When An Estate Car Just Won’t Do

Just Musk? Not in this instance.

(c) nielsvanroij.com

Odd how certain phrases can cause strong emotions yet in a physical form, leave many cold. The shooting brake is just one such term. It derives from a time (circa 1890) when a British gentlemen required transport not only for himself but his Batman (butler/ driver) along with his fellow shooters, kit, caboodle and most necessary, dogs, in order to shoot game out on the country estate. Of course the original brakes were horse drawn wagons built specifically for the purpose. Stylish to some, to others (especially the pheasants) perhaps awkward and certainly not for the city environs – the gun racks might offend.

Once the automobile arrived, whilst the terminology remained, few large scale makers took up the option to extend their wares. The shooting fraternity however employed still fashionable coach builders to build motorised versions. Examples from Rolls-Royce and Albion sold minuscule numbers to wealthy individuals in the twentieth centuries first score years.

As touring by means of locomotive, steam ship and later, automobiles expanded, so too did the designs which necessitated a change of name. The estate gained currency whereas the brake faded, until one David Brown shoe-horned into Aston Martin and realised an extended DB5 might be just the ticket to drive himself (with dogs) to the shoot. Harold Radford’s team conjured up what has become a legendary player in this rarefied world.

Where inspiration lay. (c) astonengineering.co.uk

Whilst many become weak at the knees at this cars very mention, others viewed the car as nothing but an hyper-expensive estate car. This pragmatic approach was also taken by manufacturers. Retaining its two door with opening rear rationale, the shooting brake sold in penny numbers whereas the estate car sold more; slowly transforming from a van into an increasingly civilised manner of transporting larger loads.

Concepts (and full blown models) from Audi, Volvo, BMW and even Ferrari were often given (by the press) the sobriquet of a shooting brake, even if the manufacturer shied away from such a moniker until Mercedes offered their 2012 CLS Shooting Brake. Originally launching in China, traditions were not upheld – shock horror – this one had five doors. “A sports car coupé with a roof extending all the way to the rear,” is how Mercedes themselves labelled this never to see a moorland motor.

Inadvertently (or not) the six year span of this car selling in the hundreds (and its impending return) may have inspired one fellow whose wish to not follow the crowd took a more traditional bent. Floris de Raadt, a Dutch shooting break collector drove a Lynx Eventer whilst maintaining a 1930’s Rolls-Royce. Through the offices of coachbuilder, Niels van Roij, he enquired if he could transform a Model S into a shooting brake? Why yes – the shoot was on!

A combination of fellow Dutchmen took the project forward. Huib de Vries, a PR entrepreneur, (then) London studio based dapper-designer Niels van Roij and a cadre of trusted craftsmen began working upon one of Mr Musk’s hatchbacks.

Tesla Model-S Shooting Brake. Image: carscoops

Using traditional hand crafts compounded with current technology, de Raadt’s dream began to take shape as the Lord of the Manor’s Rolls-Royce might have done a century or more ago. Traditional sketches were first made to glean a thorough understanding of where the car could not be changed as the model S has enormous rear shock absorber mounts. The entire team perfectly understood the necessity to leave the cars original hard points (crash structure, suspension mounts, chassis) well alone.

These led to sixteen design variations; some harder, heavier iterations, some far softer, more rounded. Project manager, designer and helpful influencer, van Roij offered this bevy of creations to de Raadt who wisely chose the beautifully named Bold Chrome version. CAD/CAM measurements were taken prior to completely stripping the donor car to its bare, skateboard-battery chassis. From the C-pillar backwards, the Tesla then underwent its transformation.

From pencil sketch to computer screen rendition, the real work of shaping metal came next. That all important correlation between the designer’s thoughts and sculptor involves keen eyes, dirty fingernails and calloused hands – shaping metal the traditional way – the English wheel, hand tools, patience. This reveals yet another important coach built factor – that of investing time and devotion into the process. The only mass produced item around here would be the hot drinks.

Image: houseoflogos.co.uk

With such a process, trials, tribulations, mistakes and eventually the desired outcomes result. A labour of love for all involved. And a true part of the delicacy when all the moulding, hammering and forming is done is the seamless look. Regardless that those untrained or uninterested believe this car has arrived direct from Palo Alto themselves, this shooting break expresses balance, coherency, subtlety – watchwords of the coachbuilding profession. We’ll have no shouting here.

