Market Spotlight

The last American full-size hot rod wagons: Dodge Magnum and Cadillac CTS-V

by Eddy Eckart
10 August 2023 5 min read

It sounds like the preface to an archaeological tale. Long before the dawn of the modern SUV, those who needed to lug kids or a lot of stuff roamed North America in station wagons. Within that lumbering, nearly-forgotten segment existed a rare but compelling subspecies: the performance wagon.

Few marques offered a sporting trim on their wagons, but savvy buyers knew what to do. If you wanted a 440-cubic inch big block and heavy-duty suspension underneath your Dodge Polara or a 428 with a four-speed manual in your Ford Country Squire, you just had to tick the right boxes and you could spec some fun into your family hauler. Though subtly powerful, full-size, body-on-frame wagons went extinct in the ’90s, Dodge and Cadillac saw enough opportunity in the market to inject some life into the V-8 long-roof lineage in the 2000s, if briefly. The Dodge Magnum and Cadillac CTS-V wagon are two very different animals that achieve similar goals, and both are now collectible in their own right.


Debuting in 2005, the same year as the Chrysler 300 and a year before the return of Dodge’s venerable Charger, the Magnum rode on Chrysler’s LX platform. These were the beginning of some heady years for Chrysler’s full-size cars—gone was the oh-so-’90s cab-forward design, replaced with more familiar American sedan architecture that dipped its toe in fashionable-for-the-aughts retro design. (That said, the Magnum is perhaps the least retro of all its siblings.) And, perhaps most importantly, the Hemi V-8 that had returned in 2003 found its way underhood at the Magnum’s debut.

The 340-horse 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 that came with the R/T trim hustled the big wagon to sixty in under six seconds, within sneezing distance of the new-for-’05 Mustang GT’s 5.1-second sprint. Contemporary reviews even lauded its roadholding, or were at the very least impressed that such a hefty wagon could grip the way it did. The Magnum managed this while offering more legroom than a Chevy Tahoe, and having cavernous storage space to boot. It did get dinged on interior quality, however, with a sea of cheap-feeling plastic throughout the cabin, as did the pillbox windows for providing poor visibility.


But Dodge bet that Magnum buyers were more interested in the car’s character than minor considerations like how well they could see out of the car. To wit, the company went all-in on the Magnum’s personality amplification for 2006, rolling out the 6.1-liter, 425-horse V-8-powered SRT-8. Along with quicker acceleration and bragging rights owing to its 13.6-second quarter mile time, the SRT-8 received upgraded seats, 20-inch wheels, larger Brembo brakes, uprated dampers and stiffer suspension components, and a throatier exhaust. Between both V-8 optioned cars, The muscle wagon was back.

It showed in sales, too—Dodge moved more than 50,000 Magnums in 2005 alone. For the 2008 model year, the Magnum received an updated interior and a front end restyling that more closely resembled the Charger. Unfortunately, the Magnum’s life was about to be cut short. Not long after the freshened cars hit the showroom, Chrysler announced in late 2007 it was canceling the Magnum. Given its healthy sales and that the Chrysler 300 soldiered on till now and the Charger has thrived, the Magnum may well have had a few more good years in it.

Despite healthy production numbers for the R/T, finding a sharp, unmolested example can be a challenge. Sourcing the much rarer SRT-8 is harder still. Prices, though, are very reasonable, and are only slowly increasing. A #2 (excellent) condition R/T model can be had for $16,000; a similar-condition all-wheel drive R/T model will fetch $1400 more (#2-condition Charger R/Ts, both rear-and all-wheel drive, come in at $15,800). If you’re looking for a top-dog SRT-8, a #2 condition car slides in just under 30 grand. Either is a big, throaty muscle car option that just happens to be able to haul stuff.

Interest in the Magnum based on insurance quotes sought from Hagerty skews toward boomers, at 45%. Gen X follows at 29%, and younger enthusiasts make up about 18%. These proportions have held relatively steady over the last three years, suggesting that a change in value driven by refreshed interest in these cars is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

In contrast to Chrysler's pivot to rear-wheel drive roots and retro styling with its full-size cars, Cadillac's Art and Science design and CTS model were at the core of the brand's effort to reposition itself as an alternative to Mercedes-Benz and BMW. The second-generation CTS sedan rolled out in 2008, with the Sport Wagon following in 2010. Cadillac's performance-oriented V-Series models, which took aim directly at AMG and BMW's M, came soon after, with the second-gen CTS-V sedan debuting in 2009 and the CTS-V wagon in 2011.

