Individual variations on the XJS theme…
It is now more than 12 years since Guy Black, then an engineer with Weslake’s at Rye, carried out his first old car restoration project on a Riley Lynx. From that modest beginning has grown his appropriately named Lynx Engineering concern which has earned a respected reputation for its rebuilds and restoration of Jaguar’s splendid C and D-type sports / racing cars. More recently, with nodding background approval from Jaguar’s management, Lynx has expanded the business to embrace two specialist developments of the XJS coupe; a convertible and the striking Estate variant which has been dubbed the Eventer.
Now employing 26 people, Lynx Engineering’s headquarters stands in a modern trading estate on the outskirts of St. Lconards. “We’re conveniently tucked away down here”, grins Guy Black, “we’re not exactly on the way anywhere, so we don’t attract passing, casual visitors . . .” The bustling workshop is a far cry from the converted milking parlour at Staplehurst which served as one of the Lynx company’s bases en route from that Hastings lock-up in which Guy Black completed his first project! As with so many of these specialist businesses, there was no pre-planned direction that Lynx’s development would take; Black admits that their Jaguar bias “just evolved. Early on we did a restoration on one of the early works C-types and word just got around. That’s how we started on our Jaguar tack.” There have been other potentially exciting projects, of course. One such notable sideline which didn’t come to much was Black’s acquisition of the “second generation” Weslake V12 engine project (not the Gurney F1 unit, but the Ford-sponsored long distance engine which tested briefly in a hacked about F2 Brabham back in 1972). Lynx had the idea of basing an ambitious Le Mans project around this engine, but the recession started to bite in 1978 and the idea was shelved. However, one of those engines will be making an appearance in a Lynx-built road car in 1983… but that is another story!
As far as the Lynx XJS convertible is concerned, this conversion was first offered as long ago as 1979 since which time no fewer than 26 examples have been produced, on both new and already used cars. The result has been to produce a rakishly attractive “rag top”, the only visual criticism of which is that the folded hood sits slightly too high for some tastes. However, this is simply a reflection on the amount of reorganisation that’s gone on under the XJS skin. In order to maintain an acceptable degree of rigidity in the decapitated bodyshell, Lynx has not only doubled up on the door sills, but special fillets line the rear wheel arches and a lateral frame braces the structure beneath the rear end.
This alteration loses the car about a gallon and a half of its fuel tank capacity, but this is seen as a minor inconvenience by those willing to pay the £7,500 (plus VAT) charge for carrying out this conversion on Jaguar’s coupé: so far some 26 convertibles have been produced by Lynx and this number would have been significantly greater if they’d been able to tap the US market from which a lot of interest in the conversion has stemmed. Unfortunately various problems such as the necessity of building a LHD demonstrator and the need to conform with some individual constructional regulations have made the project seem less than viable. The convertible XJS we tried on our visit to Lynx was quite a well-used “pre-HE” specification machine which had been generously loaned back to the company by a private customer specially for the occasion. Yet we were extremely impressed with the taut, rattle-free character of the car, so while one might be inclined to quibble with the convertible’s aesthetic appeal with its hood folded, one can’t complain at the standard of workmanship and thought which has been put into its execution: right down to Lynx’s own specially designed electric motor to raise and fold the hood in a matter of seconds.
The decision to produce the Eventer was, in part, prompted by advanced rumours that the Jaguar factory was considering a drophead version of the XJS. Although Lynx remain tight-lipped about the matter, refusing to be drawn, it’s understood that the cabriolet specification XJS may well appear from the factory before the end of 1984, the detailed design carried out by the AM Tickford organisation. Although there’s no doubt that the Lynx conversion is a very appealing project, it clearly made sense for them to hedge their bets and try another potential area for Jaguar conversions. The result is the Eventer estate car, the success of which is underscored not only by the fact that this conversion has received tacit approval from Browns Lane but that the Patrick Motors Group will market the Eventer in the Midlands and negotiations are under may for the Appleyard Group of companies to handle it in the North of England and Scotland.
To produce the Eventer, the entire XJS rear bulkhead is removed and the roof cut away behind the door pillar. The fuel tank is moved back off the top of the rear axle and a horseshoe-shaped replacement is fitted around the spare wheel which is now laid flat on the boot floor. This means that the new floor is now raised to the level of the rear axle tunnel, providing a flat surface from the hatch back lid all the way to the occasional rear seats. New outer and inner rear side panels are fitted and, since the conversion moves the XJS’s centre of gravity back about three inches, stiffer rear suspension is provided with uprated springs. It’s hoped that on future Eventer conversions it will be possible to move the rear seats back a couple of inches which will add to the car’s all-round appeal by providing more passenger leg-room.
Apart from a minor, irritating rattle caused by a loose trim panel, the Eventer prototype might well have been straight from the Jaguar factory: the high quality of the conversion is enhanced by the fact that Lynx has re-sprayed the car in its entirety without recourse to any vinyl roof treatment over the modified body panels. Somehow this gives an even more convincingly authentic nature to the conversion, for the basic Eventer profile looks as though it could have sprung straight from the Jaguar drawing board — and a great deal of thought and consideration was expended by the Lynx to ensure that their product came out that way!
On the road there was nothing untoward about the Eventer’s behaviour, no unwanted wind noise and no diminution of the XJS’s unquestionable performance. Unlike so many estate conversions over the years, the Eventer looks as though it has been conceived as a single, unified design, not as an afterthought adaption. With sufficient load carrying capacity to please all manner of “outdoor types” allied to the XJS HE’s other splendid virtues, it’s not difficult to see the Eventer having considerable sales success, even with a price tag of £6,950 (plus VAT) over and above the price of the basic car. — A.H.