Is this car worth half a million pounds?

'This is a very expensive car when you consider you could buy a Rolls-Royce Wraith and have enough money left over for, well, another Rolls-Royce Wraith'

Yorkshiremen are a fabulously stubborn breed. David Brown is a proud Yorkshireman, and he decided he was damn well going to build a car. The result is the David Brown Speedback GT, a modern grand tourer that offers the latest engineering allied to the romance of a bygone age.

Mr Brown is an engineer at heart, having run his family’s heavy-plant engineering firm, and he has a fierce pride in British work. He embarked on the project 18 months ago, calling on the best designers, fabricators and craftspeople to build him a car.

It’s something that you could only do in such a short time in Britain, because we have the best collection of experts to build small-run cars in the world. Mr Brown’s first effort is a triumph. The view from behind the steering wheel is one you’ve always known in your mind: the soft curves of the outer wings and wide sweeps of the bonnet are straight out of the Aston Martin back catalogue. The sinuous handrolled bodywork is part DB5, part muscle car, with a Range Rover-style split tailgate and seat for watching polo or point-topointing from with drink in hand.

David Brown Speedback GT steerling wheel

The whole thing is handmade around Coventry and the Midlands, the heart of British car-making, but beneath the veneer of vintage is a more contemporary tale— underpinning the hand-built body is a Jaguar XKR. It seems profligate to buy a new XKR and take an angle grinder to it, but Mr Brown reckons this was the best way to produce a car with the inherent quality needed.

As a result, his Speedback accelerates with a fearsome growl from its 500bhp supercharged Jaguar engine and rides with just the soft pliancy you would want from a long-distance cruiser. The cabin is based on the XKR, but has most of its own switchgear, dials and leather.

So far so good, but I hope you’re sitting down at this point, as I’m about to tell you how much it costs. It’s £495,000. Yes, you read right: half a million pounds.

This, then, is a very expensive car when you consider you could buy a Rolls-Royce Wraith and have enough money left over for, well, another Rolls-Royce Wraith. That’s what happens when you buy a whole new Jaguar, take it to bits and then spend thousands of hours hand-building a new car.

However, Mr Brown is convinced there’s a market for this sort of car. He intends to build 100 and, already, half a dozen have been sold with barely a wheel turned. The issue is whether you see this as a mock-Tudor mansion of a car, a pastiche, rather than a rare, standalone object.

It’s certainly a car that makes people smile and be curious as we drive around leafy Oxfordshire on a beautiful sunny day, because they instinctively understand the shape of it and the  mood it’s trying to evoke. For me, with the marvelous craftsmanship and dedication that’s gone into it, this car is no lazy facsimile, but a glorious homage to British engineering brilliance and Yorkshire stubbornness.

On the road
David Brown Speedback GT
Price £495,000
Combined fuel consumption 23mpg
Power 500bhp
0–60mph 4.8 seconds
In the town You’re Brigitte Bardot, zipping through Saint-Tropez
In the country You’re Sean Connery, dashing through the Highlands
In summary A celebration of the very best of British engineering

* This article first appeared in Country Life Magazine on September 3 2014

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