Welcome to the Machine – Part Six

Giving the XJ-S a brake.

Lynx Eventer. Image: Autoevolution

Nobody ever purchased a grand turismo motor car for its load-carrying capabilities, there being vehicles better suited to such tasks. But for a select few, such binary propositions exist only as orthodoxies to be upturned. It requires a certain mentality to envisage the recasting of something as indulgent as a 2+2 GT into an estate car. But in order to fill a vacuum, one must first abhor it, so what better than to take an existing GT, preferably one with a known upmarket provenance and create from its basis a grand touring estate?

The automotive coachbuilding profession was more than happy to assist, not least, UK-based Harold Radford, who converted a short run of Aston Martin DB5-based Shooting Brakes from around 1965, at the request of AML CEO, David Brown[1]. Of course, with such a patrician name-badge affixed, nobody was going to cast aspersions and in a curious manner, this coupé to estate-car conversion chimed to an extent with the counter-cultural ethos of the latter-1960s.

For Jaguar on the other hand, such vehicles were simply not required. Anyway, the fixed-head E-Type of the time could be considered (if one squinted hard enough) a proto-shooting brake, albeit one whose hatchback tail sacrificed practicality and stowage space to sheer elegance of line. A production Jaguar estate car would not enter the market until 2003, and while others would envisage more commodious Jaguar offerings in the interim [2], this didn’t mean the factory never considered the possibility.

Image: Road and Track

“An extremely upmarket Scimitar”[4] was Lynx Engineering’s description of the 1982 XJ-S Eventer, pitched towards a similar grouse hunting, fly-fishing and skiing clientele to that of the short-lived DB-series Aston Martin. Lynx founder, Guy Black had identified two of the most obvious barriers to XJ-S ownership – its confined cabin accommodation and the inevitable resistance from certain quarters to those highly subjective rear three-quarter sail fairings.

Determined not only to provide a more practical, commodious vehicle, Lynx’s Chris-Keith Lucas also wanted to produce an aesthetically pleasing one. Of course, for some detractors, just about any change would serve as an improvement, but in the case of the Eventer, its designer succeeded in harmonising with the existing lines to such an extent that it appeared almost to have been styled from first principles.

Image: Lynx Cars Ltd. Author’s collection

Only in profile did it appear anything less than well-resolved, the falling shoulder line, virtually imperceptible on the standard car, dictated a similar drop in the rear quarter glass, lending the Eventer a slightly broken-backed appearance. But on the plus side, the awkward rear three quarter vent treatment and oddly resolved rear quarter light of the factory coupé was excised, the resultant C-pillar[5] and extraction vent being neatly handled.

A flatter roofline (the aft roof panel was new) had the added bonus of improving headroom, especially in the rear[6], while the tailgate was a clever amalgam of the existing boot lid upright and a section taken from a rather unlikely source[7]. The steeply raked rear was not biased towards ultimate practicality, but this was hardly a pre-requisite. It did however, lend the Eventer a more rakish profile.

Image: Motor

Engineering changes were considerable, with the fuel tank being re-sited from its position above the rear suspension to a new more rearward position in the spare wheel well. This necessitated a slightly smaller tank capacity, while also shifting weight distribution slightly rearwards[8]. Stiffer rear springs were fitted to counter both this and the additional loads the car was likely to carry[9].

Owing to Jaguar’s double wishbone rear suspension design, there was no intrusion into the load space, which offered a six-foot (46 cubic feet) bay with the (individually) rear seats folded. Not only was there more capacity inside, reports also praised a greater impression of space and the vastly improved rear three quarter vision out of the vast side windows. A downside however was that it could never be as uncannily refined as the factory coupé.

Image: Hooniverse

Lynx carried out the conversion very thoroughly; build standards and quality were first-class, but because it was labour-intensive work, it appears that the company made very little money on the Eventer. It did however provide untold publicity for the business. Just about everyone who wrote about it lamented the fact that Jaguar themselves wouldn’t build anything similar. This of course would have been a prohibitively expensive undertaking, given Jaguar’s meagre development and manufacturing capabilities, to say nothing of potential regulatory hurdles.

