The headline is all true – you only had to be at the Festival of Speed to know that. FoS is where the new car – and no, it’s not called DB-something and definitely doesn’t have Aston Martin badges on it – had its UK public debut.
This latest story from Britain’s world-beating low-volume sports car industry is full of quite extraordinary coincidences. This David Brown is not, and has no connection with, the Sir David Brown who owned Aston Martin until the 1970s, though the pair would appear to have quite a bit in common. Including a background in agricultural vehicle manufacture, a successful entrepreneurial streak and a passion for cars – the DB5 in particular.
That’s what to most eyes the debut model from David Brown Automotive most resembles. Not to David Brown though. ‘I have an Aston DB5 and what I want to do is park it next to the new car – you really wouldn’t need signs saying which is which.’
That makes the new model, dubbed the Speedback, what exactly? Pastiche I guess is the word. But a pretty tasty one.
The idea behind this half-a-million-pound, hand-crafted GT is to combine very British 1960s-influenced styling and detailing with all the comfort and reliability of a contemporary sports coupé, in this case the Jaguar XK-R convertible. That brings with it the potent 503bhp 5.0-litre supercharged V8 and mod cons that extend to heated and cooled seats. Such is the level of bespoke customisation here you really wouldn’t pick it for a Jag, even on the inside. New knobs, new leather – even the door panels are retrimmed (in British elm).
Huge personal indulgence or ‘DB5’ for the 21st century? We’ll let David Brown (the younger) explain…
Why this, why now?
My DB5 is a great car but it is from the 1960s. You forget how unreliable cars were then. A few years ago I was driving a Ferrari Daytona on a classic car rally when it broke down – and it was such a relief to get into the air-conditioned hire car. I thought: I am going to build my own car. A car that encapsulates all the things that are important to me. So not a mid-engined exotic designed to do 200mph and not an SUV. And a car that is very proud to be British.
You drove it down from Coventry for the Festival of Speed. What’s it like to drive?
I believe life’s about journeys and the Speedback is definitely about the journey. It’s never going to be the quickest thing from A to B (0-62mph in 4.8secs) but it certainly will be among the most comfortable. Comfort and luxury are as much of an emphasis as performance.
What’s the reaction to it been like at Goodwood?
Everyone seems instantly to get it, which for a car that is essentially one man’s dream is superb. So many people wish us well. They seem genuinely to love the car and are proud of what we have achieved.
What do they think it is?
People see what they want to see in it. A lot of people say it looks like a DB5, the most iconic car from that period. Some think it is a Maserati. It doesn’t worry me what people think it is.
Who designed it?
I conceptualised it and then Alan Mobberley (former chief designer at Land Rover) defined it. We wanted to take the style from the 1960s, not from a specific car but a range of things: beautifully simple lines, radiator grille, vent on the bonnet and headlight shape. This ’60s style comes with a contemporary feel, for example the rear lights. Lucas made a vertical column of rear lights, red, orange and white, and in the 1960s a lot of companies used them. For the Speedback we have adopted that style but updated it with LEDs and a jewellery-like finish, and carried that design through to other details on the car.
And underneath it’s all brand new?
Everything you can’t see behind the switchgear is new Jaguar. So all the features you expect in a contemporary luxury car are fitted here. The seats are Jaguar XK-R resculpted and retrimmed, but still electrically adjustable, heated and cooled. That’s been our approach with the whole of the rest of the car. The picnic seat in the boot is a Range Rover type feature. With the rear seats folded down there was a flat floor all the way through and we thought, what can we do with that? Having the rear-facing bench fold up out of the floor is a really cool idea – and perfect for a Goodwood picnic!
How is the car manufactured?
We start with a Jaguar XK-R convertible – we use the convertible because it already has extra strengthening in it. The body panels are all hand-rolled aluminium. A lot of the bespoke details are possible because the plastic parts can be printed rather than having to tool up for them, which is great for low volume manufacture. All the work is sub contracted out – I only have a handful of people working with me. The car has been developed for production by the Envisage Group. Everything is done in Britain. I have been involved in vehicle manufacture all my life – it’s the family business.
What sort of future do you see for the Speedback?
We have sold six, and have serious inquiries from people who want to test drive it – quite a few from the Festival of Speed. We are limiting production to 100 so it will be really exclusive. The biggest rival I think is a car like the Eagle E-type. At the moment I am trying to get Brian Johnston from AC/DC to buy one – he has seen the car and loves it.
David Brown Automotive Speedback
Price: £495,000 plus taxes
Engine: Jaguar 5.0-litre supercharged V8
Torque: 461 lb ft
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Maximum speed: 155mph (restricted)
Fuel/CO2: 23.0mpg, 292g/km