It’s a problem that has undoubtedly held back the classic-car market in the UAE: vintage four-wheeled finds rarely stand up to the scrutiny of modern motoring standards. That’s particularly apparent when it’s 45°C and you realise that driving without air conditioning is about as much fun as visiting a sauna in a parka jacket. The mid-20th century might be viewed as a glorious era for many things, including driving, but there was, y’know, no satnav, or the internet, and you could still contract smallpox. Old isn’t always gold.
But what if there was a better way? The story goes that David Brown Automotive effectively began life while its titular architect was taking part in a gentleman’s rally in Europe. The Ferrari Daytona he was piloting broke down, so he rented the cheapest car he could find to complete the route – a Peugeot 107.
You might think that climbing out of an all-time classic Ferrari into a little-heralded city runaround might not represent the most enticing prospect. But, you see, few classic-car heads dare to bring up the fact that the vast majority of such motors can be absolute dogs to drive any significant distance. The tiny 107, by comparison, was a refreshing breeze.
Four years ago, the ultimate result was the DBA Speedback GT, built around a 5.0-litre Jaguar V8, the solution to the conundrum that faced British businessman Brown (not to be confused with the late Aston Martin boss of the same name). If that wasn’t enough to make you want to drive a modern car that resembles a classic, however, now there is an extra-growly 601hp reason in the form of the Speedback Silverstone Edition. And what’s more, despite its unrepentant Britishness, it could scarcely be any better suited for the UAE market if it tried.
For one, there’s the price tag – the small matter of a minimum of £620,000 (Dh2.9 million), excluding taxes and shipping. Then there is the deeply arresting visual impact, with the design echoing all manner of 1960s classics – from Ferraris to Maseratis and even James Bond’s famed Aston Martin DB5 – yet with a distinctly contemporary sheen and aggressive flair that makes it one of the most distinctive cars in production. The transmission is automatic. And it’s a seriously exclusive model: I am driving the only Silverstone Edition currently in existence in the entire world, with a maximum of 10 lucky future customers.
And where better to be for such a refined example of how to combust fossil fuel than at Silverstone itself, current home of the British Grand Prix? DBA’s compact but impressive factory is steps away from the gates of the famed circuit, where it moved last year. The whole scene befits a grand tourer that comes replete with lashings of leather and brushed aluminium in an interior that is inspired by jet fighters (in a past life, Silverstone was a Royal Air Force base). Perhaps its most idiosyncratic touch is a boot floor that hides fold-out picnic seating and a flip-up storage accompaniment that can be customised. The configurable choices extend to the seating options – the default is two, although future customers will be able to specify a 2+2 layout, in classic grand tourer fashion.
All of which would be lovely, yet rather pointless, if getting behind the wheel of the Silverstone Edition wasn’t an exhilarating experience in keeping with that name (and price tag), but there can be no argument that DBA has crafted something truly special.
Taking control via the large leather- and-Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel manages to span two eras perfectly – you feel every minute contour of the road, yet the modern grand-tourer ride never jolts you in the slightest.
Similarly, if you stay economical with your right foot, you can waft around with all the command of a Bentley Continental GT. Flip to sport mode, meanwhile, and quad exhaust pipes create a gloriously rasping soundtrack, as those 601hp and 766Nm of torque are guided on to the tarmac with runaway-train momentum. It will hit a maximum of nigh-on 250kph, should you get the legal space to do so – such as, ooh, maybe Silverstone.
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There is also something satisfying about how the six gears are displayed in ascending order from left to right on the dash, with the one that is engaged being lit – it’s a digital representation of an undeniably analogue experience. On the flip side, the modernity is confirmed by features such as stability control, Bluetooth connectivity, a surround-sound stereo system and, yes, satnav.
The Silverstone Edition, even more so than its Speedback GT brother, simultaneously stirs nostalgia, while making it almost superfluous. In its own way, it’s an instant classic.