Best Station Wagons of All Time
Many people have abandoned the station wagon since the rise of the SUV and the Mini Van, but some of us still see the virtues of the plain old station wagon. This list is what I consider to be the front of the pack as far as cool station wagons are concerned. Whether you are a college kid, a cyclist, a soccer mom, a skier, or anyone else with some extra cargo to carry, these wagons will get the job done.
In my mind, the Audi RS4 is without a doubt the most awesome station wagon of all time. If I won the lottery tomorrow, an RS4 would probably be one of the things I would buy. This is the wagon for you if you like wagons, you like driving fast, and you like the luxury of a high end German car. The RS4 comes with Audi's incredible 4.2L V8 and a six speed manual transmission. All wheel drive is standard. These cars are monsters whether you are turning or going in a straight line and provide more fun than you would think a station wagon could. I'm not sure on the price of new ones, they are so exclusive that Audi doesn't list them on their site.
Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser
While most of the American wagons from the muscle car era were pretty cool with a few exceptions, I think the Vista Cruiser is the coolest.The Vista Cruiser was made famous all over again by the T.V. show "That 70's Show". It does have a few very similar corporate siblings made by Chevy, Pontiac and Buick. My ultimate Vista Cruiser would a 1968 or 1969 be equipped with the 400ci Rocket engine from the 442, and the very rare floor shifting 4 speed.
The Americans weren't the only ones churning out nice station wagons in the 1950s and 1960s. The Germans and Swedes were at it as well. Volvo started producing the P455 Duett in 1953 and stopped in 1969. These wagons are very rugged and economical. These things can be had for very little money and are cheap and easy to fix. I have come close to buying one on more than one occasion. These wagons feature the legendary Volvo B18 1.8 liter engine. This was the only vehicle Volvo ever marketed in the U.S. with a traditional body-on-frame suspension; all the others were unibody.
The first generation of Subaru Outback has proven itself to be a very rugged and robust vehicle. The prices on these have come down considerably in the last few years and a good high-mileage beater is within most people's grasp now. The flat four Subaru motor is well known for its reliability, and the all wheel drive system is rock solid. These cars are fixtures in mountain towns and college towns these days. Available with manual and automatic transmissions. The first generation lasted from 1995-1999.
Packard Station Sedan
The Packard Station Sedan is one of the coolest vehicles I've ever seen. You couldn't tell it from the picture, but this car is absolutely massive. They were only made from 1948-1950; they were discontinued due to slow sales, mainly brought on by high costs and high maintenance. These were pseudo-woody wagons, using some structural wood and a wood tailgate. The straight-eight engine only adds to their coolness.
Though these cars are shunned in the air cooled VW community, they are awesome wagons. I owned one when I was a teenager, and had a lot of fun with it. It is a far more modern and refined car than VW's other wagon offering of the time, the Type 3 Squareback. The fuel injected type 4 engine is a leap forward from the old type one based engines. The Macphereson strut front suspension is very similar to modern cars. The only complaint I really have is the lack of manual transmission option for the U.S. market. These cars are far from common, but are easy to find when you look for them. They are usually cheap, rarely going over $3,000 for even nice examples. Parts can be tricky, most owners have at least one parts car around. They retain the usual air cooled VW layout with the engine in the rear, which leaves a huge trunk space where the engine would be on a normal car.
Ford Ranch Wagon 2 Door
The Ford Ranch Wagon was the first all steel wagon offered by the company. Two door models were offered from 1952 to 1961. These are some of the coolest American wagons. The "Mileage Maker" six cylinder was the standard engine with the Flathead V8 as an option. In 1954 the Y-block V8 replaced the Flathead as an option. The two door was the base model Ford wagon and was based on the Mainline economy models. In the later 50's more upscale models were offered as well as four door models, but in my opinion the lack the character of the basic two doors.
Chevy Nomad 2-Door
The Chevy Nomad is many people ultimate station wagon. It was only offered as a 2 door for three years, from 1955-1957. The nomad was based on the popular Bel Air cars, so parts are not usually a problem. These cars are not common and prices are very high.
The Studebaker Wagonaire was a station wagon based on the popular Lark model. Its main claim to fame was a sliding rear roof section, which greatly increased the cargo carrying capacity. The roof slid from the back of the car to the back of the back seat. The car was only produced from 1963 to 1966. They are not easy to find in good condition today, mainly due to low production volume and horrible water leaks near the front of the sliding roof.The last models were produced in Canada and featured GM supplied engines.
Chevrolet Corvair Wagon
Chevrolet only offered the Lakewood station wagon for 1961 and part of 1962. The Corvair has a cult following today and there is a surprising amount of aftermarket support for these cars. Due to their limited production run, the wagons are very hard to find today. The layout is similar to that used by VW, with a flat air cooled engine under the rear cargo area with more storage space in the trunk at the front of the car. These cars are some of my favorites and I will own one someday.