What ever happened to America’s love affair with the station wagon? The family car that first made road trips possible now faces extinction, and it seems like the only automaker successfully selling station wagons in volume nowadays is Subaru, with its all-wheel drive Outback holding down the segment.
Everyone else has either done away with their wagon line entirely, or pruned options back to the point where it’s become a low-volume enthusiast’s car. Long gone are the days where kids could sit in a rear-facing third-row making faces at semi drivers, while mom and dad argued over what page in the atlas had the short cut around Sacramento on it.
Instead, we now have more SUV and subcompact CUV alternatives than we know what to do with, and a small but focused minivan segment that rocks split rear infotainment screens for the kids, and navigation systems that make the atlas obsolete. Sure, there still are station wagons out in the U.S. market, and outside of the aforementioned Subarus, European automakers like Volvo, BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz still offer outstanding options. But for everyone else, the wagon’s days are over.
Toyota gave up on both Camry and Corolla variants in the mid 1990s, and Honda axed its Accord wagon in ’97. It came back with the enthusiast-oriented Acura TSX (known as the Honda Accord Tourer in the rest of the world), but it ultimately ended poorly for the automaker due to the TSX’s high price and lack of an all-wheel drive version. As for the great American station wagon, the full-sized Buick Roadmaster and the Chevy Caprice Classic bowed out in 1996, and we haven’t seen anything out of GM since the demise of the Cadillac CTS wagon in 2014. Meanwhile, the Ford Taurus wagon quietly was put out to pasture in 2005, and the niche-market Dodge Magnum followed suit three years later.
So while American interest in buying any wagon that isn’t built by Subaru remains tepid at best, longroofs still capture the imaginations of more than a few gearheads. While they may seem as sporty or lightweight as their coupe or sedan cousins, the average station wagon also makes for one hell of a platform to custom build. Here are four of our favorite one-off wagons from the past decade.
1. Norifumi’s TSX Converted Accord Wagon
This is a car that I shot in Tokyo years ago, and it still stands as a shining example of what is possible with enough time, money, interest, and imagination. Owned by a good friend, this car started as a Honda Accord Wagon, and over the years has been slowly converted to USDM TSX specs, a total reversal of America’s love for JDM parts. Featuring a K24 powerplant and numerous modifications, Norifumi’s converted Accord wagon looks a lot different as everything from the engine and suspension to the paint code and wheels have changed since this photo was taken.
2. Custom 1964 Pontiac Catalina Safari Wagon
Large and in charge, this 1964 Pontiac Catalina Safari reportedly began its life as a cop car, but was later transformed into the custom-built road-ripper seen here. Rocking numerous suspension, brake, and traction upgrades, this Catalina is one of those wagons that will blow your doors off on the interstate, as it hides a 468-cubic-inch big-block Nelson Racing Engine beneath its bonnet. So while everyone focuses on sourcing parts for their Nomad, we’d follow this road less taken instead.
3. The 1000-horse Audi RS6 DTM
Featuring almost twice the horsepower of the Catalina, the 1,000-horsepower Audi RS6 Avant DTM seen here is the epitome of “ridiculously dangerous fun.” Loaded with an ear-splitting cat-less Milltek exhaust system and an ungodly number of upgrades in every department, Jon Olsson’s Audi RS6 was one of the most talked about cars going into 2015’s Gumball 3000 rally from Stockholm to Vegas. But shortly after selling the vehicle to a dealership in the Netherlands, the vehicle was stolen during an armed robbery, and was later found burnt to a crisp.
4. 1967 Volvo Amazon “Vöcks”
Our final custom wagon may be familiar to some of you, and if it is not, it should be. This gorgeous 1967 Volvo Amazon station wagon has been making the rounds on the web since it first made its debut at SEMA way back in 2006. Originally built by Koenigsegg engineer Mattias Vöcks, it features 788 horsepower and more one-off fabrication than seems possible. But perhaps one of the coolest things about this car is that it retains a Volvo powerplant: A 2.8-liter turbo inline six continuously has its way with a Getrag six-speed transmission.