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Station wagons......in the news
1999
 
December 26, 1999 - And now for one of our favorite car reviews.....a 1967 Plymouth Fury II wagon, which is almost exactly like the official stationwagon.com mascot wagon, a 1968 Plymouth Sport Suburban.  Dale Jolly's Fury is clean, mean, and sports a very unique 440 engine....Dale fabricated the parts to install a long-ram, two-4V intake manifold from an early '60s Mopar.  The detail and work that went into this wagon is very impressive, especially considering that C-body Mopar wagons parts are very hard to find.  Congratulations, Dale!
 
December 24, 1999 - Road & Track previews the 2000 BMW 3-series Sport Wagon in the December, 1999 issue (page 39).  It's scheduled to be in the USA in spring of 2000, but only in 323i format, not as a 328i (to keep enough distance from the 528i Sport Wagon).  An interesting statistic mentioned: from the first generation 3-series Touring, introduced in 1988, BMW now owns 10% of the world market in 'luxury estate' wagons, but the article mentions BMW is now going for 20%.  So did Road & Track like it?  Yes, but they are waiting to drive the final version when in gets here in the spring.
 
Sports Car International (Dec/Jan '00) also has a preview of the 323i Sport Wagon.....and they also like it.  They mention it has 15.2 cubic feet of 'way back' space with the seats up, and 47.1 with the seats down.  Interestingly, BMW says the chassis of the wagon is stiffer than that of the sedan, and the weight distribution is closer to 50/50.  Can't argue with any of those improvements.....makes you wonder why anyone would buy the 323i sedan?
 
The same issue of Sports Car International also previews the Audi A6 Avant Quattro wagon.  High points?  The 'best-in-the-industry interior' and the 'seamless quattro all-wheel-drive system'.  They were less impressed with the 200hp 2.8 V6, which, while smooth, doesn't make it much of a 'sport' wagon like the BMW 528i/540i Sport Wagon duo.  But the Audi at $36,600 is much less pricey than even the $41,270 528i, so it does represent a good value in the luxury wagon category. 
 
Also in the same issue (page 141), is an article on a 1966 Morris Mini Cooper S woodie wagon.  Owned by Doug Carr of Wood 'N Carr in Signal Hill, CA, this is supposedly only one of three of these wagons in the USA.  Mini fans know the the 'S' means high-performance - the engine in this wagon produces more than 76bhp from its 1340cc engine, way up from the 35bhp the standard 848cc engine produced.  Besides the engine, this fully restored wagon has $24,000 in new parts and over 300 hours in metal work.  Other 'S' wagon owners?  Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood.
 
December 22, 1999 - Hot Rod magazine (12/99) documents a new trend for its Power Tour - 'Dare to be Dependable'.  Participants are discovering the joy of driving late '50s and '60s cars on the Power Tour, since they are "bigger, roomier, more powerful, more comfortable, easier to drive, and had developed a prosperous persona".  And what exemplifies these traits better than 1958 Pontiac Chieftain Safari wagon with its very rare 370ci T-395 A "NASCAR" engine?  This was the car that was the hit of Power Tour '99, driven by Gary Case of North Olmsted, Ohio.  17" front and 20" rear wheels, along with a low-to-the-ground attitude make this one visually stunning wagon.  Chrome galore! 
 
December 19, 1999 - A wagon in Muscle Car Review (Jan. '00) magazine?  True story.  Featured is the only (?) factory-built L72 powered 1969 Chevy Kingswood Estate wagon, owned by David Marsh.  Yes, L72 - the same 427ci, 425hp engine that powered the famed COPO Camaros.  Best of all, it's loaded with hidden headlights, roof rack, and of course woodgrain on the sides.  With a base price of $3,565, this wagon was optioned all the way up to a $5,566.50 sticker (the 427 seems like a bargain at $447.65).  Can it run?  How about mid 12's in the quarter on slicks?
 
December 13, 1999 - According to AutoWeek (12/13/99), Alfa Romeo will debut the Sport Wagon at the Geneva Auto Show in March, 2000.  The Sport Wagon is a station wagon based on the 156 sedan, and like all Alfas, will not be sold in the USA.
 
(There are a large number of missing entries here....sorry, technical problem.  We're working on it...)
 
September 13, 1999 - At a press conference today in Japan, Honda Motor Co., Ltd. introduced a hybrid luxury wagon to the Japanese market called the Avancier. The Avancier utilizes a low-emissions VTEC engine, as well as an intelligent cruise control that monitors and adjusts the distance between cars on the highway.  Price in Japan is in the range of $19,400 to $22,300.  Could this vehicle possibly be on the way to the USA to replace the long-gone Accord wagon?
 