Bring a Trailer

The sedan—and subsequent coupe—were impressive, but the CTS-V wagon stole the show. The 556-hp 6.2-liter LSA V-8 was backed by—joy of joys—a Tremec 6060 six-speed manual transmission. Yes, a six-speed automatic was available, too, but at the time you could count the available big wagons with manual transmissions on one hand and have four digits left over. MagneRide dampers helped ensure a balanced driving experience, and massive brakes woah-ed the two-ton wagon down as well as many sports cars. Cadillac had created a unicorn.

A bruiser if there ever was one, the CTS-V wagon got to 60 in the low fours and crossed the quarter in 12.5 seconds. The sedan version cracked the eight minute barrier at the Nurburgring, and while it was marginally heavier, the wagon didn't lose much in the way of handling. While they do feel their weight, they're agile and incredibly capable.

Bring a Trailer

Having spent years with not one, but two CTS Sport Wagons, I can attest to the Caddy's practicality. It's unlikely anyone's going to go get lumber in their now-quite-valuable CTS-V wagon, but you certainly could. Rear seat room is a bit tighter than in the Dodge, but the front seats (either base or Recaro) will happily accommodate occupants of almost any size. The interior isn't opulent, and some surfaces feel more entry-level than the Cadillac's European competition, but it's cleanly designed and a comfortable cruiser.

Unicorn, though, is the operative word. As much ink as wagons get from auto writers, the modern new car buyer just doesn't know what to do with them, much less niche models with massive horsepower and three pedals. CTS-V wagon production reflected that—from 2011-2014, only 1767 were made, 514 of which were manuals.

The modern car collector, on the other hand, knows well what to do with such a car. Values for the CTS-V wagon started their rise in 2019, a mere five years after production stopped, and well before the pandemic took the collector market to new heights. Today, a #2 (excellent) condition CTS-V wagon comes in at $91,700, up five percent even over the last quarter. As would be expected, manual transmissions command a strong 15% premium over automatics.

Unlike the Magnum, the CTS-V wagon has healthy interest from younger generations—a full 40% of quotes sought come from gen Z and millennials. Gen X represents a similar proportion of interest to the Magnum at 26%, while boomer interest is at 25% and receding. Over the last five years, the CTS-V wagon has placed itself in the modern collector firmament, and the demographic interest suggests it's poised to stay there.

Despite the valuation differences between these two cars, both of them offer an experience that's tough to find in the collector car world. People often characterize early SUVs as useful classics, but the Magnum and the CTS-V wagon arguably fit that bill more precisely. There aren't a lot of models that offer muscle car thrills and can comfortably fit four people with all their luggage on a long trip. These last American muscle wagons are hard to beat.


  • James Sheridan says:

    I voted with my pocketbook in late 2012, ordering a manual CTS-V wagon from Sewell Cadillac in Grapevine, TX. I still have her and she’s not going anywhere

  • Mark B says:

    Hopefully, what’s old will be new again…soon! I pine for the days when these wagons roamed the streets. Now they look so cool next to the spat of SUV’s and Crossovers roaming the roads. They packaged a fun driving experience, utility, oh and styling. Only one of which exists in todays SUV/Crossover, and it isn’t one or three. It’s a shame that these can only be had in an expensive European form these days.

  • 83ragtop50 says:

    Love the Magnum. Would buy a new one for my next family vehicle if it was available.

  • D'Arcy Salzmann says:

    There were rumors at the launch of the CT5-V that Cadillac might again build an überwagon. That seems to have been disproved but if you’re the gambling sort, a CT5-V Blackwing with the manual has the constituent ingredients to be desired long into the future. The formal has been handed down from previous generations and is still valid, prevailing electric winds notwithstanding: giant engine? four doors? rwd? manual? Assuming gasoline and insurance are still available in 15 years, a Blackwing is a reasonable gamble now.

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    I loved the CTS-V. Part of me wishes I had purchased on back in the day when the wagons were more affordable.

    The Magnum never got the improvements and upgrades that the current gen Charger/Challenger got. I do wish it has gotten an exterior/interior update and a hellcat option. That would have been a fun wagon.

