My Car Quest

August 18, 2022

Station Wagons, Estate Cars and Shooting Brakes

by Mike –

I have never written about station wagons before and maybe some readers are surprised at this topic on My Car Quest. Stay with me here and lets see where it goes.

 Intermeccanica Murena

Intermeccanica Murena*

The  Intermeccanica Murena above is one of the best looking station wagons ever made in my opinion. It has a Ford 429 cid engine. There were only 11 of these beauties made between 1967 and 1969.

In 1955 Chevrolet introduced the Nomad – a two door “station wagon”. This very sporty design changed the concept of what a station wagon could be.

Chevrolet Nomad

Chevrolet Nomad

Chevrolet Nomad

Customized Chevrolet Nomad

If you look a little deeper there are some station wagons (called estate cars by the British) that are interesting especially the one-off concept cars. The real sporty ones are known as shooting brakes, also a British term.

According to a station wagon is, “an automobile with one or more rows of folding or removable seats behind the driver and no luggage compartment but an area behind the seats into which suitcases, parcels, etc., can be loaded through a tailgate”. This definition does not mention the room for the dog and the hunting rifles in the back.

The origin of the term station wagon is American from around 1925-1930. I’ll bet you didn’t know that. What station wagons were around in 1925? They were all woodies I think – this was way before my time. I grew up riding around in the back of a 1964 Mercury Colony Park station wagon with fake wood veneer on the sides.

Ferrari 330 GT Shooting Brake

Ferrari 330 GT Shooting Brake

Estate car is a station wagon and the term originated around 1945-1950. Shooting brake also means station wagon and the term originated around 1910-1915. Both of these phrases are British in origin and an earlier definition of shooting brake is “a light horse-drawn wagonette”. Shooting brake was the first phrase to mean station wagon!

Once again the Americans go their own way with the English language – why didn’t we just call a station wagon a shooting brake instead of making up a new term? Let’s face it shooting brake is a much cooler name than station wagon or estate car.

Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake

Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake

I suspect that car designers would have raised their game a little with the inspiration from knowing they were designing a shooting brake instead of a station wagon! And I’ll bet that there would have been more station wagons sold if they were all called shooting brakes.

Ferrari 365 GTB Shooting Brake

Ferrari 365 GTB Shooting Brake

Worst of all is that station wagons were replaced by the minivan – what a disgrace for a car model. It could have all been avoided with proper name management by the car companies.

Aston Martin Lagonda Shooting Brake

Aston Martin Lagonda Shooting Brake

1999 Chevrolet Nomad Concept

1999 Chevrolet Nomad Concept**

This Nomad concept above looks great but we did not see it go to production. Probably replaced by another minivan.

Mustang Station Wagon

Mustang Station Wagon - One Off***

The Mustang station wagon, above, was an ambitious effort by private designers Barney Clark, Bob Cumberford, and Jim Licata inspired by the Chevrolet Nomad. This one off concept was built by Intermeccanica who have been involved in a lot of cool cars.

But they only built one although there are others who have copied their idea and built their own Mustang Station Wagon, one of which is below and is for sale now on eBay.

1965 Mustang Station Wagon

1965 Mustang Station Wagon

Maybe a 1965 Mustang Shooting Brake would have been a success?


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* Photo compliments of Philip Paccione

** Photo compliments of General Motors

*** Photo from Car and Driver, October 1966

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