The shooting break, or break de chasse—a two-door estate car with rear liftgates—was typically European, traditionally custom-built, and decidedly de rigueur for country hunts or Champagne-and-pork-pie picnics along the Thames.
In the mid-1930s, Rolls-Royce Phantoms and 20/25s were converted by coachbuilders into shooting breaks for Indian maharajas and Africa’s big-game hunters. David Brown, an acknowledged fanatic of Purdey over and under shotguns, designed a safari wagon for himself and 12 friends using a 1965 DB5 as a donor car—a heresy that went largely unchallenged, because Brown owned Aston Martin at the time. Renault, Volvo, Ford, Reliant, Pontiac, Sunbeam, and a dozen others have also tinkered with split-gate, slab-backed shooting breaks. Now Bentley—which introduced a 3.5-liter, 6-cylinder shooting break in 1935—has returned to this niche with the 2010 Bentley Continental Flying Star (shown).
The vehicle is not a pure Bentley but a Continental GTC convertible hollowed out and reshaped by Carrozzeria Touring Superleggera of Milan. Yet the Flying Star project carries Bentley’s blessing and a factory warranty that will be honored by Bentley dealers. True to its purpose, the car is 16 feet long with 8-foot windows on either side. The stowage area contains 42 cubic feet of space—sufficient for fishing rods, golf clubs, Purdeys, two gun bearers, and possibly a pair of small kayaks. A power-operated liftback door provides auxiliary access for bodies and baggage.
The Flying Star is equipped with the GTC’s 552 hp biturbo W-12 engine and can be outfitted with an optional all-wheel drive connected to a 6-speed ZF automatic. This specialty vehicle will be priced at $725,000, though Carrozzeria Touring plans to build only 19 examples. Shooting breaks, like much of the big game their owners once hunted, remain very much an endangered species.