Nevertheless, it may have stirred a germ in the mind of Engineering Chief, Jim Randle, who around 1988, commissioned a handsome XJ40 Estate. This skunkworks prototype was presented to the board in by then, customary rabbit-from-hat manner, but in this case at least, they would not bite[10].

Image: jaguarxjbest

Approximately 65 Eventers were built in all. Some from new, but many were conversions of existing cars. The majority were V12 powered, but a handful had the 3.6 in-line six. At least one was a 6.0 litre XJ-R model. The last Eventer was built around the turn of the Millennium, and given their rarity, they now command high prices.

Many, both within the factory and elsewhere would imagine alternative XJ-S designs – either based upon the existing car or on a wholly reimagined basis. The Eventer was however, possibly the most ambitious, most interesting and best realised. It introduced the XJ-S to a wholly new market – one Jaguar seemed at the time reluctant to contemplate. It would be another twenty years before the leaping cat entered the estate car business.

Former Weslake Engineer, Guy Black set up Lynx Engineering in 1969, with Chris Keith-Lucas joining him as partner in 1973. Initially specialising in the restoration of C and D-Type Jaguars, Lynx began offering D-Type replicas on an E-Type base from around 1975. In 1976, the company offered a fully engineered convertible conversion for the XJ-C, and in 1980, the XJ-S. By the mid-80s, in addition to the XJ-S conversions, the Lynx price list also included conversions on the Mercedes SEC and Porsche 928. Lynx also provided sub-contract machining and small-scale manufacturing for the automotive and aviation industries. (Source: Lynx Cars Ltd)

[1] The story goes that David Brown initially wanted a vehicle more suitable for carrying his dog.

[2] During the late ’50s, former racing driver, Duncan Hamilton and Grand Prix ace, Mike Hawthorn drew up plans to create an estate conversion for the Jaguar compact saloon, with design by Roy Nockolds. This however fell prey to Hawthorn’s fatal car accident in 1959. In its wake, the coachbuilding firm of Jones Bros produced a single prototype based on the Mark 2. Subsequently acquired by Browns Lane, it was used for some years as a service tender. The car survives in private hands. Much later, Sir William Lyons did attempt a DIY estate version of the contemporary XJ saloon at his Wappenbury Hall home during the early 1980s. He was not successful – although others would be. (Source: Paul Skilleter)

[3] The Scimitar GTE appealed to a similar, albeit less salubrious clientele to that of Aston Martin. Or perhaps not – Princess Anne being a repeat customer. Well, all that equestrian gear wouldn’t carry itself.

[4] The C-pillars were allegedly strong enough to obviate the necessity for any additional body bracing. However, it’s highly unlikely that the Eventer was as torsionally rigid as the standard coupé.

[5] There are mixed messages on whether the conversion liberated any additional rear legroom, some say not, others as much as 3.5 inches, but the extra headroom did allow rear seat occupants to sit more upright, which undoubtedly helped.

[6] After the design had been finalised, Lynx discovered that a Citroen Ami 8 rear screen was an exact match, meaning staff were tasked to scour scrapyards for condemned Amis to plunder. Later Eventers used a different pressing, with internal hinges.

[7] Journalist Roger Bell, writing in Executive Car magazine, noted that the Eventer displayed less understeer than a standard coupé, which he ascribed to the car’s more rearward bias. The re-sited fuel tank however meant that the Eventer could not meet US rear impact mandates.

[8] Conversion time was quoted by Lynx at 10-12 weeks. Options included rear wash-wipe and central locking. 

[19] Jim Randle: “I didn’t win that one, but they didn’t sack me either”. Regarding the Eventer, Roger Bell quoted Jaguar CEO, John Egan saying, “We’re not in the estate car business”. 

Sources: Executive Car/ Thoroughbred & Classic Cars/ Lynx Engineering

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

33 thoughts on “Welcome to the Machine – Part Six”

  1. Thank you Eóin, the Eventer, in TWR form is one of my dream cars. The TWR mods improve the aerodynamics and IMHO, the looks. I’d have a Tremec six speed manual too as well as a bigger V12.

