Classic car insurance and valuation specialists Hagerty made news last year by pointing out a surge in vintage SUV values, underscored by a Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser commanding nearly $90,000 at auction. If these humble workhorses are in demand, we have to wonder if wagons can be far behind.
Some are already sought after, like antique woodies and 1955-57 Chevrolet Nomads. Our speculation is with more recent models; the family trucksters we grew up with and new models alike. As unpredictable as collector car trends are, these and other wagons may become high-dollar haulers.
Audi 200 Avant by Wikimedia Commons user IFCAR
Audi 200 20V Turbo Quattro Avant
We won’t delve into the whole 60 Minutes debacle from 1986 that very nearly killed Audi, but we will point out that in the company’s darkest days, they produced a car that’s among their best: 1991’s 200 20-valve Turbo Quattro.
This one-year, exceptionally rare package found its way into about 1,000 four-doors and just 200 or so Avant wagons. It isn’t far removed from the sedans Audi ran to dominate SCCA Trans-Am’s 1986 season. A twin-cam 20-valve turbo inline five-cylinder sends power to all four BBS wheels, stirred manually with a five-speed gearbox. Maintaining it will present a challenge, but enjoying car will come easy.
1978 Ford LTD Country Squire wagon by Flickr user That Hartford Guy
Ford Country Squire
James Bond was taken to Auric Goldfinger’s ranch in one. Clark Griswold was hellbent to reach Wally World in one. You can even race one in Forza video games. From Hollywood to your hometown, Ford Country Squires spanned several decades and covered millions of miles, most of them resplendent with fake wood grain sides.
Any of the Big Three automakers had the acreage and tonnage to answer your need for a V-8 station wagon back in the day, but over time the big Fords have come to epitomize the era and could lead the way for collector values. However bloated and crude they seem by today’s standards, they are a heapin’ helpin’ of American culture from the not-too-distant past.
2015 Volvo V60 Polestar
Volvo V60 Polestar
Volvo wagons have a cult coolness about them; whether Amazons, 240s, 850s or others. The 1800ES two-door wagon of the early 1970s is a rare treat, as are surviving 850 Turbos and Rs from the 1990s.
Yet for all these established models, the 2015 V60 Polestar could be the one to watch. Along with the S60 Polestar sedan, a mere 120 cars are expected in the US. We can only hope that number will increase, but either way, the Swedes aren’t environmentally ignorant. A 345-horsepower performance showpiece is great, though it can’t last forever. Get it while you can.
Citroen DS 20 by Flickr user marsupilami92
You may have heard horror stories of vintage French car reliability. To put your mind at ease, the only parts you really have to worry about are those between the wheels and bumpers.
So why bother with a Citroen DS Wagon? Without caving to usage of je ne sais quoi as an answer, suffice it to say they are rich in character—even among old European cars. Models sent here from 1966-72 represented only a slice of the overall 1955-75 production, and were a milestone of automotive design and technology throughout.
2005 Saab 9-2X
To understand the Saab 9-2X, you only have to remember it’s a Saab built by Subaru because General Motors said so. Beneath what seemed like haphazard branding, GM formerly owned Saab as well as a chunk of Fuji Heavy Industries, parent company of Subaru.
Hence, the “Saabaru” of 2005-06. For Saab faithful it was too Subaru, though in hindsight wasn’t nearly as blasphemous as the 9-7X “Trollblazer.” For the rest of us, it’s a pleasant car with the simplistic fun of an early WRX, just refined a little. Unlike other Saabs, it offers same-day service from the turbocharger and doesn’t jump laterally with torque steer. A better car than sales figures demonstrate, it’s already cherished by owners and sought after by others.
Morris Minor Hot Rod
Morris Minor Traveller
We think of Sir Alec Issigonis’ career and might first associate the original Mini. What we might forget is an earlier but also important success: the Morris Minor. After the coupe and convertible bowed in 1948, the Traveller followed for 1953 and came to the US through 1967.
While other woodie wagons were ditching real wood for purely cosmetic vinyl and fiberglass accents, the Traveller sported true ash wood from the rear barn doors up to the B-pillars. Not only does it look great, it's also functional as the superstructure of the wagon's rear half. That means you’ll need to sand and re-varnish periodically, though it’ll be about the most challenging part of ownership. Otherwise, it’s mechanically straightforward and parts are still easily sourced. Not something you can say for just any vintage British car.
Buick Roadmaster/Chevrolet Caprice
A Corvette engine with room for up to eight. The last GM rear-wheel drive, B-body wagons boasted those features from 1994-1996, toward the end of the generation that debuted in 1991. Until that point, they’d made do with more humble V-8s (the similar Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser only survived through ’92, and thus never lived to receive the same engine upgrade). Admittedly, the 5.7-liter LT1 was slightly revised and detuned for duty here, but it’s fundamentally the same.
On a larger and more sober scale, these were the last big American station wagons. Representing the end of a long line in our automotive culture, they’re still available and accessible.
2012 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Wagon
Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG
Now in its second generation, the most outspoken E-Class wagon is stupendously fast and loud and harsh and everything not expected of a “normal” Mercedes. Well-dressed but lethal, it’s more secret agent than station wagon.
It’s also a rare animal. Love German performance in a wagon? This is your beast. BMW has no M car in Touring bodywork and Audi’s hottest RS Avants are withheld from our shores. While luxury brands notoriously suffer in depreciation, we suspect this AMG won’t be impacted very much or very long. Just be sure to budget for extra sets of tires.
1983 AMC Eagle wagon by Wikimedia Commons user CZmarlin
1983 AMC Eagle wagon by Wikimedia Commons user CZmarlin
If you prefer an obscure American wagon, you could go for a Checker Marathon. Civilian versions of the bygone taxicab, wagons especially, have always been sparse in number. But for an obscure car that was also ahead of its time, you want an AMC Eagle.
To be kind, “AMC styling” was always an oxymoron and the Eagle broke no new ground there. What it did in its wagon and other body styles was fill a void between still-emerging SUVs and conventional cars. It’s the first domestic car to utilize four-wheel drive, and arguably, it’s the original crossover. Surviving examples aren’t running rampant but parts are still easily found. As early Jeep models appreciate in value, these DNA-linked AMCs could be the next affordable collector’s choice.
2011 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
A few years on, the Cadillac CTS-V wagon is still the car that barks loudly and sells quietly. And that’s okay, exclusivity is a fine ingredient when you’re thinking of future collector status. It’ll run closely with an E63 AMG wagon, but if you don’t find it as honed as the Merc, this Caddy just doesn’t give a damn.
If the aforementioned Roadmaster and Caprice were the last of their kind, it’s conceivable the CTS-V will be the last American V-8 wagon ever, performance intent or not. It’s somehow fitting that the distinction goes to Cadillac. All the more reason to grab one now.