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Automotive

That time Aston Martin built a 'hatchback'

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The great thing about being a “sportsman” in the English sense of the word is that you don’t need to work out much — you just have to carry a folded long-barreled shotgun worth more than a Ford Fiesta over your shoulder while you wear a tweed cap and Wellington boots. Having a dog that will do most of the work, like pick up things you’ve blasted from a distance, also helps if you’re the kind of sportsman not into jogging short distances. Having a luxury station wagon to haul all this “sports” gear is also a prerequisite to being a sportsman. We’re sure you’ll appreciate the appeal of such an approach.

At a time when station wagons are being rebranded as crossovers for the purpose of marketing, (station wagons are so last century) it’s useful to recall the “shooting brake,” which is Ye Olde British term of art for a smallish wagon with three or more doors, more broadly referred to as the estate (which is a plain station wagon).

The shooting brake on the menu this month is a 1996 Aston Martin V8 Sportsman, and in a few days, it’s headed to Bonhams’ Aston Martin sale in the U.K.

One of just three built (for sporting gentlemen, we presume) by Aston Martin itself, two were finished in left-hand drive for Swiss brothers. The V8 is, of course, based on the Aston V8 coupe and convertible duo — an updated Virage — that pulled the factory along in those dire days for the automaker: Aston Martin production dipped to just 46 cars four years prior. Not 46 Aston Martin V8s, but just 46 cars total.

Just enough room here for two or three golf bags, or a couple of $20,000 fitted shotguns you carry over your shoulder like a boss while wearing Wellies, for hunting whatever it is they hunt in the UK using expensive dogs. (Cave lions, giant sloths?) Photo by Bonhams

Aston Martin DB11 leakes before Geneva debut

Powered by a beefy V8 engine displacing 5.3 liters, this Sportman was initially built as a coupe but was returned to Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire, England, the same year for the conversion, which took more than a year. Bonhams says the conversion was performed between September 1996 and December 1997, with the car finished in the obligatory British Racing Green with a matching leather interior and walnut interior details. According to the auction house, the V8 received an engine rebuild in 1999 at just 9,263 kilometers (for unstated reasons) and was then passed along to its second owner, who registered it in Monaco. For the last few years, it has been maintained by Aston Martin Works while residing in a large Aston collection.

Bonhams notes this car received a satellite navigation system relatively recently — we suspect that’s what’s positioned haphazardly at the top part of the dash, in the old radio niche — and features a foldout screen. Another unusual (but appropriate) detail is a fitted humidor; Aston interiors and cigar smoke go together like an MLB game and $7 hot dogs. The auction house also notes this car received an “extensive refurbishment” over the past 2-3 years, perhaps due to very sparing use: the Sportsman covered only 1,300 kilometers in the last seven years, and it now shows just 21,000 kilometers (13,048 miles) on the clock.
 

1996 Aston Martin V8 Sportman rear

The design is well balanced, but the roof could benefit from some modest roof rails. Photo by Bonhams

1991 Aston Martin Virage

How much is this shooting brake expected to bring on auction day? Bonhams estimates a selling price of $390,000 to $450,000 for this example, which is admittedly rare and is unlikely ever to be upstaged by another Aston Martin estate at a concours event.

The late-80s design of the Virage is a bit of an acquired taste — an appreciation of the lines of the base Virage (or a Volvo 850) is perhaps a prerequisite here — though we’re not sure if the lack of roof rails helps or hurts the balance of the design. There is certainly a premium figured into the value due to the fact that the car was modified by Aston Martin itself and not just some guy. Even a reputable a coachbuilder conversion could have soured the value.

It’ll be interesting to see how much this example will fetch, but being such an individual variant of an already rare car, it could be tempting to read too much into the future sale result. We only hope this car will finally get a chance to stretch its legs and rack up a few more miles, all without being called a hatch or a crossover by other curious drivers.

Visit the auction website to view the full list of lots and the auction schedule.


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