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Wagons and Shooting Brakes have been around for over a century, but what are they and why do they have such a special place in the automotive community?

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Shooting Brake.

First of all, what are they?

The term shooting brake is rooted in hunting during the late 19th century in England. Originally, a shooting brake was a horse-drawn wagon used to transport hunters and their gear. The brake part, according to Leslie Kendall, Chief Historian at the Petersen Automotive Museum, refers to a wagon chassis that was used to break in horses.

"What's generally accepted is that it's an updated version of the kind of horse-drawn carriage that gentlemen would take on hunting parties to carry their rifles and other hunting accouterment,'' Kendall said during a phone call. "The reason they call it a brake is because it was a small enough vehicle that they used it to break in new horses."

The spelling "shooting break" still occasionally pops up due to the original nature of these vehicles, but spelling it "brake" like the car part is the more common and preferred version in current times. Anyway, there you have it—shooting brake cars are not so named because they kind of look like a brake caliper on its side.

In the equestrian world, a shooting brake was a long, slender, uncovered wagon featuring a front area for the driver/horse attendant. In automotive design, the basic design elements are similar to a station wagon mixed with a coupe, with two doors to accommodate the driver and one passenger and a long, slender body.

"A shooting brake sets an otherwise ordinary workaday vehicle apart," Kendall said. "It's built for a specialized gentil use, it's not built for hauling cement or your latest purchases at Ikea. It's associated with leisure time."


The Vanquish Zagato

The Prime Cuts.

You could say the shooting brake is kind of an aristocratic take on "business in the front, party in the back." Except, it'd probably have to be flipped to "party in the front" (especially if you got one with an eager engine) and "business in the back" (assuming you're carrying briefcases full of cash and fancy overnight bags). Think of a white collar, monocle factory tycoon loading up a one-of-one coachbuilt Aston Martin with shotguns and various random items covered in tweed, and then heading out for a bird hunt with fellow ascot-wearing friends.

Some of the most widely admired and acknowledged shooting brakes have had Aston Martin emblems. The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato (above) is arguably one of the prettiest creations to come out of the brand.

In fact, some of the most widely admired and acknowledged shooting brakes have had Aston Martin emblems. It was David Brown, chairman of Aston Martin in the 1960s, who hired the popular British luxury customization firm Harold Radford Ltd. to turn a DB5 into a shooting brake in 1964 to help accommodate his charmed lifestyle. Radford was no stranger to this kind of worker order, as the company had outfitted Bentleys nearly 20 years prior for the same duty.


BMW - despite not making so many of them, had another fan favourite. The BMW Z3 M Coupe was lovingly dubbed the ‘Clownshoe’ . While the standard Z3 was fun to drive, it wasn’t enough for the engineers at BMW M. So they took the car, fitted it with a fixed roof, stuffed a 3.2 liter inline-six under its hood, gave it a five-speed manual, a limited-slip differential and upgraded suspension.


Safe to say BMW loved it so much - they even made a modern day iteration, but that is still a concept. For now.

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David Brown, chairman of Aston Martin in the 1960s, who hired the popular British luxury customization firm Harold Radford Ltd. to turn a DB5 into a shooting brake in 1964 to help accommodate his charmed lifestyle.

What is the difference between the two?

First things first – a station wagon is the American term for the British estate.

It seems that the only distinguishing feature of a shooting brake is that they are generally two-doored, compared to four-doored estates. A prime example of the modern shooting brake would be the Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato. Designed similarly to the last-gen Vanquish, the Zagato shooting brake can be distinguished against the coupé model by its larger boot space and sportier exterior accents.


This followed a tradition of custom-built shooting brakes based on classic Aston Martins created by specialist coachbuilders. However, over the decades the lines have blurred, and the definition for a shooting brake has grown broader to encompass different variations of the term as manufacturers have sought to rebrand supposedly boring estate cars with names such as sports tourer, sportback and the like.


Audi meanwhile uses its own term ‘Avant’ for its estate models. So can a shooting brake now have four doors?


Mercedes seems to think so, justifying its use of the term by describing their standard CLA as a four-doored coupé, which has then been combined with a traditional estate look to give the retro silhouette of a typical shooting brake; a sweeping roofline, longer body and hatchback boot. The jury is still out on that one, but like with anything, language evolves over time and we’re inclusive of all shooting brakes, two or four doored.

Generally the difference between the two was highly recognizable in the later days. Wagons had four door, the latter only had two. Wagons were practical - Shooting Brakes were more of a ‘fun focused’ type of thing. Hence explaining why a Z3 with an overgrown hatch was more suited to the daily enthusiast.

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The best of all worlds.

Search up any of these words - station wagon, estate car, shooting brake even. You’ll discover an incredible amount of admirers of these uniquely shaped cars. The reason behind them spans from rarity, a surprising amount of drivability without compromise of handling - but more so, the ability to combine both daily use, and incredible performance.

As much as popularity among SUV’s are rising, some diehard drivers refuse the high-riding of SUVs - the estate/shooting brake solves that, allowing the sleek lines and driving sense of sports cars preserved - on the practical side, they also save more gas and fit the same amount of things like an SUV does.

- Auto Trader

The factors are supposedly similar to the olden days - practical, but never burdensome to any level of performance. The perfect daily for the enthusiast rather than compromising on a two car garage solution.

And of course at OneCorsa, we prefer to enjoy the cars we love on a daily.

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