Junkyard Gem: 2005 Mazda6 Wagon with Manual Transmission

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Station wagons were once so mainstream in American culture that even Ford's Mercury Division sold three completely different wagons with faux-wood flanks as late as 1982 (Toyota also sold three wagon models here that year). Minivans and SUVs have killed off all but a handful of wagon models by now, and modern automatics have nearly eliminated the manual transmission from car showrooms… but those trends didn't stop Mazda from offering the Mazda6 station wagon with the incredibly-rare-for-the-21st-century V6/manual powertrain combination. I managed to spot one of these hen's-teeth machines at a snow-covered yard in northeastern Colorado a few weeks back.

The Mazda6 replaced the 626 here for the 2003 model year, and Americans could buy a Mazda6 wagon from 2004 through 2007. Since the Mazda5 minivan showed up here for 2006, followed by the CX-7 and CX-9 SUVs the next year, the calculation to dump the station wagon made sense.

Still, a tiny but vocal minority of American drivers prefer wagons to taller and less car-like machinery. Though I'm a Generation X-er with a 1970s childhood, my family had a Chevrolet G-Series passenger van instead of the usual Kingswood Estate or Country Squire, so I don't shed many tears over the departure of the wagon from daily-driver relevance on our roads (that said, my daily beater driver these days is a 2004 Subaru Outback wagon… with 5-speed manual).

Believe it or not, the five-on-the-floor manual was the base transmission in all but the very costliest trim levels of the 2005 Mazda6. I prefer the five-on-the-tree column-shift manual, but that setup never really caught on in North America.

Weirder still, you could buy your new Mazda6 long-roof with a manual transmission bolted to the V6. That's because while the V6 was an option on other bodystyles, it was the only engine offered on the wagon. That meant you had 220 horsepower in a car that weighs just over 3,400 pounds, with three-pedal driving fun on tap.

Naturally, some junkyard shopper extracted the engine and transaxle, ideally to de-slushboxize another Mazda6.

There were more three-pedal wagons available new in 2005 than you might think. There was this one, the Ford Focus, the Subaru Outback (which, shockingly, could be purchased new here with a manual transmission all the way through 2014), the Subaru Impreza (and its Saab-badged sibling, the 9-2x), the Saab 9-5, the Volkswagen Passat, the Volkwagen Jetta, the Volvo V70, the Volvo V50, the Audi A4 Avant, the BMW 3-Series, the Suzuki Forenza, the Jaguar X-Type (no, really!) and the Suzuki Aerio. As for 2022 wagons with manuals… well, there's the Mini Cooper Clubman and the Subaru Crosstrek and Impreza, if you consider those cars to be genuine wagons.

Winter tires and a manual transmission on a two-wheel-drive car do just fine on Colorado roads during snow season, provided you have a bit of ground clearance (or even if you don't, in my experience). However, all-wheel-drive is now seen as a necessity when there's a quarter-inch of the white stuff on the mall parking lot, so that was another strike against this front-wheel-drive car's resale value.

It's always good when they hire good character actors for car commercials. Note the automatic transmission in this ad, because of course they'd give the dog-owning detective an automatic.

Skip to about 2:20 to witness the "Zoom-Zoom" action of the Atenza wagon (as the 6 was known in its homeland).