The five best sports shooting brakes

Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake by Radford

Aston Martin DB5 Radford Shooting Brake Estate August 1972

Beautiful, isn’t it? The waistlines of the Aston Martin DB4 and DB5 were always their strong points, so why not carry the roofline back to run in parallel? The standard car wasn’t quite roomy enough for David Brown, and since production at Newport Pagnell couldn’t really be interrupted, a DB5 was delivered straight from the line to Harold Radford Ltd in South Kensington to be converted into a practical shooting brake model.

Intended to be a one-off, once loyal Aston Martin clientele found out about the car, demand meant that a small run of cars were modified at Radford’s London workshop. The same niche requests with the DB6 that followed meant that, across both ranges, Radford manufactured between 15 and 20 shooting brakes in total.

Of course it’s not the last word in torsional stiffness, but to focus on that is missing the point. Stare at one of these in profile for too long and the ‘notchback’ coupé almost begins to look compromised. Exhale. I said ‘almost’. It is glamour and it is elegance, and the market seems to think so too. If you’re thinking this might be a cheaper way into DB ownership – that values would be deflated because it’s “not 007’s car” – then you’d be very wrong. Think top whack DB5 and then add 5-10% for good measure.

(With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see how the ex-Innes Ireland DB6 fares tonight)

Bentley Continental Flying Star by Touring

Bentley Continental Flying Star Touring Carrozzeria - 2010
This is one of those cars that you need to see in a particular colour to really appreciate. Unfortunately, the first car produced (and therefore the one in all the press shots) was a fairly generic silver, and was shot in a large, white studio. Consequently, it’s taken me about two years to fall for this car. My first glimpse was at this year’s Salon Privé – right at the back of the concours area, near Jay Kay’s Ferrari 330 GT Vignale, was the Flying Star in the metal. Painted in what looked like a slightly darker hue of Blue Crystal from Bentley’s own palette, it looked resplendent.

The modifications by Carrozzeria Touring aren’t just an aftermarket ‘bolt on’ service: it takes 4,000 man-hours to complete each conversion, with work that is so meticulous that it has the seal of  approval from Crewe, so all 20 Flying Stars can be serviced and maintained through Bentley’s global dealer network. This is a magnificent Italian twist on one of UK automotive’s great success stories. Bets on seeing a revised version clothing the new V8 at Villa d’Este 2013? Watch this space.

Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Shooting Brake by Panther Westwinds

Screen shot 2010-04-29 at  [April29] 1.03.08 PM

OK, this one’s probably going to prove the most controversial. If you’re a Ferrari connoisseur who’s stumbled across this blog, then you’re probably best hitting the ‘Back’ button before we go any further. The rest of you: bear with me.

How many Ferraris do you know that were built in the UK? None? Well, you’re looking at one. Yes, this one-off 365 GTB/4 Shooting Brake was built not by Bertone, or Fissore, or even Vignale. The original Daytona coupé was instead shipped to Blighty to be tinkered with by a company called Panther Westwinds. If you’re thinking “that rings a bell”, and are about to Google the name, please don’t. The only things you will find are the J.72, the Lima and the De Ville, all of which are – without exception – kitsch abominations.

Given this context, I think it’s remarkable that Robert Jankel’s company was contracted to produce a sports car so original. However, working to a design by Luigi Chinetti Jr – who was distributing Panthers in the US at the time – the British company was chosen for its attention to detail and build quality, and within months s/n #15275 was transformed. It’s always going to be a marmite car, but for me, the end result is just my kind of radical.

Best add a footnote to this entry. While Panther Westwinds and its founder are no longer with us, the Jankel Group lives on: the armour-protected specialists can build you a Toyota Hilux to withstand anything short of a Dragunov round, and they also make the awesome Guardian AMRV for the Met. Nice work, Robert.

Jaguar XJS “Eventer” by Lynx Engineering

Lynx Eventer

Now we’re getting into what you could call the ‘affordable’ end of this feature. Like the DB5 Shooting Brake, the Eventer was created out of a niche demand for a more practical Jaguar XJS. Continuing the similarities, it is also a model where roof and waistline are just as well resolved as – if not more so in this case – the car it is based on. Flying buttresses of the original coupé gave way to a near-pillarless design, showing off its large load area and well-judged C pillars at the rear.

Having shown off its first vehicle nearly a decade earlier – the Lynx D-type – the company was more than capable of handcrafting the small run of cars for well-heeled clients. Nearly 70 were manufactured in total covering both the original and ‘facelifted’ (pictured above) Jaguars, and the model has just recently celebrated its 30th birthday.

Back in the 1980s, these cars were often seen at some of the more prestigious sporting events. If it was down to me, they’d also be deployed frequently as posh canine transport, or for the Christmas booze cruise to Calais.

Porsche 944 “DP44 Cargo” by DP Motorsport

Porsche 944 DP Cargo 'Shooting Break'

First thing’s first. We are talking very specifically here about the DP Motorsport conversion of the Porsche 944 known as the ‘DP44 Cargo’. We are not talking about the ‘924 Kombi’ by Gunter Artz. For me, that tail on the latter just isn’t as coherent, and the in-your-face rear wheel arches are a step too far.

In the late 1980s, DP Motorsport founder Ekkehard Zimmermann conceived of the idea of a Porsche 944 with an extended roof, so that it would essentially become an estate car. Already experts in Porsche modifications, Zimmermann found a VW Passat donor car and got to work. The result is the car you see above (well, OK, the first example is the red one that DP Motorsport still owns), with its near Kamm tail rear and subtle changes to bodywork, the ‘Cargo’ was well received among DP’s select group of customers.

One group of owners who were particularly happy with their purchase were the Norwegians. There, vehicle legislation meant that the 944 could be categorised as a commercial vehicle and, in doing so, dodge the expensive sports car tax in the country. A few years ago, DP announced that it would be manufacturing another 5-10 vehicles from remaining components and kits: a two-month build time and €18,000 for conversion seems rather tempting to me.

Watch DP Motorsport founder, Ekkehard Zimmermann, explain the DP44 (in German…) and see it in motion below.