Shooting Your Load. A Brief History of 2-Door Estates with Rakish Lines
They’re all fucking having a go right now, aren’t they. Kia and their Proceed Concept. Alcraft and their GT. The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato. The Chevrolet Camaro Nomad…..Wait a minute. The fuck as though the Americans have ANY idea of how a shooting brake looks?! Yeah, apparently shooting brakes are going through something of a renaissance, at least in an increasingly fictitious online capacity of late, with every Thomas, (exceptional) Dick and Harry CGI’ing various familiar vehicular shapes and forms for no obvious reason; except having too much time on their hands. If unfazed by the preposterous revelations cited above, why not cast your furtive gaze upon Rain Prisk Designs; who have re-imagined a raft of contemporary makes and models (most of which are more than a bit of porn-alicious ‘alright’ in their current aesthetically-pleasurable clobber), including amongst which is a stunning variation on an uber-contemporary BMW i8 theme. X-Tomi Design, Just9arret and Theophiluschin.com are just three alternative Photoshop-crazed Moomins who have been equally as industrious on the Apple Mac front, whilst almost simultaneously contemplating a blatant absence of girlfriend. Yet compared to the aforementioned i8 hybrid supercar, the other visions leave a lot to be desired (i.e, pretty much everything). So with this in mind I thought it high time to afford the assembled throng the low-down on precisely WHAT qualifies a car as a shooting brake in real terms; chiefly by running the rule over some which have gone before.
Admittedly in a world full of terrible ideas it takes some impressive levels of rubbishness to create something truly awful. Awful enough that when you clap eyes on it you feel instantly nauseous. Or hateful towards fellow human beings. Not to mention a gut-wrenching instinctiveness to inflict pain on someone close by. Yet that’s precisely the very feeling which washed over me when I clocked these incredulous – if not empiric - estates of mind; many being shameful vehicles which logic-defyingly got the go-ahead to actually be crafted in the first instance. Yet that said, the possible influence/starting point for the current virtual shooting brake trend which is rapidly gaining momentum.
But at this point you’re probably asking, just what is a shooting brake? That, or nodding off as your left hand slowly relinquishes its grip on your whisky tumbler. So let me explain in my own inimitable fashion. Shooting brakes – to afford the genre their rightful title – are in effect stretch versions of existing coupes or hatchbacks (complete with a lifting tailgate/hatch configuration) which benefit from more than 2 doors but conversely less than 4, with the models on which they’re (very) loosely based being typically gorgeous auto-erotic affairs of both the heart and mind and which provide instant mecha-boners. Technically they’re best described as three-door variants of cars. Oh, and they’re ostensibly built for clients by luxury coach builders (not Plaxtons) and derived from existing posh coupes. Think Bristol, although they’ve never bothered to carve a shooting brake to the best of my knowledge. Truth be known, if vanity manufacturers stopped at that precise moment, rather than shuffling their hand and vehicular pack still further, then everything would be just dandy. But, no. There are people out there who take it upon themselves to voluntarily re-shape, stretch, tweak and generally fuck-up automotive creations which were perfectly good (if not, exceptionally ergonomically horny in their original context) for their own ends. Today (or in the case of the BMW Z3 Coupe, the day before yesterday), modern adaptations of traditional shooting brakes can still be spotted out and about, such as the Ferrari FF, which for the record I remain ambivalent about.
For those not acquainted with the concept of a typical shooting brake – or indeed, just whence this niche auto category originated from a historical perspective – then here’s a quick history lesson. Back in the Downton day (Abbey that is, not CM Haulage company), if you resided in a big house with turrets and a moat surrounding it then you’d probably engage in a lot of hunting, shooting and fishing. Amongst other carnal pursuits. And it was all very well carting yourself and your gamekeeper around your estate (inherited acreage, not car) in your classic Lagonda/Hispano-Suiza/Bentley Blower/etc. But should you invite all your chap friends to indulge in a little game play then the chances are they wouldn’t all be accommodated by the aforementioned. So people started thinking outside of the automotive box and began customising what already existed. So the ‘shooting’ refers to the gentleman’s preferred pastimes (fornication, excluded), whilst the ‘brake’ is an olde English-ism colloquially referring to ‘chassis’, apparently.
