My Car Quest

February 27, 2024

Should I Buy A Station Wagon, Estate Car Or Shooting Brake?

by Mike –

I spent much of my childhood riding around in the back of a station wagon, known in other parts of the world as an estate car or shooting brake. My parents owned a 1964 Mercury Colony Park station wagon which racked up lots of miles with my family.

Today car companies are bringing back the station wagon but they do not call it a station wagon because it is a lousy name. They are calling the new station wagons a crossover. Meaning it is a cross between an SUV and a sedan but let’s face it they are really station wagons.

I am thinking maybe I should get a classic station wagon like the Volvo 1800ES to knock around in and transport stuff that will not fit in the regular car. It’s either this or an old pick-up truck.

Here are some favorite old estate cars, station wagons and shooting brakes.

Intermeccanica Murena-Shooting Brake

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-Shooting Brake

Chevrolet Nomad

Chevrolet Nomad-Shooting Brake

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.

Shooting Brake

The origin of the term station wagon is American from around 1925-1930. What station wagons were around in 1925? They were all woodies I think – this was way before my time.

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! Cheap provisional insurance is a good idea no matter which model you choose.

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

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.

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

Below are Mercury Colony Park sales brochures – this brings back memories. Ours was a teal color with fake wood veneer – I did not realize it was really “rich mahogany-toned paneling” – it says so right in the sales brochure.

Mercury Colony Park

Mercury Colony Park

Mercury Colony Park

Mercury Colony Park

We may be seeing the rebirth of the shooting brake (station wagon).

Let us know what you think in the Comments.



This was originally published in September 2014.

Should I Buy A Station Wagon, Estate Car Or Shooting Brake?
Article Name
Should I Buy A Station Wagon, Estate Car Or Shooting Brake?
Station Wagon, Estate Car and the Shooting Brake - all functional cars with different names.


  1. Cliff Bolding says

    The Intermeccanica Murena looks like a big Reliant Scimitar. I think the Scimitar is prettier.

  2. mark nolan v1twn ltd says

    i drive a 1977 oldsmobile custom cruiser woody wagon as everyday transport here in uk.
    it runs on LPG gas and is real cheap to run. the gas is metered about half the horse power…i dont need the power as daily driver…i do notice the difference if i click over to petrol..
    its a big sation wagon, it has cassette tapes and i feel like elvis driving it. i sold a very new van as daily driver as i decided i was having so much fun with the woody wagon. its not a show and shine..its a dented daily driver and hauls anything including my racing sidecar and tyres on the roof and the world inside..
    its a real feel good factor..when people still talked instead on texting..

    i have also owned a rolls royce station wagon and one of the projects next year will be making a bentley woody wagon
    on LPG gas as daily driver..

  3. Richard Kurtz says

    I love a nice estate car.
    Check out the Porsche 944 Shooting Brake.
    There’s a company in Holland who still have the moulds and will do the conversion for you if you’re insane enough!!

  4. Hey Mike,
    Thought you’d be amused: I have a Danish friend who’s a car fanatic. In a sincere effort to use the correct term for our station “wagon,” he calls it a “station car,” translating the “wagon” back to “car,” since the German “Wagen” means car. Of course, “station car” is actually much more sensible and accurate than “station wagon,” even if it still doesn’t have the appeal of shooting brake or estate car.

    The collection of shooting brakes you sent is marvelous. Thanks!


  5. Julian McNamara says

    Mike, In the past Fiat traditionally used the initials SW (for station wagon) for their estates, most of which were pretty awful. As you point out station wagon is a lousy name. After all, those who can really afford weekend parties come by exec jet nowadays don’t they? More pretentious than station wagon is the habit of GM to call it’s European estates Sports Tourers. Perhaps they have a couple, but most are pretty ordinary. Keep up the good work, J

  6. Please add term “touring” to your list of names.

    I’ve been a fan of euro wagons for a long time. First generation Volvo V70R in blue was something that I missed out on years ago and have not found a nice one since. When I turned to my friend for a suggestion of what to buy next after selling one of my Alfas, he sent me a link to a BMW E39 Touring. It was about 2 hrs from my house (3 hrs because of traffic) but it was well worth the effort. The great thing about the Touring or Estates or…is that it’s really a sedan from the C-pillar forward. The additional glass and roof areas add strong visual presence and a sense of continuation to the design, not to mention practicality. The market feels this way also as the BMW Touring models outperform their sedan counterparts in terms of desirability and hence the price.

  7. Ciaran Payne (CJ) says

    A follow up to my previous on Station Wagons/ Estate Cars::
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Jump to: navigation, search

    Shooting-brake is a car body style that has evolved through several distinct meanings over its history.

