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Station the news
December 8, 1997 - Well, even more Audi wagon news....the 12/8/97 issue of Autoweek details the launch of the new Audi A6 Avant wagon, which will be launched at the Geneva show in March (and for sale in the US in July, 1998). Initially available with the 198hp, 2.8 litre 30-valve V6 engine, an S6 version (with a 340hp, 4.2 litre 48-valve V8) will be available sometime later in 1998. Now a quick drive in that would keep the kids awake, huh? In the same article it is also reported that Audi will release a 'lifestyle off-roader' version to compete with the Volvo V70 XC AWD (see the September 1 entry in this section). This continues the trend of trying to merge a sedan with an SUV, and coming up with a station wagon!
December 3, 1997 - The super-wagons are here! The super-wagons are here! Well, sort of - the USA only gets one for now. For automotive as well as wagon enthusiasts, the good news is that there are now station wagon versions of three very potent sports sedans - the Mercedes-Benz C43, the Audi S4 Avant, and the Volvo V70 AWD R (the only one available in the USA). The C43 is an AMG tuned C-series, with a twin-spark, 24-valve 4.3liter V8 w/306hp at 5800rpm. The S4 Avant is a tuned A4, sporting a 2.7 liter, 30v twin-turbo V6 with 265hp and quattro all-wheel drive. Finally, the V70 AWD R is described by Volvo as an all-wheel drive 'sportswagon', with a transverse mounted 2.3liter, 5 cylinder DOHC 20v engine with 236hp at 5100rpm. Why buy the sedan when you can get the wagon?
Any of these three wagons would be a hoot to drive - kudos to the manufacturers for having the guts to produce them; boos and hisses to Audi and Mercedes for not bringing them to the USA. I prefer AWD, so I'd take the Volvo or Audi (and they are both considerably cheaper to buy than the Mercedes). If anyone out there buys one of these cars, take car of may be mine in 10 years or so!
November 21, 1997 - Today's edition of the Calgary Herald newspaper, in the 'It's Mine' column, features a white 1977 Pontiac Safari station wagon that John Raleigh built up into a dragster/street car. Equipped with a 355 Chevy with a nitrous oxide boost, he's managed to hit 12.7/105 in the quarter mile. It's a family project....he got the car from his father, and his wife races a Mustang.
November 19, 1997 - The 32nd Tokyo Motor Show exposed a definite trend: the station wagon influence. Station wagon design is having an influence on both minivans and SUV's. The Nissan Stylish 6 is, according to Nissan, their 'new wagon proposal for the future'. What it also is is an attempt to combine the size of a station wagon with the room and styling of an SUV. The Exiga was Subaru's take on the objectives of the Stylish 6 (and to my eyes more successful). On the other hand, the Mazda MP-X represented the minivan/station wagon cross (it kind of looks like a mini-minivan, or a station wagon with a high roofline). These were show cars, but there was also a new production wagon - the Opel City Trekker, which looks somewhat like a larger, more sophisticated Subaru Outback. Of course, it won't be available in the USA.
November 18, 1997 - The December '97 issue of Cars & Parts magazine features a 1957 Rambler Cross Country Custom wagon (subtitled 'Economy with Style'). Very '50's (two-tone paint, lots of chrome), very square. Very cool. Although I wish it had a V-8 instead of the 195ci six cylinder......
The December '97 issue of Special Interest Autos magazine features "The Might-Have-Been 'Bird" - the Vista-Bird. It's a 1962 Ford Thunderbird mated to a 1965 Oldsmobile Vista-Cruiser station wagon roof. It wasn't created by Ford, but by a guy in the 1980's who owned a body shop (he put over 400 hours into the conversion). To my eyes it is a successful, well-integrated conversion. Ford should have built it.
October 17, 1997 - The December issue of Mopar Collector's Guide has an article (page 4) on a 1961 Chrysler Newport Town & Country Wagon.  Aluminum tubing in the luggage rack, slanted quad headlights, fins, dual air conditioning, and powered by a '70 383...only 1,571 examples of this wagon were ever made.  I want one.
October, 1997 - Saab is planning on introducing a wagon version of its new 9-5 sedan, to better compete with Volvo.  It also will help to console Saab fanatics who are upset with the fact that there will not be a 5-door hatchback version of the 9-5 (a Saab tradition).  Interestingly, the wagon is not necessarily intended to have more room than the sedan, just better access to the stuff you put in the back.
September, 1997 - In a surprise move, Suzuki enters the small-wagon market with the Esteem wagon (a small wagon, but the biggest car Suzuki sells in the US). Not bad looking, and priced from around $12,500-$16,000. There are rumors there will be a four-wheel-drive version in 1998 (hopefully with more guts than the current 95hp 1.6 liter four cylinder).
September 8, 1997 - Three cheers for Audi! While others are killing off their wagons, Audi is introducing a new one - the 1998 A4 Avant sport wagon. Only one engine is available (a 190hp 2.8 30-valve V6), but it is available with two 5-speeds (manual & automatic), and in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel-drive quattro configuration.
September 1, 1997 - Volvo facelifts its 850 wagons and starts calling them the 'V' series. Luckily, they still have the 'R' version (turbo w/236hp in US version) and an all-wheel-drive option. They are also making a bid for the SUV market with the V70 XC (the XC stands for 'cross country'). It has side cladding, more ground clearance, different tires, and a more aggressive appearance than the other wagons. Hmm...not so sure about this concept....(and by the way, I don't count the Subaru Forester as a station wagon).
August, 1997 - High Performance Pontiac Magazine features Jerry Brock's 1979 Pontiac LeMans wagon (page 28). How about a street legal wagon that runs consistent 13.50s@99 mph, idles at 700 rpm, and has air conditioning and cruise control?
August 19, 1997 - Another one bites the dust....the last 1997 Honda Accord wagons roll off the assembly line to make way for the 1998 models. However, there is no 1998 Accord wagon. It is being replaced by....a minivan, of course. Sigh.
July, 1997 - Car Craft magazine (p. 86); 'Ultimate Wagon': an Impala SS wagon built by some staff at the GM Desert Proving Ground (5.7L Corvette LT1 engine). Includes information on how you can duplicate it yourself!  Someone will, hopefully (eventually).
July 17, 1997 - Old Cars magazine does a front-page feature on the 'Wonderful World of Wagons'. Includes numerous wagon stories, history, etc.
June 6, 1997 - 1955 Ford wagon featured in Smithsonian exhibit, 'The Family Car' (through September 1, 1997).

Copyright © 1997-1998 Steve Manning. All Rights Reserved
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