While the DB5 might be the ultimate Gentleman’s Express, there was one man who was able to find a flaw with the iconic model, David Brown himself. An avid sportsman, Brown grew frustrated with his company car after realising that he could not fit his polo gear in the luggage compartment. Worse still, his hunting dog was chewing the plush leather seats. As the story is told, Brown entered a board meeting at which some of his engineers were in attendance, plunked his hunting dog down on the table, and said, “Build me something for him to sit in.”
The result, a shooting brake built on the DB5 chassis, was so handsome that several customers requested their own. At the time, the factory was too busy building the regular DB5, so Brown asked Harold Radford’s new coachbuilding business to assist with the demand. Known today as the Radford Shooting Brakes, just twelve DB5 examples were ever built.
This is one of those incredibly rare models that was ordered new with the Shooting Brake conversion. It was an enormously expensive process, which, at the time, cost about twice the average price of an English house. Perhaps the sum was appropriate, as the work involved rebuilding the car from the windscreen back. The tubular structure of the roof was cut away and extended with steel fabrications, and a single-piece rear hatchback was fitted. Inside, the shooting brake was modified to hold all the equipment David Brown could want. With rear seats that folded down, the car offered a full payload space of more than 40 cubic feet. Even with this extra space, Radford claimed the shooting brake was still more than capable of a top speed of 150 mph and braking from 100 mph to a complete stop in just six seconds.
One of the even rarer left-hand-drive shooting brakes, this DB5 was sold new to Mr. Rainer Heumann of Switzerland and dispatched on 1 December 1965. On top of the shooting brake conversion, Mr. Heumann also specified the optional extras of a power-operated radio aerial, two safety belts for the front seats, a detachable headrest for the passenger front seat, and the inscription of his initials on each door. For 30 years, Mr. Heumann used the Aston Martin as his daily driver, having repainted it Cumberland Grey in the 1980s. Upon his passing in 1996, the DB5 was in need of restoration, and five years later the car was sold from the family estate.
In 2003, chassis DB5/2273/L was purchased by its second Swiss owner, who undertook a complete body and chassis restoration by Aston Engineering. The body was refinished in Grigio Quartz. The Radford steel tubing in the roof structure was re-enforced, and the original DB6 taillights were replaced by DB5 lights as were featured on David Brown’s original shooting brake. At the time the engine was upgraded to Aston Engineering’s 4.2-litre specification, and the original automatic transmission was replaced with a five-speed ZF gearbox.
In 2009, the Aston Martin passed into its last ownership. An avid Aston Martin enthusiast, the owner immediately undertook a comprehensive overhaul and rectification led by Aston Martin specialist R.S. Williams. The engine was once again upgraded, this time to 4.7 litres but fitted with the proper triple SU HD8 carburetors. Suspension upgrades, including R.S. Williams springs and shock absorbers, were fitted, as were the correct 15-inch-diameter wheels. The body was repainted in the original and attractive shade of Silver Birch. The Cavalry Grey carpets were swapped for Dark Blue to match the re-trimmed interior. To complete the project, Fiamm air horns were fitted, as had been originally optioned.
RM Sotheby's recently sold this 1965 Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake by Radford at their Monterey auction. It’s fetched $1,765,000. Photos: ©2019 Courtesy of RM Sotheby's.