Ah, the shooting brake. That most elusive of bodystyles, rarely seen and always guaranteed to cause a stir with their blend of practicality, performance, and style. Strange, really, that cars designed for more practicality almost always manage to get petrolheads’ pulses racing.
While the name originates from the enormous coach-built pre-war cars designed to carry shooting parties and their dogs in relative comfort and luxury, the modern marketing men seem to have decided that any slightly swoopy estate car deserves the moniker. For us though, a shooting brake is generally considered to be a two-door estate version of a coupe. There have been hundreds of these weird and wonderful creations and here are 10 of my favourites:
10. Lynx Eventer
Kicking things off in regal fashion we have the wonderful Lynx Eventer. If any car lent itself more readily to a shooting brake conversion than the Jaguar XJS, I’m yet to see it. The Jag is clearly the perfect base for a two-door estate. Complete with the proverbial lashings of wood and acres of leather, it almost seems like this is how the XJS always should have looked.
Don’t be fooled by the seamlessness of this conversion though, Sussex-based Lynx did far more than simply extend the roofline. All the bodywork from the bulkhead back was changed. Stiffer suspension was fitted and the whole rear floor was raised to create a flat load area.
Although not an official Jaguar product, the Lynx Eventer truly exemplified the company's slogan of ‘Grace, space, and pace’.
9. Porsche 944 DP Cargo
Next up, a lesser-known shooting brake - the Porsche 944 DP Cargo. Created in Germany by DP Motorsports in 1988, it’s said the original idea came about after placing an old scrap Passat roof on top of a 944 just to see how it looked.
Turns out, it looked pretty damn good and before long DP were making their own fibreglass roofs and sticking them on top of front-engined Porsches.
Sadly, less than a dozen were ever made but surely the Cargo is the perfect car for terrifying your dog on a lap of the Nordschleife...
8. Callaway AeroWagen
Fancy a targa-topped estate car? Of course you do, and I’ve found just the thing. Meet the Callaway AeroWagen, a Chevrolet Corvette with a bit more luggage space and a lot more style.
Built by the madmen that brought us the mighty Corvette Sledgehammer, Callaway’s shooting brake kit can be fitted to any C7 Corvette for around $14,000 using many of the factory fixtures and fittings. Best of all though, the standard targa top is unaffected, making this the world’s fastest (and only?) convertible estate car. God bless ‘Murica.
7. Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Shooting Brake by Vignale
From a plastic car with an aftermarket roof, to a totally unique coachbuilt classic Ferrari – the 330 GT by Vignale. I do spoil you.
Starting out as a ‘normal’ 1965 Ferrari 330 GT Series II, the Connecticut-based car’s owner soon decided that there wasn’t enough space for passengers in the back and, in 1967, shipped the car back off to Italy.
Designed by movie poster artist Bob Peak, the futuristic design was lovingly handcrafted in Turin by Carrozzeria Alfredo Vignale. It was painted dark green with a sparkly gold roof and unsurprisingly, it stunned the world when it was unveiled at the 50th Turin Auto Show.
After a spell of cruising around Paris in the 90s, the car was eventually snapped up by a certain Mr Jay Kay. Everyone’s favourite car collecting rock star showed the car all over Europe, before selling it to its current owner in 2015 who, for god knows what reason, has resprayed it beige. Mmmm.
If you like hearing-aid coloured estate cars and have deep pockets, be sure to check out the forthcoming Sotheby’s auction in LA where this beauty will be up for grabs.
6. Toyota GT86 Shooting Brake Concept
Imagine for a second that you’re a designer at Toyota. You spend your days improving the ergonomics of the Prius’ rear door handles and tweaking the air vents of facelifted RAV4s. Life is good, but this car design malarky isn’t quite as exciting as you’d imagined when sketching rocket cars in your maths book at school. One day, it all gets a bit too much and all of a sudden, BOOM! You’ve made the GT86 into an estate car.
Hey, it’s ok, these things happen. And look at the result!
The GT86 Shooting Brake is a concept car envisioned by Toyota’s Australian design team and built at the factory in Japan to show what a more practical version of the sports car could look like. While Toyota haven’t announced any plans to actually put the car into production, this concept car is fully functional and underwent proper testing on Toyota’s private test track so fingers, toes, and any other bodily extremities crossed!
5. Trabant 601 Kombi
Well now, you didn’t see this one coming, did you? But those of you who’ve chanced upon some of my other articles or perused My Garage may know that I have a crippling soft spot for truly terrible cars. And let me tell you, ladies and gents, they don’t come much worse than the Trabant 601 Kombi, and I should know – I owned one!
