Coachbuilding – the art of building customised car bodies on existing chassis – is very much back in vogue as the search for the ultimate bespoke vehicle hots up

David Brown Automotive has been handcrafting 1960s-inspired (some would say heavily Aston Martin DB5- inspired) bodies on Jaguar XK platforms for three years now, and badging the result as the Speedback GT. An updated Speedback GT has just been released with stiffer suspension and a host of minor design tweaks to the original prototype, and Robb Report was the first to get behind the wheel. Only 11 cars have been built so far; each one takes 8,000 man-hours (800 of those alone are spent applying 21 layers of paint) and eight months to build and is priced at £594,000. Customer requests for pretty much anything will be considered: a client in New Zealand recently asked for a bespoke picnic set and a suitably retro town and country horn for their Speedback, for example.

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Our car was decked out with an ash-and-walnut steering wheel, with satin chrome on the centre console and an enamel badge made by Fattorini. One of the best design quirks of the Speedback GT is its quilted leather picnic bench, which folds out from the boot floor via a two-stage GT-style tailgate. Underneath all that hand-beaten aluminium bodywork is the Jaguar XKR’s 5.0-litre supercharged V8, which develops 410bhp as standard, though David Brown Automotive will now take it up to 600bhp for you, should you desire.

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Not in the mood for a GT, but looking for something equally special? Robb Report can reveal that the company’s next project will be ‘another beautifully hand-built, Sixties-inspired modern classic’ – a Mini. As we went to press, DBA had yet to confirm the model name, but they did tell us exclusively that Project 2, as it’s currently known, will use original Minis from before 2000, and will re-master them with ‘21st century craftsmanship and technological upgrades’. Although they will cost less than a Speedback GT, DBA assures prospective customers that each car will be ‘extremely high-end, beautifully crafted and unique’, and will be sold in the same limited numbers and with the same bespoke service as the Speedback GT. davidbrownautomotive.com

Erin Baker