August 20, 1999 - At a lunch press conference in Detroit on August 17th, it was reported that Jaguar North America President Mike Dale said that a station wagon is "everything Jaguar isn't."  Of course, his views, besides not being shared by us here at stationwagon.com, reflect a disconnect with reality.  Jaguar's competition, including Mercedes, BMW, and Audi, offer station wagons in the USA and Europe (where a wide range of wagons are considered a competitive necessity).  So get with it, Mr. Dale....don't build an SUV, build a sport wagon.
 
On the other hand, we much prefer the remarks made the same week by Saturn president Cynthia Trudell at the National Press Club.  She believes that wagons are making a comeback, and wants to position Saturn to take advantage of it.  Saturn is expecting their wagons (SW2 and L-Series) to represent 20-30% of 2000 Saturn sales.  Some quotes: “There’s a strong influence now coming in from Europe on the Audi, the Volvo wagon and the like, and people are seeing this as an alternative. We feel that’s a really nice niche we can carve out.”  And echoing our sentiments:  “I believe firmly there will be a resurgence in wagons.”
 
July 5, 1999 - Following up to the May 23rd item below about GM building a station wagon in Shanghai, GM issued another press release on 6/15 with more information.  Quoting from the release:   "The new wagon is a derivative model of the recently introduced Buick from Shanghai GM. The wagon seats seven passengers and offers class-leading flexibility for optimum utility and cargo capacity. The vehicle will feature the 2.98-liter V6 engine and 4-speed electronically controlled transmission, currently being built at Shanghai GM, and will share many chassis components with the Buick sedan."  For more information, you can read the whole press release.
 
June 19, 1999 - Believe it or not, US magazine has a small article in their July issue on classic station wagons, called 'Way Back to the Future'.  Let's sum it up in the sub-headline: 'Car-conscious L.A. has a new vehicle of choice: old wagons'.   Ken McDaniel, ASWOA president, is briefly quoted, and a 1960 Mercury Colony Park is pictured.  Most scary thought in the article?  Neil Jaffe, owner of the Chequered Flag classic car dealership, says that 'prices are up 50% in the last few years'.
 
June 10, 1999 - On June 18th, an exhibition entitled "Surf's Up!  The Great American Woody" will open at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA USA.  The exhibition will be on view until January 17, 2000.
 
May 30, 1999 - The Washington Post published a review of the new Saab 9-5 wagon, calling it "A Swede Alternative to the Sport-Ute".  Warren Brown says it represents the biggest threat to SUV dominance so far because it is an 'appealing product that does more than most sport-utes without having the safety and environmental problems of being one.'  Sounds like what we've been saying for a few years now.  Praise was given to the optional sliding load floor, the overall driving experience, and all the safety features.  Complaints?   They didn't have any.
 
May 23, 1999 - USA Today does a "Test Drive" on the BMW 5-series wagon.  Their overall conclusion?   "Fun, foxy, flawed."  What's good?  The driving experience.   What they thought was flawed?  Creaks & squeaks in the body, a complicated stereo, unsatisfactory climate control, a pause between shifting in the auto trans, and a few other things.  So they think there are too many annoyances to ignore.
 
According to a General Motors press release on 5/20, GM's Chinese joint venture in Shanghai (which began production in April of three different Buick models), will add a station wagon to the product line next year.
 
May 19, 1999 - First, rumor central.   Ford is considering a sport wagon for the 2002 model year (shades of the old SHO concept wagon?), Cadillac is considering creating a Catera wagon (we've heard this one before), and Honda is also considering getting back into the wagon business (which it dropped out of a few years ago to concentrate on its minivan).  Where did this come from?  The first few paragraphs of a review of the new Saab 9-5 wagon in the March Car & Driver.  Their comment in the first paragraph - 'the niche-market flavor of the moment is sport wagons'.  We couldn't agree more....let more manufacturers join in!
 
Anyway, on to the Saab 9-5 wagon review.from the Car & Driver article.  They said it 'may be the best-handling Saab ever built and the handsomest as well'.  Strong praise.  Available with either a V6 or a light-pressure turbo four, they preferred the turbo four with the five-speed manual transmission (the V6 only comes with an automatic).  Innovations on the 9-5 include and extendable cargo area floor, sliding tie-down hooks, and optional notched cargo tracks.  Prices range from around $32,000 to $38,000.
Want to preview the upcoming mid-size Volvo V40 wagon, coming next fall?  Visit Volvo's S40/V40-dedicated website and get a peek.
 
