Ten of the best station wagons you didn’t know they made

  • Thursday 1st January 1970

Rarities, one-offs, and a 75th birthday present For Ferry Porsche.

We’ve looked to Europe and Japan for the best long-roof load luggers the world has to offer, but what about the ones that don’t exactly ‘frequent’ the classifieds? Here are 10 of the best station wagons you probably didn’t know existed, be they commissioned specials or simply limited market rarities…

1990 Mercedes-Benz 560TEL (W126)

Let’s start with an off-menu item. Throughout its 12-year production cycle, Mercedes-Benz never made an estate version of the W126 S-Class, with buyers forced to bypass the iconic Sonderklasse and choose the smaller W123 and W124 wagons – both of which were available during the W126’s tenure.

That didn’t stop Hamburg coachbuilders Caro from building one, though.

Based on a long wheelbase 560SEL, the one-off ‘TEL’ used the rear hatch from a W124 Estate to achieve an almost factory perfect look. It was recently up for sale, and price on application meant it was no bargain buy.

It wasn’t the only long-roof W126 either, with German tuning house, Zender, trying its hand at one called the 500SET.

The donor car was a pre-update 500SEL, with Zender lifting the hatch from a W123 Estate and the nose from the SEC coupe. Looks tough.

1996 Ferrari 456 GT Venice

While we’re on the topic of custom specials, who better to coach build a wagon, than the coachbuilder of the sedan… or in the case of the Ferrari 456 GT, the coupe.

Commissioned by the infamous Brunei Royal Family, seven 456 GT Venice estates were built by Pininfarina (at the rumoured cost of US$1.5m apiece), with one managing to be secured by a car collector in the UK.

The Venice was based on the pre-update 456 GT and featured a 5.5-litre V12 with 325kW and 550Nm.

2002 Lexus IS300 SportCross

Enough of the unobtainable, what about something that is just plain rare?

The original 1999-2005 Lexus IS was a tremendous success for the Japanese brand, offering a fun, sporting rear-drive platform in a compact executive sedan.

How to build on this success? Easy, make it a wagon!

Available nearly everywhere but in Australia, the Lexus IS SportCross was available with Lexus' 157kW/288Nm 3.0-litre inline-six and offered a 620L boot (expandable to 1046L) against the sedan’s 400L.

It was offered for the 2002 model year and discontinued for 2005, mostly because it just wasn’t very popular.

They were sold in the UK, so if you know a guy (we’ll call him Justin), you may be able to find a way to land one here.

2005 Saab 9-2x

Speaking of unpopular, cast your mind back to that crazy time in the 1990s when Ford owned Aston Martin, Chrysler owned Lamborghini, and General Motors owned Saab, with a sprinkling of Fuji Heavy Industries thrown in for good measure.

Badge engineering your way to fast-tracked products was the global game, so for Saab to launch an all-wheel-drive model, GM looked no further than Subaru to provide the base.

Welcome to the Saabaru WR-2X!

Made for the North American market, the Saab 9-2X looked like a GG WRX hatch with a Saab 9-3 nose, but there were a number of changes both inside and under the skin, including improved sound deadening and revised suspension geometry. In Aero trim the 9-2X ran the familiar EJ25 turbocharged four-cylinder boxer engine with 172kW and 319Nm.

The Saab 9-2X lasted only 2 years of production, and just over 10,000 were made.

2008 Honda Accord Euro Tourer

Want some more forbidden fruit? How about the five-door version of the first and second-generation Honda Accord Euro, the Tourer?

The earlier car, from 2002 to 2008 wasn’t really anything to write home about and looked like a typical long-roof addition to the popular Euro sedan. The second generation car, however, featured a stunning looking wagon which was cross-marketed in the USA as the Acura TSX Sport Wagon.

With a rising beltline and thick D-pillar, the second generation wagon featured horizontal tail-lamps and integrated roof rails to promote a sporting and upmarket appeal.

