A station wagon (also called an estate car, estate or wagon) is a car body style which has a "two-box design": one for the engine, and the other a passenger area that includes a large cargo area and rear tailgate hinged to open from the back for access to the cargo area. The body style is similar to hatchback cars, however, station wagons are longer, and are more likely to have the roofline extended to the rear of the car (resulting in a vertical rear surface to the car) to maximize the cargo space.
Station wagons and hatchbacks have in common a two-box design configuration, a shared interior volume for passengers and cargo and a rear door (often called a tailgate in the case of a wagon) that is hinged at roof level. Folding rear seats (in order to create a larger space for cargo) are also common on both station wagons and hatchbacks.
Many modern station wagons have an upward-swinging, full-width, full-height rear door supported on gas springs ‚ often where the rear window can swing up independently. Historically, wagons have employed numerous designs.
In the early 1950s, tailgates with hand-cranked roll-down rear windows began to appear. Later in the decade, electric power was applied to the tailgate windowīit could be operated from the driver's seat, as well as by the keyhole in the rear door. By the early 1960s, this arrangement was common on both full-size and compact wagons.
Ford's full-size wagons for 1966 introduced a system marketed as "Magic Doorgate" ‚ a conventional tailgate with retracting rear glass, where the tailgate could either fold down or pivot open on a side hinge ‚ with the rear window retracted in either case. Competitors marketed their versions as a Drop and Swing or Dual Action Tailgate. For 1969, Ford incorporated a design that allowed the rear glass to remain up or down when the door pivoted open on its side hinge, marketing the system, which had been engineered by Donald N. Frey as the "Three-Way Magic Doorgate". Similar configurations became the standard on full-size and intermediate wagons from GM, Ford, and Chrysler. GM added a notch in the rear bumper that acted as a step plate; to fill the gap, a small portion of bumper was attached to the doorgate. When opened as a swinging door, this part of the bumper moved away, allowing the depression in the bumper to provide a "step" to ease entry; when the gate was opened by being lowered or raised to a closed position, the chrome section remained in place making the bumper "whole".