As the world turns along with the wheels of mankind’s invention called the automobile, countless body styles, engines and platforms have fallen in and out of fashion. I’d like to take some time to talk about the shooting brake, my favorite lesser-known automotive segment. While never overwhelmingly popular, there were quite a few interesting production "shooting brake" models, coach-built customizations and one-offs built over the years. Owing its lineage to carriages for hunting parties in the 19th century, the shooting brake is cousin to the station wagon with a dash of luxury and sporting intentions.
The term "shooting brake" originates in turn-of-the-century England, and it refers to horse-drawn carriages used for hunting or shooting parties. Required to transport six to eight distinguished gentlemen and enough supplies for a good hunt, the term may derive from the large carriage that was used to "brake" the horses into subservience. While this type of vehicle later became commonly known as the estate or the station wagon, the shooting brake found its niche in automotive history as the result of melding the sporty attitude and handling of a coupé with the long and utilitarian cargo capacity of an estate.
Staying true to its heritage, many shooting brakes come from British carmakers. There were mass-produced models such as the MGB GT, a Pininfarina designed take on MG’s popular MGB convertible, as well as the Reliant Scimitar, a successful vehicle of its time with a 22-year production run. For those with deep pockets, English coach-builders were happy to lighten the load, producing beautiful models like the Lynx Eventer, based on the V12 Jaguar XJS.
Across the pond in the U.S., Chevrolet rolled out a unique muscular wagon-based coupé called the Nomad in 1954. Although the majority of its styling traits were derived from the classic 1950s Chevy Bel Air, down to its grille and 2-tone paint job, GM initially designed the Nomad for Corvette, having launched the performance brand one year prior.
This tiny historic footnote is later shown on Chevy’s 2004 Nomad concept, which bears a grille identical to the 1953 Corvette. The 2004 concept was based on the Kappa platform, shared with the limited production Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. While the 2004 Nomad concept never came to fruition, American tuning house Callaway has a shooting brake kit for Corvette C7 models called the Aerowagen. Callaway’s kit requires no further modification than replacing the stock rear hatch with their own for a mere $13,000 (plus a C7 Corvette).
My personal favorite in this genre comes from Volvo, the Scandinavian masters of the station wagon. Based on Volvo’s P1800 Coupe that was popularized by Roger Moore in "The Saint," a popular 1960s spy-drama television show, the ES model (for Estate) was produced in 1972 and 1973 following the coupé’s decade-long production run ending in 1971.
The ES’s 2-year production run yielded only 8,000 models, making them a rarity on the roads, fetching significantly higher prices over the coupé today. My favorite attribute of this Swedish sled is the large all-glass rear hatch and the sleek, low profile appearance that is created by the impressively long trunk space.
While the shooting brake has remained a niche product, new cars are still available in limited number. The Ferrari GTC4Lusso is a beautiful all-wheel-drive equipped example holding true to the genre’s elitist DNA. With the public’s insatiable thirst for SUVs driving the once popular sedan into extinction, I hope that a small market-share will always remain for the 2-door sporty wagon that we know as the Shooting Brake.