Where does the term ‘shooting brake’ come from?

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

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Shooting brake etymology aston Shooting brake etymology aston

Is it just marketing speak? Is it different to a station wagon? What does it mean and where does it come from?

These days, the term ‘shooting brake’ is easily written off as manufacture marketing speak. ‘What’s the different between a station wagon and a shooting brake?’ is a common response, and more than fair in our eyes.

It’s true though in the modern car industry, that a lot of the time there isn’t a difference. Mercedes-Benz is perhaps the worst offender for using the shooting brake denotation for its more style-driven (read: compromised rear headroom) estate cars.

But is there actually a difference? And where did the term come from?


Well the etymology of the phrase takes us back before the advent of the motorcar, and the age of horse-drawn transportation. In the early days of coachbuilding, a ‘brake’ was a specific type of carriage used in training (or ‘breaking’) horses.

Whilst a ‘shooting brake’ more specifically referenced a wagon used for more aristocratic things like transporting hunting parties, their guns and game to and from hunting excursions. This term carried over with the advent of seld-propelling vehicles (above).

In more contemporary times of the automobile, the term shooting brake stylistically continued to describe traditionally three-box car designs that have been converted into  two-box designs with extended rooflines, and generally with two doors.


The term station wagon similarly has its origin in the days of horse-drawn propulsion. Where by custom wagon-bodied Ford Model-Ts were specifically used as taxis to carry people and luggage to and from the train depot. These bespoke-bodied Model-Ts were called ‘depot hacks’, which referenced ‘hackney’, an outmoded term for a horse-drawn taxi.

These depot hacks were also called ‘station wagons’.

Shooting-brake-etymology-station wagon.jpg


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