  • John Vetter says:

    For the 1963 models, you could order a Ford Country Sedan or a Country Squire with a 4-speed. You could also order bucket seats in a Country Squire. Those were both Regular Production Options (RPO’s) — just check the boxes. In other years, you would have to special order those items (and get approval).

  • paul s murray says:

    Price not being a factor, The Caddy obviously has it all over the Dodge in every way , period. Besides the Dodge has a type of stigma ,for lack of a better word, attached to it. Seems like they were putting those hemi’s in anything that would fit, while for all practical purposes they should have come equipped with the child safety seats already installed too. So a ‘Hemi ‘…in a ‘Magnum’ ? What’s wrong with this picture? That’s like putting Super Bee stripes on a pickup.

  • paul s murray says:

    and (ps) while many options were listed as available, – ‘ all you had to do was just check the right box ‘ , often and especially with engine/trans combinations these were what are referred to as ‘paper cars’ that the manufacturers listed . 67 Fairlane 427 wagons ran in NHRA (successfully) and technically allowed to do so because it was listed as an option, but if you went to the local dealer trying to get one was an all together different matter and to my knowledge no factory version was ever built even though you’ll find it on the glove box sticker.

  • kevin thomas says:

    I love wagons, and I love these two. If I’d bought one new, well, if I had that kind of money I probably wouldn’t be hauling lumber in them. As a Magnum buyer, I’d also have a truck. As a CTS-V buyer, I’d have someone to do that stuff for me, or I’d also have a truck. As a collector (still waiting on the Lotto), as you say, I wouldn’t be hauling lumber in either of them.

    In real life, I just got back from Home Depot with a bunch of 8′ 2x4s and 1x6s in my 2018 GTI. Now off to the garage to make sawdust.

  • paul s murray says:

    Kevin, Go to the local lumberyard! It’s better quality and it now costs less, frequently a lot less, than Lowes or the hO- me De- Pot . You also don’t have to spend your morning picking through their garbage they call wood. They’ll also deliver for next to nothing anymore except for the tip you give the driver . That way you can take the blankets out of the hatch and towel off the console so it doesn’t get scratched. Not have to worry about after a sudden stop a 2×4 taking out that heater vent. I hate it when that happens.

  • Virginia A Harlow says:

    Boy did Dodge miss the boat? A Magnum two door hatchback with a luggage rack on top for surfboards would have out sold records for any other wagon!

  • Anthony Veloudas says:

    My wife and I bought our 2006 all wheel drive R/T Hemi Magnum new in early 2007. She had 7 miles on her. She now has 170K on the odometer, and has always been garaged and in beautiful condition. The Magnum is now in semi retirement now that the wife has her Durango for daily driving and the Magnum sits next to our 71 Superbee, 71 Plymouth, and 2015 Challenger Shaker. She still runs great and looks fantastic, and staying right in our little collection.

  • Joe G says:

    Wagons, or shooting brakes if you are British, are so over looked. Had chances to buy several CTS-V wagons but never pulled the trigger. Ended up buying a 2019 Buick TourX. It is a great driver, but as with most wagons is no more.

  • allan k says:

    …and when all is said and done, the tiny, shooting brake bww z3’s and m coupes are going for two or more times their original MSRP’s!

  • Jim Todd says:

    Still enjoy my 2005 Hemi Magnum. Not an economy car (last tunup $1200), but with 147 K it still runs great. Gets 19mpg if used conservatively and the engine never works hard. Power is there when you need it or want it. Good for hunting and kayaking, and I can get stuff such as a twin bed into it when helping daughter move from place to place. If still made them I would probably get another one. Bought a new GC for the main machine but it has a Pentastar that doesn’t pull you around that great, especially when traveling and in the hill and mountains. Tempting to take a hit and trade that GC for one with an iconic Hemi. No plans to be trading Magnum. JT

  • paul s murray says:

    Virginia H , Great idea! Dodge could have called it the Magnum Maui Fire Sale Special. ( This car excludes warranty )

  • Buzz Fischer says:

    In 1957 Oldsmobile went back to making wagons. U could get a 4 door hard top Fiesta with the J 2 carbs. I think it was under $200 bucks for the package. What a sleeper. Blew the doors off many unsuspecting folks.

  • James says:

    Guess I’ll have to get my 06 Magnum RT tuned for synthetic fuel, LOL! Because it’s a keeper!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More on this topic

Hagerty Insider Newsletter

Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.

Thank You!
Your request will be handled as soon as possible
Hagerty Insider Newsletter
Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.