THEY may look like Jaguars, they may sound like Jaguars and they may set the adrenalin going like the Coventry cats, but in fact they are an altogether different breed of feline, for life after death for a Jaguar is as a Lynx. In fact it is partly by design and partly through an accident of history that Lynx has long been associated with the products of the prestigious car manufacturer, a link from which the Sussex restoration and replica company has traded on although it has the expertise and facilities to turn its hand to any other marque as well
Although well known for its replica Cand D-type Jaguars, this is but just one facet of the business which can be broadly separated into two distinct segments. On the one hand there is the classic car aspect which itself can be fragmented into restoration and replica work, and on the other there is the conversion of modern cars. It is this side of the business that Chairman Elgan Howell and Managing Director Chris Keith-Lucas are actively pursuing at the moment with a view to further expansion.
Although it is the XJS which receives most of the attention, it was a customer who wished to have his XJ6 made into a convertible that saw the company originally diversifying away from classic cars. Although the XJ6 coupe lent itself particularly well to having the top chopped off, Keith-Lucas and Guy Black, his original partner, thought that convertible XJSs had greater sales appeal.
Their foresight paid off for soon they were producing a drophead Jaguar every other week. So substantial was this hitherto untapped market that in Coventry covetous eyes were cast in Lynx’s direction. It was as if Lynx had provided a market research tool for Jaguar who subsequently launched its own convertible which was strikingly similar to Lynx’s.
While the official model obviously dealt a blow to Lynx, orders still continued to trickle in for the four-seater convertible, as opposed to Jaguar’s two-seater, so that at least half a dozen a year to this day are still produced to customers’ orders.
Even if this aspect of the business did begin to dry up, the neatness of the conversion had already opened other doors. Although never publicised, a number of car importers, ranging from the specialist to the mass produced, began to beat a track to Lynx’s door. “We have built up such a bank of knowledge, not only on the hoods of upmarket cars in particular, but also on the stiffening and general engineering of the whole body.” Much of their findings is doubtless fed back to the manufacturers whether they be in Sweden, Italy or Japan.
Naturally there was consternation when it was learnt that Jaguar was developing its own cabriolet, but such was the reputation that Lynx had already built up with its own conversion that their anxiety was Ill-founded. It was a distinction, however, that the directors wanted to build upon. Dreams gave way to reality as,
The Jaguar E-type and XJS, the two models which form the basis of Lynx’s business.
Like them or loathe them, the growth of the classic car movement has been mirrored by the growth of the replica business, the old economic adage of supply and demand very much playing its part. Attitudes have dramatically changed to replicas though, although there is still a great divide between those who accept them and those who reject them. MOTOR SPORT paid a visit to one of the leading companies in this field to hear their side of the story, but found more than expected. William Kimberley reports.
encouraged by everyone consulted, a new project came into existence. Again based on the XJS, the result was the Eventer, an estate version of the sleek sports car. “We came up with something entirely of our own design,” states Keith-Lucas, “But which looked as much as possible as if it had been penned by the original designer.”
Although more of a load carrier than the conventional XJS, great care was taken not to interfere too much with the dynamics of the car as it remained essentially a high performing sports car. “We were determined that the centre of loading in the car would not be too far back as that would compromise the suspension and ride comfort, and we were
very aware that this still remained a Jaguar. As we didn’t want to lose out on its handling, we didn’t go for the ultimate load-carrier, but for something with increased practicality and a lot of style.”
Already eye-catching, the ultimate Eventer with plush interior and unique paintwork will be on show at Geneva at the beginning of March. The reason for the company’s first foray into European Motor Shows being the coup of having an endorsement from a household name. While the convertible and Eventer are conversion jobs and make full use of the extensive trim and panel-beating departments, the Performer, as it name implies, Is the product of the engine shop. The car
itself was one of the products of the revitalised company after its acquisition by Elgan Howell, which allowed Lynx not only to expand into new 25,000 square feet premises, but also gave it some capital injection.