As to the paint, Mr de Raadt chose a modern British Racing Green variant (from ten offered): marginally lighter overall with some gold flake elements (and tiny amounts of very bright green) to lift matters in certain lights. The Tesla had already been daubed in Musk’s take of BRG, which both customer and designer regarded as lifeless, flat.

Alongside a hidden hatchback screen wiper and incorporated roof spoiler, that bold chrome strike, resonating practically as a halo around the car’s perimeter, encompasses the whole exterior. Inside, smaller, more subtle changes were had to such as the extended headliner along with flourishes of body colour within the glove compartment, rear view mirror housing and seat piping.

(c) motivezine

Individuality never comes cheap but then it’s obtuse to ask such questions. The customer appears more than happy with the results. It’s his daily driver, frequently photographed filthy. As for aficionados, individual processes may in fact prove more tangible than the overall result. Therein lies the unanswerable dilemma – choice. If what a manufacturer offers simply isn’t there, finding that group of talented, inspired and trusted individuals might just be the hardest decision you have to make.

Coachbuilding cannot be for everyone, else mainstream itself it becomes. Praise be to those who seek out an automotive path with distinction. Pull!

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

41 thoughts on “When An Estate Car Just Won’t Do”

  1. Wonderful, thank you Andrew. The level of detail you’ve uncovered re the Tesla is fascinating. And as an aside you’ve also mentioned one of my Tesla-related criticisms, the fact that their colours always look cheap, with no apparent depth to them, which really isn’t helping the rapidly dating body shape. I’m assuming that as Mr Musk needs to churn them out as fast as possible to reduce debt this is unlikely to change any time soon, but it is a shame.

  2. Great stuff, Andrew. The Tesla Model S doesn’t lend itself easily to conversion to a shooting brake, so Niels has made a very credible job of it:

    It actually reminds me of my favourite coachbuilt estate car ever:

    1. I don’t care much for the model S. I always thought it looked a bit awkward and too bulky from a rear three quarter view and to my eyes the thing is already dated. With that as a given, I think Niels van Roij has done a great job, but the end result doesn’t convince me. His Silver Spectre Shooting Brake does however, very much so.

    2. Nice, but it’s not coachbuilt but photoshopped. The headrests looks duplicated, so does the shadows of the trees on the roof. Interesting take though….

  3. I always thought the Model S looked all right, if a bit characterless from some angles. The Models X, 3 and Y are all ungainly and awkward in my opinion.

    Being a fan of wagons, however, I find myself swooning over this Tesla shooting brake.

  4. I loved this NvR clearly has an aye for elegance that is matched by his client.

    I find Andy Taylor’s comment interesting as I love the appearance of the model S. Whilst I could see that it was as compromised as any other modern car- beautiful door handles that a rescuer wouldn’t be able to pull open if the electrics failed in a crash, an impression of dubious visibility for the driver- I hadn’t noticed that it was becoming yesterday’s shape. Yes it does lack the horizontal creases and clarity of the headlamps that have come to the fore in the last few years (VAG group cars at least) but I think it will never look out of time, just as the definitive Jaguar XJ shape always looked true to itself even though it was essentially about design cues that were current in about 1965.

    There’s also an argument that the perceived quality of the paint doesn’t matter as long as the market appears to be obsessed with muted silvers, charcoal and gun metal. I wonder when the green colour was fixed in the design process here, as some colours and shapes just don’t seem to work together.

  5. Good stuff Andrew and thanks as always for posting. I like the shape of the Model S but this iteration improves it even more in my opinion.
    One question for you. is it Shooting Brake or Break? Asking for a friend…

    1. Hi Mike. It should be ‘Brake’ although I seem to recall a Mercedes-Benz(?) concept where it was mis-spelt ‘Break’.

      Incidentally, I agree that the metallic green colour really looks very striking:

    2. The French called their estate versions Break – 204 Break, 504 Break, DS Break.

  6. Very interesting post, Andrew! Now I finally know where “shooting brake” comes from. The Model S conversion is quite beautiful, especially the chrome accents surrounding the glass and on the roof. They are big and bold while still looking elegant. The pic that Daniel posted shows the window chrome panels with a shiny, polished finish, instead of the satin in the other pics. This diminishes somewhat its elegance, I think.

