Sears "Country Squire" Stake WagonI'll let the pictures do most of the talking, but a brief introduction is in order. In about 1965 or 1966, I asked my parents for a wagon - and I got one! Probably for Christmas, but it may have been a birthday gift.
But what I had envisioned and what I received were not the same thing! I had envisioned a wooden stake wagon, what I received was the more standard metal pan wagon. Basic lack of communication. Despite this, I put a lot of miles on the metal wagon, but it eventually rusted out after several years from filling with water from rain storms and the usual neglect from a young kid.
Like most kids of my generation, I'd spend hours daydreaming with the Sears "Wish Book" Christmas catalog. When I first saw the "Country Squire" stake wagon, it was my unrealized dream. Despite there being an un-written rule that "Santa never brings the same gift twice", I convinced my parents that I'd take care of the wooden stake wagon and keep it out of the weather. It was also $18.95 or $19.95, which was a LOT of money to a 10 year old of that era, and the most expensive gift I'd ever knowingly asked for. But in any event, I received it for my 10th birthday in 1970.
To say I obsessed over taking care of it would be an understatement. I had remembered the unfortunate fate of its predecessor, and knew the wood was far more delicate as far as water was concerned. To the best of my knowledge, it NEVER sat out in the rain or overnite - it was kept undercover somewhere always.
I also worked the wagon hard, it often hauled 90 pound sacks of Portland cement, tools, and Goddess knows what-all during my teen years. It also went on many a childhood expedition, over to the neighbor's house, etc. I had a little trailer I could tow behind it, the wheels of which came from the preceding pan wagon, between the two I could haul 8 standard grocery bags at once - 6 in the wagon, and 2 more in the trailer - from the car to the house, which was about a 100 foot trek. A lot easier to load the wagon once, instead of having to make multiple trips. We won't discuss the time I cut a corner too sharp and dumped the whole affair into the flower bed!
Another time my mother and I accompanied the next door neighbor to an orchard where we picked a large quantity of pears. When we got home, I was tasked to transport our share from the neighbor's house to ours. The trusty wagon was employed for this purpose. The regulation 6 grocery bags, loaded to the brim with pears went in the wagon.
Being as this was in the country, getting this home involved going down the neighbor's driveway, probably about 100 yards long, then down a dirt road a piece, then up our own - similarly long - driveway. All was well until I got to the steepest part of our driveway. Although it was paved (thank Goddess!), there was enough gravel that I couldn't get enough traction under my feet to push (I was smart enough to back the wagon up the hill)! So I chocked the wheels of the wagon and left it there, walked up to the house and got a broom and swept myself a clear path so I could accomplish the mission!
I rarely rode the wagon - you could remove its stake sides to do so, but about the only time I would was when I was bringing it home from the farm ½ mile away. I would remove the front 3 panels and stow them in the back so I could sit in the wagon and ride it down the hill from the farm. That was when disaster struck - the front wheels got caught in a rut of the dirt road and broke the axle out of the front end. My parents tried multiple times to purchase a replacement front end assembly from Sears, but they kept sending the wrong part, so my father figured out how to fix it using some electrical conduit hanging U-bolts. This mishap occurred fairly early in the wagon's history, and the repair held up just fine and there was never another problem with it.
I had promised myself that when I wore the tires out on this thing, I'd get new ones - but never dreamed how this would play out almost a half century later! I grew up like kids do, but I always took care of that wagon as I had promised my parents long before, but I sold it to a co-worker for his kids in 1998.
Fast forward to 2016. The coworker's kid had grown up, and I asked if he still had the wagon. "Yes, would you like it back?". So it came back. A little more weather beaten - it had gotten wet a time or two, but overall in good shape. The home made trailer on the other hand, had vanished sometime during the intervening years.
I'll let the pictures do most of the talking:
This just in: The wagon ca 1999, approximately 1 year after I had sold it.
The little trailer had evidently already disappeared, but the idea had not!
The wagon as it was when I received it back. I had already decided on pneumatic tires!
I remembered putting the little sticker you can see in this photo on the red panel when
I was 12 or 13. It said "LeadFoot", somebody had given it to me and it was still there!
I had kept the wagon painted and varnished. The bad green paint job was left over paint from
painting the wooden bed of our 1963 GMC truck! Good paint, not so good a job putting it on.
Weathered, but still intact.
Skipping over the complete disassembly - here is where I was stripping varnish off of the side rails.
Front and rear rails.
Stripping the varnished rear panels.
