South Africans have a love-hate relationship with station wagons: about 10,000 people love them, and everyone else hates them.
We prefer to sit up high and drive bakkies and SUVs prepared for suburban combat, rather than something that handles well and can cut up corners.
However, whether you love them or hate them, there have been some truly strange station wagons created over the years which elicit strong emotions.
As wagons fall out of favour and buyers opt for SUVs in many markets, the category is likely to fade away in the future – so let’s look at some of the weird and wonderful wagons that manufacturers have been brave enough to build.
1967 Ford Mustang Hobo-top
Back in 1967, the Mustang was becoming a runaway success across America – but for those who needed to cart the dog to the park, there was the Hobo-top.
It latched onto the body of a convertible Mustang in just 15 minutes and instantly removed any remorse you had for taking the convertible over the fastback or hardtop.
There were very few ever sold, unfortunately, and it is unlikely this will be a new addition to current Mustang line-up.
Corvette Callaway AeroWagen
Say what you want about the Ferrari FF or Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo, when it comes to imposing sportscar-like station wagons, nothing is quite as strange as the C7 Corvette with a Callaway AeroWagen conversion.
Similar to the Mustang Hobo-top, the package provides a bolt-on replacement bootlid – turning a two-door sports car into a two-door sports car with a bigger boot.
It’s doubtful that anyone ever asked for a Corvette station wagon, but thankfully Callaway – an independent tuner – built the kit anyway.
While Ferrari was trying hard not to succumb to the SUV trend, its high-net-worth customers still enjoyed self-drive trips to the ski slopes in Verbier and Vermont.
The result was the construction of the Ferrari FF – the world’s fastest four-seat car.
It was capable of 335km/h when it launched, and the “FF” stands for Ferrari Four – for four seats and four-wheel-drive.
Not only is it one of the most practical Ferraris made, but it’s arguably also one of the most beautiful.
Sadly, Ferrari gave in to trend pressures and will release an SUV in the near future.
Honda Civic Tourer
One of the most beautiful and well-proportioned estates of the past decade was the Honda Accord Touring.
Like most estates it didn’t sell in huge numbers in South Africa – and in a bid to keep it in line with industry pricing, Honda South Africa replaced it with the Honda Civic Tourer.
It brought all the reliability and versatility that Honda Civics were known for at the time, plus greater luggage volume than the Accord.
Unfortunately, it never hit the mark with customers due to its futuristic shape, which never suited the long-roof body design.
People get upset about the Ford Mustang going electric, but no one batted an eye when the Fiat 500 was supersized.
When Fiat launched the 500L it ignored the ethos of the original two-door small city runabout and designed an oddly-proportioned station wagon with a couple of Fiat 500 styling cues.
The result is a car that’s not an SUV nor is it a traditional hatchback. Instead, we ended up with a large station-wagon-cum-MPV that never really found its niche.
Underneath the subjective styling was a very versatile station wagon with a high roof and huge loading space.
The 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated engine was slightly weak, but the 500L offers great value on the second-hand market.
The all-wheel-drive version is the one to have if you can get over the looks and dodge the questionable colours that show up in used car lots.
Mini introduced the Traveller and Countryman Estate models to provide slightly more practicality and space for customers.
In 2007, however, the BMW-owned Mini produced the Clubman.
It retained a lot of the styling cues that made the new Mini popular, but gained quirky features like a half-suicide door on the driver’s side only and barn-doors at the rear.
Many of the quirks were lost in the new – now four-door – model.
Subaru Forester STI
Before it became a fully-fledged SUV, Subaru’s Forester cut a distinct station-wagon-like silhouette.
Not content with the legendary mechanical all-wheel-drive capability that made it popular in countries either with loads of snow or no tar at all, Subaru chucked its WRC credentials at the rather mundane all-weather, allroad wagon – which included many enhancements from its STI performance division.
The Forester STI remains in demand when one becomes available and only a handful exist today.
For those looking for possibly one of the quirkiest and coolest station wagons with a performance pedigree and reliability to boot, the Forester STI is it.