Q&A with Chris Keith-Lucas, founder and technical director of CKL Developments
During our visit to CKL Developments as part of our Best of British series, we took the opportunity to spend some time with founder Chris Keith-Lucas (pictured on the left of the photo above, with MD Ben Shuckburgh).
Did you imagine CKL to be where it is today when you started it 15 years ago?
Absolutely not. My expectation then was that I would potter in the shed with a few nice old cars. I quickly had to forget semi-retirement, which shows we were doing something right.
What does CKL do right?
We understand the history of a car, where it fits into the story of the 1950s, how it should look and project a certain feel from that period. It’s a holistic approach. People think restoration is about the nuts and bolts but it isn’t really. It’s about taking the right path with a car, and having it in the right events, showing it to the right people. It’s not so much restoration as conservation.
Do your customers always understand that?
An owner might just want to win the Sussex Trophy but at the end of the day that’s just a flash in the pan. We understand they want to be at the front, but you won’t find us spoiling a nice car for the sake of being at the front. The car needs to stand up as a long-term investment as well. Occasionally people have to be reminded of that so sometimes we have to point out why using modern techniques or modern equipment is a bad idea. The fact that we have a lot of extremely enthusiastic customers and have had them for a long time shows they share our ethos.
Is there a rare ‘barn find’ you are still searching for?
There is a project I am itching to do which I can’t talk about until we get the car here. Cars do still pop up, like the Lister Flat Iron. But often now it is a matter of doing things a second time in order to address the shortcomings of earlier work. Cars are more valuable now. The flat-floor, external bonnet catch E-type we have in for restoration is really shabby but still worth over £100,000 in this condition. When we have been right through it, everything to the highest possible standards, it will be a £250-£300,000 car.
You are associated with the D-type more than any other car. Ever gone off it?
No, I love them. And I am looking forward to the D-type race at Revival this year, we will be looking after a good few of the cars taking part. One thing I love about the D-type is the way it breathes aircraft engineering. My father worked in the aircraft industry – there is a connection there that means a lot to me. I just have an affinity for them. (Chris is one of few people who can sign them off for historic racing, and is often called in at D-type sales as part of the due diligence process – ed).
And how’s your racing going?
I got driver of the day and first in class at Oulton Park the other day!
Photo: Nicole Hains