Skipping over a bunch of sanding and other work, here the rails get several coats of polyurethane after being stained.
Here's an interesting tidbit. This crack in the painted front panel was there from day one when the wagon
was brand new. It had always annoyed me, so I decided to repair it, I was tired of looking at it after 46 years!
A wedge drove it upwards, and a clamp held it inwards while the glue dried.
Much better alignment was achieved, then it was sanded...
...and filled. As you will see lower down, its like the split never existed!
Sanding several coats of red paint off revealed the original "Country Squire" graphics.
The bed after power sanding. That old green paint was tough - although it was not original.
Still, I decided to keep the color, here the bed is being re-assembled.
The two torx screws seen here replaced the only nails in the wagon - two in front, two in rear.
This was also where I made the only regrettable mistake in the restoration: I should have flat blacked the bottom!
But the reassembled bed looks great as long as you don't look on the underside!
Here can be seen the handle, front end, and rear bolster braces. The original color of the metal
was silver, but I had repainted it several times over the years, one time using black paint for
some braindead reason. That, coupled with a strange yellow primer made things interesting.
Thank Goddess I had access to a sand blaster - it made short work of numerous coats of old paint!
The rear bolster and the rear axle. Note the large amount of wear on the axle from the nylon wheel bushings!
Here is where it gets interesting. Somewhere along the line, I decided to embrace my inner redneck, and turn this wagon into a "Dually". Like my father used to say, "As soon as you modify something, there's going to be a tradeoff.". With these words of wisdom in my mind, I started planning this out.
The first problem was the axle. In order to add dual rear wheels, the axle needed to be longer. Unfortunately, the only pneumatic wheels I could find had a bore of ⅝", and the existing axle was ½". I know that pneumatic wheels with a ½" bore exist, because I had a generator with the exact same kind of wheels I ended up using, but they had the desired ½" bore. But I sure couldn't find any!
So fine, we're replacing the axle anyway, I'll get a ⅝" rod and call it good. But, what about the front end? I could have replaced the axle there too, but instead I found some ½" to ⅝" bushings that solved both the wrong size issue as well as covering the worn area of the axle.
On to the next problem: How to hold the wheels on. By 1970, when this wagon was built, the old way of a cotter pin with washer and a screw on hub cap had been abandoned in favor of the snap on plastic caps that are used on wagons to this day. To make a rather long story short: The axles, both front and rear, were threaded, and nylock nuts were employed. For this type of low speed use, its completely fine. In addition, this allowed me to clamp the wheels' bores so they would not turn on the axle, but allow their ball bearings to do their thing.
Lastly, I wasn't particularly impressed with the amount, or quality, of the grease that was in the wheels' ball bearings. Unfortunately, these particular wheels did not have zerk fittings, so I had to disassemble all six wheels, drill and tap, then install zerk fittings!
Next interesting point. The most famous maker of "Little Red Wagons" is by far the long lived Radio Flyer company. I had wanted to replace the metal stake brackets with new ones if I could. Radio Flyer has a parts department - however, they specifically state that they will not knowingly sell their parts to be used on a non Radio Flyer wagon! Their stake brackets looked slightly different, but looked from the pictures on their website to be the same size. I suspected then, and still suspect now, that Radio Flyer built this wagon for Sears, but my inquiries went un-answered. Furthermore, an in person inspection of a modern Radio Flyer stake wagon at a nearby Ace hardware shows its construction to be pretty much identical to my Sears "Country Squire".
An early trial fitment. One of the zerk fittings can be seen here. The bolster brace had to be moved inboard.
Rust-Oleum "Red lead" primer.
And silver paint!
A stainless steel spacer was employed to hold the inner wheel in its correct position.
Trial fitment on the bed. Note the need for new bolt holes for the relocated bolster braces.
The handle and front end after sand blasting and axle threading.
Topside - ready for paint.
So, I decided to take a risk and buy the non-returnable stake brackets. Turns out they fit fine!
I remember the "Country Squire" model changed 2 or 3 years later to a version with single, long side panels instead of the two shorter versions like this one has - and I always liked my version better, thinking it more versatile. Searching the Internet in the 21st century has thus far turned up very few "Country Squire" wagons of any type, and most of them are the newer version, not this one.
Thanx to eBay seller "bttrading1", I now have proof that these wagons were indeed built by Radio Flyer. A NOS (New Old Stock) "Country Squire" wagon, unassembled in the original box, had this label:
Then there's this:
This shows the Radio Flyer branding this model as a "Town and Country", another nod to station wagons. I don't know what year this ad was published, but I'm guessing a few years before I received my wagon in late 1970 as the price is a bit lower than what my parents paid, and the illustration shows an older style front axle assembly than what is on mine as well as apparent metal hubcaps.
