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Station wagons......in the news
2000
 
July 12, 2000 - The "Car Board" section in the 7/24/00 Autoweek features four station wagons....the Audi A6 Avant, the Saturn LW1, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, and the BMW 323i.  Summing up each: A6 = beautiful and comfortable, but lacks power; LW1 = genuinely good (but get the V6) but people aren't buying them; 323i = pricey but classy; PT Cruiser = good price, unique looks, excellent space.
 
July 12, 2000 - OK, so it's been a while since this space was updated, so here's a few months worth of news in short blurbs:

For a review of the new 2001 Volvo V70 T5, see page 121 of the July 2000 Car & Driver. Conclusion? A turbocharged 5-cylinder engine = "family station rocket". The regular Volvo V70 was reviewed in the 5/1 AutoWeek (interesting fact: 70% of Volvo revenue on new cars comes from station wagon models). The V70 wagon now rides on a slightly downsized S80 platform, providing more refinement in the body shell and suspension. (More info: the April 2000 Road & Track and Car & Driver also have reviews of the V70 wagon).

Plymouth & Ford woody wagons are not that unusual, but Autoweek (July 10, 2000) profiles a 1948 Oldsmobile woody wagon. Only 2700 were sold; this one had a 4-speed Hydra-Matic automatic trans.

The May/June issue of Fairlaner (the bi-monthly publication of the Fairlane Club of America) has an in-depth article on a one-year-only station wagon model, the 1963 Mercury Meteor. The Meteor Custom wagon only sold 2,589 copies, vs. the 29,612 Fairlanes that were its kissing cousin. There are many pictures of this original, un-restored wagon.

The 2001 Audi allroad is coming, and AutoWeek (6/12/00) has a review. The best part is the 2.7 litre, twin-turbo engine, which will dispel any complaints from those who feel the 2.8 V6 in the A6 is somewhat underpowered. And a 6-speed manual transmission will be available. Expect 6,000 of them in the USA in late October or early November.

Subaru is working on a larger-than-Outback sport utility wagon due in 2005; it's a joint effort with GM (?!)...so reports AutoWeek on 06/05.

Bimmer magazine (08/00) has a First Drive of the new all-wheel-drive BMW 3-series wagon.  Unfortunately, the new 3.0 liter six cylinder will not be available in the wagon (overalap w/the 5-series wagon), so we'll have to settle for the 2.5 liter.  The all-wheel-drive system is the same as is available on the X5 SUV (sorry, that's SAV in BMW-speak).

AutoWeek (05/29) reports that Saab will deliver a 9-3 wagon in 2002, riding on the Opel Vectra platform. The replacement for the 9-5 wagon will appear in 2004, and may have a V8 engine.  The 9-5 wagon line could include a crossover version to compete with the Audi allroad and Volvo V70 XC.

The Wall Street Journal (05/19) reports that "It's hip to be square again", referring of course to the surge of popularity of station wagons.  It says that drivers are trading in SUVs for station wagons (a move we heartily applaud).  In 1999, Americans bought 120,000 import wagons, more than double the amount sold in 1995.

AutoWeek (05/22) devotes one page to the hot-rod Saab 9-5 Aero wagon, a 9-5 with more horsepower (230 turbocharged), a stiffened and dropped suspension, and an exterior styling package.  It costs about $7,000 more than the base 9-5 wagon; only 350 will be available for the 2000 model year. For more info, the April 2000 Road & Track has a First Drive of the 9-5 Aero wagon.

A 1967 Nova wagon as a modern daily driver? Hot Rod (May, 2000) reports on a "modern resto rod" Nova wagon that has been updated with a new GM crate engine, and modern suspension, interior, and brake system. It's very classy looking in Alpine Green (a Jaguar color).

Wagons Ho!  With that headline, Consumer Reports (March, 2000) begins a test of four station wagons - VW Passat ("the class act in mid-priced wagons"), Subaru Outback ("an SUV alternative"), Volvo V40 ("more like a European hatchback than a wagon"), and Saturn LW2 ("a lot for the money, but lacks refinement").  Their favorite? The VW Passat, for its cargo capacity, ride/handling, and interior.

In a similar vein to Consumer Reports, Car & Driver (April 2000) tested four family wagons.  Just like Consumer Reports, the VW Passat came in first, followed by the Saturn LW2 (strong engine but low refinement), Ford Taurus SE (large cargo space but slowest), and Subaru Legacy Outback Limited (too little power, too much weight).

"Big Red Wagon" describes the 1967 Dodge Coronet 440 wagon (updated by the owner to include the R/T options) gracing the front cover of the April 2000 Mopar Collectors Guide.  Dave Meharg of Ontario, Canada, owns the wagon, which now has an R/T hood, instrument panel, rear light cluster...and of course, a big block ('68 440) providing motivation.

