Over the last two years I had several conversations with Mr James Byrnes, the owner & proprietor of The Byrnes Motor Trust. In talking with him he would casually mention that he had 15 of this model, 20 of that model & 30 of the other model of Jaguar/Rolls Royce/Mercedes etc which I have to say I took with a slight grain of salt, having been previously led down the garden path of fantasy in the past by classic car dreamers. Silly Me!!!!
Having just done a deal involving one of his cars I thought I ought to clamber on the silver bird & come to see his operation for myself. Accordingly on Tuesday I slipped down to Heathrow & set a course via Emirates for Clark Field in the Philippines. Upon landing I was greeted by my parents in law who kindly had flown up from Cebu to take care of me & provide translation services during my three day stay. Safely checked into a villa at the local Holiday Inn we called the Byrnes Motor Trust who operate from massive factory premises within the Clark Field free trade zone & summoned transport; A large Black Rolls Royce duly arrived & whisked us over to their premises.
Mercs Various & Assorted XK’s awaiting build.
Once inside my jaw dropped at the sheer scale of the place. In one building were ranks of disassembled Mercedes. In the next a line of 10 Rolls Royce Silver Clouds. In the engine shop 20 XK engines with requisite gear boxes & axles awaiting rebuild, with already finished items tagged with car number & gently gleaming under shrink wrap plastic until being reunited with their respective chassis. Never in my life have I seen a larger restoration shop with over 100 skilled technicians working in the various parts of the restoration shop overseen by a cadre of long term car business European, Australian & American managers. The workforce is made up a skilled set of mechanics & body men more used to flinging spanners on Phantom Jets then Rolls Royce Phantoms; a hangover from the days when Clark was a US airbase.
10 Cloud Convertibles on the go.
Aside from the 80 or so cars being currently worked on, I was taken to a separate storage shed where another 150 or so cars were sitting in the wings awaiting nut & bolt restoration as spaces came available; An assortment of Bentley R types, Some Silver Clouds, 10 MGA Twin Cams to name but a few.
Byrnes is gearing up to produce 50 or so cars a year all restored to concours winning standards. The philosophy is to have all skills represented in house: State of the art paint shop, engine shop including line boring equipment & component manufacturing equipment, trim shop for interiors, body shop, chassis shop, chrome plating department, wood department etc etc etc. The sheer breadth & scope of skills present is simply amazing.
Two months prior to coming over Jim had mentioned to me that he would prepare a Series 1 1/2 E type Roadster for our trade show stand at Technoclassica in Essen. I asked what its original colours were & when I found out it was black with a red interior I suggested they leave it in its original livery. Upon arrival I asked if I could see the E types progress fully expecting to see a behind schedule body in primer next to a bin of partly missing parts! Instead I was simply told that my car had already shipped & was expected at Tilbury in 2 weeks & instead I had to make do with photographs of the department mangers signing the car off as ready to leave.
Byrnes Motor Trust benefit from being just down the street from the Clark International Speedway where they have free rein to test their cars. Accordingly last week the E type was taken down there for 50 or so laps of braking & breaking in, testing, adjusting & final preparation. They ran the test in 90 degree heat with high humidity & never came close to overheating nor anything else untoward. Indeed it lost not a single drop of any type of fluid at all passing the sign off with flying colours.
With the car having shipped it was left to me to do a few laps myself in the tracks rental go cart to at least see where the Jaguar had been! I did myself proud by not having anything come past me as I put in a succession of Fangioesque laps only to be slightly deflated by being told I was the only one on the track. The local carting champ dispirited me further by inquiring if I had negotiated the course using reverse.
The real thing
Judging by the pictures of the car it will be something really special when it arrives & should look glorious in the showroom.
During discussions followed by beer followed by more discussions followed by more beer, Jim & I became comfortable enough with each other & agreed for Vintage & Prestige to take on UK distribution of the Byrnes Motor Trust products & an agreement to also wholesale the cars into a select coterie of European dealers. With so many cars waiting in the wings it allows a customer to choose his car, the colour spec, trim spec, mechanical spec & then have the car built over a nine month or so period.
Want an E type? Jim has 30. An XK? 20 available. Cloud convertibles? 10 on the go. C type? 10 of those too. Also an assortment of Mercedes 190′s/Pagodas, Sunbeam Tigers, Low Drag E types etc etc etc. I even spied a Facel Vega on the rotisserie in the paint shop being done as a commission for a special customer. Another strong point of the Byrnes operation is to take a customers pile of rust & return it to him in 9 months or so in as new condition at very competitive rates. After long drawn out negotiations & tortuous discussions it was time for the Legal side to be done: We looked one another in the eye & simply shook hands!
Facel Vega undergoing prep.
The whole business is run with military precision, befitting its location on the old US military base. Incoming cars are assessed, given a production number & then taken to the strip down area to be disassembled into their component parts. All the small bits coming off are put into a locked wire cage which then goes into storage until required a few months down the line. The engine, gear box, differential, axles etc are all labelled with the cars production number & sent off to the requisite departments allowing multiple projects to simultaneously be completed making for short build times when required as witnessed by our first E type. I expected a Regimental Sergeant Major to leap out behind a crate at any moment & start bellowing at me for being idle on duty.
Cloud II convertibles. Which is the original?
Our second car will be a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II convertible. Jim Byrnes’ philosophy is prior to starting a production run to buy an original to use as a template. Accordingly last year, having decided to build 10 Silver Cloud convertibles Mr Byrnes purchased an original car from “The Stepsons Dale” in slightly dilapidated condition & set about dismantling & restoring it whilst using it as a template for the next 10. I was asked to tell the original from the copy when confronted with the original & first production car being worked on. Being a Rolls Expert it was quite easy for me to tell that the original was the black car & the silver Sand car the copy due to the roughness & lack of precision on the flame cutting in the inner rear wheel arches of the Silver Sand car where a slot is cut out to accommodate the roof mechanism. What do I know??? I was duly informed that the Silver Sand car was the original with the black car having its cutting work done to a far higher standard then H. J. Mulliner ever manged. Aside from that they were identical & I do mean identical.
In effect these clouds will be nut & bolt brand new Rolls Royce Silver Clouds, albeit 50 years late as they start to emerge from the shop. The same attention is being given to the C type Jaguars & low drag E types the latter sporting Crosthwaite & Gardiner engines. In the case of the C types, correct original calipers are being cast & machined along with a batch of cast aluminium steering wheels mounted on spring steel 3 arm legs as per the original cars. It is attention to detail like this that make the cars close to indistinguishable from the originals. As with the Clouds an original car is used for the template.
With all business trips a picture of the eating arrangements is always de rigueur. The black Rolls was again summoned to deposit us at the local Chinese seafood eatery where one may select the victims of the day personally. Needless to say the epitaphs of several crustaceans are being red in Luzon as I write along with a particularly unfortunate grouper.
A huge Thanks to all the staff at the Byrnes Motor Trust for pulling out the stops to ship the E type ahead of schedule. We look forward to a long & successful relationship partnering together in the future & eagerly await delivery the Silver Cloud convertible & a Jaguar XK120 OTS in the pipe line that we placed orders for on the strength of the visit. Standard terms are 25% down, 25% when mechanics complete, 25% when painted & 25% at completion when signed off by the customer for whom a visit or two during build is strongly encouraged. A partial listing of cars in production may be viewed at: