Just Musk? Not in this instance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!