Fifty-eight years after production ended, Chevrolet’s two-door wagon, the Nomad, remains sought-after by collectors. In the decades since, GM has tried on at least three occasions to revive the idea, using the F-body platform to create midsize two-door wagons based upon the Chevrolet Camaro or the Pontiac Firebird. None progressed far beyond the concept stage (at least with GM), but that doesn’t mean they weren’t noteworthy.
The idea of a two-door Chevrolet wagon was first revived with the 1970 Camaro Kammback concept, a two-door wagon that featured a conventional top-hinged tailgate and was reportedly due to hit Chevy dealers for the 1970 model year. Pontiac wanted its own version of the two-door wagon as well, harkening back to the days when the two-door Pontiac Safari was the automotive cousin to the Chevy Nomad. Producing common tooling for the F-body wagons could have made the endeavor cost-effective, but the story goes that Chevy and Pontiac stylists could not find common ground on issues like door size and quarter panel shape. Knowing that such a product would appeal to a limited audience, and without an agreeable economy of scale, GM killed the idea before it progressed beyond the design phase.
Chevrolet launched the Vega Kammback for the 1971 model year, giving buyers the option of a two-door station wagon on a compact platform. It would take nearly another decade before the option of a midsize two-door was explored again by GM, this time under its Pontiac division. The Type K (for Kammback) concept, originally shown in 1977, was developed by Jerry Brockstein under the direction of GM executive David R. Hollis. The design did away with a conventional rear tailgate in favor of long, gullwing-style rear windows on either side that permitted easy access to the entire cargo area. Out back, a vertical rear window sat above a four-bar array that traversed the width of the rear, masking the taillamps and stop lamps unless they were illuminated.
Seeing the potential for such a product, GM design head Bill Mitchell approved the construction of two concepts, based upon production Firebirds. The conversion, which utilized steel body panels, was farmed out to Italy’s Pininfarina, which had ample experience in assembling such concepts, as well as low-volume models. One was finished in gold with a beige interior, while the second was a more striking silver with a red interior.
The public gave the Type K concepts an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and GM began to explore its options for production. One idea was to farm the work out to Pininfarina in Italy, while a second and potentially lower-cost plan called for building the Type Ks in the United States under Pininfarina’s supervision. Somewhat of a halo car, GM targeted a selling price of around $16,000 for the Type K, at a time when a base Firebird was priced from $4,753 and a Trans Am from $5,889.
Though the reasons why are unclear, the gold Type K was reportedly destroyed by GM. The silver car, fitted with a 1979 Trans Am-style front end, appeared in a March 1979 two-part episode of The Rockford Files (Never Send a Boy King to do a Man’s Job), driven by Odette Lepandieu (played by Trish Noble). With this much exposure and positive press, the Type K almost seemed destined for production.
Until the final build cost assessment came in, that is. Even with Pininfarina doing all it could to contain costs, the final retail price of the Type K would have needed to be in the $25,000 range for GM to turn a profit, making it as expensive as two 1979 Corvettes. To make matters worse, a new Firebird was already in the works by the 1979 model year, which meant that the cost of developing a new Kammback body would need to be factored in as well. The idea of a two-door wagon on the F-body platform was killed off a second time.
Seeing an opportunity to succeed where GM failed, a California company, Deco International Corporation, moved forward with a fiberglass wagon body for the 1977-’81 Firebirds. Using the same gullwing rear windows as the GM-designed car, the Deco Type K conversion was priced from approximately $15,000, plus the price of the donor car. It’s unclear how many were built from 1980 until the company ceased operations, but given the still-exorbitant price, the answer is “not many.”
Even this wasn’t the final chapter on the Firebird wagon. In 1985, Pontiac once again debuted a Firebird-based sportwagon, this time built upon the Firebird Trans Am. Unlike the Type K concept, this third-generation Firebird concept was heavily based upon the production car, replacing the existing rear hatchback with the Kammback-style roof. Several were constructed by GM (including one in white, one in red, one in blue and one in black), but the project never proceeded beyond the experimental stage.
In this day and age of compact crossovers and SUVs, the idea of a two-door wagon (or even a mainstream four-door wagon) seems as forgotten as the dual-cowl phaeton body style. Still, Chevrolet is set to launch a new Camaro, now built upon GM’s Alpha platform, for the 2016 model year, and a two-door Camaro-based wagon would give the automaker a truly unique offering. We can hope, even if making additional room in the garage isn’t exactly prudent.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Kurt Ernst.