David Brown (1904-1993) was the legendary tractor manufacturer and post-war rescuer of Aston Martin, who bought the company in 1947, and helped create some of its best-remembered cars by donating his initials to them, then sold up in the ’70s when Aston struck financial trouble. What was with these tractor guys getting into the car business?
In recent months, however, another car-making David Brown has sprung to notice. Also an entrepreneurial Yorkshireman, this new DB’s business is also based on the launch a luxurious new GT car – which looks a lot like a classic Aston Martin.
But this time there’s no formal connection to the century-old Gaydon-based sports car maker.
The David Brown Speedback GT is a coach-built English sports car that is basically a Jaguar XKR wrapped in a beautiful retro-inspired body. Offering a beautifully hand-crafted interior and unique cache, this car made its American debut at the Quail in Monterey this past August. This begs the question: “Have wealthy people really run out of things to spend their money on?” The money they spend comes in at around $795,000. Quite a bit of money for one-upmanship, huh?
What, other than having the only one in your gated community, justifies the price? The Speedback enjoys the underpinnings of a Jaguar XKR, including the 510 horsepower supercharged 5.0-liter AJ V8. Mated to a six-speed auto, it is said to reach 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. But for the price of eight XKRs, the Speedback also offers a unique exterior design, inspired by the Aston Martin DBs of old. Inside, the XKR cabin has been dressed with tons of wood, polished metal and a bespoke instrument panel. When it was launched in England last year, Brown said that it represents a “classic-looking sports car without compromising modern convenience and features.” But will America’s elite shoppers also be convinced?
When I saw the car for the first time, I was sure that this was a DB9 with special body panels. I immediately thought about those Fisker BMW’s that were offered with special body styling and interior treatments. What makes this different?
Well, first of all, it looks like an Aston DB4. Many retro designs have come and gone over the years, but I must say that this one seems to have been pulled off tastefully. I could go for a character line and maybe a slight bit of sculpting here and there, but it is still beautifully done. That sloping C-pillar hides a split tailgate (a’ la Range Rover) that opens up to a surprising amount of space. Nothing larger that the donor car, but a nice, flat floor. Flip a lever and you can be treated to a rear facing rumble seat. The company refers to it as a “picnic seat”. Very nostalgic. You can also have your rear quarter configured the way you like
Despite the uncanny similarity of his background and business career to Aston Martin’s venerable Sir David Brown (the later DB is a patriotic British entrepreneur; his interests run to retailing, brewing, interior design, retailing and his background is in manufacturing large, off-highway vehicles), the new Brown never set out to take advantage of any perceived Aston connection. He is also seemingly perturbed by the comparison. It is not his lot to compare himself to Sir David. The similarities are simply coincidence.
Several years ago, the ’60s-loving, outgoing, new Brown bought an Aston DB5 and modernized it with more power, soundproofing and better brakes. He loved it and it is still part of his personal collection, but he kept wondering how to make a modern car with that classy 60’s-era look.
I’m convinced that this was the impetus for the Speedback GT. I instantly understand the classic-meets-modern idea; the two aspects more likely to bother actual buyers will surely be the lack of old-time provenance for the car (DB believes this can be acquired) and the eye-watering price, which simply reflects the cost of hand-making something so superbly resolved and detailed.
Steve Cropley or Autocar UK said: “When it comes to fine cars, the name David Brown is currently creating clarity and confusion in equal measure”. It appears that he’s correct. The name is new and innovative, but attached to a long lineage. The car produced mimics that by cloaking modern mechanicals with timeless, classic beauty.
When you reach the level where you can afford the DB Speedback GT, you have probably had everything else. You’re not interested in the next Ferrari and your Phantom bores you. You just want something to make the boys at the country club do a double take shy of bringing your million-dollar post war classic. The David Brown Speedback GT seems like the answer for the man who has immense first-world problems.
David Brown Speedback GT Gallery
Source: Autocar UK