Station wagon

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Sells mostly (over 70%) as a station wagon version Variant : VW Passat (2010)

A station wagons , short combination , is a body shape for cars with extra-large loading volume. The name is derived from the combination of car and truck , as the vehicle can both transport people and loads.

The EC vehicle class for a combination M1 AC ( hatchback ).

Definition and characteristics

Opel Olympia Rekord P1 Caravan, still designed as a purely commercial vehicle (1960)
Wartburg Camping , a forerunner of the later lifestyle image of the station wagon
Station wagon strongly oriented towards utility value with almost vertical tailgate: Volvo 245 (1983)

The term includes minibuses , various types of high-roof station wagons , sport utility vehicles and vans . Colloquially, it usually means cars with an almost vertical tailgate and loading area in the interior. They differ from the corresponding sedan in that they have a longer roof and additional D-pillars . This article applies to the slang meaning.

Station wagons were originally mostly three-door, simply equipped commercial vehicles for handicrafts and small businesses, and were seen as unsuitable for a trip to the theater , for example . One of the first station wagon models that deliberately stood out from this purpose and image was the Wartburg Camping , launched in 1956, with a five-door body, clad shop space and folding sunroof. The great change in the image of the station wagon to a utility-value-oriented but still presentable car did not take place until the 1970s. Since the Ford Escort '86 (1990), the Opel Kadett E (1990) and the VW Polo II (1994) were phased out, almost only five-door models have been on the market. The Mini Clubman has been an exception since 2007 . Manufacturers such as BMW , Audi and Mercedes-Benz began to market station wagons as chic lifestyle vehicles in the 1990s , which should now finally stand out from the commercial vehicle character. Today the hold is clad, carpeted and covered with a cover. Even in the upper middle class, there are consistently station wagons that have established themselves as family vehicles and company cars. Many vehicle models are mostly sold as station wagons , with the VW Passat , for example , the station wagon share is 70% and the manufacturers Volvo and Subaru have been selling more station wagons than sedans in Europe since the late 1980s. Craftsmen and small businesses now mainly use box vans - modifications of station wagons and small vans for transport purposes .

Station wagons were the first vehicles with foldable rear seats (today usually divisible), with which a continuous loading area could be created from the tailgate to the front seats. This design was later adopted for hatchback and notchback sedans. An average dimension for the length of the cargo space in European station wagons is around 180 cm, the Citroën CX Break, as well as many American models, such as. B. the Chevrolet Celebrity have cargo space lengths of over 200 cm. Modern station wagons in the higher price segments have an optional retractable and retractable base plate for easier loading. The separation of cargo space and seats can be done in all classes by variable nets or grids.

Compared with sedans, station wagons have due to design a stronger twist and have a greater tendency for the boom, so that the ride comfort is reduced. In addition, the interior of station wagons can be heated less effectively in winter. In the past in particular, the station wagon was given a less elegant design, as it was initially often purely functional modifications of a sedan.

Distribution, original price and market value

Station wagons are usually more expensive than comparable sedans. Reasons are the additional effort in production due to the large tailgate, two additional side windows, the foldable rear seat and often a roof rail , as well as technical additions to the sedan, such as a reinforced rear axle or level control . Due to the design, the body has to be additionally stiffened in some places. In a marketing initiative by Ford , some station wagons were temporarily offered at the same price as the sedan. The resale value of a station wagon is (in Germany) usually higher than that of the sedan model, significantly higher than the difference in new prices. Station wagons are particularly popular in Germany, but in many other countries station wagons are considered conservative, stuffy and difficult to sell. For example, manufacturers in the USA had replaced the station wagon models with SUVs or minivans since the mid-1990s . Chrysler made a first attempt to re-establish the "station wagon" in the USA at the end of 2004 with the Dodge Magnum (with a 5.7 liter V8 engine) - with moderate success, the model series was discontinued in 2008.

Special forms

Shooting Brake

Shooting Brake: Volvo P1800 ES (1971)

A special version of the station wagon is the Shooting Brake ( station wagons and combi coupe are hatchbacks , so do not belong to the estate cars still have a three-box structure as sedans or coupes ). Its sideline resembles a coupé with an elongated roof and hatchback.

A brake is originally a heavy, one-horse carriage that was used to tame horses. The lighter Shooting Brake was derived from this, which was developed for hunting and usually carried a frame at the rear to carry the hunted game.

