Originally designed to haul hunting parties, their dogs, and all their gear to and from the great outdoors — hence the name ‘shooting brake’ — long-cabin cars have almost always played second fiddle to their coupe and sedan brethren. Also known as estate cars or station wagons, these spacious vehicles often get a bad rap — compared to the likes of minivans and, now, crossover SUVs. But they can be (and have been) so much more than just that.
Throughout the course of motor vehicle history, examples of shooting brakes have popped up that defy convention. They’re often beautiful, quick, and have a unique styling unlike anything else on the road. And a few have reached legendary proportions amongst their small but loyal fanbase. To pay the proper respect to these oft-forgotten mechanical masterpieces, we’ve put together the following list of the 15 best examples of all time. Far more than just family wagons, these shooting brakes are truly special.
Aston Martin Virage Shooting Brake
Sharing a name with a sportier and lighter coupe, the shooting brake version of Aston Martin’s Virage — as built by their in-house Works Service — had a woefully short production run from 1992-1993 and incredibly low production numbers, with only a handful ever built. One of the reasons most often credited for its failure is that it traded performance for a combination of roominess and style. It also had an incredibly high list price, at £165,000 (which would be high even by today’s standards). But that hasn’t stopped car fanatics from latching onto its beautiful lines and iconic silhouette. Sure, it’s not the sportiest wagon ever built, but it made up for it in capacity and looks.
BMW Z3 M Coupe
Manufactured from 1998-2002, this particular BMW’s existence can actually be credited largely to one of the brand’s engineers — a man by the name of Burkhard Göschel who wanted to improve upon the Z3 roadster by boosting its structural integrity. Interestingly, it was only approved so long as it met cost-effective expectations as defined by the brand’s board of directors. It appeared to be a good move, as the car actually garnered quite a few accolades, including being dubbed the 1999 “Design of the Year” by Automobile Magazine. Even today, this gorgeous and compact shooting brake is still talked about fondly all over the car world.
Not all masterful vehicles are the result of the tinkering of the brand that originally manufactured them. In fact, quite often the best versions of cars, trucks, and SUVs are created by aftermarket brands that build off the success of larger manufacturers. That’s exactly the case with the Callaway AeroWagon. Technically speaking, this is a body kit that can be fitted to the production version of Chevrolet Corvette C7 — or Callaway’s SC627 Stingray, Grand Sport, or SC757 Z06. And while that might seem simple and perhaps extraneous, it elevated the styling of the sports car tremendously, making for one of the most highly-lauded shooting brakes of all time.
Ferrari 330 GT 2+2 Vignale Shooting Brake
The regular version of Ferrari’s Pininfarina-designed 330 GT 2+2 was already an incredibly limited-run vehicle with only 50 examples ever produced. The shooting brake version, with coachwork by Vignale, was even rarer. In fact, the one pictured here is a one-off — meaning there are no others like it in the world. With styling that looks like someone turned a hearse into a high-end sports car, this gorgeous custom shooting brake is a remarkable example of a vehicle class that is far too overlooked, in our humble opinion.
Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Shooting Brake
One of the few recognizable high-end car manufacturers to have numerous shooting brakes made out of their offerings throughout their history (including a couple they built themselves), Ferrari is perhaps the best argument for what this class of vehicle can be when done properly. Striking the perfect balance between performance and utility, the 365 GTB/4 Daytona Shooting Brake is a marvelous near-supercar that — at the time of its initial creation — could produce a whopping 352 horsepower and 319 foot-pounds of torque with a top speed of over 170 miles per hour. Originally built for a real estate mogul looking for a unique vehicle, this one-of-a-kind shooting brake will go down in the annals of history as perhaps the best ever made.
Call it a grand tourer all you want, but the Ferrari FF is most certainly a shooting brake. And it’s the closest thing to a mass-produced one that the marque has ever built (if you can call any Ferrari ‘mass-produced’). Originally unveiled in 2011, this remarkable car was made until 2016 and served as a successor to the 612 Scaglietti (another notable shooting brake masquerading as a grand tourer). Apart from its striking good looks, it also had a gargantuan naturally-aspirated V12 powering it, giving it the ability to do up to 208 miles per hour, go from 0-62 in just 3.7 seconds, and cost a whopping $300,000. It was also created with the help of the masters at Pininfarina, which explains exactly how an estate car could possibly look this good.
Fiat 130 Maremma
While people associate Pininfarina with the likes of Ferrari or even Alfa Romeo, their expertise isn’t strictly limited to high-end sports cars — even when it comes to shooting brakes. A perfect example of how their mastery translated down the wire is the Fiat 130 Maremma. An odd and angular estate, this roomy four-wheeler was presented as a beach-going transport — one in which you could fit your surfboard and/or a group of bikini-clad women, should you feel so inclined. It’s a bit on the clunky end of the spectrum by today’s standards but it’s still remarkably handsome considering it made its debut back in 1974. Unfortunately, it never made it to production, remaining a one-off that’s still widely considered one of the best.
