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Shooting Brakes: The Best, the Worst, and the Confused

Illustration for article titled Shooting Brakes: The Best, the Worst, and the Confused

I've been doing some thinking lately. Mostly along the lines of which numbers would win the lotto so I wouldn't have to work anymore. This, somewhat surprisingly, does not take up the majority of my week. So I had to find something else to think about. That thing was shooting breaks. There seems to be some confusion about what a "shooting brake" actually is, so I decided to do some research and explain it.

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History of the "Shooting Brake"

The confusion is immediate. It's the name. If I pulled a Kimmel and went up to people on the street of your average american city and asked, " What is a shooting brake?" I don't think one person would respond with, "car...?" Because what the hell is a "brake" and why is it shooting at us?

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Well you won't be surprised to know that it comes from those silly-talking island people. No, not the Jamaicans. The British. You see, back in the Downton Abbey days if you were a Duke or a Lord or a Sir or lived in a castle you would invite all of your rich friends to come hunting with you. It was becoming quite bothersome to haul everyone around in your fancy Rolls Royce/ Lagonda/Hispano-Suiza/Bentley, however. So people started building custom motor cars on brakes (silly british word for chassis) in which you could take your hunting party shooting in.

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This is a 1910 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Shooting Brake. Just shove everyone in the back!!

So, now that we know where the name comes from, it should be pretty easy to describe a shooting brake, right?

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Wrong

Just what is a "Shooting Brake"?

There is also a lot of confusion over the number of doors a shooting brake can have. That number is not four. Nor is it two. A shooting brake should only have three doors. Two doors and a hatch/lift-gate in the back. Now back in the days when these were actually used for hunting, I'll call these times "Before Range Rover" or BRR, five doors were allowed. But ARR (That's After Range Rover for those not paying attention) shooting brakes are not used for hunting and are just stylish, usually custom built by specialty coach builders, 3 door variants of coupes. Anything with 5 doors is just a wagon.

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Illustration for article titled Shooting Brakes: The Best, the Worst, and the Confused

Ok, so now it's cut-and-dry, right?

Wrong.

Both 5-door and 3-door shooting brakes coexisted with not only each other but also with regular old station wagons in the post-war (the second one, duh) BRR period. Here, it's kind of convoluted and shooting brakes are basically station wagons custom built for clients by coach builders based on existing sedans or coupes from luxury manufacturers.

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So, to recap, a shooting break is a 3 door wagon usually custom or limitedly produced by a coach builder and based on an existing luxury coupe but was once a custom built vehicle used for hunting or to just be roomier than a pre-existing luxury sedan or coupe, but not always based on a pre-existing luxury car, or custom built by a secondary coach builder as some manufacturers sold them as well.

Got it? Good.

I've used pictures to explain because they're worth a thousand words. I know y'all don't have no time for words!

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The Best

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Ferrari Daytona "Gull Glass" by Panther Westwinds. Did you know that the design was originally intended for a mid-rear-engined Cadillac Eldorado 2+2?

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Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Vignale. If you don't think its cool, Jay Kay owns it.

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Volvo P1800 ES

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Lynx Eventer XJS

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DBS estate by FLM Planecraft. British surf mobile? British surf

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DP44 Porsche 944. There is also a glorious 924 Carerra GT with some of the best '80s box flares.

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Intermeccanica Mustang

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Mercedes-Benz 230 SLX by Frua

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Reliant Schimitar GTE

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Lotus Elan

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Bentley Continental Flying Star by Touring

The Worst

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Lotus Elan. As you can see, the Elan serves as a great example of how two different designs can greatly effect the outcome.

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Citroën SM Break de Chasse. The addition ruins the elegant and stiking lines of the "regular" SM

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Aston Martin DB5 Radford. Again, while very cool, the original design is much,much sexier. Though Q could have fit more toys in this one.

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This Cadillac Eldorado. So very 70's but those fender humps ruin it! Should have done the Garfinkle/Chinetti design.

The Confused

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Jenson Interceptor. While devilishly cool, it is not a shooting brake. Rather a GT car.

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Lamborghini 400GT Flying Star II by Touring. While probably my favorite car on this page, it is not a shooting brake as Touring completely redesigned the whole body of a 400GT rather than just the back bit. I'd still have one.

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Mercedes Benz - Brabus CLS. While Brabus certainly made one cool wagon, it has two too many doors to be called a "shooting brake".

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Same thing goes for this stunning Touring-designed Maserati Quattroporte.

So, what's your favorite shooting brake? Did it miss it?

*Photos takes from GIS, R&T, and autojunk.nl. Wikipedia did its part as well.

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