MOTORING / D-type, 1993: the copycat's pyjamas: If you can't afford an original Jag, all is not lost. Roger Bell falls in love with beautiful clones

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The Independent Culture
HOW'S THIS for a bargain? 'For sale: D-type Jaguar, pounds 1,000 under list price. Our price, pounds 2,995. Never raced or used.'

Since this advertisement appeared in The Autocar 35 years ago, the value of Jaguar's most coveted car has appreciated many hundreds of times, far outstripping inflation. At the height of the historic-car boom in 1990, a Swedish consortium paid pounds 1.3m for one. Even today, countless bankruptcies and repossessions later, a pristine D of good provenance would still command a six-figure sum.

End of story for the D-type fancier without fathomless funds? Not for the reasonably well-heeled enthusiast ready to settle for a replica that looks, sounds and feels disarmingly authentic. As in the art world, there is a place for good impostors. For Tom Keating read Lynx, Proteus or Wingfield. The copycat Jags are not passed off as the real thing, of course, but could be mistaken for it - and have been known to substitute for it. Owners of original D-types too valuable to play with get their kicks at the wheels of faithful fakes.

The three modern XJ220s competing at Le Mans this weekend strengthen a racing heritage begun by Jaguar in the Fifties. The original C-type first won at the French circuit in 1951; its D-type progeny won there again in 1955, 1956 and 1957.

It was not until the Seventies, however, when historic-car racing gained a serious following, that D-type values rose steeply. As Jaguar had made only 66 of them, demand for used ones inevitably started to exceed supply.

Lynx, in Hastings, Sussex, recognised the market for quality replicas 20 years ago. Its beautifully engineered D-type is hard to tell from the real thing. Anyone who spent pounds 11,000 on one in 1973 would today have a car worth pounds 60,000. A freshly minted one costs pounds 85,000 plus VAT.

Lynx reckons to have seen 90 per cent of all the Ds that Jaguar made pass through its own restoration workshops, so it is well qualified to make reproductions. It can also boast that its clones, each unique, are rarer than the original; there are only 53 of them.

Ditto the faithful facsimiles produced by Brian Wingfield, in Chelmsford, Essex, who made a D-type replica for himself 20 years ago and is now working on his 45th reproduction. Prices range from pounds 70,000 to pounds 90,000, according to the buyer's whims.

Today, Lynx and Wingfield D-types are recognised by the cognoscenti as classics in their own right - and they ride and handle even better than the original.

But the bargain copycats wear Proteus badges. Jim Marland's operation in Bolton, Lancashire, makes trimmed body- chassis units for three reproductions: the C-type, D-type and XJ13. Customers then either build them up themselves, using refurbished running gear from other Jaguars (no easy task), or they have them built by Colborne Restoration Services of Steep Marsh in Hampshire. Basic kits start at around pounds 6,000. Colborne charges from pounds 35,000 plus VAT for a road-ready C-type and from pounds 39,500 for a D.

And it is through an exquisite Proteus reproduction that Jaguar's unique XJI3 is kept alive as an accessible road car rather than a museum piece. The XJ (standing for Experimental Jaguar) 13 was a mid- engined, 12-cylinder sports racer built for, but never raced, at Le Mans in the mid- Sixties. Although it was very fast (it lapped a banked test track at 161mph in 1967, and would have exceeded 200mph on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans), Jaguar lacked the cash and commitment to see the project through.

The unlucky 13 was severely damaged in a test crash in 1971, rebuilt years later and is now a semi-retired star in Jaguar's own collection of historic cars. Colborne's 'production' version of it is based on Marland's one-off replica, faithfully cloned down to the right number of rivets that stitch its aluminium skin. Facsimiles of this breathtakingly beautiful car, shaped (like the C- and D-type before it) by Jaguar's legendary aerodynamicist, Malcolm Sayer, cost pounds 55,000 plus VAT.

I cannot say whether Colborne's Proteus XJ13 drives like the original but it is blisteringly quick, vocally glorious and has as much dramatic crowd-pulling presence as anything on four wheels. For road use, its D-type replica, running on supple E- type suspension, is even better than the real thing. I want one.

(Photograph omitted)