Though some American wagons from the 1960s and 1970s were sold with powerful big blocks, the first true performance wagon was the 1994 RS2 Avant, co-developed by Audi and Porsche.
Since then, many carmakers have followed suit, creating some ridiculously potent grocery-getters. In mainland Europe, this recipe has been predominantly used by German brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and, of course, Audi. However, in Britain, the land of lavish grand tourers and powerful hatchbacks, local manufacturers never felt like the recipe was tasteful.
That being said, there were some exceptions, and arguably the most insane was the 2003 MG ZT-T 260.
Reviving the MG brand
Owned by the Rover group, MG was brought back to life once again in 2001, less than a year after the group parted ways with former parent company BMW.
The "new" MG cars (ZR, ZS, and ZT) were not exactly new, as each was based on existing Rover models but received some minor styling cues and, in some cases, a high-performance treatment.
One such case was the ZT 260 sedan and its wagon sibling, the ZT-T 260, introduced in 2003 with an American-made surprise under the hood.
An aging chassis and engine combo for the younger buyer
Well, in many ways, it was, but MG did it anyway, and to make the model more appealing, they thoroughly re-engineered it. Compared to the standard MG ZT or Rover 75, the 260s featured a long-mounted engine, rear-wheel-drive, and a bespoke rear suspension system.
The powertrain was sourced from Ford and came from the 2004 model year Mustang GT. The 4.6-liter SOHC Modular V8, initially introduced in 1999, could make 256 hp and send 302 lb-ft (409 Nm) of torque through either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic coupled with a limited-slip diff in either case.
Even by 2003 standards, this was pretty boring, especially since the venerable cast-iron block unit was significantly heavier than the all-aluminum Rover V6 used in mid-range ZT models.
Rover followed suit a year later with its 75 V8, but what made MG's offering more interesting was the ability of the ZT-T performance wagon.
MG commissioned former McLaren F1 stylist Peter Stevens to make the ZT line look better than its Rover counterpart. In large part, Stevens failed, but the unique bumpers, skirts, and wheels wrapped in Continental Sport Contact tires (specifically designed for the BMW M3) gave the ZT-T a pleasant, high-performance appearance.
Attempting to make it more appealing by breaking a land speed record
Since the ZT-T 260 wagon was the unicorn of the MG Rover V8 performance line, the company chose it for a crazy endeavor.
With the help of American tuners Roush, who provided a highly-modified V8 capable of more than 800 hp, the specially-prepped ZT-T 260 became the World's Fastest (non production) Wagon, achieving a top speed of 225.609 mph (360.9 kph) at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2003.
Why should you buy one today?
The main reason why a performance enthusiast should consider buying a ZT-T 260 is its price. Used examples in good condition, like the black one featured in this article, have sold for around $12,765 (£10,000). Moreover, it's estimated that only about 60 are still around today, so you'd be getting a very rare ride.
Even if it was built two decades ago, the ZT-T 260 still looks good and packs amenities like dual-zone climate control, power front seats, power sunroof, or cruise control, which makes it easy to live with.
It's also a thrill to drive, thanks to its sporty, fully independent suspension system. The Mustang V8 might be severely underpowered on paper, but according to owners and reviews, it feels surprisingly powerful and sings an addictive tune.
Moreover, if you're unsatisfied with the factory output, the Modular's beefy cast-iron block can sustain some serious horsepower, and aftermarket components are widely available. With a supercharger, a hotter cam, and a few other bolt-on components, it can be easily taken past the 400-hp mark.
The ZT-T 260 (and its sedan sibling) might not have been the most potent performance model of the 2000s, but its looks, value, and rarity make it a bargain for any performance wagon enthusiast.