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Shooting-brake is a car body style that has evolved through several distinct meanings over its history.
Shooting-brake originated as an early 19th century British term for a vehicle used to carry shooting parties with their equipment and game. The term brake was initially a chassis used to break in horses — and was subsequently used to describe a motorized vehicle.
In contemporary usage, the term shooting-brake has broadened to include a range of vehicles from five-door station wagons — to three-door models combining features of a wagon and a coupé.
In 2006, The New York Times said the shooting-brake was conceived "to take gentlemen on the hunt with their firearms and dogs." and "although [its] glory days came before World War II, and it has faded from the scene in recent decades, the body style is showing signs of a renaissance as automakers seek to invent (or reinvent) new kinds of vehicles for consumers constantly on the hunt for the next new thing." In 2014, Lawrence Ulrich of the New York Times said the shooting-brake is "essentially a two-door station wagon."
A shooting-brake became a variation of a wagonette—a vehicle with longitudinal seats in rows with either a rear door or side doors—provided with game and gun racks and accommodation for ammunition.
Early examples include Albion Motor Car Company's shooting-brake, described in the weekly magazine The Commercial Motor as having "seats for eight persons as well as the driver, whilst four guns and a large supply of cartridges, provisions baskets and a good 'bag' can be carried."
The 1912 Hudson Model 33 (described in the book, American Cars in Prewar England: A Pictorial Survey) "could be used for collecting people and luggage from the station (thus as a station wagon), it was also used to carry the beaters to and from the location of the shoot, and for bringing back the game shot.
Early motorized safari vehicles were described as shooting-brakes with no windows or doors. "Instead roll-down canvas curtains were buttoned to the roof in the case of bad weather. These cars were heavy and comfortable in good weather and allowed quick and silent exit as no shooting was permitted from the vehicles."
The term shooting-brake was subsequently applied to custom-built luxury estate cars altered for use by hunters and other sportsmen. The New York Times said "the most famous shooting brakes had custom two-door bodies fitted to the chassis of pedigreed cars," citing Bentley and Rolls-Royce as examples.
By the 1930s the term 'estate car' was coined to describe a vehicle that could still carry a shooting party, yet at the same time be perfectly suitable for ferrying guests and their luggage to and from railway stations.
In France, a station wagon is marketed as a break, once having been called a break de chasse, literally translated: hunting break.
In 2006, The New York Times described a shooting-brake as "a sleek wagon with two doors and sports-car panache, its image entangled with European aristocracy, fox hunts and baying hounds," In 2011, Top Gear described a shooting-brake as "a cross between an estate and a coupé".
Automotive designer Peter Horbury described the contemporary three-door shooting-brake, saying
it is not your basic two-door hatchback, a body style with different proportions: the hatchback tends to be squatty, while a shooting brake is sleek and has "a very interesting profile." It makes use of the road space it covers a little better than a normal coupé, and also helps the rear person with headroom. Especially in America, every member of the family has their own car. The occasional use of the rear seat means you can do one of these cars, even if such a wagon lacks the everyday practicality of four doors.
This trend was apparent by 1960, when Sunbeam marketed a limited-production three-door variant of its two-door open sports car, the Alpine, with leather interior and walnut trim, selling at a price double its open counterpart and marketed as a shooting-brake.
Between 1965 and 1967 a limited number of variants, marketed as shooting-brakes, were custom manufactured by coachbuilder Harold Radford, based on the Aston Martin DB5, DB6 and DBS. Aston Martin itself later manufactured in-house a limited production shooting-brake variant of its Virage/Vantage.
Other three-door cars combining elements of a wagon and coupé have been described but were never formally marketed as shooting-brakes, including the Reliant Scimitar GTE (1968–1975), Volvo P1800 ES (1972–1973), Volvo 480 (1989-1995) and Volvo C30 (2006- ). Torque magazine said the Mini Clubman (2008–) is "essentially a shooting-brake design."
In 2004, Chevrolet presented its Chevrolet Nomad concept, which the New York Times described as "fitting the formula" of a contemporary shooting-brake, and in 2005 Audi presented a Shooting Brake concept at the Tokyo Motor Show. The 2006 Renault Altica concept was described as a shooting brake. In 2011, The New York Times described the newly introduced Ferrari FF as a shooting-brake.
In 2005, Chrysler, at the time Daimler-Chrysler, introduced the Dodge Magnum as a five-door station wagon, saying it had a "shooting-brake profile". At the time of its introduction, a journalist commented that the Magnum looked "like a European 'shooting brake' custom fabricated for a car nut like the Sultan of Brunei's kid brother."
If milord had it in mind to do a bit of hunting, he and his guns would then be transported to the shooting site in a "brake" (the English term originally applied to horse-drawn wagons). Being somewhat logical, the British determined that if a brake was used for shooting purposes it might well be named "shooting brake." However, the term fell into common parlance and eventually became a generic label...
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