Luckily, after surviving years of hauling a military family all over the country, this '61 Chevy station wagon ended up in a high, dry mountain salvage yard. Its fate could have been much worse-like being driven to death on hunting and fishing trips or, heaven forbid, being used as a demo derby car. But when Tom Ulrich found the nine-passenger Parkwood, a little worse for wear but resting comfortably at Ike's Auto Salvage in Craig, Colorado, it was just what he wanted to build into a cool family cruiser.
Adding to the wagon's interest, Tom has been able to trace much of its history. "It was purchased new in August, 1961, at Wallace Chevrolet (still in business) in Commerce, Georgia," he related. The buyer, Mr. Kerezsi, was a military man with two kids, so "the wagon saw many miles of moves and family vacations. It took them on trips to Pennsylvania, California (two or three times), and North Carolina." The family moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1972. Four years later, showing a little rust in the front fenders and left rear quarter-panel, the Chevy was sold to another Denver couple for $300. "From here," says Tom, "the trail becomes a little less clear. It appears the couple did not stay together, and one of them moved with the car to Steamboat Springs. How long it was there is a mystery, but it wound up at Ike's, where I purchased it in 1998."
Completing the circle, upon getting the station wagon home Tom discovered the original owner lives only about five miles from his home in Aurora, Colorado! "I contacted him, and we were invited over to his house. He related stories about his past with the car for about an hour, and his wife found a few pictures which she kindly copied and gave to us."
To prepare the wagon for its new life as a vintage cruiser and show queen, Tom installed Air Ride Technologies air suspension all around, aided by KYB gas shocks. American Torque Thrust wheels in 17x7 dimension were fitted to the four corners with 235x45 front and 245x50 rear BFG Comp T/A radials. The stock drum brakes and 3.55:1 rearend were retained. Tom swapped the original inline six for a 396 V-8, rebuilt with a .030-inch overbore, 9.0:1 compression ratio pistons, a Comp Cams camshaft, and three-angle valve job. Induction is via an Edelbrock 750 on an Edelbrock Performer manifold, and HEI ignition provides the spark. S&S block-hugger headers lead to 2 1/2-inch exhaust pipes and Flow Tech mufflers. A 700-R4 automatic is controlled by the original column shifter
Body and paint work was turned over to Stu Waldron, who Tom describes as his "partner in crime," the crime being cheating the steel mill out of about two tons of scrap metal! Stu cherried out the body and shot it in a custom mix of Dupont urethane he calls Cinnamon Toast, with a cream pearl on the top. All original trim, even the original roof rack, was restored and polished, and the rear bumper was rechromed.
Tom called in an expert, his wife, Sandra, to consult on the color scheme and interior. Ultra Leather(tm) in a Milkweed tone was the choice to rejuvenate the interior, along with a floral pattern headliner and fawn carpet from Auto Custom Carpet. The stitching was carried out by Cruisin' Comfort of Watkins, Colorado. An Air-Tique under-dash A/C unit was installed, and the air ride tanks and pumps are mounted in the rear storage well.
As soon as their new cruisin' wagon was completed, Tom and Sandra took it on the road. They logged more than 5,000 miles in the first three months-and picked up a couple show awards along the way!