English Shooting BrakesThe Sporting Noble Mobile
The woodies of the British Isles were the product of an aristocratic culture. Just as road-going motorized transport was first adopted by the only people who could afford such extravagance, the wealthy land owner was among the first to press the motor car into sporting use, Originally, a 'brake' was a sturdy horse-drawn wagon meant for off-road use. The wooden bodied estate car met the need for carrying capacity with the prerequisite impression of affluence. What vehicle could better serve the lords of the realm while participating in the social ritual of hunting? Bespoke craftsmanship merged with the heady rush of mechanized mobility.
During the era of the coachbuilt body - between the world wars, small shops guided by gifted designers created fabulous bodies to mount on the finest chassis that money could buy. If one were inconvenienced by a vehicular mishap, an opportunity arose to change the body to fulfill other needs. Thus, last year's grand touring car could metamorphis into a covered, wood paneled estate car.
By the late thirties, mass production caught up with the wooden estate car and the well-off commoner could acquire this symbol of country affluence. Ford began producing the Pilot, a virtual copy of the American Ford. Other manufacturers added the shooting break to their model line-up. After World War II, wood panels were easier to come by than steel, and the wood-clad wagon survived.
The elegant 1954 Lea Francis (soon to be) pictured below has a remarkable history. It is a factory-built model, modified especially for Lady Mary Percy, lady in waiting to the Royal Family. Only recently did this vehicle pass from the hands of Lady Mary's family. This car has fully paneled doors, a rather uncommon feature for an English woodie. It also has many convenience features, including an interior handle to open or close the shutters in front of the radiator. The engine is an overhead cam four cylinder.
More English shooting brakes and estate cars can be found in the Old Woodies Shooting Brake Gallery.
1937 House Car
Email Old Woodies