Top Gear’s Top 9: now that’s what I call breadvans

By topgear, 02 November 2020

Ferrari 250 GT SWB ‘Breadvan’

The story behind this one-off Ferrari 250 is as bizarre as its looks. It was built as a eff-you to Enzo Ferrari himself, after the Ferrari supremo refused to sell any of his shiny new 250 GTOs to an aristocratic race team owner named Count Giovanni Volpi. 

Volpi had been poaching Ferrari’s best and brightest engineers for his own endeavours, and this didn’t go down at all well with Enzo, who barred the count from purchasing Maranello’s latest, greatest racer. Ouch.

Incensed, Volpi commanded his outfit to convert his old 250 SWB into a GTO-beater. A more powerful V12 was fitted, lower down and further back in the chassis, while the rest of the car went on a chronic weight-saving mission. Finally, the rear bodywork was drawn back into this weird square tail, to give the car slippery aerodynamics down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. Journalists quickly nicknamed it ‘the Breadvan.’

Entered into the 1962 edition of the famous 24 hour race, the shooting brake Ferrari charged past every 250 GTO in the field, until it was crippled by a broken driveshaft after seven hours and had to retire.

The car may have failed its quest win Le Mans, but it proved it was way faster than a GTO, and the world has seen some pretty special takes on the breadvan theme since then.

BMW M Coupe

Is it a breadvan? Is it a clown shoe? Is it a mediocre roadster made great with the addition of a big boot and some deliciously dished rear wheels? The 320hp (later, 325hp, M3-powered) Z3M is a bit of all three. Ahh, the days when BMW niche-busting generated this, not the X4.

Ford Mustang-meets-Volvo

The Ford Mustang: pony car icon, maker of loud noises, shredder of tyres, scourge of Cars and Coffee meetings. And on the other pole of Planet Car, the Volvo estate. Square, sensible, and safer than a book of Wills Smith’s rap lyrics. 

Put ‘em together, whaddaya got? Well, quite a smart conversion, actually. This splicing of 1966 Mustang and Volvo 240DL cost US$120k back in 2014, including swapping the ‘Stang’s original six-cylinder engine for an 8.4-litre V8. Crumbs. 

Ferrari 612 Scaglietti by Vandenbrink Design

Prefer your custom breadvans a little more artisan, dough you?

If you’re more ‘organic farmhouse tiger bread’ than ‘supermarket sliced white with no crusts’ then might we kindly direct you toward the stunning Vandenbrink Design Ferrari 612 Scaglietti? A prancing hearse if ever there was one. 

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Sportsman Estate

Oh, you thought the Aston Martin Zagato Shooting Brake was cool, did you? Sorry champ, it’s good but it’s just not boxy enough. For the ultimate in practical Astonship, you want a 1999-spec 5.3-litre V8 breadvan conversion that breezes from 0-95 in, erm, about seven seconds. On second thoughts, maybe go for a new DBX instead. 

Volvo P1800 ES

Volvo couldn’t resist breadvanning its gorgeous P1800 coupe. The 1972-1973 model was designed to appeal to buyers who enjoyed golfing or hunting, while also looking stylish in a hunk of Swedish magnificence.

Reliant Scimitar GTE

It took Reliant less than a year to conceive, sketch and put the breadvan-spec Scimitar into production. Tom Karen, the British-Czech designer who also designed the Star Wars Landspeeder vehicle, was a noted critic of traditional fastback coupes, saying “there’s nothing good to be said for them except that some people think they look alright.

Aerodynamically they’re lousy, headroom in the back is lousy, for visibility they’re lousy, with a lot of glass they’re lousy, from a weight point of view, and they give no boot access”. Breadvans FTW.

Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake

Picture the scene. Aston Martin boss David Brown marches into the company workshops with his dog, and decrees the following order. “Build me something for him to sit in.” 

Brown was fed up of his dog chewing through his company DB5’s seats, and wanted a DB5 with a boot. The factory was backed up with demand for the ‘regular’ car, so the boss turned to a new coachbuilding business – Radford Shooting Brakes – to carry out the conversions.

Only 12 were built by Radford, who extended the roof with steel fabrications and fitted a single piece rear hatch. Boot space was increased rather substantially to 40 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Radford, aware of the DB5’s sporting bent, still claimed the Shooting Brake could top 240km/h.

Whether or not this was tested with the dog on board has been lost to history.

Ferrari 330 GT Shooting Brake

We began with a zany Ferrari breadvan, so we’ll close with one too. This 1965 330 GT is a one-off, clothed in an American-designed, Italian-fabricated squared-off body because hey, it was the Sixties. Free love. The Space Race. Everyone was either smoking something or pushing the limits of human innovation. Maybe both.

This unique 330 has been owned by various Americans, a Frenchman, and Jay Kay since its creation, and boasts a 400hp V12. Think of it as a GTC4 Lusso, five decades ahead of its time.

STORY Ollie Kew

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