This type of vehicle was popular in England in the late 1960s; there was, for example, the Reliant Scimitar and the small-series Aston Martin DB5 with a hatchback. A forerunner of this type, known as the "Sport Wagon", was the Chevrolet Nomad in the version built between 1955 and 1957. Back then, the term station wagon was almost an insult for chic, sporty cars, which is why the Volvo P1800 ES , for example, was also known as the Shooting Brake (nickname “Snow White's coffin”). The BMW Z3 Coupé (1996–2002; nickname “Turnschuh”) and the Mini Clubman are also shooting brakes.

Lately, the name has also been used for four or five-door sporty station wagons with coupé-like lines. Occasionally estate cars (see next paragraph) are also referred to as shooting brakes .

"Woodie", Suburban and Estate Car

Pontiac Special Series 25 Woodie (1940)
Packard Eight Station Sedan model 2201-2293 (1948).
Woodie of British origin: Alvis TA14 with construction by Scotney
German example: DKW F89 Meisterklasse Universal (1951)

The "Woodie" is, next to the shooting brake, the oldest variant of the station wagon. It developed from the originally horse-drawn station wagon or depot hack (the forerunner of both the station wagon and the pickup ), which was somewhat more comfortable with higher side walls, often a roof fixed on four pillars and the option of stretching tarpaulins in between as weather protection have been done. Such vehicles were also called suburban . The first Station Wagon regularly offered in a brochure was the Hatfield Suburban from 1916.

After more upscale versions appeared on more expensive chassis, the term estate car caught on for this segment because buyers used it for their country houses. Upscale hotels in tourist resorts also used such vehicles as hotel taxis. Typical vehicles in this category were the Packard 110 and the Packard 120 .

Many manufacturers such as Ford , Chevrolet , Dodge Brothers , Plymouth or Essex built Woodies on car chassis, but sold them in the commercial vehicle catalog. In the 1930s the constructions became more decorative and attempts were made to make the angular structure appear more harmonious. A metal roof structure was chosen for this, which also helped to stabilize the body. In addition, windows that could be opened were built into the doors, although the opening behind the doors was sealed with an unbuttoned tarpaulin for a longer time . In a next step, the wood was also transformed from a load-bearing part of the construction into a decorative element. The later chief designer of Briggs Manufacturing , Albert W. Prance , succeeded in developing a process with which very thin wooden panels could be attached to sheet metal. This process enabled vehicles like the Chrysler Town & Country , introduced in 1941 , which appeared as a six or nine-seater at the suggestion of Chrysler managing director Dave Wallace . At first it had a strongly rounded rear end, which consisted of a horizontally split rear door. However, only the lower part could be opened, the rear window remained standing together with the steel roof into which it was embedded. This solution came about because Chrysler took the Windsor Six as its base and used the roof of the 8-seater Imperial sedan. This made T&C the first standard steel roof station wagon and possibly the first hatchback sedan , depending on how you want to interpret the rear end. The workmanship and the equipment were first class. Packard delivered the (Eight) One Twenty or Super Eight in a similar form to order, but by hand. Chrysler later switched to offering the Town & Country (depending on the vintage) as a sedan, hardtop or convertible. The Packard Station Sedan from 1948 to 1949 was constructed similarly; however, this forerunner of the “lifestyle combination” found only a few buyers.

The real wood solution proved impractical. On the one hand, the body was prone to premature and excessive corrosion from rain and splash water that could easily get between the wood and the sheet metal, and on the other hand, the wood must be cared for regularly. Therefore, the all-steel suits that appeared in 1948 quickly became popular. Chrysler only used real mahogany for the panels of the Town & Country until 1947 , after which a foil called Di-Noc with a wood imitation was used. The frame remained - for the time being - made of ash wood. In this form it was often found on upscale US station wagons and even minivans until the 1990s .

Woodies later became very popular as a used car after this construction found widespread acceptance in US surfing culture.

High roof combos

Another form of station wagon are inexpensive high - roof station wagons whose popular predecessors were the Citroën AZU and AK ("box duck") and Renault 4 Fourgonette , derived from the Citroën 2CV .

Special modifications

Mercedes-Benz W 121 station wagon conversion (1961)

Before the large automobile manufacturers offered a station wagon model in practically every vehicle class, body construction companies such as Miesen or Binz converted limousines into station wagons or modified station wagon models according to customer requirements or on behalf of the manufacturer. Sometimes manufacturers also offered these external vehicles via their own dealer network.

