What The *$#&^ Is A Shooting Brake?

Tim O'Brien | May 22, 2012

Right. It's come to the attention of the Orificer in Charge that discussion as to the origin and suitability of the term 'shooting brake' is getting a little heated around the bowser at the moment.

The term has, as you know, been appropriated by Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and others among the patrician classes of automobile envisionators to designate what you and I (and other plebs and scumbags) would otherwise loosely call a wagon.

Not one to throw a meaningless term around carelessly, MB would seem to have it nailed into its collective Teutonic noggin that the 'shooting brake' descriptor is perfectly apt for those of its wagons that look like a slightly straightened banana.

That would be, in this precise instance, the upcoming CLS Shooting Brake.

And those lacking in qualities of banana-ness from among the MB flock are mere 'estates'.

That a shooting brake - or "break" for the Gallic souls south of the Maginot Line - was a stripped-down cart does not appear to be pressing any irony buttons within MB at the moment.

2013 mercedes benz cls shooting brake spy photos 08

So, in the interests of community safety and good relations at the parish bowser, here's a potted explanation of the derivation of the term (if you water it daily, it'll be ready to smoke in five weeks).

Shooting Brake is a pre-Victorian term that was originally applied to a small horse-drawn four-wheeled cart - a 'brake'. It was used to 'break-in' and train horses for carriage or jinker duties.

At some stage in the preceedings, a sporting chap from the idle classes (possibly called Rupert or Roger or Randolf) decided to press the 'brake' into duty as a cart for carrying the 'shooting party' into the field of battle.

So they would all pile aboard and off they'd go: the master of the estate, the gamekeeper, the 'beaters' (sods from the serving classes who would walk about thrashing the shrubbery), the shooters and a few damn fine hounds.

In time, possibly four hours, someone realised that aristocratic bums are better served with seating.

So, around about exactly right then, the shooting brake acquired what we now recognise as the time-honoured seating arrangement of the 'troop carrier' - a bench up front, and two lengthways rows set behind it.

Also, at about this time (6:15pm we're advised), it then acquired the vertical slats along the sides for hanging whatever 'game' had found itself unfortunate enough to walk, meander or fly in front of a fusillade of lead from the jolly sporting chaps.

Thus was spawned the shooting brake.

But wait, there's more.

shooting brake example 000

Some of the early car coachbuilders like Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Alvis applied the term to their 'estate' body styles - because the wood-framed wagon back imitated the slatted style of the horse-drawn shooting brake.

It was more commonly applied to two-door body styles, but, back away pedants, not exclusively.

And, as effortless as that, there we have it: the second spawing of the shooting brake. Of course, you and I would probably call it a "woody".

But try as I might, I just can't picture a Mercedes-Benz woody... er, that might depend what you're doing at this precise moment (and who just leaned over your desk).

So, yes, it is a ridiculous term when applied to a banana-ised 'station wagon'. Wagon? Maybe that's ridiculous too... ok, 'estate'... no again; that's a bunch of paddocks with trees, a manor house and another chap called Rupert with a damn fine hound.

As you were; I'll now hand you back to Citizen 2. (Is he talking about me? - Mike.)

Tim O'Brien
TMR Managing Editor & All-round Nutter

Filed under: Featured, Mercedes-Benz, News, shooting brake, mercedes-benz cls shooting brake, tim o'brien, editorial

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  • Guest says,
    2 years ago
    Thanks for the explaination because I had no idea how shooting brakes ties in with a wagon.

    But given the explaination, does that mean the MB "shooting brake" can carry more than 5 people?
  • Dave says,
    2 years ago
    Hahahaha cool article!! I've always wondered WTF "shooting brake" is.

    Do one on "Sportsback", another silly name that the marketing department came up with to differentiate themselves.
  • Roger says,
    2 years ago
    I can associate with an AMG "Woody", I get those a lot.
  • Smart us says,
    2 years ago
    laughlaughlaughsadbiggrinrolleyesmad not convinced WTF its a station wagon you can market it anyhow you want... its for families with prams bragging about expensive MB
  • martin says,
    2 years ago
    Europeans used to call a wagon a "break" which is fair enough. I think the word "brake" has assumed a different meaning in the modern ere, and hence, shooting break is a better term for when you've run out of ammunition.
  • Gregmond says,
    2 years ago
    Good story. smile
    Makes a lot of sense.
    Can MB explain where/what they get the definition from ? Or is it just marketing crappola as we all believe ?
  • 5valvepercylinder
    5 valve per cylinder says,
    2 years ago
    Times have changed greatly, really think presently if a car has 5 doors and has a hatch it is a station wagon and/or a sport estate. Period.
    A shooting brake design theme should only be considered if the car in question has 3 doors that has the combination of a coupe and a wagon.
    • Balthazaaaaaaaargh says,
      2 years ago
      the Civic Si is a station wagon?
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