A brake (or should that be a break?) from the norm for the Lion of Belfort.
The idea of the three-door shooting brake estate probably originated in the US (the 1955 Chevrolet Nomad being a prime example), but it was popularised – if such a term can be considered appropriate for such a rarefied product – by Ason Martin’s 1965 DB5; itself initially a one-off, built for AML’s chairman, David Brown, and later produced in miniscule numbers at owners’ behest by the Harold Radford coachworks.
In 1968, the Reliant Scimitar GTE also employed a shooting brake silhouette to positive effect, which not only proved transformative for the carmaker’s profile and reputation, but also gained them patronage from the British Royal family.
By consequence, on this side of the Atlantic at least, the body style was (and to some extent remains) synonymous with wealth and privilege. But whereas in Britain, it came suffused with images of those who shoot grouse for diversion, in continental Europe, it was more the sort of vehicle which would arrive quayside to receive its owners from their yacht.
This may have been the rationale behind the Pininfarina’s 504 Riviera concept which made its debut at the 1971 Paris motor show, two years after the coupé model from which it had been based. And certainly from the B-pillar forward, the Riviera was indistinguishable from a regular 504 Coupé, down to an identical 2-litre engine and powertrain.
But from the centre pillar aft, the rear bodywork was reworked to create a spacious rear deck, with folding rear seats which allowed for all one’s valises to be transported from harbourside to hotel in both comfort and style. It was an exceptionally well executed conversion, maintaining (if not enhancing) the elegance of line for which the regular coupé was rightfully lauded.
Allegedly, there was sufficiently strong interest in it at Sochaux for consideration to be given for limited production – and it has been suggested that even a catalogue for the car was created and printed. But Peugeot were a conservative company and the market for such a vehicle was quite limited, so despite its undoubted appeal, it was never really going to be a serious production consideration.
It is believed that Pininfarina made two examples of the car; one a fully running prototype, the other a non-running mule, which was subsequently destroyed at Cambiano. A third car – a retrospective copy – was based on a production V6 model Coupé, and dubbed Côte d’Azur by its German owner. There are also unsubstantiated rumours that the original Pininfarina car has latterly turned up in Spain.
Cambiano wasn’t deterred by Peugeot’s rejection, reprising the concept for Fiat in 1974 for the supremely elegant 130 Maremma, which famously joined Gianni Agnelli’s stable of unique motor cars, and in 1981 for Lancia – the Gamma based Olgiata, which was Pininfarina’s final throw of the dice.
While exclusive shooting brakes are still being made (Aston Martin/ Ferrari), there is increasingly less of a rationale for these vehicles, especially so once their respective marque-specific SUVs alight. Because perhaps like the Riviera set themselves, their moment in the sun has passed.