There are few types of cars that have had such an impact as the station wagon. Car buyers have always been searching for cars that meet the utility that they need. After the second world war, the US family exploded. Everybody was having babies left and right. At the same time the car was becoming more and more important to day to day life. Car buyers needed something that could not only haul the kids, but it needed to haul the groceries, the dog and anything else that they might have needed. The station wagon became as big a part of normal life as television and suburbs.
You would see dozens of the big family haulers shuttling kids from school to soccer and everywhere else they could possibly want to go. They were the chariots of summer vacation. Taking trip everywhere from Yellowstone to the beach, the station wagon got you there. With the rear seat configuration there was always a certain nostalgia about facing the wrong was when riding in the car. Making faces at other drivers as you drive along. As the end of the 20th century dawned, shoppers began to move away from the wagon. SUVs were becoming far more popular, and with cheap fuel, drivers were ditching their beloved wagons for SUVs and even minivans.
But there’s something about a big beefy station wagon that carries a certain something. Like a throwback to the good old days when Cher still had a variety show and the bigger the car the better.
20 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
If I ever were to be part of a General Motors focus group, the number one thing that I would beat into their heads over and over again is that they should have never axed off the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon! Jalopnik summed it up well by saying, “The Cadillac CTS-V Wagon has a wicked combination of serious performance, great looks, low production numbers and a big novelty factor—it’s a freaking factory-made hot rod luxury station wagon!”
Who doesn’t want a Corvette powered station wagon?
You would definitely have the coolest family car out over everybody else on your kids’ soccer team.
19 Willy's Jeep Wagon
Immediately following all the conflict in the 1940s, Willy’s was in financial trouble. Despite being responsible for building most of the Jeeps used in the effort, they were having trouble building cars for civilians. So when they set out to build a more civilian vehicle, the body was made out of sheet metal so it was cheaper, easier to make, and held up better than a lot of car bodies of the time. Powered by Jeep’s spunky little four cylinder flat four engine, the Willys Jeep Wagon was arguably one of the very first SUVs and is now one of the most sought after classic Jeeps.
18 Dodge Magnum SRT8
One of the best things to ever come out of the US and German marriage of Chrysler and Mercedes, would be the resurrection of V8 powered, rear wheel drive cars. Next to the Chrysler 300 SRT8 and the Dodge Charger SRT8, the Dodge Magnum was the station wagon most petrol heads dreamt of.
Powered by a whopping 5.7 litre V8, the Dodge could lay down elevens as well as any other muscle car on the road.
It’s said that the star that burns twice as bright, burns out twice as fast. This was definitely the case for the Magnum. It was produced for just four years, but there are still plenty of great examples of this incredible wagon out there.
17 Chevrolet HHR SS
The Chevrolet HHR was an odd little car built by pre-bailout General Motors. Who were so desperate to sell cars it seemed like they were throwing anything into production hoping that it would sell. Despite the odd styling and subpar build quality, they accidentally make a pretty fun little car. Powered by a 2.0 litre, four cylinder engine the HHR produced 260 horsepower and was even fitted with a five speed manual with a short-throw shifter. They even went built a two door panel Bam version of the HHR SS. Though it was never as good as other hot hatchbacks, like the Volkswagen GTI, it showed the boring old General Motors had a little bit of a wild side.
16 Chevrolet Chevelle Wagon
The Chevrolet Chevelle is one of the most iconic muscle cars that General Motors ever built. It wasn’t concerned with looks or finishes like its little brother, the Camaro. It was the blue collar, rough and tough, no nonsense car that ever American yearned for.
The wagon variant of the Chevelle kept up this same kind of persona.
It kept some of the Chevelle’s features like the kick-up back end and the chaired front end. The Chevelle wagon was only produced for a few years. Which makes any remaining examples left in the world rarer reminders of the automotive past.