As a side note: My friend up the road at the farm had a Rex Jet as depicted here. It was the only one we'd ever seen - Rex "anything" weren't common in our neck of the woods. That wagon eventually rusted out the bolts, so I came into possession of the bed and we used it to hold salt blocks for the horse, until several years later when the bed rusted out completely and dropped the salt block onto the ground.
The long-ago broken off front axle re-welded and reenforced with a stainless steel washer.
Out of respect for my father, and because I'm a bit superstitious, his original repair was retained.
Here's the above mentioned bracket the front end assy bolts onto.
The whole thing bolted back together again with a new cotter pin!
The first shot of the re-assembled wagon. Here can be seen the perfect fit of the replacement stake brackets.
Now proudly displaying a classic "GMC" logo, in memory of our beloved '63 1 ton.
Shown next to one of the mini-bike fenders, which would be the next stage of the project.
Here you can see the new vs. old brace bolt locations.
After a long time engineering and getting this fabricated, the primer went on.
Then the silver paint on the bottom...
And the red on the top of the fenders. I had originally thought to paint them the same green as the
bed, but I was almost out of the green and had plenty of the red - besides, it matched the front panels.
I had to remove the rear wheels, and partially unbolt the rear end, to get the complete fender assembly in position.
But in the end, it was done. Some of the clearances are as little as ¼"!
Hauling a Mighty Tonka T-6 bulldozer!
A closeup of the rear wheel with its nylock nut. Fender radius not quite the same as the wheel - but close enough!
A glamour shot - here can be seen the chrome nut covers I bought for it - two different sizes of semi-truck wheel lug covers!
So I took her out for a 1-¼ mile "test drive" near the beach.
Unfortunately, the handle - sized for a 10 year old - was too short for comfort!
Having my body just slightly tweaked to pull the short handle caused pain to my 55 year old frame.
Time for a bit more reengineering! Handle was cut, and a 12" piece of tubing was fit over 3" on each end
resulting in an overall handle length increase of 6".
After welding and re-repainting. Note the piece of heat shrink tubing on the bottom end...
Which was shrunk in place at the strategic place to help protect the front panel!
So I took her out for a second test drive, this time it was so much better that I ventured onto the beach.
Little driftwood shack built by beachcombers made for a couple of nice pictures.
Along the beach for about ¾ of a mile or so...
Crushing abandoned sand castles!
The pneumatic wheels will help on the beach when my granddaughter rides in the wagon!
Makes interesting tire tracks!
Another glamour shot!
Going home with the Moss Landing power house in the background that my father helped build over 50 years earlier.
The wagon's restoration was a challenge, and a labor of love - but I couldn't have done it without the invaluable help of both Frank - for his welding expertise - and Johnny, who kindly threaded the axles as well as noting, and correcting on the spot, a tweak in the front end that had been there since the front axle was broken loose by that rut in the road so very many years ago! This page is for you! Thanx guys.
After using the wagon here in Florida for awhile, a problem became apparent. There just wasn't enough clearance around the front wheels, they would bind on the bottom on uneven terrain, esp. on turns. So it was time for a "lift kit". While I was at it, I flat blacked that ugly bottom that I had neglected when I did the original rebuild!
Doing what it does best: Hauling cement to set new fence posts in Florida after Hurricane Irma!
Masked off the frame rails...
... and flat blacked that ugliness away!
So much better.
Propped up to work on it.
Here the "lift kit" components are installed, wooden spacers cut from ⅝" plywood and painted.
Running gear bolted back on.
Finished product posted in front of our Aughkstra. Note increased space around
all wheels, and the back fenders no longer have that "slammed" appearance.
Reprised from above, contrast the wheel spacing.
At a shooting event in south Tennessee. Rear panels removed so I could sit to shoot the rifle.
Hauled my guns and gear up to the firing line over some pretty rough terrain!
Here is one of the smoother - and flatter - spots on the way back down.
The wagon did just fine; the "engine" however, overheated badly and barely made it!
A long awaited Atlantic beach shot, just after taking my granddaughter for a ride.
Slightly earlier shot, brought supplies down for a day at the
beach, although we had to unload at the top of the stairs.
After several years, the original rear axle found a new permanent job acting as rebar.
I had used it as a tool a couple of times, but it was time to enshrine it permanently.
Gone, but not forgotten!