Concentrating on the 3.6 rather than on the V12, Lynx has improved the XJS’ handling, re-designed the interior and turbocharged the engine by degree, the ultimate of which develops around 450 bhp. With that performance standard Jaguar handling and brakes are not adequate so both have been significantly uprated. As a sideline, an aggressive body styling kit is also available for both the XJ6 and XJ40.
The roots of the business, however, stem from its restoration activities. When the founders originally started in 1973, they were located in a converted milking parlour on a farm. Both were engineers with a passion for old cars but not particularly Jaguar. In fact the Lynx name came about when restoring their first car, a Riley Lynx, and it was felt that by calling themselves Lynx Cars they might get a sympathetic deal from a local dealer. It was the restoration of a C-type and
then a D-type in the company’s formative years that led to a gradual build-up of work on other Cand D-types. “It became obvious to us that we had unwittingly tapped a market we didn’t even know existed and so we ended up doing a whole string of them,” explained Keith-Lucas. It was at this stage, though, that the rot, as some would see it, set in. “At this very early stage the massiveness of the restorations indicated to us that we had the expertise available to make replicas as well.” This was, of course, flying in the face of opinion such as that held by DSJ who railed unceasingly then as he continues to do today against such manifestations, “but we found that there was a ready market there,” says Keith-Lucas almost apologetically. A chance to wander around the premises proved just how extensive the business is. A factory in miniature, Lynx is capable of producing everything required in the manufacture of a handbuilt car. The machine tool department is capable of turning out even the most complicated equipment while the panel-beating shop is a hive of activity of young men wielding
hammers. Over seven cars were being beaten into shape on our visit, including an especially elongated replica for a larger than average customer while the paint shop down the road was in the process of bringing an Alta-Jaguar back to life.
Mingling with the original Ecurie Ecosse C-types, a beautifully restored XK150 and a Ford GT40, chassis number P1003, were a bevy of replicas — an XKSS, a lightweight E-type under construction and the 47th replica D-type. In fact, it will not be long before the number of these cars manufactured will exceed those originally built.
It is the engine shop which provides perhaps the greatest interest. Obviously work on the XK engines is the staple diet, with research into their recent tendency to blow up on motorways taking up some of the time. What handicapped investigations was the fact that the predetonation that caused the engine to overheat and seize was obscured by the fact that the efficiency of the head’s heat dispersal meant that there were no tell-tale signs of melting. This problem, associated with the lower octane rating of today’s petrol, has been rectified by lowering the compression ratio, advancing the distributor and using one of five different cams.
A delve through the shelves produced more than just Jaguar parts. On one shelf was one of the original V12 Weslake engines awaiting to be assembled. On another shelf were parts of another exotic engine. Every unit in the place is stripped, polished and restored with many of the parts, such as manifolds, being manufactured if necessary.
Strangely enough, the success of Lynx in re-manufacturing these parts is causing it problems. It has just come to its notice that somebody is pirating Lynx parts, particularly inlet manifolds, but of very inferior quality.
While some would cast a wry smile at the biter bit, as they would see it, the one thing that Lynx cannot be accused of is poor craftsmanship. While many purists still have an instinctive tendency to recoil at the sight and thought of a replica, it is something that is a fact of life. Furniture manufacturers have had to contend with reproductions for centuries where they have insinuated themselves so deeply that the real articles are so much rarer. As we enter the era where elderly cars come to be regarded as investment items only, which full page, highly contentious price guides on the back pages of quality Sunday newspapers do much to encourage, then we can expect to see an ever-increasing number of replicas. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, and while replicas provide a great deal of fun for those wealthy enough to afford one, it is contributing to the gentle dilution of the quality of our life. The bottom line is, I suppose, would you know, or would you care, whether you are sitting on a Chippendale chair or on a modern reproduction which is more com fortable and is longer wearing? WPK