  2. Visually it reminds me of our very sweet looking memorable Lancia HPE, before mid-1980s.

    It was so rare in Colorado that a highway patrol (police) chased us with disco-like strobe lights turned on, siren blaring and eventually heard a voice coming from the back. “Pull over, pull over white car. Pull over”.

    Order obeyed, knees shaking, adrenaline still pumping..

    The Office came over from behind, his hands empty. No citation book!.

    He lowered his torso, knock on the driver’s window and uttered “gentleman, roll down the window please”. Instruction abided.

    Then he pushes his head into the cabin, stares at the Momo wheel and glances the instrument panel. He did not bother to do ID check on the four young occupants, but he did say “gentlemen, I want to know what kind of car is this. I never see one before”.

    “Sir, this is Lancia HPE from Italy”

    “Nice car. Drive safely. Have a nice day gentlemen”…..

    1. The ultimate shooting brake conversion has to be the ones performed by Pininfarina for The Sultan of Brunei on seven Ferrari 456 GTs. Of course they’re not really shooting brakes, but proper estates, as the wheelbase was lengthened and rear doors added to match the additional seven 456 GTs converted to four door booted saloon versions .
      Thus became the 456 Venice range of saloons and estates, seven of each type, one each in silver, red, yellow, dark green, dark blue, dark grey, and black.
      One of them, registered 1XO, in silver was used as the consular car for the Brunein consulate in London, so it was a regular sight around Kensington.

    2. Love these and this whole type of car, the Fiat 130 Maremma is another great example

    3. May as well show the Maremma, the only known improvement of a Fiat 130 Coupe.

      and it’s successor, based on it’s successor, the Lancia Gamma Olgiata

  3. As alternative ultimates I’d offer you two of this trio of Lamborghinis. The third, presumably by way of Carrosserie Photoshop (though not by my hand, I promise you) is however by far the most practical shooting brake that I know of – you can fit a complete engine in the loading bay.

    1. “Why are you so nervous back there? It’s just a V12.”

      That Islero is quite nice, though.

    2. True Dave. It’s a Lamborghini. So the Italian spelling is better than the French.

    3. The Islero has always been relatively overlooked, but the shooting brake back would suit it well. Unfortunately, though, it’s just another virtual classic. Which is probably a good thing because I imagine those low profile tyres would not flatter the Islero’s 60s suspension.

    4. Shouldn’t that be “Carrozzeria negozio di foto” then?

      I’ll get my coat…

    5. How could it be that Carrozzeria Photofarina has been ignored by DTW?

  4. An interesting article, even though I was already aware of the cars you featured. It’s such a shame that Jaguar never put any estates into production until the X-Type. The XJ40 estate and the Lynx XJ-S would have made great production models for Jaguar.

    Jaguars have always been my main automotive love, and I’ve had more of them than any other car, mostly various XJ saloon models, which look beautiful, are full of character, are luxurious & comfortable, and are great to drive.

    Although I’ve never particularly wanted an estate myself, much preferring a saloon with a secure boot, my Dad has always wanted hatchbacks or estates (shooting brakes, to use the old term, that he calls them), and he would certainly appreciate the Lynx XJ-S. His two principal criteria are that he can get his touring bicycle in, as he is a keen cyclist, and it also used to be that he could get his massive plate camera in (in its protective case), as he was a professional photographer until retirement.

    It’s interesting that the Lynx XJ-S was described by Lynx themselves as an extremely upmarket Scimitar, because my Dad’s best ever car was undoubtedly the Reliant Scimitar GTE SE6A 3-litre V6, which he had for some 15 years.

    The SE6A was itself an upmarket version of the previous Scimitar, aimed at the executive market, and sold in great numbers (for such a small firm), with nearly four thousand of that model made. I’ve driven his Scimitar myself, and the overdrive in both 3rd & 4th gears was a nice touch, compared to the Series I XJ6 that I had at the time, which just had overdrive in 4th gear.

    The handling of his Scimitar round all bends was superb, and also even better than my XJ6, which was itself excellent, though to be fair, my Dad had tweaked his suspension a bit from the standard Scimitar, with uprated springs and Spax shock absorbers! The result was that the ride was a bit firm for my liking, but it went round corners like it was on rails.

