John Wayne’s name has become almost synonymous with the Western genre. Wayne found himself becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood following his big break in the film, Stagecoach (1939). Wayne would become one of Hollywood’s premier leading men throughout his career, appearing in 180 credits before his passing in 1979.
The Legendary Pontiac Grand Safari
When you think of the name John Wayne, what instantly comes to mind? If you are at least slightly familiar with his Hollywood career, your first thoughts of the Duke probably revolve around cowboys and Western films. While we don’t doubt you for going in that direction, there is plenty more to know about the famous John Wayne.
Originally born Marion Michael Morrison, Wayne adopted a stage name before heading to Hollywood. Wayne didn’t take the typical route to Hollywood success as he didn’t really break out until 1930 when he was cast in the film, The Big Trail. Following that film, Wayne would become more than just another handsome face in Hollywood, he would become an icon.
Despite his status as one of the biggest movie stars of all time, Wayne didn’t have the reputation for spending that today’s movie stars seem to proudly carry. With that being said, Wayne did have an affinity for one car. We are talking about the topic of today’s conversation, the Pontiac Grand Safari Wagon.
While the Duke may have been known for his icy cool demeanor, you’d probably be surprised to see such a big star driving around in an emerald green station wagon. According to the fellow who sold the Grand Safari to Wayne, the famous actor wanted a car that he didn’t want to bang his head on when he was getting in and out of it. The Pontiac Grand Safari was considered to be one of the best full-size station wagons of the era, so it made sense that Wayne would want to pluck one up, even if just to protect his head when getting in and out of the vehicle.
The Pontiac Grand Safari Wagon is far from a technical marvel, but there is still something charming about the bulky vehicle. The full-sized Grand Safari came stock with rear-wheel drive, five doors, and a GM Pontiac 400 V8 engine. With enough power to push his wagon over 112 MPH, Wayne could get his car scooting if he really wanted to. With that being said, we’re not sure it would have been advisable at the time to push such a bulky vehicle to those extreme speeds. The Safari also featured a 3-speed automatic transmission.
Once you opened the door to Wayne’s Grand Safari, you would find yourself looking in at a red upholstered interior with a wide dash, a three-spoke wheel, and plenty of legroom. Bereft of many of the luxuries of modern driving, the Pontiac Grand Safari Wagon may look a little depleted. Having said that, we’re not sure that the Duke would want anything else in his car than what came stock with the model.
Driving With the Duke
John Wayne first made his breakthrough in Hollywood when he was cast in the 1930 film The Big Trail. Working alongside John Ford, Wayne would eventually get his next big performance in the 1939 film, Stagecoach. Despite breaking through the industry at an older age, Wayne didn’t hesitate to stay busy once he got the call. With appearances in 180 different projects, Wayne was as prolific as he was talented.
John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa. He was born with the name Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907. Wayne was one of two children in his family, and they frequently moved around during his childhood. Due to his family’s proclivity for relocating, it was hard for Wayne to make new friends. As a result, the family got a dog whom they named Duke. Wayne was with his dog so often that his family began to call them Little Duke and Big Duke. In high school, Wayne played football while operating as a member of the student government. Wayne also became a prolific performer with a number of theatrical roles to his name during high school.
After graduating from school, Wayne would begin working as both a prop man and an extra. Work as a prop man and an extra was not glamorous nor was it high paying. A chance encounter with John Ford while working on the set of Mother Machree (1928) as an extra would change everything. Wayne would work for over a decade, appearing in a number of low-budget films before finally making his major break.
The rest, as they say, is history.