Estate cars: In celebration of a dying breed of car

Marketing types, ever eager to find fresh seams of buyers, realised that more poshly appointed estates might find a market too. Triumph’s 2000/2500 saloon was remodelled as a sporting estate that even had wood décor in the boot. Ford rolled out the Granada Ghia X for 1980 and later the limited-edition two-tone, leather-upholstered Granada Chasseur.

Well before that, British coachbuilder Crayford had been converting Mercedes-Benzes into estates. It took a long time for Mercedes and BMW to convince themselves that making wagons wouldn’t undermine their image, BMW eventually being dragged to this more practical party by one of its engineer employees.

Max Reisbock needed a more versatile BMW for his growing family so converted a saloon in his friend’s garage. When he drove the finished car to work in 1984, BMW’s bosses persuaded him to leave it there so that they could turn it into a series-production car. So well styled and detailed was Reisbock’s work that the production version differed from his own only in detail.

The BMW 3 Series Touring wasn’t a particularly voluminous estate, but it was a lot more useful than the saloon, it was handsome and driving one very definitely didn’t make you a photocopier salesman. A Volvo estate, on the other hand, was decidedly more commodious and tough enough to take heaps of abuse from antique dealers, who would regularly overload their roof-racked Swedish wagons. But even the great champions of this genre – Citroën, Ford, Mercedes, Peugeot, Vauxhall and Volvo – are seeing the market run dry.

SUVs are the in thing, with their high-riding cabins and more prestigious aura. Never mind that few have loadbays as lengthy as a good estate’s or tailgates that gape as wide, or that their loadbay floors are several straining inches further from the ground than those of an old-school wagon.

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There have been plenty of very handsome estates, too – still are, in the case of the Mercedes C-ClassPeugeot 508 SW and Volvo V90 – but the business case for them is fast-fading. For those of us who need to carry really big quantities of stuff or who want a load-carrier that handles too, their gradual vanishing will be rued.


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