British businessman David Brown has revealed a new British sports car based on a Jaguar XKR and inspired by retro GT cars from the 1960s.
Brown, who bears no relation to the David Brown of Aston Martin fame, will launch the new car, called Speedback GT, at the Top Marques show in Monaco on 17 April.
Under the Speedback's unique, hand-formed aluminium panels are the complete platform and mechanical package of a Jaguar XKR. Management and designers from Jaguar have seen the Speedback and declared themselves happy with the project.
It will not compete with any Jaguars because a production Speedback will be much more expensive according to Brown, who envisages building 50 cars a year at most.
The design draws its inspiration from the likes of the Aston Martin DB5 and DB6 models from the 1960s, but designer Alan Mobberley, who did much design work on all three Land Rover Discovery generations and also shaped the 1981 Talbot Samba, says there are also shades of Ferrari and Maserati in the design.
There have been plenty of 'bespoke' British GT projects, typically with tubular frames, glassfibre bodies and an American 'crate' off-the-shelf V8. Nearly all have come to nothing.
Brown says the key differences between his project and other British start-ups, that have come to nothing, is the thoroughly engineered platform, and the ability to produce bespoke small parts by 3D scanning and printing.
All visible exterior and interior parts are unique to the Speedback, including switches made by 'direct metal laser sintering’ that builds the component from laser-melted nickel alloy in 63-micron layers. The Speedback is the first car to use this technology.
The prototype has been built by Envisage, a Warwick-based engineering and prototyping company which does work for major manufacturers but is also keen to build small runs of 'coachbuilt' cars. The Speedback will be the first, with a convertible version also in the plan.
The company says it won't be affected by Jaguar's recent decision to end production of the XK, as bodies and engines for that car will be around for some time to come.
Q&A David Brown, chairman of David Brown Automotive
The British specialist car industry is littered with shattered dreams. Why have you done it?
"I was on a classic car rally in the south of Spain, in a Ferrari Daytona. It kept breaking down and it was about 150 degrees in there. We'd hired a Peugeot 106 with air-con and everyone wanted to be in that, and not the Ferrari. So I decided to build a car with that sort of style and visual simplicity which would work properly."
"There's a resurgence in the idea of coachbuilding, taking a chassis and putting a new interpretation on it, and new technology makes it possible to do it well. And we want to stress that the whole car is made in Britain."
What makes you qualified to run a new car company?
"My father was also David Brown – not that one, although our company also made tractors. We made earthmovers, too, and we bought Bedford Trucks from GM. My background has always been in engines and wheels."
What will people make of a car which looks rather like an Aston Martin and will be sold by David Brown Automotive?
"I haven't invited any feedback from Aston Martin. I'm not looking for their sanction on our product, nor to leverage off the other DB. This car will be what people perceive it to be, and happens to be funded and managed by a chap called David Brown."