The 1999 New York International Auto Show world-premiered the much-talked-about new Saturn LS (Large Sedan) and LW (Large Wagon).  Saturn is banking that a wagon market is returning, and has a potential winner in the LW, which is based upon the German Opel Vectra.  It will be built in a dedicated plant in Wilmington, Delaware, and available this summer.  Available in LW1 (2.2 liter, 137hp four) and LW2 (3.0 liter, 182hp V6) form, unfortunately the wagon is only available with an automatic (unlike the LS, which has a 5-speed stick available).  Someone should tell Saturn that the sport wagon market is hot, and a 5-speed and sport package would certainly help in that area.
 
The April/May issue of Sports Car International reviews two new wagons....the Audi A4 1.8t Avant and the Subaru Legacy 2.5GT wagon.  They found the positive sides of the A4 to include the superb quattro all-wheel-drive system, the 5-speed Tiptronic auto, and the 'industry leading interior', but they also ended up wishing for more power.  As for the Subaru, they also wished it had more power, but they praised the chassis as being 'substantial' and of course appreciated the standard all-wheel-drive that comes on all Subarus.
 
The new BMW 540i wagon gets a 'First Drive' review in the April '99 Road & Track magazine.  Their conclusion?  You get a "sport wagon, the standard by which all others shall be judged."  Of course, their review model had the $2,800 sport package with shorter springs, 17" wheels, and blacked-out exterior trim.  BMW says the 540i will go 0-60 in 6.3 seconds, which would make it the fastest-accelerating station wagon available (just beating out the Volvo V70 turbo wagon).
 
In other BMW news, BMW is now promising to send the USA another sport wagon in the summer of 2000 - the 3-series Touring, which has never been available before in the USA.  Please send us the M3 Touring.....please?
 
Continuing the BMW news (sort of), Rover's new mini is scheduled to appear in Europe in spring of 2001 (AutoWeek 4/19/99).   Where it gets interesting is a Clubman wagon is expected 12-18 months afterward.   It's not clear if North America will get the Clubman, but along with a computer generated image, AutoWeek predicts that retro wood panels will be available.
 
Here's a tantalizing idea....a real Jaguar station wagon (see picture of concept below).  Rumors have been flying all over (including the April '99 Road & Track and Car & Driver) about a Jaguar wagon (or estate, or shooting brake) based on the new S-type.  If true, it would be the first wagon Jaguar has ever produced (although Lynx made some 'shooting brake' conversions from the XJ-S).   According to the Road & Track article, Jaguar considered putting a wagon version of the XJ40 into production a few years ago, but dropped the idea.  If Jaguar does it, don't expect it before the year 2000.
Jaguar_S-Type_wagon_concept.jpg (8982 bytes)
To summarize the sport wagon trend, the June '99 Car & Driver does a comparison test of "5 Pedigreed Wagons".  They were, in order of their finish in the comparison, the top-rated BMW 528i Sport Wagon, the Mercedes-Benz E320 4MATIC, the Audi A6 2.8 Avant Quattro, the Volvo V70R AWD, and the Saab 9-5 SE.  In other comparisons, the Audi was the least expensive at $39,684, and the Mercedes the most expensive at $55,223.  The Volvo can tow the most, at 3,300 pounds.  The Audi was the slowest 0-60 at 9.6 seconds, the Volvo the fastest at 7.6 seconds.  The Mercedes has the most commodious cargo space at 83 cubic feet w/the seats folded, the BMW was the smallest at 65 cubic feet.  Considering that only six points separated the first place BMW from the last place Saab, any of these wagons is a winner, depending on your particular needs and checkbook.
 
OK, on to vintage wagon news.  The May '99 Cars & Parts featured on the front cover a 1941 Oldsmobile 68 station wagon, a rare, beautiful woodie wagon.  This particular wagon is owned by Hu Vandervort of Morgantown, West Virginia.  The article has five pages of gorgeous color pictures (check out the one of the inside roof, which is all finished woodwork, and prepared to be awed).  The tailgate goes down separately from the rear window, which raises upward.   A few interesting facts: the wagon weighs 400 lbs more than the sedan; only 700 of these wagons were sold in '41; base price was $1,146; the wood body was built by Hercules.
 
Our friend Robert Swan's 1968 Ford Torino Squire wagon was featured in the March/April '99 issue of Fairlane, the bi-monthly publication of the Fairlane Club of America.  Robert's Squire is a beautiful, original and unrestored example with only 46,500 miles, and is optioned with the 302 V8, automatic trans, power steering and brakes, tinted glass, and factory air conditioning.  You don't find too many well-preserved models like this; this one survived because it served as a summer car for a family in Cape Cod, and was never driven in winter or bad weather.
 