Though many of the shooting brakes on our list are historical examples, there are still noteworthy ones being produced by contemporary brands featuring modern technology. One such example is the Fisker Surf that was unveiled in 2011 at the Frankfurt Auto Show. You might be wondering, however, why you haven’t seen any of them on the road — and there’s a good reason for that. Like so many of its predecessors, this vehicle never quite made it to production, this time because Fisker ran out of money. Still, this all-electric take on a sport wagon is one that deserved a better shake than it got, if for no other reason that its magnificent meshing of unique styling, forward-thinking technologies, and respectful nod to motor vehicles of the past.
A classic shooting brake if there ever was one, the Jensen GT is a British automobile based on the Jensen-Healey — a sports car built in collaboration with Donald Healey of Austin-Healey fame. Little was changed when it was turned into a shooting brake, with exception given to the extended cabin and some smog-control engine components. This did, however, increase the weight of the car and, therefore, dipped the performance numbers a bit. But that was a worthwhile price to pay for such a beautifully-built wagon. Only built from 1975-1976, this short-lived vehicle has been rumored to be primed for a return. However, it could turn out to be little more than scuttlebutt — though we certainly hope it ends up being true.
Lamborghini Flying Star II
Ferrari isn’t the only high-end Italian sports car brand to have a worthwhile shooting brake built upon one of their offerings. Lamborghini has at least one, too, that dates back to the 1966 Turin Auto Show. Called the Flying Star II (or the 400 GT Flying Star II), this is one of the sleekest shooting brakes ever built. Sadly, like so many of its brethren, only one was ever made. However, that one example was truly exceptional — with an aluminum V12 engine, a 5-speed manual transmission, and a fully-independent suspension. It was also the last car made by the coachbuilders at Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera, until it was revived in 2006.
Lancia Beta HPE
Originally unveiled in 1975, Lancia’s Beta HPE — short for High Performance Estate — was, like so many that came before it, based on a much more popular coupe called the Beta Berlina. Any fan of estates, wagons, or shooting brakes, however, could tell you that the HPE was the better looking of the two vehicles. In fact, it could be argued that the HPE was the best of the entire Beta line (though the contestants were notably middling). What makes this one perhaps even more legendary amongst enthusiasts of the long-cabin car class, however, is its rarity. Nowadays, these vehicles are very few and far between, which means that examples are snatched up relatively quick whenever they pop up.
Lotus Elan S4 Estate
Known for making remarkably lightweight (and remarkably small) sports cars, Lotus is not a brand that anyone could say goes hand-in-hand with utilitarian vehicle styles like the shooting brake. But that doesn’t mean intrepid customizers haven’t tried mashing them together, as evidenced by the Lotus Elan S4 Estate. A one-off, this particular example benefitted from a Ford-built 1.6-liter engine capable of 100 horsepower. While that doesn’t sound like much, the car weighed just over 1,500 pounds in total (though a little bit more when it was turned into a shooting brake), making for a quick little speedster, if not a bit of a strange one. It’s oddness also earned it a fun nickname: the ‘Elanbulance.’
Lynx Eventer XJS
There’s a pretty good chance you’ve never heard of Lynx before, and there’s a good reason for that; they’re a strange and small company specializing in building replicas of Jaguars. But, just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean they weren’t good at their craft. Just take a look at what is arguably the best thing they ever produced: the Lynx Eventer XJS. Having originally turned Jags into convertibles, the company pivoted when Jaguar began offering convertibles. The result was a sleek and spacious wagon powered by a V12 engine that could rival what Jaguar was able to build in house.
Reliant Scimitar GTE
Reliant’s most famous (and perhaps most infamous) vehicle is their three-wheeled Robin — both adored and despised for its inability to stay upright. Thankfully, however, it’s not all the company will be remembered for, at least when it comes to fans of shooting brakes. Instead, we can look back fondly at the Scimitar GTE, a sport-focused four-seater wagon based on the coupe of the same name built from 1968-1975. Originally built with a 3.0-liter Ford engine, this little car could do up to 120 miles per hour, which was quite impressive at the time. Especially when you consider that it was conceived and built over the course of just a year.
Volvo 1800 ES
We saved the best for last — or at least that’s what the many stalwart fans of the Volvo 1800 ES might say. Considered by many to be the most beautiful shooting brake ever built, this was the final variant of the 1800 line of cars. Produced in 1972, this two-door estate boasted an absolutely gorgeous all-glass frameless tailgate that is still, to this day, peerless in its design. Unfortunately, in 1974, stricter emissions guidelines were introduced in the U.S. and, rather than redesigning this stunningly beautiful wagon, Volvo decided to kill it off, which is just a tremendous shame.
Primer: What Is A Shooting Brake?
A sometimes confusing class of car, here’s everything you need to know about the history, purpose, and exactly what defines a shooting brake.