Seen in retrospect, the Powell also reflected a unique perspective on post-war automotive construction. Built between the retreating shadow of World War II and the dawn of the American post-war economy, the pickup represented a mix of pre- and post-war economic realities. In the means of its construction, the home-grown vehicle, built out of existing parts, spoke to an era of wartime rationing and materials shortages, in which items like metals used in automobile construction were scarce and citizens were compelled to craft their own goods in place of those they would regularly find on store shelves.
In its design, and the very fact that their company had endeavored to market a new vehicle to the public, however, the Powell brothers’ enterprise reflected the optimistic attitude of the burgeoning mid-century American economy. Though Europe would continue to feel the economic devastation of World War II long after its conclusion, by the mid-1950s when the Powell Sport Wagon was introduced, the American economy would experience a period of rapid growth, in which the Gross National Product (GNP) would grow to nearly 250% its pre-war size. A concurrent, and insatiable, consumer demand for new vehicles would drive the creation of new, exciting automobiles like the Chevrolet Corvette, which was, incidentally, featured on the very cover of the February 1956 issue of Motor Trend in which Woron would chronicle his views of the humble Sport Wagon.
With these two perspectives as context, Channing and Hayward Powell set out to create a unique and, as Woron would describe, somewhat mythical car that would sell for under the “magical one-grand figure.” Unfortunately for the company, like most manufacturers who sought to produce such a vehicle from scratch, “costs mounted upward like a mushroom pushing its way thru the cracking earth.” Though the Powell brothers projected in Motor Trend that increased production numbers would lower the cost of their Wagon, at a price of a mere $95 over their target, the Powell Sport Wagon was quite a noble attempt.
By Kristin Feay
Photography by Bob D’Olivo and Walt Woron