Most Americans over the age of 40 grew up waging hell in the backseat of a station wagon. Most of those station wagons were Buicks, Fords, Oldsmobiles, Chevys, and Mercurys. Some might have even been Pontiacs. Here’s why they could turn into the next collector cars. Those Americans who grew up turning the backseat into a war zone fondly remember them. That same generation fondly remembers the Smokey and the Bandit Pontiac Firebirds (the one with the “screaming chicken” on the hood), so they buy them. Station wagons from the 1970s and 1980s are now being bought more. Prices are going up for these massive beasts.
The collector car market is going crazy right now. People have more money to spend, and they want to enjoy an older car with their family. They tend to buy cars that they remember fondly. That’s why Chevy Blazers, “screaming chicken” Firebirds, and station wagons are starting to creep up in price. Now is the time to buy them.
For all those people who say that station wagons are dorky and stupid, here’s a response: station wagons have as much, if not more utility than most modern crossovers, and some SUVs, look better, and are far more fuel efficient.
Some station wagons are already highly sought-after collector cars. They include the Chevrolet Nomad, antique woodies, and high-performance Pontiacs from the 1960s. However, there are still plenty of station wagons that can be enjoyed. Here are some classic, and new wagons that you should consider buying.
- 1991 Audi 200 20V Turbo Quattro Avant: There is no point in going into the details of the 1986 60 Minutes debacle that came close to killing Audi. There were some good cars that came out in the company’s darkest days, and one of them is the marvelous 1991 200 20V Turbo Quattro Avant. This one-year-only package is incredibly rare. Only 1,000 four-door sedans and about 200 station wagons got this package, and it was standard equipment on the two-door hatchback. It’s a close cousin to the 1986 sedans that Audi used to dominate SCCA Trans-Am racing. The twin-cam, 20-valve engine has five cylinders and goes through a five-speed manual to all four BBS wheels. Maintenance is going to be a wee bit tricky, but enjoying this car won’t.
- 1950-1991 Ford Country Squire: This behemoth of a station wagon is what many Americans grew up in. Early Country Squires are the expensive, sought-after woodies from the early 1950s. Avoid them unless you have serious money and plans to upgrade just about everything on them. However, starting in 1960, the Country Squire became the familiar family hauler. They’ve covered millions of miles, millions of Americans remember them fondly, and they have starred in multiple movies. They came with a Ford small-block V-8 (usually the 351 Windsor V-8 found in most Fords of the 1970s through the 1990s) and a mushy automatic transmission. If you get a pre-1976 model in California, you can upgrade it to make the ultimate family hauler. Just put in a modern Ford Coyote motor (the same engine as the Mustang), a Ford T-5 five-speed manual transmission, and some better suspension pieces and you’ll have the ultimate road trip/family hauler. They are fairly reliable cars to begin with, and Ford made a lot of them, so finding one isn’t the challenge of the century like the Audi mentioned above.
- Volvo V60 Polestar: OK, who wouldn’t want a 345-horsepower station wagon that looks really cool? Speak now or forever hold your peace. While a mere 120 cars scheduled to come to the US over this summer isn’t a lot, it’s enough to make it a true collector car. It’s a fast car, and Volvo has a rich history of deceptively fast station wagons. It looks really cool with the big wheels, low-profile tires, blue paint, and it’s somewhat-bulbous styling. Get one while you can, and enjoy it! This is a car that’s meant to be driven, so drive the wheels off of it.
- Saab 9-2X: Why buy a re-badged Subaru WRX because GM said so? Because it’s a more comfortable, tame early Subaru WRX. For Saab faithful, it was too Subaru, even though it wasn’t nearly as blasphemous as the 9-7X “Trollbazer” which was just a Chevrolet Trailblazer with different wheels and badges. For the rest of us automotive folks, it’s a more refined version of the spunky Subaru WRX. Unlike the WRX, it doesn’t turn the wheels 90 degrees when you floor it. Unlike other Saabs, you can get same-day service on it by simply going to a Subaru dealer. It’s a far better car than the sales charts show. Owners love it, and others snap them up. They aren’t very big, and are more of a hatchback than a station wagon, but they are fun, reliable little cars that can really take a beating. That’s something that most other Saabs can’t claim.
- Morris Minor Traveller: This cute little station wagon is based off of the popular Morris Minor. Sir Alec Issigonis started his automotive success career with this car. The Morris Minor coupe and convertible debuted in 1948, and the Traveller station wagon followed suit in 1953. It came to our shores through 1967. When other station wagons were ditching real wood for fiberglass and vinyl, the Traveller had real ash wood from the tailgate all the way to the B-pillars. Not only does it look great, but it’s also the superstructure for the back half of the car. That means you’ll have to sand and re-varnish periodically, but that’s going to be the extent of your automotive woes with this car. Parts are cheap and easily sourced, and it’s an incredibly reliable car. Not something you can say about most British cars.
- Buick Roadmaster/Chevy Caprice: Yes, they may have been the final gasp of GM’s RWD land barges, but who doesn’t want something that seats eight people, has a (slightly detuned) Corvette engine, and is gigantic? These behemoths were the final iterations of the big American station wagons that so many Americans grew up in. They are still available and cheap for us to thrash around and haul kids around with. You don’t need to do much to unlock the true potential of these engines – you just get the Corvette’s ECU, as the engines in these cars were the same as the Corvette’s LT1.
- Cadillac CTS-V: OK, most of us would LOVE to own a 556-horsepower station wagon that comes with a six-speed manual. Look no further than the previous-generation Cadillac CTS-V wagon. I know that this implies that there is another one coming, which we can only hope for, but this is probably the ultimate family burnout/drift/autocross/trackday/hoonmobile. Period. My friend Jonny Lieberman of Motor Trend had one as a long-term car for a year, and I’m still feeling the pangs of jealousy. It has a detuned Corvette engine, but 556 horsepower is still plenty to rage through the quarter mile. It would make the ultimate backup car for your local autocross/track day, and it would be a fun daily driver to boot.
I’m sure that many of my readers have some fun memories of being in station wagons as kids…let’s here them!