have had instead of the Chevy Celebrity."
4. Chevrolet Veraneio
The vehicle you see above is not some kind of custom, but a very much production SUV wagon thing from Brazil during the 1960s. The styling of the Brazilian (and no other market) Veraneio is fairly close to the Chevy Suburban of the time, but the proportions of this... inspiration for the Ford Flex are closer to large station wagons of the time. The Veraneio was a Brazilian bitsa of sorts, using C10 parts-bin items under the very unique exterior, but it was not all that big and did not adopt a tall ride height. Neither was it aimed at off-road prowess. Instead, the Veraneio was more or less a light truck turned into a crossover, meant for on-road use. Large 250-cid and 350-cid engines lived underhood, shared with a number of Chevrolet passenger cars also unique to Brazil, and even though these lived all the way into the 1980s they were eventually replaced by more common North American fare.
Was America denied something awesome? The Veraneio was prescient in a way, but the execution was agricultural and not all that different in packaging from large American wagons and SUVs of the time.
Can I import one? Yes, but good luck finding a well-kept one.
How will I be able to explain this at classic car shows? "It's a 1960s Brazilian crossover."
5. Chevrolet Chevette Marajo
We may have had the three- and five-door Chevettes in the U.S., but we didn't have a shooting brake. Somewhere, there was demand for such a thing, and that somewhere was Brazil. In fact, very small station wagons with two doors had been on fleek in Brazil for some time, and the Chevette actually engaged in a pitched battle for sales with Volkswagen and Ford in this segment, albeit fielding a slightly outdated platform. With a 70-hp engine pulling a 1,100-pound payload, the Chevette can be thought of as an El Camino-style trucklet with a roof, and if you think that sounds ridiculous, know that there was in fact a pickup truck based on the Chevette in Brazil, as well. The Chevette soldiered on in various forms until 1994, which means that there are still plenty of examples on the road today.
Was America denied something awesome? A Chevette shooting brake would have been fun to spot on the roads as a rarity, but it probably would not have been very fun back in the day.
Can I import one? Yes, but a lot of examples that are importable probably sport very high mileages. Coincidentally, the fact that the Chevette was produced until 1994 means that there are some Chevettes out there that you cannot import into the U.S. and register for the road -- yes, there are Chevettes out there that are forbidden fruit.
How will I be able to explain this at classic car shows? "It's a Brazilian Chevette shooting brake ... if that makes any sense."
6. Chevrolet Omega
The Chevy Omega is what replaced the Opala in Brazil, but unlike the Opala it was pretty much an Opel inside and out. Just about everywhere else in the world the Omega was sold as an Opel, making the Chevy version unique to the Brazilian market. Brazil did not receive the whole range of engines, leaving a 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 3.0-liter six-cylinder on the menu. The station wagon presented a larger alternative to the Chevette shooting brake.
Was America denied something awesome? In terms of technology and design, the Omega was far ahead of the Chevy Celebrity, which probably won't be a surprise for anyone. Had it been offered in North America badged as whatever, it would have presented very serious competition to Ford Taurus wagons. But then again, midsize American wagons were on their way out, and the Taurus wagon was enough for those who wanted one.
Curiously enough, the U.S. would receive the second-generation Omega as a Cadillac Catera, also known as "The Caddy that Zigs." It didn't do well as a Caddy.
Can I import one? Yes!
How will I be able to explain this at classic car shows? "This? Oh, it's just a regular run-of-the-mill Chevy Omega."
7. Chevrolet Constantia
The Constantia nameplate debuted when GM of South Africa, apparently out of ideas and in need of cars, decided to sell Australian Holdens as Chevys in the country, in addition to borrowing Opels from Europe. The Constantia started out in life as the Holden Statesman -- the range-topper down under -- and the design was largely carried over as well. Beefy 4.1-liter and 5.0-liter engines provided the power. It's interesting that GM of South Africa opted to source an Australian sedan and station wagon for its lineup, rather than an American one, but the steering wheel was already on the right side so there's that.
Was America denied something awesome? This would have been cool, we have to admit, but somewhat redundant given the vast range of station wagons that Chevy offered in the U.S. at this time.
Can I import one? Yes! But it'll be far easier to seek out a Holden version. It'll be RHD either way.
How will I be able to explain this at classic car shows? "It's a South African Chevy built in Australia ... if that makes any sense."
This article originally appeared on AutoWeek.