The April 1st issue of Old Cars features articles about 1959 models, including an article on the 1959 Chevrolet station wagon lineup (page 12).  Chevy's 1959 lineup was composed of five wagons, described as running from "dutiful to beautiful."  The lowest priced model was the two-door Brookwood, followed by the 4-door Brookwood.  Next was the Parkwood, which featured updated trim and upholstery from the Brookwood.  Then there was the Kingwood, a 9-passenger model with plusher accomodations and a higher level of standard equipment.  The flagship of the line was still the Nomad, which was now a 4-door trimmed like an Impala.  Thirty (30!) engine and transmission combinations were available through the line.  The top engine was the "Special Super Turbo-Thrust" 348 cubic-inch engine with three two-barrel carbs, producing 315hp.
 
So what does retired General Colin Powell work on in his spare time?  His 1966 Volvo 122 Estate wagon, of course!  These Volvos, better known as the Amazon models, were built from 1956 to 1970, according to the article featuring the General in AutoWeek (4/12/99).  Over 675,000 sedans and wagons were sold during the production run.  Unlike the Volvos of today (well, up to the S80), the 122s were curvaceous and stylish rather than straight and angular.   Powell's 1966 model had a 1.8 liter 4-cylinder rated at 96 horsepower, and according to the test drive, was comfortable and responsive.
March 31, 1999 - Mercury today introduced the new 2000 Sable through a press event on the Internet (a first, as far as I know).  Much of the 'over-oval' styling has been softened, and it now has a grille that fits better with its Grand Marquis sibling. Go here to see the webcast of the event.
 
March 21, 1999 - AutoWeek (March 15) reports that the new versions of the VW Golf and Bora station wagons will debut at the Geneva show.  We won't get them in the US, of course....sigh....
 
BMW calls their station wagons 'sport wagons', but probably the first 'sport wagon' was the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad.  The April '99 Cars & Parts magazine features a front-page article on the '55 Nomad.  Also pictured on the cover is a '46 Ford Sedan Delivery.  Cars & Parts does their usual superb in-depth review of Jerry Leigh's Nomad, with seven pages of pictures, information, etc.  The '46 Ford Sedan Delivery, with its gorgeous wood cargo floor, is also beautifully displayed.
 
March 14, 1999 - In Bob Roemer's column in the March '99 issue of the Roundel there is a picture of the upcoming 3-series BMW sport wagon, which is coming to the USA for the first time.  Bob reports that there are still persistent rumors that an M3 sport wagon may be offered, but that a M5 sport wagon will not be offered.  Give us one or the other, BMW!
 
March 9, 1999 - In the auction section of the March 4th issue of Old Cars, a report on the Atlantic City Collector Car Auction by Phil Skinner mentions that a 1958 Edsel Bermuda station wagon was sold for $17,000....a new record, according to Edsel-expert Phil.  Another sign wagons are hot?
 
AutoWeek (March 8) reports on the re-design of the Volvo V70, due in two years.  Here's the station wagon quote: "Restyling on the V70/V70XC wagon will be less dramatic, with the extra-boxy rear quarters remaining intact."  No surprises here!
 
March 6, 1999 - The February 11th issue of Old Cars has a small article on a 1941 Packard 110 woody station wagon, which has been owned by the present owner (John George) since 1949.  According to the article, Packard only made 136 of the 110 wagon that year.  The body was built by Hercules, which specialized in wood station wagons.
 
The same issue of Old Cars also contains an article by our friend Phil Skinner about Packard series numbers...including the station wagons.   It's great reference material for Packard enthusiasts.
 
March 1, 1999 - Subaru marked the 25th anniversary of producing 4wd station wagons at the Chicago Auto Show, held February 12-21 at McCormick Place.  On their stand was a 1975 Subaru DL, alongside a whimsical tribute to the woody....a Forester woody wagon (see picture below) complete with Moon hubcaps and whitewall tires.  According to Subaru it won't go into production, but it sure was fun to see.

1999_Subaru_Forester_woody_tiny.jpg (6986 bytes)
Copyright Subaru of America, Inc.

February 26, 1999 - Hot Rod magazine, in the March issue, has wagons featured in two places.  First, an illustration by Steve Sandford of a nosed, decked, and shaved pink '62 Chrysler with a gold roof (this was part of an article on 'suede runners, or hot rodders who chose decorated primer over paint).  The other article featured Nelson & Lynne Aregood's 1958 Buick station wagon.  Bought for $650, over four years the wagon was "reinstalled" on a '74 Chevy Caprice frame and received a 430 cubic inch '68 Wildcat V8.  They also chopped the top three inches, filled in the rear doors, and did lots of other custom touches.
 
