When I was in university, we set up a bet on who would be the first to buy a station wagon and whoever bought the first station wagon would have to buy everyone else dinner. Today, nearly 24 years later and none of the five friends own a station wagon.
I guess station wagons have gone out of flavour in many parts of the world because most families now drool at the sight of van-like people carriers called Multi-Purpose Vehicles or MPVs. In Asia where size matters above all else, the station wagon is very nearly extinct except in Japan where a small but dedicated following still exists.
If you want to buy a wagon in Malaysia the only choice is the Mazda 6 or the new Volvo V90, unless you want to order one from Mercedes-Benz or BMW or Audi.
The wagonite is a small community and their membership is constantly shifting because there are very few hardcore fans of the genre.
Nonetheless I think most of us do sometimes admire those who have the gumption to be different and here is a list of top five wagons that have left an impression on our motoring life.
NISSAN AD RESORT
Now here is a car that made a market for itself without offering anything out of the ordinary, in fact it was probably the most ordinary of wagons here but it cornered the market because no one else offered one.
The AD Resort continues to have a fairly strong following and a quick check with the local marketplace shows that cars are still being traded in the second-hand scene at quite decent prices.
Standard cars are changing hands between RM6,000 and RM8,000 while those which have been improved with bodykits, sunroof and other goodies are doing decent trade between RM10,000 and RM13,000
We don’t generally think of the AD Resort as a classic but cars are now entering their second decade and soon they will qualify as a classic so better pick one up now.
VOLVO 850 WAGON
Truth be told, the 850 Wagon is nothing to shout about, it wasn’t particularly cavernous and it wasn’t really pretty or even ground breaking in design but it did race in the British Touring Car Championship.
If ever there was proof that winning on Sunday can translate directly into sales on Monday then the Volvo 850 Wagon is it.
Once it started whacking hot hatches on British race tracks in the mid 1990s, it became the wagon of choice for those who still wanted to maintain their serious driver credentials at the Teh Tarik Sessions.
It was the only wagon that was winning races and BMW hadn’t figured out that people might want an M5 with a bit more carrying capacity then.
These cars are quite rare now because, mechanically, they’re not hewn from granite like the 122, 144 and 240. If you find a wagon, pricing will start in the mid-teens but haggle well and haggle hard because the bits and bobs for this car can add up to quite a bit.
AUDI 100 WAGON
Nobody had ever thought of an avant garde wagon before the Audi 100 and no one has really, ever since.
The dramatically sloping rear hatch of this car meant that carrying capacity is seriously compromised but who cares when it looks like a station wagon born 20 years ahead of its time.
This car came at a time when Audi began embracing the super-neat aerodynamic look that has set the design tone for the company for well over 40 years.
The standard car was never really a dream drive thanks to the front-wheel drive configuration but Ingolstadt offered a Quattro version for those who wanted rapid cross-continent travel.
I have never spotted this car on Malaysian road but I suspect there are a handful of them somewhere as the importer Auto Dunia may have brought a few in just to test the market, they would have been crazy not to since the car was so dramatically styled.
VOLVO AMAZON WAGON
The Amazon is a beautiful and curvaceous creation that deserves a spot in any car collection. The two-door model had such a wonderful visual balance and a friendly but purposeful stance. It simply sat right in any situation.
When Volvo decided that the nifty sedan could use a wagon twin, they came up with a car that looked beautiful as well as purposeful.
You know how they say that a purposeful design always looks better than one that is drawn from pure fancy, well, this is the exact opposite of the Audi 100 Wagon and in many ways, the 122 Wagon has retained more of its charm than the 100.
MERCEDES W123 WAGON
I have to admit that I am partial to anything with a three-pointed star and the 123 is my favourite modern classic from Stuttgart.
The 123 was the last car, or so the folklore goes, that Mercedes-Benz designed with only the specifications in mind and it was so well built that when one company came out with an advertisement that their car would last a lifetime, Mercedes simply said theirs would last forever and no one thought they were boasting.
The 123 Wagon, like the sedan, looked like it was designed by engineers and then made a little pretty with the shiny bits. It was the very manifesto of form following function and that, to me at least, means it is the most beautiful wagon in the world. I hope you disagree and send me a strongly worded e-mail to ilham.editorial @gmail.com.
P.S. There is one wagon that I wish was actually made and that is the Saab 900. The company made two cars, one is kept at the Saab Museum while the other is roaming the countryside in private hands.