Giving the XJ-S a brake.
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. 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 , this didn’t mean the factory never considered the possibility.
“An extremely upmarket Scimitar” 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.
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 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, while the tailgate was a clever amalgam of the existing boot lid upright and a section taken from a rather unlikely source. 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.
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. Stiffer rear springs were fitted to counter both this and the additional loads the car was likely to carry.
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.
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.
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)
 The story goes that David Brown initially wanted a vehicle more suitable for carrying his dog.
 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)
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Conversion time was quoted by Lynx at 10-12 weeks. Options included rear wash-wipe and central locking.
 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