Holley Rendered Rides: Enjoying The Perfect "Christmas Vacation" In A Ford Explorer Squire

10 min read

Holley Rendered Rides: Enjoying The Perfect "Christmas Vacation" In A Ford Explorer Squire

10 min read

The holidays are a magical time, aren't they? Family showing up at your house that you haven't seen in months, food on the table for everyone, the smell of warm sugar cookies in the air, Bing Crosby crooning out "White Christmas" like only he could. And then there's the beautiful tree, decorated and loaded with presents for everyone underneath. The house, a-glow with lights to brighten the mood of everybody around. We know what Christmas is supposed to look like. And we know the kind of work that goes into that picturesque scene–hours (if not days) of preparation.

There's the months of gift-shopping that you hope you got right. The back-breaking poundage of decorations precariously perched int he rafters, and the potential distant relative conflicts that could need to be moderated with the patience of a U.N. peacekeeper. As much as we love it, there's the postcard holiday, and then there's the reality of the season.

There's a lot of traveling that goes on, from the wintertime road trip, to the shopping mall, to the forest to get the perfect tree to put up somewhere. For many years, the family station wagon was that vehicle. Rambler Rebels, Oldsmobile Vista Cruisers, dolled-up Chrysler Town and Country and Ford Country Squires roamed the land with their woodgrain sides slathered halfway up with salt, slush and froze sludge, trundling from here to there packed with family and whatever else needed to be hauled around. But over the last thirty years, the station wagon has faded away and the sport-utility vehicle has taken over as the long-roofed people hauler. So, we wondered what the Christmas time family shuttle would look like in today's world–with a splash of nostalgia only a Griswold Christmas could dish out.

We naturally needed some kind of muse to base our modern seasonal sled on, and almost immediately the car that came to mind was the station wagon from the classic 1989 Christmas comedy flick, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation". If you immediately pictured the Wagon Queen Family Truckster, we appreciate your knowledge of comedy films but you are a bit off. Clark Griswold drove a 1989 Ford Taurus station wagon painted Bright Currant with added-on wood paneling. While the wood treatment was a Hollywood slap-stick add-on, the Taurus was a spot-on choice for the time. Ford's mainstay mid-size sedan and wagon had taken the automotive world by storm when they went up for sale in 1986. Ford took a huge gamble with the DN5 platform, literally betting the company on their success, but the gamble proved to be worthwhile as Ford would wind up selling over two million of the first-generation Taurus. Given the popularity and the market space it occupies, we decided that our modern take on the Christmas wagon would be the Ford Explorer. Popular from the moment they went on sale in 1991, the Explorer has been one of Ford's most popular vehicles, with nearly eight million produced to date. With our vehicles selected, we tapped Rotislav Prokop, our in-house rendering artist, and asked him to bring our holiday vision into focus for us. And boy, did he pull off a miracle...

Rendered Rides Explorer Rear 1

Our base vehicle would start off as a 2021 Ford Explorer with the ST package, a nice model that seems fitting for a Clark Griswold type...not to ostentatious, not too cheap, and with just the right amount of pep for pop. While we would've picked the lovely Burgundy Velvet color that is available on the Limited and King Ranch trims, somehow the sales guy managed to talk Clark into opting for the "Squire" package, which brings on the classic Chamois Glow paint paired with a healthy slathering of 3M DI-NOC woodgrain applique in a lovely rosewood tone. Even with the throwback look, the Explorer Squire is a perfectly capable machine, with 400 horsepower and 415 ft-lb of torque from the turbocharged EcoBoost V6 and an intelligent 4WD system available. Bring on the snow, the Explorer should handle anything short of an all-out blizzard of Alaskan proportions. There's plenty of room inside for all of the jolliest bunch of...er, friends he knows in with third-row seating, or if he just want to keep it to the missus and the kids, the back offers up a spacious storage area.

If Clark really can work over a salesman (and after the Family Truckster incident, let's hope he learned his lesson), he'd check the boxes for the floor liners, the heated seats, heated steering wheel, the cargo mat and the roof-rail crossbars that he is going to need to haul an old-fashioned, sap-filled, full-bodied Christmas tree home with. The 360-degree camera might come in handy when you're explaining to your insurance agent about the incident involving irresponsible drivers...actually, with his driving history, maybe that isn't for the best. And don't let him know that the voice-navigated navigation system was added onto the options list...we understand that Mr. Griswold is a bit prideful when it comes to his navigational sense.

Rendered Rides Explorer Right Front Quarter

So the Explorer Squre has a lot going for it out of the Christmas box. But is it up to the task of living with the Griswolds? We believe so. Many police departments use the Ford Police Interceptor Utility, the Explorer's public-service form, and that vehicle, Ford claims, is the only vehicle in the world to meet the 75-MPH rear-impact crash test. While there are no documented reports on how well the Explorer Squire tolerates jumps and landings, it's still recommended that they not be attempted. For legal reasons, obviously. But for basic around-town drives, the occasional road trip out west or the dirt-road detour, the Explorer Squire should be just fine.

There's plenty of prose written that waxes poetic about the decline of the station wagon. But what is usually missing is that they simply evolved and gained a new name. The sport-utility vehicle fills the same role the station wagon of old occupied: it seats many in comfort, it packs cargo along with ease, and it's designed for daily use with little regard to the outside elements. And more often than not, today's vehicles out-class the wagons of old in every way: they are roomier, more powerful, more efficient, and all in a package that is overall smaller than their 1960s or 1970s equivalent. Clark Griswold should be over the moon to drive such a vehicle as the Explorer Squire around in the clean, cool chill of the holiday air as he prepares for that fun, old-fashioned family Christmas this season.

And we'll tell him that, once we get him to calm down and feed him a couple of Tylenol for his holiday-infused mania.


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