The news pages of Autocar are filled with pictures of disguised prototype cars, caught in the open while the manufacturer tests them to destruction. At the press launch, they will boast about how many hundreds of thousands of miles have been covered in the pursuit of longevity and reliability.
But despite being pounded in the heat of Death Valley, thrashed at the Nürburgring and frozen in the Arctic Circle while in development, many of these cars can’t seem to survive a decade being driven to the shops in Britain without a significant component failing. We don’t mean the entire engine or gearbox, but tiny grommets that can’t be fixed without replacing big and expensive parts.
Luckily, there’s a man in an industrial unit in Ramsgate who is making those grommets to allow owners to fix their cars at a fraction of the cost – and re-engineering them to make sure the same fault doesn’t happen again. His company now sends out tens of thousands of parts to grateful owners around the world and it has earned him an Aston Martin, a Range Rover and a house on the beach, aged just 32.
How come Kieran Mannings, owner of X8R Limited, can succeed where the world’s best engineers have failed? “Some of the parts fitted to cars are completely unsuitable for the job. They use materials that won’t last or they’re just poorly thought through,” he says. “Some of it is cost-cutting, or a need to save weight and time, I think. But it’s the poor owner who has to pay in the end.”
Mannings founded the company when he was a schoolboy, selling parts to make Honda mopeds (the X8R in particular, hence the company name) go faster. He then moved on to selling undercar neon lights on the internet, cashing in on the Fast and the Furious craze by sending parcels from his university student digs.
While there, he noticed his girlfriend had to use a pencil to open the boot of her Renault Mégane. The release button had failed and a replacement was £150 from the dealer. Mannings took the lock to pieces, saw a tiny plastic ring had disintegrated and made her a new one from stainless steel. It worked perfectly and will never break again. He began selling them online and it is still one of X8R’s core products.
That led him to look for similar faults in other cars. By scanning forums and talking to mechanics, he soon found plenty to keep him busy. His current best-seller is also a boot lock fix but, this time, it’s for the Mk1 Nissan Qashqai.
Mannings says: “If you start looking, you’ll see Qashqais with duct tape holding on the boot handle. They’ve got flimsy mountings and they just snap. A new one is £70 from Nissan. You need to pay extra to get it painted and you know it’ll just break again in time. We do a kit to fix the original part and make it stronger for £18.90. We sell about 10 every day.”