    Shooting-brake originated as an early 19th century British term[1] for a vehicle used to carry shooting parties[2] with their equipment and game. The term brake[3] was initially a chassis used to break in horses — and was subsequently used to describe a motorized vehicle.

    The term was later applied to custom-built wagons by high-end coachbuilders and subsequently became synonymous with station wagon or estate cars.

    In contemporary usage, the term shooting-brake has broadened to include a range of vehicles from five-door station wagons — to three-door models combining features of a wagon and a coupé.

    In 2006, The New York Times said the shooting-brake was conceived “to take gentlemen on the hunt with their firearms and dogs.”[9] and “although [its] glory days came before World War II, and it has faded from the scene in recent decades, the body style is showing signs of a renaissance as automakers seek to invent (or reinvent) new kinds of vehicles for consumers constantly on the hunt for the next new thing.”[9] In 2014, Lawrence Ulrich of the New York Times said the shooting-brake is “essentially a two-door station wagon.”[10]

  8. Kenny Anderson says

    I have a 1969 Ford Country Squire Station Wagon that I’ve owned since 1995. I bought it from the original owner who was a Ford district rep and only used it to transport his 2 show dogs back and forth from dog shows on the weekends. It only had 65K original miles on it when I bought it. I sold obsolete Ford parts and I used it as a daily driver delivering antique Ford parts and as free mobile advertising for my business until 2006 when I closed up and then only for car shows and cruise-nights, parades, etc. after that. It currently has 130K 2 owner miles on it now. It’s 45 years old and is now going thru a total frame-on restoration as it’s starting to show it’s age.. It’s a very versatile automobile and It gets 15 MPG and can still haul a 4’x8′ sheet of plywood in the back with the tailgate closed and the windows up. Try doing that in your SUV or Prius. The American term ” Station Wagon” came from the fact that in the early automobile days these type of vehicles hauled a lot of hired-hands (employees) back and forth from ranches into town. These vehicles usually had a third row of seats in the back and plenty of room for 8-10 passengers comfortably plus plenty of luggage space in the way-back area and on the roof because of a roof-rack also. Ranches used to be called “Stations” These cars were big and mostly made from wood like the old “Covered Wagons” that were used around these “Stations” in the wild west days so they named these new horseless carriage vehicles “Station- Wagons” Later on they used these vehicles to transport passengers to “Train” Stations, “Bus” Stations, etc. so the name “Station Wagon” stuck. That’s why the Americans call them that instead of Shooting brake or Estate cars. I call my car a “Woody Wagon” even though the “wood” on the sides is actually a vinyl decal but it’s made to look like real wood. Up until the mid-1950’s the original station wagons used real wood thru-out.

  9. I recently acquired a 2013 Subaru WRX “hatchback” which I refer to as my “shooting brake”. I think Subaru has “missed the boat” by calling it a “hatchback” rather than a “shooting brake”. They stopped offering that body style in their WRXs a few years ago, presumably because they sold more WRX sedans. Perhaps if they had called it a “shooting brake” instead of a “hatchback” it might have outsold the sedan. Personally I prefer the “hatchback” or “shooting brake” body style to the sedan and actually hunted for a used one since they no longer make that body style in the WRX line.

  10. Wallace Wyss says

    I think the snobbism of the Aston Martin shooting brakes was that m’Lord would use a sports car meant to go 150 mph for something like transporting to he and his party to the far reaches of the estate to go grouse hunting. It was a kind of conspicuous over-kill, rather like in England it used to be that when you died, you got to ride in a Rolls Royce hearse (I have even seen one built on a Phantom V). So from a purist standpoint only the wagons built on exotic sports car chassis are shooting brakes to me. An American who uses his wagon to hunt on his lands is coming close to the definition but it’s not really possible unless his wagon was based on a sports car meant to go sports car, say if you were to convert a 2016 Corvette to a wagon. By the way in a pure only-in-
    America sort of interpretation, in a four wheel drive magazine I saw where some bloke had militarized his 4WD truck to the point where he had a chain gun (machine gun with rotating barrels) on the roof. Now that’s a shooting brake!

  11. If I have the money, ill go for the shooting brakes, it may not be practical but it is super cool.

  12. OMG if also had the money I would go for that DB5 Shooting brake, awesome looking car.

  13. Rollie Langston says

    Hi Mike, this conversation goes on with different interpretations injected on a similar theme. Something a bit different and historically newer that you omitted, is the term “sport wagon”. This would apply to two door performance oriented wagons, but might also apply to the Nomad or Pontiac Safari, for example. Automotive taxonomy is becoming more challenging as marketing descriptions collide with historical correctness!

Speak Your Mind