Made in East Germany out of cotton (yes, really) with a humble yet determined two-stroke engine, the little Trabi was never going to set the motoring world alight. What it did do however was get an entire population moving.
Beyond the Berlin wall, the East Germans didn’t have VWs or Mercedes; they either had to take what the Soviets were building or come up with something of their own. Clearly, the latter was more appealing and before long, Trabants were everywhere across the Eastern Bloc. In true people’s car fashion, the Trabant got an entire nation back into cars before the wall came down and thousands of Trabants famously passed through the border.
While the Kombi might be based on a two-door saloon rather than a coupe, it is unmistakably a shooting brake, and while it might not be the flashiest or most valuable car on this list, it’s far and away the most important.
4. Ferrari 456 GT Venice Estate
Ok, ok, you got me – this has 4 doors so is technically more of an estate than a shooting brake, and yes, it does look a little bit like a Peugeot 406 but hear me out. Based on possibly the most underrated Ferrari of all time, the 456, seven GT Venices (a mixture of estates and saloons) were commissioned by Prince Jefri Bolkiah of Brunei at roughly £1 million each.
Making use of the standard 456’s magnificent V12 pumping out 436 silky smooth horsepowers, the seven cars are still to this day the only four-door production Ferraris.
However, upon collection of the penultimate car, the Prince decided that six was probably enough, and the seventh car was left unwanted. Thankfully it was soon snapped up by a collector in London where it is still often spotted popping to the shops on Kensington High Street. Is there a cooler way to transport your cases of Moët? I think not.
3. Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake
Because even James Bond needs to do runs to the tip every now and then, kicking off the top 3 in effortless style we have the beguiling Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake. Nice, right?
While some may think that altering the exquisite lines of a DB5 is downright rude, I love it, and so should you! You see, this wasn’t done by some backstreet bodger with some power tools, this was commissioned by Mr DB himself.
The owner of Aston Martin, David Brown, was a keen shootist and decided Land Rovers were becoming far too common so instead insisted that his design team cook him up something special for transporting his guns and dogs around the countryside.
I think it’s fair to say, they delivered. The back seats could fold flat for more luggage room and the the leather was ditched in favour of more dog-friendly tweed. It doesn’t get much more British than this.
2. BMW Z3M Coupe
When people talk about their favourite ‘M’ cars, the same few usual suspects tend to crop up – the E30 M3, the original M1 supercar, or the latest and greatest supersaloon with massive wheels and exposed carbon fibre. For me though, it has always been this, the Z3M Coupe. Ever since my mum used to terrify me on the way to school in her Estoril Blue ‘clown shoe’, the bawl of that E36 M3-derived straight six has been embedded in my subconscious.
With the same 312bhp output as the M3 but in a much lighter package, 0-62 was taken care of in just 5 seconds with a Germanically limited top speed of 155mph. No slouch then, but BMW was reluctant to build it.
The car was secretly developed by M Division engineers working late, grafting a hard top onto an old Z3 prototype and shoehorning in the big old straight six. The bosses eventually gave in and agreed to sell the car as long as it remained profitable. This meant keeping everything simple and the engineers set to work raiding the parts bin.
As many Z3 parts as possible were carried over along with some M3 and M5 bits. Eventually, the roadster was ready for production with the Coupe following soon afterwards in 1998.
The Z3M is one of my bucket list cars for sure. Unfortunately, my mum sold hers after inadvertently performing a perfect 360 outside a garden centre on the A44 in the rain.
1. Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake
Proof if proof were needed that Aston Martins make the best shooting brakes, I give you the Vanquish Zagato. I know right, absolutely outrageous.
This isn’t just one of the best looking estate cars, I think this is one of the beautiful cars ever made ever in forever. Ever. That swooping glass and gloss carbon roof, those bronze-coloured alloys, and those huge haunches blending perfectly into the rear end. It’s a truly enchanting creation.
Based on the soon-to-be-deceased Vanquish S, the Zagato will feature the same 592bhp naturally aspirated V12 but, let’s be honest, this thing could come with a front-wheel-drive mild-hybrid diesel powertrain and we’d still be drooling while queuing up outside our local Aston dealerships.
Thanks for reading
So that was my top 10, let me know what you think of my choices in the comments and show me your favourite shooting brakes!
P.s. Anyone who chooses the Austin Allegro Estate can get out now...