Also in the muscle wagon theme, High Performance Mopar (May 2000) profiles a 1962 Plymouth Savoy wagon with a 420hp, 413cid Max Wedge (clone) engine (that's the one with dual Carter carbs, which was "arguably the fastest production engine of its time".  Need we say more?

Covering the front page of the February, 2000 Auto Restorer is a beautiful 1949 Mercury woody wagon. (If you want to buy one, keep in mind that a kit of replacement wood for this car costs about $15,000). It features a hot-rodded, original flathead V8 and the original leather interior.

Premiering at the March 2-12 international auto show in Geneva was the Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon (of course, its not currently slated for the USA - AutoWeek says it will come to America "when X1/9s fly").  It's a beautiful design, with door handles in the 'C' pillars and a very slanted rear window.

Headlining the April 2000 issue of Special Interest Autos is an article entitled "Wagon Wheels: All-American Station Wagons".  The cover car is a 1963 Studebaker Wagonaire (the one with the sliding rear roof). Along with full details on the Wagonaire, there is an excellent 10-page station wagon history - a must-read for wagon historians.

Volkswagen Audi CAR (February 2000) tests a VW Passat Estate Sport (wagon), fitted with the 115bhp, 1.9 litre TDI diesel engine.  Overall, they achieved 46.2 mpg - excellent mileage considering they were also able to accelerate to 60 in 10.6 seconds. While horsepower may not be this engine's strong suit, torque is!

February 8, 2000 - According to AutoWeek (2/7/00), BMW has built a few prototype M5 station wagons to go up against the Mercedes E55 AMG wagon in Europe. They are mechanically the same as the sedan, except a load-leveling suspension is standard. If BMW does build it, it probably won't be until the end of the model run (evidently BMW is at full capacity for building the M5/Z8 engine).
 
In the same article, BMW confirmed that it was building an M3 station wagon.  Will the USA get either wagon?  Probably not; we didn't get the last M5 wagon.  But we can only hope....
 
February 5, 2000 - There are rumors the Steyr-Puch is designing an all-wheel-drive addition to the Saab 9-5 wagon, to help it compete against the heavy Swedish competition from Volvo (especially the SUV-ish V70 XC model).  Steyr-Puch should know what they are doing; after all, they designed the all-wheel-drive 4-Matic system that is available on the Mercedes E320 wagon and sedan.
 
January 30, 2000 - Auto Restorer magazine (February 2000) features a front-page article on a 1949 Mercury Wagon called "Find the Endless Summer Behind a Wagon's Wheel". Some of their best advice?  The wood on a Woodie is very expensive to repair. For pre-'49 all-wood wagons, be prepared to spend $20,000 for a replacement wood kit, while you can still spend $15,000 for the later metal-and-wood wagons. And because each wagon is slightly different (they were essentially hand built, remember), the wood fits differently on each wagon and requires considerable customization for installation.
 
January 28, 2000 - According to the February, 2000 issue of European Car magazine, the Saab 9-5 wagon won the 1999 Excellent Swedish Design Prize.  This award, which obviously promotes Swedish design & styling, is given by the Swedish Society of Crafts and Design.
 
January 24, 2000 - Saab announced that starting in April 2000, the 9-5 wagon will be available in the high-performance Aero version, with the 230hp turbocharged I4 that is in the Aero sedan.  A manual and automatic will be available, and 17" wheels will be standard. Pricing is still TBD, but is expected to be approximately $42,000.
 
January 14, 2000 - The January, 2000 edition of Car & Driver magazine has a "computer enhanced rendering" of the upcoming Jaguar X400 sport wagon, which is scheduled for introduction in 2001.  The X400, which will be Jaguar's answer to the BMW 3-series, will be based on the European Ford Mondeo with US V6 power.  The article reports that the list price should be below $30,000.
 
January 8, 2000 - Ford is showing three concept cars at the Detroit Auto Show called 24.7, including one in station wagon form. The 24.7 will highlight 'connectivity', including an Internet connection to the dashboard. Since the 24.7 concepts are aimed at the younger generation of buyers, it is seemingly unusual that Ford included a wagon along with a coupe and pickup truck. Of course, we applaud this move!
 
Also debuting at the Detroit Auto show was the re-styled Volvo V70, based on the S80 platform.  Here is a (news article & picture).
January 7, 2000 - Appropriately, our first news item from 2000 is from a magazine that notes it's the "First Issue of the 21st Century"! Hot Rod magazine (01/2000) has an article on a Vega GT station wagon that was pumped up with an aluminum Buick 215 ci V8, which is enhanced with a custom turbocharger set-up.  This car is owned by Rance Baxter, who runs Rance Fuel Injection Service in Genesee, PA.  The turbocharger consists of pieces from a '88 Thunderbird, '63 Oldsmobile Turbo Rocket, and of course fuel injection by Rance.  Very trick, very tidy.

Copyrightę 2000 Steve Manning. All Rights Reserved
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