With a family heavily involved in Autograss racing, it was inevitable that Paul would follow in their footsteps, in fact, after watching his first Autograss National Finals when he was just 4 years old, you could argue that there was no hope for him!
He began racing in 1987, and straight away it was apparent to him that a good suspension set up was more important than engine power. The problem was, as soon as you get more traction you begin breaking driveshafts and associated driveline components, and at the time everyone was using standard CV’s and breaking them.
Paul found a manufacturer of CV cages in the USA and started buying them for himself as well as friends and family. The company also sold Fox shocks and at the time the usual Autograss set up was Hillman Imp front shocks and TVR rears as these were coilovers.
Soon he began winning races, then championships. He won the National Autograss Champion of Champions at the Finals in 1992, the highest accolade in the sport.
With two British Series running, there are over 5,000 Autograss vehicles competing. With his high profile, in 1993 he launched Prolinx as a part time hobby.
By 2004 it was much busier, and with 70% of Prolinx turnover being Autograss suspension, Paul had to make a decision. By his own admission, this so called part time hobby had turned mad, so he decided put all his eggs in one basket and committed himself completely to Prolinx.
One day, he received a phone call from someone in Credenhill, ‘It was all a bit cloak and dagger.’ Paul explained. ‘The caller said that they had an off-road vehicle they wanted me to look at.’
It transpired that a certain Elite army regiment had taken a classified vehicle over to the USA on exercise with the US Special Forces. It drove really well but general consensus from some US off road experts that were present, was that it required some hydraulic bumpstops.
It had a very sophisticated suspension system with a bell crank and pushrod down to the bottom wishbone. ‘It was really clever,’ Paul said. ‘They had taken the air bags and put them inboard to get them out of harm’s way. There were 2 Koni shock absorbers per wheel station, but being of forward control design it had no room any brackets, just an open wheel arch, there was nowhere for the hydraulic bump stops to go.’
The customer gave Paul a sample shock absorber, axle weights, air spring data and wheel articulation measurements and he then sent all the info to Fox in the USA who said they would be really keen to get involved and subsequently created a bespoke shock absorber with a built-in hydraulic bump stop at the bottom of the shock.
Paul went out to San Diego to help with testing the new vehicle suspension, followed by further shock absorber tuning in the UK.
At this time the SNATCH Land Rovers were getting a bad reputation operationally, so the vehicle in question was de-classified and armoured, meaning it went from 4-1/2 tons to 6 tons, which meant retuning the shocks for the extra weight.
Once the shocks were tuned to work at the new payload, drivers began using the vehicle in anger and as we all know, that’s when the next weakest link rears its ugly head. Paul and the Fox team had inherited the Koni mounting bushes and because the new shocks were much stiffer, the bushes began to fail and this was during the final testing stage before deployment. Figuring that sleep was overrated anyway, Paul and the Fox crew set about producing new bush mounting washers that wouldn’t cut into the bushes and Fox produced much stiffer bushes to suit the new shock valve codes.
By this time you’d probably be under the impression that he could take a break, of course you would be wrong. Being pressurised to 300psi, the new shock wasn’t something you could replace at the side of the road with standard tools, so the MoD requested a deployable inflation kit... within 2 weeks. This caused some considerable headaches for all involved.
The vehicle? We probably all know it as “Jackal”, and since the vehicle’s migration to Fox shocks, Prolinx has supplied the MoD with over 6,000 shock absorbers plus ongoing technical support.
During some fine tuning trials of the Jackal, some regiment lads were following in Land Rovers and couldn’t keep up. It was at a Military show where they collared Paul and John Marking (Fox Off Road VP) and asked for Fox shocks for Solihull’s finest. Paul designed a Land Rover shock and Fox built 20 sets and gave them to the UK Special Forces for evaluation and tuning. Prolinx tuned these shocks to their requirements. The current OEM Truck Department at Fox was spawned from this programme.
Prolinx also works with several armouring companies in the Middle East who build and run fleets of Toyota Land Cruiser, amongst other vehicles. Prolinx works with these companies to produce the specification for these vehicles.
Whilst at a UK Military Show, Paul met James Halstead from MIRA (vehicle engineering, not the shower people!), who knew several high profile AWDC type off roaders and this opened up a new customer base for him, and Prolinx currently supplies the majority of the UK’s top Comp Safari and Ultra 4 off road racers.
Paul is currently in the process of building a Polaris XP1000 to race himself which he believes is the next big growth area in UK off road motor sport as it already is in the USA. Being reasonably priced, with nearly 20” of wheel travel and the power to weight ratio of a Golf GTI, it will be a force to be reckoned with once Paul has finished with it.
There are a few other secret prototypes on the go which he wasn’t allowed to talk about. But it isn’t all work, within the next week or so of us chatting he’s involved with a round of the British Autograss series, riding the International Welsh 2-Day Enduro on his Enduro bike, and co-driving for Andy Degiulio in the AWDCHill Rally.
From the humble beginnings of supplying components on a part time basis for Autograss racing, to being the sole European distributor for Fox Military Suspension, Paul and Prolinx have certainly come a long way. Paul offers bespoke suspension systems for virtually any off road vehicle, whether you use it for racing, expeditions or just road use.