Though Autocar is among a very few people – customers or commentators – to have seen, driven and enjoyed David Brown’s new classic-into-modern Speedback GT, the car has already attracted some wry comment across the blogosphere.
People hear it costs £600k, an admittedly hefty sum, is powered by a supercharged 503bhp V8, rides on Jaguar XKR underpinnings and they reckon that’s all they need to know. It’s a Jaguar with another body. Like a kit car.
Nothing could be further from the truth. When you get the chance to spend time with the Speedback GT and the man who inspired it – and I concede that this is difficult because there’s only one of each – you soon discover, as I did, that there’s much more to this project than the replacement of a Jaguar body.
This is a serious, sophisticated attempt to bring the greatness of cars like the Aston DB5 into the modern era. Many of the features – bumpers, lights, vents, glazing, shut-lines, surface development, paint – are far better executed than they were at the time and this effect gives the car a presence, a star quality, that has to be seen to be appreciated.
The project is an intelligent attempt to reprise the techniques of traditional coachbuilders, who were the ultimate dealers in exclusivity, to produce a car that is, as its distinguished designer Alan Mobberley puts it, “a contemporary GT with the heart and soul of a classic”.
In the old days, if you wanted a fine car you’d purchase a top quality rolling chassis, perhaps from Alvis or Rolls-Royce, take it to a coachbuilder like Park Ward or Thrupp and Maberly to be fitted with a body shaped just as you wanted, with an interior crafted exactly according to your preference. The result would be a fine car built exactly the way you wanted it.
That’s what has happened here. Yorkshire-based entrepreneur David Brown (whose name can cause confusion, but who is no relation to the famous post-war tractor-maker and rescuer of Aston Martin) first bought and enjoyed an Aston Martin DB5 several years ago.
But after copious reflection, he also reckoned he could build a car more relevant to 2015. He employed one of Britain’s most accomplished car designers turn his dream to a plausible design, with a similarly accomplished prototype builder to bring it to reality
He chose the Jaguar powertrain and chassis because they’re the best. The project certainly turned out to be expensive — but not sufficiently so to discourage other well-heeled buyers who liked the car’s mix of super-exclusive classic style with practicality and big performance to signify an interest in buying one. That’s why an entrepreneur’s dream has turned commercial.
These days, hand-crafted cars can rarely compete with the best of the mass-produced breed on the latter two counts. This one can, which is why it is so special.