A Short History of the Shooting Brake.


The story goes that one day in the early 1960s, David Brown, chairman of Aston Martin, “entered a board meeting at which some of his engineers were in attendance, plunked his hunting dog down on the table and said, ‘Build me something for him to sit in.’” Brown, who made a fortune building tractors during World War II, had become the quintessential English gentleman, racing horses, playing polo and shooting grouse, and wanted a vehicle he could use on his estate for country pursuits. In 1947 he’d seen a classified advertisement in The Times of London offering a “High Class Motor Business” for sale, and subsequently acquired Aston Martin for £20,500. He then had the company’s now legendary series of ‘DB’ cars, beginning with the DB2 in 1950, named after him using his initials.

At the time of Brown’s (possibly apocryphal) meeting with his board, the company was busy building its stunningly successful new DB5, which debuted in 1963 and then achieved immediate icon status as Sean Connery / James Bond’s car in 1964’s Goldfinger. The factory was in fact too busy to build Brown’s bespoke “shooting brake” – in essence an elongated version of the luxurious grand tourer with a hatchback and plenty of cargo space for guns, dogs and polo gear. The term shooting brake derived from a type of horse-drawn carriage called a “brake” that was used by the likes of the Prince of Wales on shooting parties in the 1890s, which subsequently evolved into a motorized vehicle. Originally it was distinguished from the station wagon or “estate” car by having only two doors, a much more rakish profile.


1965 Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake

In 1964 Brown turned to the renowned coachbuilding firm of Harold Radford Ltd. to create his custom car. In fact this was not the first time they had carried out such a commission, having built a partially wooden-bodied 1947 Bentley MkVI “Countryman” in the shooting brake style which won the 1948 Concours d’Élegance at Cannes. Radford’s subsequently took orders for seven more Countrymans built on the MkVI chassis, which it described as “a saloon car with exceptional smartness and unusually commodious luggage accommodation.” Brown’s beautiful Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake drew envious looks from friends and fellow sporting gents and soon the firm had commissions for 11 more, marketed as “The world’s fastest dual-purpose vehicle” capable of reaching 150 mph and costing 50% more than a stock DB5.


1965 Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake

When the Aston Martin DB6 replaced the DB5 late in 1965, Radford took orders for four more shooting brakes based on the earlier models. The original 12 DB5 and four DB6 Radford Shooting Brakes remain very highly prized, with prices north of $500,000 on their rare appearance at auction. At RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale in California on August 13–15 one of the latter, a 1967 DB6 Mk I Shooting Brake (top photo), is set to cross the block. Finished in Goodwood Green over Natural Connolly leather it was ordered new by William E. Weiss Jr., a member of the wealthy North Shore sporting set, who used it to carry his luggage and sporting gear to the exclusive Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, NY. Wholly original, very rare and meticulously restored, several collectors are no doubt rubbing their hands over it as we speak.


Following Brown’s example, shooting brakes, mostly one-offs, were fashioned from other sexy ‘60s grand tourers like the Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 and Lamborghini 400GT, as well as some later models. The name was also retroactively applied to early wooden-bodied, coach-built Rolls and Bentley estate cars. And lately the shooting brake has come back into fashion, with the term being used somewhat more loosely beyond two-door designs. In 2005 Audi presented a Shooting Brake concept at the Tokyo Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz followed suit in 2010 with the four-door CLS-Class Shooting Brake concept, and the new Ferrari FF is referred to by the company as a shooting brake as well in preference to the more plebeian “hatchback.” As for David Brown, he was knighted in 1968, sold off Aston in the ‘70s, and died in Monaco in 1993. For creating the Aston Martin Shooting Brake alone he will always be a legend around here.

Stitched Panorama

1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Shooting Brake


1947 Bentley MkVI Countryman


1967 Aston Martin DB6 Shooting Brake


1967 Aston Martin DB6 Mk I Shooting Brake (courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)


1967 Aston Martin DB6 Mk I Shooting Brake (courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)


1967 Aston Martin DB6 Mk I Shooting Brake (courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)


1967 Aston Martin DB6 Mk I Shooting Brake (courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)


1967 Aston Martin DB6 Mk I Shooting Brake (courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)


1971 Aston Martin DBS Shooting Brake by FLM Panelcraft


1987 Porsche 928 H50 Concept


2010 Bentley Continental Flying Star Shooting Brake by Touring


2015 Ferrari FF by Pininfarina

Comments on “A Short History of the Shooting Brake.

    BlueTrain on August 4, 2015 1:38 PM:

    Even Rover had a few cars produced as “estate cars” but I don’t know if they were produced by Rover or if they were converted “saloon cars.” I also don’t recall whether or not they referred to them as shooting breaks or not. Perhaps owners of Rover sedans used their Land-Rovers instead.

    Davis on August 4, 2015 7:41 PM:

    This article is strangely void of the Volvo P1800ES, or even the more obscure DP Motorsports Porsche 944 DP Cargo.

    Jared Paul Stern on August 4, 2015 10:22 PM:

    Good finds all. Hereby added to the pantheon.

    Terry on August 5, 2015 12:17 AM:
    Jeff on August 5, 2015 2:32 PM:

    I had forgotten about the Volvo.

    Skillman on August 5, 2015 2:54 PM:

    What about the BMW M Coupe??? Especially 1999 thru 2002. I’ve owned 3 of them – great cars and rare.

    Frank Dellen on August 6, 2015 1:31 AM:

    When you define shooting brakes as wagons based on coupes, there’s another one who qualifies:

    I’m serious about this – being cheap and mass-produced doesn’t make it any less shooting brakier.

    Jared Paul Stern on August 6, 2015 11:13 AM:

    I guess the question is where does the shooting brake end and the hatchback begin? There is definitely an element of luxury inherent in the former. It’s a gentlemanly conveyance and originally cost much more than the (already expensive) vehicle it was based upon due to the custom coachwork. Very limited production adding to the exclusivity is also a factor, which rules out a few of the examples cited above.

    dave on August 6, 2015 11:25 AM:

    Just wonderful. Thank you.

Comments are closed.