Gargling Gas adores the wagon/estate cars and gets all excited and squirmy over sleepers – because these two trends have been red hot for a few years now, you only have to take a short trip from your front door to stumble across a project or two.
I stumbled across an Audi estate today, the reason for this post and also to touch on a prospect wagon/sleeper build I’ve been thinking of taking on since I saw an old twin-turbo Mitsubishi for sale at the side of a road for peanuts. The Audi wasn’t anything special, a late 90s silver estate, sitting slightly low. I wasn’t sure if the suspension was worn or the owner intended the slight drop, but judging by the reconditioned and freshly painted rims, I guess the former. Simply adding dark metallic grey rims to a retro estate suddenly gave it bags of character and instantly erased any preconceptions about “family runs”, “another baby on the way” and practicality.
Over the past few years, Wagons have gained popularity, partly thanks to the Hipster trend and their penchant for 80s euro estates like the Volvos and BMWs, and partly (I think) because the boxy and retro cars are fast becoming the cool ride to customise. Whether it’s a Volvo drift missile, a GM dragster, or even a Japanese sleeper, the need for angles and sharp lines, simplicity and easy tuning means anyone can stamp their mark on a cool car without breaking the bank.
Despite its spike in popularity, compared to the much sought after 80s Jap hot-hatch turbos such as the Honda City Turbo, the Nissan March (turbo and supercharged) and the Toyota GTI-R Pulsar, the wagon is still a cheaper option. Same goes if you were to compare the wagon to the Nissan Silvia, predominately the S13, as it’s the ultimate choice for drift builds and fast becoming hard to find unmolested and in manual.
However, there were a few desirable wagons before the likes of the AMGs and the Ms took over, cars built for the family man refusing to compromise on power. The BMW 325i Touring (below) and the Audi RS2 Avant (above) are great examples of German engineering, cars designed to transport family and furniture comfortably and at speed – solid examples are few and far between.
The great thing about the retro Wagon is you’re bring something different to the table, its versatility shrugging off any of the labels that automatically come with the hot hatch and drift missile. The fact they mostly come as RWD means they can be adapted for drifting; if you require the stealthy sheep-in-wolf’s-clothing mobile, the wagon is the master of deception, especially if it has a roof rack.
Back to the Mitsubishi. If I remember correctly, it was the twin-turbo Galant VR4 Estate with tinted glass, after-market rims and bonnet vents, very much like the picture above. The thing was dusty but looked menacing, as though abandoned. It’s twin-turbo 2.5-L V6 had covered 89,000 miles and it was up for £2750, but I already had a WRX wagon I was having fun in at the time.
The VR4 produces 280-bhp, and with some tuning and light modification, it could pump out 320-bhp, something easily obtainable with a twin-turbo V6. The one I saw for sale wasn’t exactly a sleeper because it suggested power and menace, but imagine sourcing a clean example with original rims and a ventless bonnet. Picture it, having had a full engine service, a slight boost increase and a re-map, up on a dyno, the readout topping 320-bhp. You could get away with stripping out the interior because tinted rear glass isn’t uncommon with estates. You’d be left with a considerably lighter, 320+bhp twin-turbo family wagon, an ostensibly unthreatening car… until you cut it up on the motorway.
For a third of the price of decent Nissan S13 or a rare Jap hot-hatch turbo you can pick up a car with so much tuning potential and areas of weight reduction, it will come an obsession until you finally hit its sweet spot and see your reflection grinning back at you in the rearview as you glide past a 911 turbo.