15 AMC Eagle
The AMC Eagle is the best example of a car that was way before its time. American Motors Company was always a little odd when it came to designing their cars. That being said, the AMC Eagle was one of the very first crossovers ever. AMC claims that when it was released in 1980 it was the only 4X4 car on the market. Available in sedan, coupe, and wagon, the Eagle was a very capable little 4X4 car. Being able to go just about where that other four wheel drive rigs of the time could go.
14 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser
Anybody who is a fan of the television show “That 70s Show” will understand how great the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser is. The Vista Cruiser is one of many family oriented station wagons that made up an extensive General Motors line up.
They dotted school parking lots and hauled the entire family to everything from Sunday service to summer vacations in Yellowstone.
This behemoth is an icon because it it’s body length rear roof windows, wood paneling, and V8 sourced powertrain. Some of these were even powered by a 7.5 litre V8 sources for Hurst.
13 Buick Roadmaster
The Buick Roadmaster was the last car built in an era of huge V8 powered land barges. When it was being manufactured in the 1990s US car buyers were riding the high that was brought in my low fuel prices and plentiful SUVs. There was nearly zero demand for a big station wagon like the Roadmaster. In today’s world cars like the Buick Roadmaster have a big of occult following. They are being picked up off Craigslist ads left and right be being customized with bigger, more powerful engines and big drag racing tires. Although, there is something wonderful about driving a big, powerful American station wagon that is downright indescribable.
12 Studebaker Wagonaire
Studebaker was one of the United States’ smaller automaker. Because of this, they didn’t have the vast amounts of cash to spend on research and development that other automakers like General Motors and Ford had to spend on research and development. This forced them to come up with some pretty quirky features to help sell their vehicle and help set them apart from the competition from the Big Three.
The Wagonaire used V8 engines bought from General Motors which gave it more than enough power.
But the big selling point on the Wagonaire was its retractable roof over the cargo area. This near little parlour trick gave the Studebaker the ability to haul items that otherwise would be far too tall to carry.
11 Ford Country Squire
Originally released in 1979, the Ford Country Squire was one of the first cars built on the legendary Ford Panther platform. It was a rugged, yet comfortable, body on frame design that would be used by nearly every police force in the United States in the Crown Victoria. The Ford Country Squire was the civilian wagon variant of the platform. Powered by a 5.0 litre and a 5.8 litre V8 engines, the Ford Country Squire. Despite the huge motor choices, the Country Squire was one of the last station wagons to be downsized in the late seventies to increase fuel economy. Hard to fathom given the huge engines powering the car.
10 Chevrolet Lakewood
The Chevrolet Lakewood was the four door wagon variant of the infamous Chevrolet Corvair.
It was powered by General Motors’ 80 horsepower four cylinder engine which was mounted in the rear of the car, much like the original Volkswagen Beetle.
Despite being slow, the Chevrolet Lakewood was a great alternative for a family that didn’t want a higher station wagon, but didn’t want to drive a German built Volkswagen Beetle either. The Lakewood was a great family car for those on a budget. That was until Ralph Nader derailed the Corvair with his book “Unsafe At Any Speed.”
9 Buick Estate Woody
The Buick Estate Woody was a perfect shining example of Buick design in the 1950s. Back then, each part of General Motors was still responsible for building unique engines, bodies, and components for their cars. Which means that each individual brand was different than the other (unlike the General Motors of today.) The big toothy grill and the beautiful wooden body panels truly makes this car special. There are very few examples of these cars left. Apparently wood panels don’t hold up well after nearly seventy years of being treated to driving elements. Making any remaining examples practically artwork.
8 Mercury Commuter
The Mercury Commuter was a car that was unique in the face that it was a coupe wagon. It was one of the first Mercury cars that were built using a platter more streamlined design, rather than a more bubbly 1950s esque style. This also marked the point where Mercury began to differentiate itself from Lincoln in its car designs. Though the Mercury still used a Lincoln developed V8 engine, the Commuter was less expensive than the Lincoln. While still give its passengers many of the creature comforts that they’d come to expect. The coupe was built for just a few model years before eventually being replaced by the four door version.