The conversions based on the Citroën CX are known , which as GTI on the one hand had a high top speed, on the other hand with a double axle and a high payload. For example, in the 1980s the FAZ's press sales department used several CX three-axle vehicles manufactured by Heuliez for express delivery of the newspaper to other European countries at night.

The manufacturer Artz also converted some Audi 200s into a station wagon and a well-known one-off (built in 1975) is the Ferrari 365 station wagon . Another seven copies of the Ferrari 456 were converted into station wagons for the Sultan of Brunei .

Also hearses are often rebuilt or even prolonged station wagons.

Lifestyle combos

Mercedes-Benz S 123 (1978)
Audi 100 Avant (1983)
Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon (2000), pioneer of the "lifestyle station wagons"
Jaguar XF Sportbrake (2012)
Mercedes Benz CLA Shooting Brake (2019)

Some current and former station wagons are often referred to as "lifestyle station wagons". The first models of this type did not do without a large load volume and, as a demarcation from the "load donkeys", rely on lavish equipment with a covered trunk, headrests at the back, etc., e.g. B. at Mercedes and Volvo. It was only on the used car market that these vehicles became typical craftsmen's cars.

At the latest with the Alfa Romeo 156 Sportwagon from 2000, the maximum loading volume was sacrificed with a sloping rear in favor of the elegant shape, since the trunk was primarily used for sport and leisure, comparable to traditional shooting brakes , this example was followed by all other lifestyle station wagons.


  • The station wagon version of the Mercedes-Benz 123 introduced in April 1978 can be seen as the ancestor of all lifestyle station wagons. A striking feature of this station wagon - called "T-Model" (S 123) by Mercedes - was a chrome-plated roof rail. “T” was chosen with regard to “tourism” and “transport”. The successful series - from the start of series production in November 1975 to January 1986, a total of almost 2.7 million vehicles rolled off the production line - set standards in vehicle safety at the time and paved the way for the station wagon in this class (later called " E-Class " at Mercedes ).
  • In August 1982 Audi presented a new Audi 100 . From mid-1983 there was also an Avant version of the Audi 100, which was built until the end of 1990. This model had a very sloping rear window, which for the first time reduced the maximum possible cargo volume.
  • At the beginning of the 1980s, Lancia and Saab developed an upper middle class sedan, from 1986 Lancia also offered the station wagon, and Saab the hatchback (Fiat and Alfa Romeo later joined the cooperation). A little below was the mid-range Lancia Dedra from 1994 , whose station wagon with upscale interior also aimed towards lifestyle .
  • In 1983 Alfa Romeo presented the 33 , the station wagon version was initially quite conventional and referred to as the Giardinetta , this changed with the facelift when it became the Sportwagon .
  • In 2000 Alfa Romeo presented the 156 Sportwagon . With the sloping rear and the coupé line, this can be seen as the first “lifestyle station wagon” in the modern sense. Due to its success, other manufacturers also took up the "sports" for station wagons.
  • Mercedes also offered the Mercedes CLS from October 2012 to the beginning of 2018 as a “CLS Shooting brake”. On request, it was available with a loading floor made of cherry wood, which was intended to underline the manufactory appearance of the interior and lend the cargo space the elegance of the wooden deck of a yacht.
  • Jaguar launched the Jaguar XF Sportbrake in November 2012 .

Other names for station wagon

Many automobile manufacturers have their own sales names for the term station wagon. As early as the 1960s in Germany, for example, Ford and Opel were calling their station wagons the “Tournament” (Ford) and “CarAVan” (Opel). VW used the name "Variant". Audi later followed suit with the name “Avant”. Presumably, this is intended to avoid associations with commercial vehicles and address other target groups (besides the craftsmen ). The term “station wagon” cannot be protected under trademark law either. The example of Alfa Romeo with the Sportwagon was followed by other brands and equated “Sports-” with station wagon.


  • Byron Olsen, Dan Lyons: Station Wagons. Motorbooks International 2000, ISBN 0-7603-0632-X .

Web links

Commons : Station Wagon  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. The longest Manta - 40 years ago Opel played virtuoso on the marketing keyboard - in Germany, but above all in the USA: The Manta was available there as a Sport Wagon. Here the station wagon was called Ascona Voyage
  2. Thoughts on design in automotive engineering. In: Motor vehicle technology 12/1963, pp. 452–453.
  3. Cortland
  4. ( Memento of the original from November 13, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. 2018 will be departed ,, accessed on February 9, 2019