    Speaking of that particular picture, it shows what I think is the cars biggest flaw: its, how to put it kindly… big butt. Too many things going on there or maybe it’s just the angle of the photograph, but it looks a bit messy and heavy. Anyway, that Aston Martin on the other hand is glorious! I love its rather crude roof rack, I think it adds character and immediately reminded me of another coach built wagon, the Fiat 130 Villa d’Este with wood panels and wicker basket roof rack that l’Avvocato Agnelli used to drive in his St. Moritz ski trips.

  7. May I echo the love shown above for the Tesla wagon – the ‘S’ looks fine to me, as long as it retains the dummy grill at the front.
    Regarding Brake or Break , it is an English term and some things get lost in translation…..

  8. I’m a big fan of estate cars, especially fast upmarket ones. I drive one currently.

    But I’ve never seen an aftermarket estate car / shooting brake that I’ve liked. This Model S is no exception – I understand they were limited by the existing structure, but I think the additional coachwork is hideous, that overly broad chrome trim really does not help.

    An estate car (or brake) should have an elongated rear window running above the rear wheels, to accentuate the longer roof and maximise light and visibility for passengers. Many owners will want to carry dogs in the back, and they appreciate natural light too. This car has a tiny third side window and the rest of it is more like a panel van.

    1. I understand your point of view. I also like the Mercedes CLS version, have had a Mercedes C Class Estate and also a Mercedes W124 300TE. Now that is a proper Estate!

    1. Brieuc,

      To be fair, that is really quite nice. Two doors only, which satisfies the Shooting Brake purists, and a nice clean design.

      Unfortunately the website says it is no longer available. I wonder if they’d do this with the current Continental GT?

  9. What about the Austin Allegro mentioned in yesterday’s comments? Do you suppose it would have sold better if it had been marketed as a shooting brake?……

    1. Oh, alright then, you’ve twisted my arm, let’s give it a go:

    2. I didn’t think it would get past you Daniel. I’ve always admired the Scimitar, in the right colour and specification I think it would fit the bill if one was on a budget that didn’t allow the more, er, exclusive suggestions further up the page.

    3. Thank you for indulging my flippant suggestion. How about you Photoshop us a three door Talbot Samba shooting brake? In that primrose yellow. Or am I getting seriously distracted here? (I’ll get my coat.)

    4. An interesting suggestion, Adrian. I’ll give it due consideration. 😁

  10. I wondered how long it would take Daniel to show us that Allegro. But now for a low-flying spanner in the shooting brake/estate car sagas:
    Most of the weekend house-party & shooting guests would have travelled by train, to be met at the railway station (note, NOT train station – that’s a horrible recent invention that cannot even be blamed on the Americans, who had railroad depots) by their host’s conveyance known as a station wagon. The motorised version, again based on a quality chassis such as Rolls Royce or Daimler, had a timber-framed body panelled on the inside but leaving the timbers exposed on the outside. The most familiar incarnation of this in more recent times was the Morris Minor Traveller and the last available new probably the Mini version.
    Following WW2, numerous older cars had their decaying bodywork removed by impecunious owners who cobbled together such bodies using plywood and any old softwood they could find, such dubious creativity being inflicted on Alvis, Lea Francis and others. The Americans however developed such constructions into something of a fine art.
    So come on Daniel, where’s this Samba shooting brake..?

    1. JTC, at least allow him time to get his dancing shoes on…

    2. The art department at DTW Towers closes at 6.00pm. Please call back tomorrow.

    3. I am so glad that it isn’t just me who gets enraged by the “Train Station” affectation. I always ask such people what a “Train Station” should be called for the- say 45 minutes out of every hour- when there are no trains on the premises.

    4. I haven’t forgotten about the Samba ‘Shooting Brake’ but today ran away from me with lots of jobs to do. I’ll get onto it tomorrow. ☺

  11. I think the Aston wagon would have been better with the longer wheelbase of the DB6 – and that very long side window inevitably makes me think “hearse”….

    1. Brilliant, thanks. I’ll take it over the Allegro anyday. If I win the lottery tonight I will be contacting Mr van Roij next week.

  12. Daniel,

    this is indeed unique. If it had just a tiny tad more front overhang,
    it would be almost perfect.

    To qualify as a Shooting B., though, the length of the rear part
    of the DLO’s lower edge should exceed that of the front part
    (at least in my book).

    1. Hi Alex. A further reimagining of the Samba to meet your criteria for a shooting brake design, plus a tad more front overhang and some nice period PSA alloy wheels from a 205 GTi:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: