The car has been likened to the Aston Martin DB5, but Brown says the differences are significant. Courtesy DBA
The car has been likened to the Aston Martin DB5, but Brown says the differences are significant. Courtesy DBA

Test-driving the DBA Speedback GT



"Maverick" is possibly a strong word for David Brown, the entrepreneur behind the latest niche car brand from the UK. He's an entertaining character with a colourful and interesting past – spanning a varied career that has included rock 'n' roll, industrial machinery and an award-winning department store close to his native North Yorkshire, among many other business concerns.

But he’s not wilfully eccentric, nor are his motives difficult to understand; in his own no-nonsense way, and if you’ll forgive the patent observation of labelling him a straight-talking Yorkshire man, he asserts: “I’ve never been frightened of making something from scratch, whether that’s a physical product like an articulated off-highway dump truck or whether it is, for example, starting a restaurant in an empty building.”

But it’s what has brought us to the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, only a few weeks after the Tour de France has breezed through the area, that piques interest like nothing else. You have to concede that his latest brainchild is certainly risky. His very name is part of the problem, as is the aesthetic he has bestowed upon his latest creation. For he has set up David Brown Automotive, and DBA’s first machine, the Speedback GT, is a “modern classic” that bears more than a passing resemblance to an Aston Martin DB5 – and guess what the two letters in DB5 stood for?

Let’s sort this out, because we can understand you being confused. David Brown, a Yorkshire man, made agricultural machinery. Another David Brown from Yorkshire began making construction machinery. One of them eventually owned Aston Martin, lending his initials to many of the iconic cars that issued forth from its Newport Pagnell base (and still do). The other saw his company form such a close relationship with Caterpillar that, one day, the former was purchased by the latter – although, by this time, the company was run by his son (also David), who is the man behind DBA. So a trio of Yorkshire men with the same name, all moving from heavy-duty vehicles to making cars.

That inadvertent association with Aston has led to a few issues. Internet dissenters have come pouring out of the woodwork in the months since DBA revealed ‘Project Judi’ to the world back in April. Accused of being an ungainly pastiche of a DB5, with particular venom reserved for – of all things – the Speedback’s wire wheels, and with mutterings of cashing in on the convenient Aston namesake never fully subsiding, it is a car to divide opinion. But Brown is unrepentant. He never set out to just copy the DB5, he says. “I love 1960s car design, it is the most beautiful of the lot,” he explains. “This car is supposed to evoke that period. It is not like a DB5 at all; I own a DB5 myself and, when they’re parked alongside each other, the differences are huge. All I really wanted was a car that looked like a classic but had all the convenience and reliability of a modern car.”

Designed by Alan Mobberley, a man who was chief designer at Land Rover among other roles of distinction, this is one of those vehicles where pictures simply cannot convey how successfully it works in the metal. Under a lowering northern sky, in its beautiful gunmetal paint (more on this later), the Speedback looks fantastic. There’s a wonderful, crisp swage line running the length of the car, while proportionally it is excellent. OK, the influences of the other 1960s classics within its shape may be a little overwhelmed by the more apparent Aston theme, but it has an identity all of its own with a wealth of exquisite detail touches to lift it. Later on, during our test drive, people stare unreservedly as it rolls past; it is clearly very striking.

But perhaps more pertinent is the sheer quality of the build. Each of the Speedback’s aluminium panels is hand-beaten in the same way as those on the DB5 were, but unlike the older car – when wooden “bucks” for shaping them were made from a clay model – this has been fully computer designed to ensure the best shut lines possible. “While the way they built a car in the 1960s resulted in such beautiful machines, there are endless possibilities for things to go wrong when scaling production up from a clay model to the full-sized thing,” says Brown. “My DB5 is about an inch-and-a-half longer on one side than it is on the other. Computer-aided design prevents that from happening with our car.”

He’s not wrong there. The tightness of the panel gaps would shame much larger, more mainstream manufacturers and although this is officially a “prototype” that Brown will be keeping for himself, it looks like it was built on a huge engineering budget. Though he is coy about precisely which companies they are, he does claim a number of long-established carmakers have told him they could not build a first-time car to this exacting standard. “It is only possible for us now,” he adds, “because of advances in low-volume production techniques. Thanks to five-axis milling machines and CAD, we can make a lot of the parts for a limited production run car like this and know they will fit together so well; it just wasn’t possible before. I always wanted to bring the art of coachbuilding into the 21st century – I think we’ve done that with the Speedback.”

Sure, the Speedback is bound to put a few noses out of joint at Aston Martin, but it is a wondrous thing in its own right and anyway, there’s another British luxury car company that’s getting behind the DBA Speedback – and that’s Jaguar. This is because underneath that swooping coachwork are the chassis and running gear of an XKR Convertible. The open-top was chosen because it has extra structural bracing lower down in the chassis, which helps the rigidity of the finished DBA. The Speedback’s kerb weight is quoted as 1,976kg and its performance stats – 0-100kph in 4.8 seconds, 248kph limited top speed, fuel consumption of 12.3L/100km – put it pretty much on a par with the base car. And a long way ahead of anything from the 1960s.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the interior, which is exceptional. There are signposts to the XK heritage, but with elm panelling, differently shaped, leather-trimmed seats and bespoke dials and display graphics throughout, it looks marvellous. There’s still some refining to be done for customer cars, but practicality and comfort were key drivers for Brown. The rear seats fold down for instance (they don’t in the Jag) so a set of golf clubs can fit in the boot, while a clever picnic bench emerges out of the Speedback’s boot floor.

Nor is there anything wrong with the way the car confidently goes about its business. Based as it is on a fantastic performance coupé, it uses smaller wheels than the XKR at 19 inches in diameter. This allows for Dunlop SP Sport rubber of 40-profile front, 35-profile rear, and that translates into a ride quality that surpasses that of the Jaguar on which it is based. Those tight panel gaps mean wind noise is simply not an issue and more than 500 supercharged horses ensure the DBA can make indecent progress when requested. It is precisely what it says on the tin, a grand tourer, capable of mega distance without exhausting its occupants, yet possessed of ample performance should the need ever arise.

A testing route involving the Buttertubs Pass was devoured with consummate ease by the Speedback, although prudence – and, more to the point, the presence of Brown in the passenger seat of the car; “it’s like watching your daughter go up the stairs with her boyfriend!” he exclaims as we cut round one tighter bend – prevented me from prolonged, effervescent driving. But the few times the DBA was opened up and asked to dissect a challenging corner or two, it more than stood up to the task. And the V8’s noise is fabulous, with the acoustics seemingly embellished by the unique shape of the DBA’s body.

There’s one more issue to deal with and that is price. At the moment, the quoted figure is £495,000 (Dh3.014 million) excluding VAT, which in its home market would push the final cost to £594,000. But DBA will sell cars overseas, with the price adjusting according to local taxes. In fact, two of the current six confirmed orders are for left-hand drive examples. The Speedback, therefore, doesn’t come cheap. However, it should be borne in mind that for genuine, potential buyers, the 100-off exclusivity of this “modern classic” will make it worth the entry fee; that, plus the purchase cost of an XKR, the removal of its body, the creation of the Speedback’s handcrafted aluminium panels and the bespoke interior finish.

Brown also says the colour combinations can be anything buyers like, because it’s their car – even if he would be unsure of one finished in lime green with a brown interior, say. And as for the hue on this one: “It has a lot of burgundy in it to complement the interior. And seeing as I am inspired by all sorts of things, including rock music, when we were asked to name our paint we called it Guns N’ Roses. Which is doubly appropriate, because the car can be like a weapon one minute and then a delicate flower the next.”

It’s easy for “internet heroes” to criticise the DBA Speedback GT, but Brown has to be admired for thinking of an idea and then executing it in such a short space of time; it was only March 2013 when he began this project in earnest. And the end result of his automotive passion is genuinely remarkable. It is dynamically resolved, elegantly styled and supremely comfortable, and like nothing else out there. If there are enough similarly minded folk to David Brown in the world – and I rather suspect there are – then he’ll have no trouble shifting the 100 Speedbacks he plans to build. He currently has a stock of 10 XKRs and six firm orders, and with each DBA taking around six months to construct, that’s a starting point for the continued future of David Brown Automotive. Who knows where this maverick “classic” car firm will go from there, should the Speedback be successful? I, for one, wish DBA all the luck in the world – because vehicles like this fully deserve their place in automotive history.

Afghanistan squad

Gulbadin Naib (captain), Mohammad Shahzad (wicketkeeper), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah, Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

The story in numbers

18

This is how many recognised sects Lebanon is home to, along with about four million citizens

450,000

More than this many Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA in Lebanon, with about 45 per cent of them living in the country’s 12 refugee camps

1.5 million

There are just under 1 million Syrian refugees registered with the UN, although the government puts the figure upwards of 1.5m

73

The percentage of stateless people in Lebanon, who are not of Palestinian origin, born to a Lebanese mother, according to a 2012-2013 study by human rights organisation Frontiers Ruwad Association

18,000

The number of marriages recorded between Lebanese women and foreigners between the years 1995 and 2008, according to a 2009 study backed by the UN Development Programme

77,400

The number of people believed to be affected by the current nationality law, according to the 2009 UN study

4,926

This is how many Lebanese-Palestinian households there were in Lebanon in 2016, according to a census by the Lebanese-Palestinian dialogue committee

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Tenet

Director: Christopher Nolan

Stars: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh 

Rating: 5/5

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

The Color Purple

Director: Blitz Bazawule
Starring: Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo
Rating: 4/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

RESULTS

5pm: Sweihan – Handicap (PA) Dh80,000 (Turf) 2,200m
Winner: Shamakh, Fernando Jara (jockey), Jean-Claude Picout (trainer)

5.30pm: Al Shamkha – Maiden (PA) Dh80,000 (T) 1,200m
Winner: Daad, Dane O’Neill, Jaber Bittar

6pm: Shakbout City – Maiden (PA) Dh80,000 (T) 1,200m
Winner: AF Ghayyar, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel

6.30pm: Wathba Stallions Cup – Handicap (PA) Dh70,000 (T) 1,200m
Winner: Gold Silver, Sandro Paiva, Ibrahim Aseel

7pm: Masdar City – Handicap (PA) Dh80,000 (T) 1,400m
Winner: AF Musannef, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel

7.30pm: Khalifa City – Maiden (TB) Dh80,000 (T) 1,400m
Winner: Ranchero, Patrick Cosgrave, Bhupat Seemar

MATCH INFO

Newcastle United 1 (Carroll 82')

Leicester City 2 (Maddison 55', Tielemans 72')

Man of the match James Maddison (Leicester)

Specs – Taycan 4S

Engine: Electric

Transmission: 2-speed auto

Power: 571bhp

Torque: 650Nm

Price: Dh431,800

Specs – Panamera

Engine: 3-litre V6 with 100kW electric motor

Transmission: 2-speed auto

Power: 455bhp

Torque: 700Nm

Price: from Dh431,800

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

The specs

Engine: Twin-turbo, V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic and manual
Power: 503 bhp
Torque: 513Nm
Price: from Dh646,800 ($176,095)
On sale: now

All We Imagine as Light

Director: Payal Kapadia

Starring: Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, Chhaya Kadam

Rating: 4/5

Our legal advisor

Ahmad El Sayed is Senior Associate at Charles Russell Speechlys, a law firm headquartered in London with offices in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and Hong Kong.

Experience: Commercial litigator who has assisted clients with overseas judgments before UAE courts. His specialties are cases related to banking, real estate, shareholder disputes, company liquidations and criminal matters as well as employment related litigation. 

Education: Sagesse University, Beirut, Lebanon, in 2005.

Empty Words

By Mario Levrero  

(Coffee House Press)
 

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

The specs

Engine: 1.5-litre 4-cyl turbo

Power: 194hp at 5,600rpm

Torque: 275Nm from 2,000-4,000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed auto

Price: from Dh155,000

On sale: now

Kandahar

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Stars: Gerard Butler, Navid Negahban, Ali Fazal

Rating: 2.5/5

UAE SQUAD

Omar Abdulrahman (Al Hilal), Ali Khaseif, Ali Mabkhout, Salem Rashed, Khalifa Al Hammadi, Khalfan Mubarak, Zayed Al Ameri, Mohammed Al Attas (Al Jazira), Khalid Essa, Ahmed Barman, Ryan Yaslam, Bandar Al Ahbabi (Al Ain), Habib Fardan, Tariq Ahmed, Mohammed Al Akbari (Al Nasr), Ali Saleh, Ali Salmin (Al Wasl), Adel Al Hosani, Ali Hassan Saleh, Majed Suroor (Sharjah), Ahmed Khalil, Walid Abbas, Majed Hassan, Ismail Al Hammadi (Shabab Al Ahli), Hassan Al Muharrami, Fahad Al Dhahani (Bani Yas), Mohammed Al Shaker (Ajman)

Expo details

Expo 2020 Dubai will be the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia

The world fair will run for six months from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021.

It is expected to attract 25 million visits

Some 70 per cent visitors are projected to come from outside the UAE, the largest proportion of international visitors in the 167-year history of World Expos.

More than 30,000 volunteers are required for Expo 2020

The site covers a total of 4.38 sqkm, including a 2 sqkm gated area

It is located adjacent to Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai South

How champions are made

Diet
7am - Protein shake with oats and fruits
10am - 5-6 egg whites
1pm - White rice or chapati (Indian bread) with chicken
4pm - Dry fruits
7.30pm - Pre workout meal – grilled fish or chicken with veggies and fruits
8.30pm to midnight workout
12.30am – Protein shake
Total intake: 4000-4500 calories
Saidu’s weight: 110 kg
Stats: Biceps 19 inches. Forearms 18 inches

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League semi-final, second leg

Roma 4
Milner (15' OG), Dzeko (52'), Nainggolan (86', 90+4')

Liverpool 2
Mane (9'), Wijnaldum (25')

MATCH INFO

Barcelona 4 (Suarez 27', Vidal 32', Dembele 35', Messi 78')

Sevilla 0

Red cards: Ronald Araujo, Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation 2 to 5
Rating: 5/5

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Inside Out 2

Director: Kelsey Mann

Starring: Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri

Rating: 4.5/5

EU's 20-point migration plan

1. Send EU border guards to Balkans

2. €40 million for training and surveillance

3. Review EU border protection

4. Reward countries that fund Balkans 

5. Help Balkans improve asylum system

6. Improve migrant reception facilities 

7. Close gaps in EU registration system

8. Run pilots of faster asylum system

9. Improve relocation of migrants within EU

10. Bolster migration unit in Greece

11. Tackle smuggling at Serbia/Hungary border

12. Implement €30 million anti-smuggling plan

13. Sanctions on transport linked to smuggling

14. Expand pilot deportation scheme in Bosnia 

15. Training for Balkans to deport migrants

16. Joint task forces with Balkans and countries of origin

17. Close loopholes in Balkan visa policy 

18. Monitor migration laws passed in Balkans 

19. Use visa-free travel as leverage over Balkans 

20. Joint EU messages to Balkans and countries of origin


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