LS-Powered 1970 Kingswood Estate Wagon Is Forever Cool

Back in the day, station wagons were the defacto family haulers of the age. Based on popular sedans, they were the opposite of today’s SUVs. While modern sport utility vehicles are tall and upright, old-school wagons, such as this 1970 Kingswood Estate, are sleek, stylish, and relatively petite in comparison.

The late ’60s and early ’70s saw a fierce battle for station wagon supremacy. The Chevy Kingswood, Ford Country Squire, and Plymouth Suburban (yes, Plymouth had a Suburban) were common sights back then. Hundreds of thousands of long-roof variants were sold, and unlike coupes or convertibles, wagons were run hard as utilitarian vehicles on the roads across America. Station wagons were daily workhorses, and the ones that didn’t get wrung out were sent to the crusher and are as rare as hens’ teeth these days. When it comes to our favorite of the Big Three full-size wagons, that’s a tough call because they’re all cool, but we’ll go with the Kingswood because it’s a friggin’ Chevrolet with good looks and Bowtie power.

The Ford LTD Country Squire sold 121,538 units and was the best-selling wagon in the US market in 1970. Second place went to the Chevrolet Kingswood and Kingswood Estate, which sold 116,332 units combined. Third place went to the Plymouth Fury Suburban, which sold 86,085 units and was the best-selling wagon of the Chrysler Corporation in 1970.

1970 Kingswood Estate interior

Our Kingswood Estate feature car now houses a console, a floor-shifter, and bucket seats covered with new foam and matching skins from Legendary Auto Interiors.

The Flagship Chevrolet Wagon

The 1970 Chevrolet Kingswood was based on the Impala and it slotted above the Bel Air-based Townsman. A Caprice-based Kingswood Estate model was positioned as the flagship Chevrolet station wagon. All Kingswood Estate wagons came with V8 engines. Multiple engine choices were available, starting with the small-block 350, up to a 454 cubic-inch big-block. The 1970 full-size Chevys were carried over 1969 models with some styling revisions. The 1969 loop front bumper and horizontal taillights were replaced with a conventional front bumper and three vertical taillights on the sedans.

Engine Lineup

300 horsepower, 350 cubic inch V8 (four-barrel)
265 horsepower, 400 cubic inch V8 (two-barrel)
330 horsepower, 400 cubic inch V8 (four-barrel)
345 horsepower, 454 cubic inch V8 (four-barrel)

Chevrolet produced a total of 49,352 Kingswood wagons in 1970. This was a slight increase from the previous year when 48,042 units were made. The Kingswood was the second most popular wagon in the Chevrolet lineup, behind the Kingswood Estate, which sold 66,980 units in 1970.

Dakota Digital gauges in 1970 Chevy Kingswood Estate wagon

This Kingswood’s gauges have been updated to Dakota Digital VHX units to keep better track of the engine under that expansive hood.

One outstanding feature of this Kingswood Estate is what Chevy called the "Dual-Action" tailgate. This twin-hinge rear door allowed it to drop down, or swing sideways for easy access to that optional, rearward-facing third-row seating. The seat also folded down into the concealed storage compartment to allow hauling lumber, ladders, or anything that would fit under the elongated roofline.

Our 1970 Kingswood Estate Feature Car

This brings us to our feature car, a 1970 Kingswood Estate Wagon. This Bowtie hauler has under 70,000 miles on the clock and holds onto its original paint and oh-so-70s vinyl wood paneling. It was purchased new in January of 1970 in Kent, Washington. The first owner used the wagon for Girl Scout duty and as a commuter car of massive capacity between the two Washington state towns of Renton and Everett. The current owner of the car, Brad Lauver, from Pennsylvania, bought the car from Streetside Classics twelve years ago and has made a few upgrades to make the wagon more to his liking.

LS-swapped station wagon

The modern LS engine gives this Kingswood the power of the largest engine available back in the day with much improved driveability and fuel mileage.

The wagon runs a stock frame with bagged suspension, tubular A-arms, and front disc brakes. That’s all well and good, but we saved the best for last. Originally equipped with a two-barrel carbed, 400 cubic-inch engine, this wagon got a heart transplant with an LS1 V8 and four-speed automatic transmission from a 2000 Camaro donor car. With around 345 horses from the LS motor, the wagon got a big boost of hustle (equal to that of the optional 454 cubic-inch engine) and a huge increase in drivability.

Making Good Great

With an adjustable air ride, the Kingswood sits just right and shows off a nice set of 16-and 17-inch American Racing Torq-Thrust rims. Station wagons were beasts of burden and the fact this Kingswood survives today in mostly original form is amazing. Station wagons with acres of vinyl wood paneling were everywhere in subdivisions across the country back in the day, and Lauver claims the Kingswood retains its original plastic-plank siding.

The disco-era wrap almost always involved wood grain and this Kingswood Estate got the full headlight-to-headlight treatment.

Lastly, while old wagons are cool, they are also stout and were built to last. The modern equivalent of this Kingswood is a Tahoe or Suburban, and a loaded version is approaching 100 grand these days. We don’t know how much the current owner paid for this wagon, but we think this 53-year-old station wagon was a GREAT bargain at its original $4,619 purchase price. Try finding one of these beauties for that price today!

Instead of buying a new SUV, buy a well-preserved old wagon, and put the down-payment money on a house instead.  That’s the way to do it. Not only will you have an appreciating asset, but you’ll be greener than all your neighbors by recycling an old car!  Lastly, you’ll bring some much-needed old-school cool to the local grocery store parking lot.

About the author

Dave Cruikshank

Dave Cruikshank is a lifelong car enthusiast and an editor at Power Automedia. He digs all flavors of automobiles, from classic cars to modern EVs. Dave loves music, design, tech, current events, and fitness.
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