With all the holiday activity over the next few months, millions of American families will be piling into their cars for long hauls to visit with friends and family. These days they’re more likely to be loading up a crossover or an SUV with people and stuff, but there was a time when the station wagon was the freeway king: A functional and trusty road trip chariot. Old wagons have seen renewed popularity among car enthusiasts in recent years, and in the classic car market some are experiencing a surge in interest, some have plateaued, and some are charting a steady course.
Buy: 1991-96 Buick Roadmaster
Sometimes a car is uncool for long enough that it comes back around and into the good graces of enthusiast taste. Just look at the 1991-96 Buick Roadmaster wagon. Its simulated woodgrain sides and bulbous styling never won any beauty contests, and it was built in the years just before station wagons started falling out of favor. Under the skin, though, the Roadmaster rides on the GM B-body platform, which is rear-wheel drive and features a V-8 engine. 1994-96 models even come with the iron-head, police service version of the LT1 V-8 from the Corvette, albeit tuned down to 260 hp from 300.
A good sleeper like that can gain a cult following, and we’ve already seen another sneakily swift ‘90s cars surge in interest: the 1994-96 Impala SS. It also rides on the B-body platform and features the same hp LT1 V-8, and it has seen big value growth over the past couple of years. It seems like the Roadmaster may soon get the same due. Buyer interest, as measured by Hagerty’s insurance quoting activity, is up 37 percent for the Roadmaster over the last 12 months. The average quoted value has remained stable, while the increase in interest and the fact that they are most popular among younger Gen X buyers are good signs. Don’t expect fake woodgrain body panels to be the next big collector car craze, but the value outlook appears to be positive for these cars.
Volvo’s 1800 may be the prettiest car to ever come out of Sweden, and with their bulletproof engines and relative affordability, they make great practical classics. The ES wagon version that was built for the model’s final two years in 1972 and 1973 is perhaps even more attractive. It’s certainly more practical and also relatively rare. Volvo made only 8,000 compared to about 40,000 coupes.
None of this has been lost on the collector car market, and the 1800ES saw a 50-percent growth in value over the past five years. That has slowed to just a four-percent increase over the past 12 months, however, and insurance quote activity has also started to decline. These are pretty typical signs that a model is just about fully priced with no more room to grow.
If the Tri-Five Chevy is the quintessential ‘50s American car, then the two-door Nomad and four-door Beauville are the quintessential wagons. As for values, Bel Air wagons have seen moderate increases over the years that more or less keep up with inflation, but there haven’t been any large swings in either direction. It’s the same story with buyer interest, although like other Bel Airs they overwhelmingly appeal to older buyers. Since these wagons are tracking straight, the best thing for owners to do may be to keep driving and enjoying.
*The Hagerty Vehicle Rating system is measured by generations of cars and not body style. Thus we are unable to provide a specific HVR number for the above models.