Number 68 Castleham Road, St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex – sounds more like the address of a retirement place than the home of one of the greatest cars ever to be built in Britain. But it was in a rather nondescript-looking building on the edge of this seaside town that the Lynx Eventer was built.
Today, the building is home to a food company, but no matter what’s on the menu, nothing could be as tasty as the quintessential shooting brake. Oh, there have been other shooting brakes, but few, if any, capture the Britishness and sheer class of the Lynx Eventer. To think that only 67 were built.
Of course, the life of a shooting brake owner is far removed from the world of PetrolBlog. It’s doubtful a ‘Hooray Henry’ or ‘Champagne Charlie’ would grace these parts with their presence, but if they did, the Eventer would be most welcome. Has there ever been a more majestic estate car?
Compare and contrast with the so-called premium SUVs on sale today. Park a Lynx Eventer alongside a Bentley Bentayga and Sussex’s finest will give the ‘eww’ from Crewe a lesson in class and sophistication. The Eventer would take one look at a crossover, give it a nonchalant look, before disappearing in a cloud of tyre and cigar smoke.
You might be wondering why something so high-brow is appearing on PetrolBlog. Well, ever keen to offer real consumer advice, PB is here to suggest 10 alternative shooting brakes for the motorist on a budget. A selection of blue-collar shooting brakes that won’t look out of place outside the bookies.
Put down the croquet mallet and grab a jug of Pimms, as we guide you through the best blue-collar shooting brakes this side of Epsom racecourse.
At weekends, a Lynx Eventer driver likes nothing more than to head into the country to shoot some game birds. When he’s filled his 46 cu.ft boot full of pheasant, he’ll return to the village pub for a pint or two of Old Codger.
For the Escort estate driver, ‘game bird’ means something entirely different. To him, a ‘game bird’ was the drunk lass he met at the club the other night. She’d do anything for a ride home, especially in an Escort shooting brake.
A true shooting brake must have the pace to match its undoubted grace and space. With a 5.3-litre V12 engine purring away under that long bonnet, the Lynx Eventer could whisk your secretary away for a weekend in the country quick than you could say “don’t tell the missus”. You could order a 3.6-litre Eventer, but – thankfully – only three people chose the Diet Coke version.
But not even the mighty Eventer V12 could keep up with a Vauxhall Astravan at full chat. OK, the lack of side windows means the Vauxhall is more shooting brick than shooting brake, but everybody knows the Astravan is the fastest vehicle on the planet.
A little over 8,000 Volvo 1800ES models rolled off the production line, which suggests there were at least 8,000 people with impeccable taste in the early 1970s. It’s beautifully formed with perfect lines. And the car isn’t bad, either.
But before this turns into Carry on PetrolBlog, it’s worth remembering that the 1800ES light burned for just a brief period of time. New US safety regulations killed the 1800ES in its prime, and by 1973 it was dead.
The Saab 95 started life as a seven-seat estate, with a pair of rear-facing child seats for your Swedish offspring. This kind of flies in the face of the shooting brake format, which is all about country pursuits, long lunches and dirty weekends with that new girl on reception.
Saab saw sense, removing the third row of seats to create a more traditional, albeit uniquely Swedish take on the shooting brake concept.
Italy has given the world some of the finest shooting brakes ever created: the Ferrari 330 GT Vignale and Daytona 365 GTB/4, to name but two. But the Lancia HPE is up there with the best of them, and this wasn’t some coach-built special.
“Buy the bonnet for the sport and the boot for the estate,” said Lancia. And we did – over 70,000 people fell for the charms of this beautiful shooting brake. Before the beautiful shooting brake fell foul of the inadequate rust protection.
The Austin Allegro estate was more Holland & Barrett than Holland & Holland, but at least it added some much-needed practicality to a dismal car. Launched in 1975, the Allegro estate was too little, too late, because the rest of the car industry was readying itself for a wave of new-fangled hatchbacks.
In the book Austin Allegro: An Enthusiast’s Guide, even the author struggles to find any enthusiasm for BL’s shooting brake, saying: “The Allegro just couldn’t get it right.” This is one car that would be turned away from the country club. Or at the very least, directed to the tradesmen’s entrance.
Squint hard and the Allegro has the look of Reliant’s shooting brake. But while the Allegro was the ‘Reliant Similar’, the three-door estate from Tamworth was the real deal. The likes of the Volvo 1800ES and Lancia Beta HPE can trace their roots back to the Scimitar GTE.
The lady in the press photo is a fair representation of a lady you’d often find in the passenger seat of a shooting brake. Occasionally, they’d actually be the lawful wife of the driver. Note: this is not Princess Anne.
Even communists bought into the whole shooting brake thing. A Trabant 601 Universal was the perfect mode of transport for East German athletes, with its commodious boot ideal for hauling javelins, shot put balls and strange chemicals.
When the Berlin Wall came down, dozens of these Duroplast wagons ventured into the promised land and were promptly abandoned by the roadside before Bono came along with his car transporter.
Is it a hatchback, is it an estate? No, it’s a Toyota Corolla SR5 Liftback. Over the years, the Corolla has become rather anonymous, so it’s easy to forget the earlier models were a little more adventurous.
Of course, we must give Toyota great credit for reintroducing the shooting brake in the form of the achingly cool GT86 shooting brake concept. It’s the Japanese equivalent of the Lynx Eventer, being based on a desirable car and, we hope, built on an industrial park on the outskirts of St. Leonards-on-Sea.
Based on the evidence of the Corolla Liftback and the Datsun 120A Coupe, it’s fair to say the Japanese didn’t quite grasp the idea of a shooting brake. But to be fair, the Datsun oddball is more appealing than some of the cars the Germans are keen to pass as shooting brakes.
Search for ‘shooting brake’ and the front page of Google is littered with references to Mercedes-Benz, a company that has the downright cheek of calling some of its four-door estate cars shooting brakes. Somebody tell the people in marketing that a shooting brake has to be a three-door wagon.
In fact, get Dolly your PA to do it when you return from your grouse shooting. Ask her to print a copy of the Lynx Eventer ad while you’re at it. Toodle-pip!
All images © manufacturer, except Trabant © Wikipedia; Corolla and 120A © WheelsAge.