Unicorn Hunting: Tracking the Almost-Mythical Manual Wagon With Greenwood Motorsports

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Sure, we’re all about the sportiest of sports cars, but we still have a soft spot for wagons–especially oddball wagons fitted with manual transmissions. Unicorns, they’re often called.

Jason Saini of Chicagoland’s Greenwood Motorsports and Wagons knows the fascination well. “I guess I would just say my title is some kind of manager, but it’s really whatever the day calls for,” he quips. “We don’t have a dedicated sales staff, so I may be selling a wagon one moment, and searching for a rare part for a restoration the next.”

Like many of us, Saini’s motorsports career started with autocross. Unlike most folks, however, he quickly scored a pair of SCCA national championships. He soon expanded into road racing with the MX-5 Cup, which led to World Challenge and the Continental Tire Challenge. In addition to his motorsports activities‒plus the shop’s more traditional performance work, including the onceover they gave our new Corvette project car–he now spends his days hunting wagons.

Birth of the Shop

“Every enthusiast and racer I’ve met at least gets the station wagon thing. Having spent some time outside the automotive world, professionally, I had been helping a friend after-hours complete some projects. One night, over a few IPAs, we looked around at the building we were in–that he had just expanded–and he said, hey, how about we start a wagon-only dealership and performance shop here? The rest, as they say, is history: We opened up in early 2016 and have been working hard to build our business. The big advantage that we have is that the owner is an enthusiast, racer and car dealer with several new-car franchises, so from a resource standpoint we are very fortunate.”

Finding Unicorns

“Patience is key when you’re looking for these wagons. We’ve had customers wait nine months for a manual transmission 5 Series E61 BMW wagon. That’s mainly because between 2006 and 2010, there were only about 700 of them imported here. And even more rare are the rear-wheel-drive, manual transmission E91 3 Series, which make up only 429 of the 700,000-plus 3 Series cars brought here from 2006 through 2012. We really are looking for a needle in a haystack, and we’re proud to have offered a large percentage of those 429. At any given time, we have at least one or two in that configuration, and we’ve sold two of the holy-grail of BMW wagon, the E91 with the M-Sport package. But we also have sold vintage Volvo wagons, rare Audi wagons, and right now we have one of 97 W8 Passats imported here with the manual transmission.”

Making Them New

“As it turns out, a lot of what we do with these wagons is a form of restoration. They don’t sell, for instance, a six-cylinder, manual-transmission BMW wagon here anymore. So we find them, restore them cosmetically, and improve them as well. Often we’ll add suspension, wheel and tire upgrades and the like on top of making it look new and doing all the appropriate preventative maintenance.”

Greenwood Motorsports and Wagons
(847) 514-9961

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View comments on the GRM forums
te72 Reader
5/23/18 10:51 p.m.

Cool little corner of the market you guys have carved out for yourselves. Makes me wish that Toyota had done a wagon version of the Celsior / LS400 back in the 90's...

Indy-Barely Functional-Guy
Indy-Barely Functional-Guy UltraDork
5/28/18 9:34 p.m.

Scored my own unicorn this Memorial day weekend. 

V8 Powered E34 with Manual transmission.

mad_machine MegaDork
5/28/18 10:28 p.m.

before christmas I almost scored a 9-3 manual turbo wagon.. it was just too rough for what he was asking

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