It was built in the UK, in right-hand drive, but sadly would have been too expensive to spec and sell in the Australian market.

1988 Holden VL Calais Wagon

Let’s park all these off-shore machines for a moment, and settle for a rare local bird.

Produced only for the 1988 model year, as a last-of-series run, was the Holden VL Calais Wagon. You could order the car with a 122kW 5.0-litre V8, a 114kW 3.0-litre straight six, or with the 150kW 3.0-litre turbocharged Nissan RB30ET six-cylinder.

The Turbo Calais cost about $34,000 at the time, not bad considering a Volvo 740 Turbo Estate ran in at over $70k, and had all the Calais features from the sedan including optional leather seats and the partial flip-up lights.

Only 198 were ever made, making it one of the General’s rarest.

1984 BMW E28 5-Series Schultz Touring

Staying in the ’80s, let’s remember the BMW E28 5-Series Touring by Schultz.

This was another ‘non-factory’ conversion born of customer demand, with Schultz Touring producing a limited number of five-door 5s in the mid-1980s. Noting too, this predated BMW’s own E30 3-Series Touring of 1988.

The rear hatch was sourced from a Mercedes-Benz W123 Estate, with the design perfectly integrating the existing E28 tail-lamps and Hoffmeister kink from the saloon.

While not as ‘trust fund’ expensive as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class conversions, the Schultz Tourings have become highly sought after.

Maserati Bellagio Fastback

Custom coach-built wagons weren’t limited to the decade of decadence either.

In 2009, Italian design and engineering firm Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera was commissioned by Maserati to create a limited run of 25 wagonised Quattroporte V cars, called the Bellagio Fastback.

Using the QP’s 295kW 4.2-litre Ferrari-sourced V8 as a powerplant, the Bellagios were given an interior makeover too, meaning these were not the place to have muddy dogs clamber about.

If you think the obvious part of adding an extra door to a Quattroporte would be a name change, an engineer in the UK has done exactly that with a QP 6 and created a one-off Cinqueporte based on the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel variant. Bold choice.

Pretty car though…

1984 Porsche 928-4

It’s not always external coachbuilding firms who get creative with cars, as the Porsche 928-4 was a one-off in-house project by the team at Weissach, who created the 928-based wagon as a 75th birthday gift for Ferry Porsche himself.

Featuring a 250mm extension to the body, and a few other tweaks, the Porsche 928 shooting brake concept was further modified in 1987, lengthened even more and with a set of rear-hinged (suicide) doors to allow better access to the rear seats.

This germ of an idea eventually formed the basis of what would become the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo.

2001 Audi Avantissimo Concept

Another one-off, this time from Ingolstadt, the Audi Avantissimo was a fully functional concept car presented at the 2001 Frankfurt Motorshow.

Based on the then-upcoming D3-gen Audi A8 saloon, the Avantissimo showcased an electrochromic roof that would change opacity as required and featured a 316kW/813Nm twin-turbo 4.2-litre V8.

Given Audi’s experience with brutally fast wagons, it’s a shame this one didn’t make it into production.

1998 Nissan Stagea 260 RS

Here’s a bonus one for all our JDM fans out there who were outraged that our previous lists of wagons didn’t venture to the land of load-lugging Godzilla.

Based on the WC34 model Nissan Stagea wagon, the muscular 260RS featured a 206kW RB26DETT twin-turbo inline 2.6-litre straight-six and five-speed manual transmission from the R33 GT-R.

Produced by Nissan-owned engineering firm Autech, the 260RS was essentially a big-box GT-R in all key mechanical areas. It had the Attessa AWD system, 17-inch alloy wheels and bigger Brembo brakes of the GT-R, and even featured an R33 GT-R steering wheel and gauge cluster.

Just under 2000 260RS were made, with quite a number finding their a way to Australia.

In the next update, we’ll go from five-doors to three, and explore the world of the long-roof coupe, the shooting brake.