If in any lingering doubt, take a ganders at these. All of which set out in life full of hope, promise and habitually 2-door functionality, yet somehow/where down the line ended up being grotesquely disfigured in a manner which would even scare the bejesus out of Mr Wildenstein. Yes. We’re talking the full Jocelyn here.
Austin Allegro Shooting Brake – I know. Let’s all pretend for just one minute that the Austin Allegro isn’t fugly enough as a hatchback and instead devise a new and interesting way to turn automotive beauty into a vehicular beast. So the designers set about doing just that. Precisely 5 minutes later they created the Frankenallegro observed here. A car so peerlessly hideous that it burns your retinas and makes you want to kill yourself in a way only a Nirvana track could previously.
Aston Martin Lagonda Shooting Brake – I’m not entirely sure what aromatic blend of illegal substance the (altered) minds behind the Aston Martin Lagonda were enjoying at the time they sat in front of an Etch-a-Sketch and formed the heroically un-curvaceous lines of the posh saloon we see before us, suffice to say that had they packaged it and passed it on to others it would have made them very popular/inordinately rich and hugely successful. As it was they didn’t, and just like the subsequent car they designed it instantly became the polar opposite. Looking and feeling longer than a turgid episode of X Factor, the Lagonda shooting brake could essentially house the population of Nuneaton with relative ease, and remains to this very day freakishly long.
Scimitar GTE Shooting Brake -Depending on which way you look at it (none, is our advice) the Scimitar GTE was a pseudo-estate car for people who made homebrew out of dead stoats and hedge cuttings. For the rest of us the eternal question remained largely unanswered, that question being; was it a hatchback or was it an estate? Along with, was it all a just a horrible hallucination? Still ever popular today with folk that regularly contribute to forums/registers.
Jaguar XJS Shooting Brake/Lynx Eventer XJS Shooting Brake – Toffs tend to be easily enamoured with anything which has a marquee badge on, looks slightly vulgar and is clearly inbred. The Jaguar XJS Lynx Eventer Shooting Brake ticks all the above boxes and then some. In normal auto-architectural form and function the XJS coupe was a sleek, svelte and sophisticated grand tourer fit for a king. Or a saint at least. Yet remove those stylish, distinctive and overtly unique C-pillars and replace them with the arse-end of an estate and instantly Jaguar transformed it into a cardinal sinner.
DP44 Porsche 944 – Porsche managed to do what even British Leyland failed to achieve – despite various courageous attempts – and that’s create a car even more physically repulsive than the Allegro Estate. We give you evidence with this, the DP44 Porsche 944 (or DP Cargo as it was otherwise known as). A vehicle so garguntuanely deformed even John Merrick wouldn’t agree to stand next to it in a highly unlikely photoshoot for fear of negative branding. Rumoured to share its roof with a VW Passat, the Pugly 944 proudly enjoyed the accolade of being the most hideous thing to front a Porsche badge ever; right up until the repugnant Cayenne reduced babies to histrionics in 2002.
Aston Martin DBS Shooting Brake by FLM Planecraft – Appearing to be a hearse sporting a wooden roof-rack, the Aston Shooting Brake is something of an enigma. Wrapped in a desire to make a mockery out of a British icon. This (mercifully) one-off model was built on behalf of an unnamed Scottish Laird who wanted it for salmon fishing trips – hence the roof rack for his fishing gear. Incidentally, the tailgate might look familiar to any Hillman Hunter estate owners out there, as the Aston’s was adapted from the very car (shudders). Perhaps unsurprisingly the Laird got bored with it and sold it in 1975. Or simply woke up one morning screaming uncontrollably and speaking in tongues.