7 AMC Pacer
The AMC Pacer is a car that seems to always find itself on a list of the most ugly cars ever made. According to Car and Driver, the reason for the odd exterior design of the car was because the car was built from the inside out. AMC built ample room for four passengers, then built the rest of the car around it.
This explains the odd, bubbly exterior design of the Pacer.
But at the time even Road and Track said that the styling was refreshing. But the novelty of the odd little car faded quickly. After just four years the Pacer was taken out of production and retired to the pages of history.
6 Packard Eight
Silodrome summed up the Packard Eight well. Saying, “Packard called their new model the Station Sedan rather than the more common “station wagon” because they used the same platform as the sedan, with relatively few modifications... With its 130 bhp, 288 cubic inch, L-head inline-8 and 3-speed manual transmission, the Packard Eight Station Sedan was a solid performer by 1948 standards. It rides on independent coil-spring front suspension, rear semi-elliptic leaf-spring suspension, and stops thanks to 4-wheel drum brakes. Inside there’s room for 8 adults to sit comfortably, and the cabin is beautifully appointed with chrome, leather, wood paneling, and glass.”
5 Pontiac Bonneville Safari
The Pontiac Bonneville was part of General Motors B Class body style, which turned out to be one of their most popular body styles they ever produced. In fact, it’s the fourth best selling car platform ever produced.“Safari” was the term that General Motors used to name the Pontiac wagon variants. Being naughty a popular model, the Bonneville Safari was available in many different configurations with engines that ranged from a 6.4 litre V8 to a 7.0 litre V8. Needless to say, many amazing memories were made in Pontiac Safaris.
4 Plymouth Suburban
The Plymouth Suburban was downright revolutionary in the world of station wagons. Why? It was the first all steel station wagon built for the mainstream market. Not only that, but it was affordable and it came with great features like a turn key ignition.
Though it was only a two door car, it comfortably seated six people and could haul a huge amount of cargo.
Especially when you folded down the rear seats. The Plymouth Suburban was powered by a 98 horsepower Chrysler engine. Which made it slower than a lot of the competition, but made it far more fuel efficient.
3 Ford Flex
Being born into a world where curvy cars and big SUVs ruled the market, the Ford Flex was deemed he black sheep of the automotive world. With its low sleet, yet boxy, style the Flex was a stylish family car the world didn’t know it needed. It had three rows and seated eight people in certain configurations. Even better, Ford had to good sense to throw their powerful EcoBoost V6 into the Flex. Which made it not only stylish, but fast. The EcoBoost V6 produces up to 365 horsepower and could even tow up to 4500 pounds in the Flex. Though the Ford Flex never sold well, there were enough people with good taste and common sense to keep it in production for a decade.
2 Chrysler Town and Country Wagon
Believe it or not, before it was an eyesore of a mini van, the Chrysler Town and Country was one of Chrysler’s most iconic station wagons. Produced for several decades, the Chrysler Town and Country station wagon was available with many different options. It was considered a luxury car. Fitted with features like chrome trim and carpeted cargo areas it competed against cars like the Buick Estate and the AMC Ambassador. Like most large US build cars, the Chrysler Town and Country was considered a full size car, up until the late 1970s. When it was downsized to help increase fuel economy.
1 Ford Taurus Wagon
The Ford Taurus was one of Ford’s very last conventional station wagons that were built off an existing sedan. Up until that point most wagons had a sedan and even sometimes a coupe variant that shared the same name. The Ford Taurus wagon shared nearly every component with the sedan. It even included a “way back” seat. Which was a rear facing third row that was notorious for making most of its passengers a little sick. Needless to say, since the sedan was pretty good, the wagon was a great car too. It didn’t have a lot of thrill or frills, it just did its job and did it well.
Sources: Car and Driver, Motor Trend. LA Times, Ford.com