February 13, 1999 - A number of articles (in the Feb/March Sports Car International and February Car & Driver to name two) have detailed the previously mysterious collection of automobiles collected by the royal family of Brunei.  Evidently the most expensive, exotic, and outrageous automobile collection in the world, it evidently includes a number of fascinating station wagon variants.  Examples include a Ferrari 456 four-door station wagon, called the 456 Venice project by Pininfarina (which built it).  A wagon based on the 550 Maranello was evidently proposed by Pininfarina but has not yet been built.   There is also a 4-door Aston Martin Vantage wagon, and quite a few examples of Rolls Royce sedans that were converted to station wagons.
 
February 6, 1999 - The sedan delivery bodystyle has been ignored for some time....the manufacturers didn't do a lot of advertising for them, and they have generally been missing from books and reference materials.  However, the April 1999 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine begins to set the record straight with a short history of the sedan delivery.  Now why does stationwagon.com care about sedan deliveries?  Well, while many were truck-based, many were also based on a two-door station wagon, and represent a fascinating variation on the station wagon bodystyle.  The end of the article even has some sketches by artist Jairus Watson that show what a sedan delivery could look like today based on the Ford Countour, Pontiac Firebird and Grand Am, Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Dodge Intrepid, and the Plymouth Prowler (?!).  Most intriguing.
 
February 4, 1999 - The February, 1999 issue of Hot Rod magazine reports on the inaugural version of Power Tour East.  While there were other station wagons (and a hearse or so) that participated, one of the participants that went the whole distance was a 1964 Volvo B18 station wagon.  Not only was the car brought over from Sweden for the event, the three drivers were also from Mariefred, Sweden (Claes Bruh, Mikael Kun, and Per Karlsson).
 
January 20, 1999 - It's almost here.....the Saab 9-5 wagon is now slated to show up in Saab USA dealers in April.  The March, 1999 issue of Motor Trend has a 'First Drive' of the wagon.  In the style of the new BMW 5-series wagons, Saab has made sure they are emphasizing 'sport', not just enhanced cargo capacity.  But cargo capacity is huge - 37 cubic feet with the middle seats up, and 72.9 cubic feet when you put down the seats down.  Both engines are turbocharged, one a 2.3 liter four-cylinder and the other a 3.0 liter V6.  Saab is expecting sales around 3,500 units in 1999.
;l;'
The January 4th issue of  AutoWeek also has a test of the new 9-5 wagon.  It mentions some interesting facts - the wagon version's sheetmetal is different from the sedan from the A-pillar back, for example.  And the Volvo V-70 was kept in mind as a target.  And the Saab engineers are considering offering all-wheel drive some day......
 
January 10, 1999 - The new 1999 Saab 9-5 wagon has been voted one of "1999's Best of the Best" by the editors of AAA World.  It won the $35,000-$40,000 category, partly based on typical Saab quirky yet useful touches.
 
In concept car news, Mazda debuted its Protege All-Sport Concept Wagon at the Los Angeles Auto show.  As reported in the January 11th issue of AutoWeek, it is based on the 5-door wagon version of the 1999 Protege (which is sold in Japan and Europe, but not the United States).  Judging from the Outback-ish looks it is targeted straight at Subaru.
 
Speaking of Subaru, the same issue of AutoWeek has an article on the revised Subaru Outback, due out for the 2000 model year (arriving at dealers sometime in June of 1999).  The old version is still going strong, though - it seems that in December sales hit an all-time high.  If you liked the old Outback, you'll like the new one - the styling and functionality of the car are improved, but don't change the course of the car we already know.  Improvements are concentrated on more torque for the engine, reduced NVH, a limited-slip differential, a more solid body, and more room.  As you can tell, function is emphasized over form.
 
January 6, 1999 - The Detroit Auto Show unveiled two concept vehicles that may be the future of the station wagon....the Chevrolet Nomad and the Chrysler PT Cruizer.  While the Nomad is pure concept (Ford says it 'combined the performance of a sports
car with the flexibility of a sport utility'), the PT Cruizer is scheduled to be available as a 2001 model.  As a follow-up to the Nomad concept, Old Cars (March 25, 1999) had an article with classic ('55-'57) Nomad owners giving their feelings about the Nomad concept  Surprisingly, they were all very positive about the car (even though it is a four-door, unlike the '55-'57 models).
 
Both the Nomad and the PT Cruizer are the so-called 'crossover' vehicles, looking like tall wagons or minivan-SUVs.  What do you think?  Will they ever be as appealing as a classic like this '62 Dodge Dart?
 
1962_Dodge_Dart_small.jpg (21368 bytes)

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