Imagine if you will that you’re a tinkerer, a thinker and tycoon with a penchant for classic cars. You’ve treated yourself to participation in a cross-continental classic car endurance rally and a mega-millionaire mate just tossed you the keys to a gorgeous and iconic Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona for the epic drive. Except you don’t get very far. Because it breaks down.
Something similar happened to David Brown, founder of David Brown Automotive. Cast your mind back to the 2015 Dubai International Motor Show, and you may have come across his solution to the problem — the Speedback GT. Evoking the classic grand tourers of the Sixties and Seventies, its styling is a remix of the greatest hits of Ferrari, Maserati and of course Aston Martin, which is what most assume it’s meant to emulate — particularly keeping in mind the coincidence of the storied DB initials involved.
This understated and deliberately discreet fusion of retro and modern may not have exactly stolen the show four years ago, but standing before it now on a beautiful sunny day in England, I gaze at it with fresh eyes. Drink in the sublime 24-layer deep paintwork that takes 800 hours to apply, the piquant chrome, the exquisite fuel filler cap milled from solid aluminium and the voluptuous fenders and fuselage, hand-rolled and beaten into shape, but consistent nonetheless thanks to precise computer scanning. It takes nine and half months to produce a Speedback GT. It’s easy to see why.
There’s been a few changes since 2015; soft closing doors have been added, as has a bespoke smart key colour- and trim-matched to the car it ignites. Plus a new version. A special edition that will account for just 10 of the 100 Speedback GTs that will ever be made. It pays tribute to the company’s home directly opposite Silvestone race circuit. If the Speedback GT is the Lord of the Manor in a fine tweed blazer accessorised with flat cap and leather chaps, the Silverstone Edition is the aristocrat gone rogue in a black Alexandar McQueen leather jacket and Tod’s driving shoes. Paired down and ready for action, but never slumming it, or compromising on class and civility. Why would one?
Compared to its sibling the Silverstone looses the corner bumpers and the wire wheels in favour of daring forged 20in ‘Afterburner’ bespoke alloys, the silverware slatted grille makes way for a black honeycomb with LED driving lamps embedded within, there are unseemly extended side skirts and... oh, I say... an enhanced rear diffuser. This is one sexy beast with a suggestively subtle dark faded centre stripe bisecting the standard ‘Fly By Night’ black metallic finish.
Step inside and you’re greeted by a sumptuous cabin featuring pre-aged brogue tan leather upholstery embroidered with a Silverstone motif, also found inscribed on the dashboard and engraved into the gear knob. Much of the interior architecture is XK derived, but here everything is retrimmed with materials like open-pore scorched ‘Ebony Macassar’ wood, Kvadrat fabric and brushed aluminium.
The rear seats have been replaced with storage bins. In the ample luggage compartment under that huge split-folding tailgate you can not only fit the requisite two golf bags, but a fold out seat provides somewhere to perch yourself and monitor trespassers on your property. There’s a hidden compartment to store gear to shoot them with. Camera gear of course, what did you think I meant?
Having driven both the Speedback GT and the Silverstone back-to-back, the latter feels tighter and only a little harsher — if such a word could ever be used. It is a fractionally less comfortable on the roughest roads, but the difference is marginal. Likewise, despite a big jump from 510bhp to 601bhp from the Jag 5.0-litre blown V8 mated to a ZF auto, the performance difference is felt more at half-throttle rather than instantly. Power delivery is linear, not brutish, and there’s a great soundtrack, with supercharger whine dampened. The steering should be firmer, but is reasonably responsive and faithful, whilst the brakes could do with an upgrade on this version, particularly if any track duty beckons.
It’s quiet though, and superbly refined. Stiff too. The XKR’s convertible chassis is used to exploit the extra strengthening and even then extra support is added. It wraps itself around you, both physically encasing you in the cockpit and in the way it drives: immediately amiable, easy to place and far less intimidating than its racy persona would suggest. Tuned towards touring rather than corner-carving, it’s a driver’s delight nonetheless.
That is if you’re the sort of driver that can afford £620,000 plus tax (£100k more than the Speedback GT) equivalent to Dh2.96m! Why not opt for Dh1.7m Bentley Continental GT instead? There is a place for the Speedback GT though — 16 places already in fact, as that’s how many have thus far been made. It’s for the uber rich that already have one of everything and still struggle to outclass their equally wealthy buddies. And it’s for those that want to tour continents in classic style and modern luxury without fear of breaking down.