    The Series I XJ6 could obviously outpace the Scimitar in a straight line, with its 4.2L straight six being more than a match for the Scimitar’s 3L V6, and the XJ6 was more luxurious & comfortable of course, but the Scimitar was still a truly great car, and had real character & good looks, just like Jaguars did.

    It would be nice to see an article, or series of articles, on the complete history of the Scimitar some time – one of the few truly great Grand Touring Estates.

  5. Is it me, or does that XJ estate look distinctly BMW-esque from that angle (before BMW lost their way, that is)?

    The Eventer is a fine looking thing. A while back for these pages, I had occasion to tweak the thing a little with a longer wheelbase and wider B pillar – which de-emphasizes the falling shoulder line a little, I think:

    That Ferrari Venice is a nice looking thing, too.

    1. I appreciate your efforts Tom, but that is not a FWD car, IMHO the longer rear overhang suits the XJS more, it reflects it’s era and it’s ‘Jaguarness’.

    2. And I see what you’re saying, especially about its era. The comment back then was that the short wheelbase and excessive overhang did the XJ-S no favours (somewhat akin to the Erika Ford Escort), and that the Eventer’s shape exacerbated that. For the regular coupé and convertible the longer wheelbase probably wouldn’t work. Like this, it doesn’t yet signal FWD to me.

    1. The white S-Type has the unfortunate look of a flattened FX4 taxi. Though the lack of a B pillar visible on the other side is likely a Photoshop giveaway.

    2. Prefer the 1st image myself, from looking at online efforts to convert Mark 2s to feature 2-door saloon or coupe bodystyles one could easily imagine a decent looking 3-door shooting-brake variation.

  6. When you consider a hearse as the quite literally ultimate form of an estate there was at least one E Type estate in Harold & Maude

  7. I think all of this illustrates how hard car design is and, in particular, estate conversions. Here’s an XK150S to add to the collection.

    https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/11094/lot/741/

    It makes one appreciate the Volvo P1800ES all the more, and the Scimitar, although I recognize that was a clean-sheet design.

    1. The Scimitar GTE was based on this, the Scimitar GT. About 1500 of variously engined versions were built, based on a one-off design originally conceived for the Daimler 250, the Ogle SX250. David Ogle was a genius, but he was sadly killed in an accident, and Tom Karen took over Ogle Design, reprised the design, and came up with the GTE when asked to design a fastback version.

      “In March 1969, shortly after the launch of the Reliant Scimitar GTE which he had designed, and of the Ford Capri (which he did not design), Karen had the opportunity to give his opinion on fastback designs. He claimed to be “baffled” by “the case for fastbacks” because he thought there was “nothing good to be said for them except that some people think they look alright”. “Aerodynamically they’re lousy, headroom in the back is lousy, for visibility they’re lousy, with a lot of glass they’re lousy, from a weight point of view, and they give no boot access”.

    1. The 2000 Touring – I think it’s very pretty. More of a coupé than an estate, perhaps.

    2. I can see the badging, but shouldn’t it be an ’02 Touring as it is based on the smaller ’02 body?

    3. The original designation was 2000 touring, later changed to 2002 touring.
      Similar to the change from 1600-2 to 1602.

  8. That promo photo is from my local small airport, Staverton, between Cheltenham and Gloucester.
    Strange as lynx were from Sussex. Maybe they did a photoshoot at Cheltenham races!

  9. Just being a bit provocative Dave: are you sure there was a 2002 touring? A (crazy) friend of mine who is a classic BMW bible with legs swears the touring was allways a 2000…
    A matter of utmost interest, this one 🤣

  10. I have to mention the Peugeot 504 Riviera shooting brake.

    I am intrigued by the concept and I can see the case for having a sports car that is practical enough that you don’t need a sedan/hatch for either day-to-day use or week-away trips, but on the other hand you would want decent tie-down points and/or a cargo barrier; same goes for fast wagons/estates. I have experienced a windy road with cargo sliding about and I wouldn’t recommend it.

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