Mercedes-Benz 230 SLX by Frua – Imagine if you will a car as Eva Green as the instantaneously sublime 1964 Mercedes-Benz 230 Pagoda coupe. Now envisage it with what appears to be half a greenhouse welded onto the back of it, making it look like a GCSE CDT class’ 80s Pope Mobile project. Now you’ll be met with the disturbing vision of the Mercedes 230 SLX Shooting Brake. Don’t, whatever you do, hold its Medusa-like stare.
1967 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Vignale – Coachworks specialist, Vignale was called in to come up with what ultimately materialised as the 1967 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Vignale Shooting Brake, as owned by one Sir Jay of Kay you may or may not recall. What you might concur is a Ferrari Estate – if you were hatched in a council namesake – was according to experts the unofficial forerunner to the current FF. Much in the same way that Garbage’s Shirley Manson paved the way for Chvrches Lauren Mayberry I should coco.
Ferrari 250 GT SWB Breadvan – Dubbed ‘the Breadvan’ by English-speaking journalists, the French instead refer to this unhinged 1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB as ‘La Camionette’ (brace yourself for a little more entente cordial after the jump). Call it what you want but one things is beyond argument, the shooting brake-ish design you’re feasting your eyes on right now has – like a Crufts winner – got unchallenged pedigree. Car body specialist, Piero Drogo was the man responsible for the aerodynamically advanced lines, which were said to be even lower than the GTO which it was inspired by.
Citroen SM Break de Chasse – Variously the woeful experiments in auto-asphyxiation didn’t stop here. If anything they multiplied, with all manner of coachbuilders muscling in. The results being as instantaneously hateful as the Lotus Elan Wagon Weekend, the seismically atrocious Aston Martin DB5 Radford and arguably the most loathed of all, the Citroën SM Break de Chasse. Yes, the coolest car manufacturer on this planet or any other is also guilty as charged with committing jalopy crimes of the worst kind. Albeit indirectly and more by association. The SM has many crosses to bear, the primary one being its very existence as the photo testifies, yet what it did do was (although I’m guessing here) pave the way for the later-introduced Citroen XM. Quite what pills the designers were popping in the lead up to creating the SM Break de Chasse though would essentially make Pete Docherty blanche. Incidentally, a descriptive word with French connotations. Not unlike baiser laid.
After The Bad and the Downright Fugly, the Good
Hope is not totally lost however, as there have been a handful of lush shooting brakes brought kicking and screaming into this otherwise cruel and restless world of superficially exaggerated cars; not least the following examples (Yeah, Google them yourself. My work here is done)….
Lamborghini 400GT Flying Star II by Touring – A car so painfully beautiful that it would bring a tear to the eye of the Mona Lisa, a car who’s sleek and rakish lines are more chiselled than Kate Moss’s cheekbones, a car who’s booty is more Beyonce than Kardashian. This jaw-droppingly gorgeous prototype concept car was hand-crafted by Italian design house, Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera of Milan in 1966 and was justifiably billed as the wordy ‘the ultimate machine for 2 people to travel fast in style and with luggage’ on its public revealing.
Volvo P1800 ES – This is what the aforementioned Scimitar might have looked like if it had been designed by a non-simian. Curvaceous, stylishly, overtly stretched like a medieval rogue on a metal rack. And above and beyond this, so blatantly Scandinavian it hurts. Without question one of the finest pieces of shooting brake car-chitecture which ever made the light of day.
1975 Ferrari 365 GTB4 Daytona “Gull Glass” by Panther Westwinds – The solution to everyday shopping transportation, this Daytona wagon came about as an auto-retort to all those who believed that Ferrari couldn’t find it in itself to offer both functionality and practicality, while at the same time being, well, Ferrari-esque. Coco Chinetti was having any of this, so recruiting Gene Garfinkle and property designer Bob Gittleman the 356 GTB4 Daytona came to be. Or rather it was in 1975 after being handed over to British coachbuilders, Panther Westwinds to fettle it some more. Whatever else you think to this brave design language you just have to dig those gullwing glass side doors in my opinion.