Earlier this week we saw the new
Volvo V90 and Kia Optima Sportswagon, estates that are both very handsome and rather cool.
We’ve always maintained that
fast estates are cool, but it seems even base-spec diesel wagons are becoming better-looking, more desirable and indeed cooler than their hatchback/saloon siblings. The aforementioned V90 and Optima SW are perfect examples of the phenomenon.
But this is not a new phenomenon. Motoring history is littered with achingly cool estates. Here is Only Motors’ top 12 cool estates.
Let us know what you think of our list and what cool estates you would add.
Chevrolet Nomad (1957) The ’57 Chevy was instantly recognised as a design classic. Everything about it is just right: the proportions, the fins, the headlight ‘hoods’, the ‘bullet’ grille, the chrome side strips, all of it. So it follows that the 3dr Nomad wagon with its wraparound rear glass would be epically cool. Massively collectible – and expensive – now, especially with the rare, 280bhp fuel injected engine.
Classic Mini (1961-1969) Original Minis are cool by definition, so the estate must be as well. Known as the Austin Countryman or Morris Traveller, they were very useful despite their dinky size, with rear barn doors and a surprisingly big boot. Deluxe models had wood cladding. Over 200k were built. It’s now incredibly rare and very collectable.
Skoda Octavia (1961-1971) The Octavia was nationalised Skoda’s first car to have any sort of export success. Even by the standards of the day it was pretty terrible and had mildly evil handling – check out the rear axle toe-in. But it was very tough and looked adorable, like a miniature early 50s Buick. Which was no coincidence
Toyota Crown Custom (1971-1974) Designed at a time when Japanese stylists blatantly copied American cars, the Crown Custom is magnificently over-wrought. Though well equipped, it was far too expensive in the UK and the 2.6 straight-6 engine limited its appeal, so it was never that common. Rust has claimed pretty much all of them by now. Survivors are a slice of 70s chic at its best/worst.
Ford LTD Country Squire (1976) In the era of land yachts, the Country Squire was just about the biggest boat out there, measuring nearly 19ft long and 7ft wide. It had loads of chrome, hidden headlights, formica ‘wood’ panelling, a 7.5 V8 with no power and approximate handling. It’s so anti-cool it’s actually cool. Incidentally, this platform, built from ’69-’78 is the 2nd-most popular US Ford chassis ever, with 7.85m built. Which says a lot about the US at that time. Wonder how many are left?
Mercedes W123 T (1978-1985) Like the ’57 Chevy, the W123 E-Class is one of those designs that’s just ‘right’. It’s somehow both period perfect and completely timeless, and it fits in absolutely anywhere – then and now – whether it’s outside a five-star hotel or parked on a side street in a war zone. Neglect and rust has claimed most, though plenty of knackered ones still plod on in the developing world. Pristine examples are now highly collectable
BTCC Volvo 850 (1994) This wasn’t the first racing estate, but it was certainly the most high-profile. Conceived purely as a marketing exercise at a time when the BTCC was becoming hugely popular, the TWR-built 850 wasn’t actually much good. But it did get a lot of coverage and launched Volvo onto big success on track
Ferrari 456GT Venice (c.1996) Designed and built by Pininfarina, just 7 of these were built, 6 of which were bought by the Sultan of Brunei at a reported cost of $1.5m each. Some have since escaped – at least 1 is in the UK. It’s huge, spacious and heavy, powered by delicious 5.5 V12.
Audi RS6 Avant (2002-2004) The original RS6, complete with 444bhp, twin-turbo V8, was a bit of a brute. It wasn’t much cop in corners, the ride was preposterously stiff and it proved to be rather fragile. But it was immensely fast and looked like a bodybuilder wearing an Armani suit. In other words, scary but classy. Which is a deeply cool combination
Alfa Romeo 159 Sportwagon (2004-2011) The car that reminded us estates could be drop-dead gorgeous. Not that great to drive, overweight and questionable quality, but in black with tan leather – and ideally the 3.2 V6 – it’s the coolest mid-size estate there has ever been. There’s really nothing else to say
Mitsubishi Evolution 9 Wagon (2005-2008) Mitsubishi weren’t kidding around with this – it really was a full-on Evo 9 in an estate body. So it had the same 276bhp turbo motor as the saloon, a 0-62mph time under 5secs and an active centre diff. With a bit more weight over the rear axle, it didn’t need active yaw control which actually made it easier to slide around. Only 2,500 were built
Cadillac CTS-V (2011-2014) Well, it has the 556bhp, 6.2 supercharged V8 from a Corvette ZR1, massive wheelarches, the perfect stance, a manual gearbox and does 190mph. How can it not be cool?
Images via Favcars.com
By Graham King