My Car Quest

July 23, 2024

Station Wagon, Estate Car Or Shooting Brake?

by Mike Gulett –

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

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 Dictionary.com 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!

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

The Shooting Brake may be making a come back – here is a 2019 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake just listed on Bring a Trailer.

2019 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake

2019 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake on Bring a Trailer


Let us know what you think in the Comments.

2019 Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake

A version of this article was originally published in September 2014.

Summary
Station Wagon, Estate Car Or Shooting Brake?
Article Name
Station Wagon, Estate Car Or Shooting Brake?
Description
Station Wagon, Estate Car and the Shooting Brake - all functional cars with different names.
Author

Comments

  1. Where does the “longroof” category fit in?

    For me, a shooting brake has no more than 3 doors and the 3rd door must be a “tailgate” that allows floor to roof access.

    For posterity here is a rare one we will never see in the metal again: https://japanesenostalgiccar.com/subaru-amadeus-concept-svx-wagon-scrapped/

  2. John Wetzig says

    I think “station wagon” is as good a name as “estate car’ (although that certainly sounds classier} or “shooting brake” because it is what these were used for back in the day here in the States, carrying people to the railroad station and such. You don’t mention “touring”, which the Germans seem to use. When I was little, my mother had Chevy 150 wagons. She liked them because you could hose out the inside! My daily is a BMW 535iX Sport Wagon.

  3. Fred Johansen says

    Some version are more asthaetic than others. I grew up in the Country Squire, and Vista Cruiser era in America, where we would either fight for the rear facing seat at the very back, or the sky view seat that one could peer through the Vista Cruiser roof windows. I think that the modern hatchbacks have filled in this void though.

  4. David Meisner says

    If you can’t fit a 4×8 sheet of plywood or drywall in it, it really isn’t a station wagon…IMHO. SUV is just a marketing name for what we used to call a Jeep.

  5. Glenn Krasner says

    Mike,
    Reiterating some of the comments above, an estate wagon or estate car has four doors and a tailgate like our traditional station wagons, and a shooting brake has, as your cool pictures show, two doors and a tailgate. Allegedly, the term shooting brake derives from the British Upper Class needing a fast car that they could ride while carrying their guns on their hunting runs on their manor estates. Most of the British shooting brakes were actually standard production sporty two-door cars converted into shooting brakes by outside custom carriage houses. In our neighborhood growing up, definitely the most popular station wagon was the Ford Country Squire, followed by Olds Vista Cruisers, Chevy Kingswood, and Buick Estate Wagons. The Chrysler product station wagons, like their cars in the 1970’s, were huge behemoths. There is definitely a huge nostalgia effect going on in the classic car market now for traditional American station wagons, pickup trucks, and SUVs (before they were rolling living rooms). While many collector car values have plateaued or even gone down, the values of these vehicles have gone through the roof for nice examples in the last five years. Your parents’ Mercury Colony Park wagon is/was incredibly cool, but “rich mahogany-toned paneling” is still a fake synthetic veneer for durability purposes, pretty much used since the late ’50s onward. I love classic wagons, pickup trucks, and SUVs, and would never buy a new SUV or crossover. Another odd phenomenon these days is that the term “small pickup truck” is applied to pickup trucks that are 30% to 50% larger than those small pickup trucks from the ’70s and early ’80s, made domestically or by the Japanese brands. The smallest one I see is the Ford Maverick, which still has four doors and is fairly huge compared to those of yore. THANKS FOR THE GREAT ARTICLE!!!! YOU MADE MY DAY!!!!
    Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

  6. Germans call them wagens. When I was a kid we had a 1957 Ford Country Squire, with the faux wood paneling. Took many long east coast trips in that wagon.

    You want to see 1,000+ station wagons? Here ya go…

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/flashgumby/albums/72157651586737578/page4

  7. Bob Wachtel says

    Hey, what about the Volvo P1800? If the Saint’s car isn’t a shooting brake, then what is?

    • Glenn Krasner says

      Bob,

      While the Volvo P1800 (the car from “The Saint”) is an iconic GT sports car, it is just that : a phenomenal GT sports car. However, the wagon version of ithe P1800, , the P1800ES, is MOST DEFINITELY A SHOOTING BRAKE. Even the AMC Pacer wagon might have been considered a shooting brake if had any speed.

      Glenn in Brooklyn, NY

  8. The Volvo P1800 ES looks like a shooting brake to me:

  9. Glenn Krasner says

    Mike,

    The Volvo P1800ES is most definitely the epitome of the term “shooting brake”, and it was an OEM factory-made product, not a car that was modified by a custom coachmaker.

    Glenn in Brooklyn, NY

  10. Michael may not like the term Station Wagon, but at least it is somewhat descriptive. “Station” as in hauling luggage from the train station. “Wagon” needing no explanation. But the term “Shooting Brake” seems to be completely non-sensical. I have never understood it… can someone please explain it?

    • Straight from the internet, took about 7 seconds:

      A horse-drawn shooting brake was a variation of the break (also spelled brake). Originally built as a simple but heavy frame for breaking in young horses to drive, over time it became a gentleman-driven vehicle and was popular for such aristocratic sports as shooting parties.

      • … and what has all that (horse-drawn wagon brakes) got to do with station wagons? The former deals w a mechanism to slow a wagon; the latter refers to design of the motorized family cargo vehicle.

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