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Thursday 8th March 2012

PH Heroes: Jaguar XJ220

The car that buyers wanted to give back before they'd even got their car? A hero? You betcha, says Riggers



History has not been particularly kind to the Jaguar XJ220. Call it a case of right car at absolutely the wrong time.

The background to the XJ220's genesis was an unpleasant one for Jaguar and the luxury/performance car market in general. Although enjoying serious success at Le Mans between the first stirrings of the XJ220 idea as a Group B racer in the mid 1980s and its eventual arrival on the market in 1991, Jaguar was a company on its knees.


After a surge of support for a newly independent Jaguar, freed from the ties of British Leyland, Jaguar had been struggling. It needed to throw off its image of unreliability, and it needed to recapture the glamour of its 50s and 60s heyday. Unfortunately Jaguar had no money with which to do it. Fortunately Jaguar's engineering director Jim Randle and 12 keen engineers were on hand with the 'Saturday Club', giving up their own free time to create the dramatic XJ220.

All in the timing
But the economic bubble of the late 80s burst before Jaguar managed to get the car to market, the promised V12 of the 1988 concept never materialised, and Jaguar only managed to sell 275 cars before production ceased in 1994. Even so, for a brief time the XJ220 was one of the fastest cars on the planet. And it remains one of the most exciting.

Aside from the fact that you shouldn't need much of an excuse to write a PH Heroes piece in order to slobber over so exotic a piece of automotive excess as a 200mph Jaguar, it's also 20 years since the XJ220 appeared on sufficiently wealthy driveways.


So to celebrate that fact, Jaguar called up XJ220 specialist Don Law and asked if he wouldn't mind rustling up a couple of XJ220s for a suitably salivating gaggle of motoring hacks to have rides in.

If you haven't heard of Don Law, he's an extraordinarily nice man and probably knows more about XJ220s than anybody else on earth, with pretty much every single one produced - for road or track - having passed through his unassuming Staffordshire base for sales or service.

Go on, twist my arm
He's an extraordinarily nice chap because he's let me go for a surreptitous drive in one of his own cars (after a spot of sales talk by us, explaining just how many PHers would be keen to read about a first-hand experience of his silver supercar - so thank you for that one, everybody...). This XJ220, the one you see in these pictures, was chassis number 004 and one of the original development cars. After this, it was transformed into a racer and campaigned by Don's son Justin in the British GT championship before being returned to road-car spec.


Considering its turbulent past, both as prototype hack and racing car, 004 is in truly immaculate condition. Interior plastics are unfaded by the sun, the leather seats are free from the creases of a thousand entries and exits, and the bodywork is unblemished, belying the knockabout life this car must have had.

But if this example looks as-new, you wouldn't mistake it for a brand new supercar. From the driver's seat the cabin is a veritable ocean of hard, grey plastics, and the general aura, while suitably imposing is rather more workmanlike than you'd expect in a bling-and-whistles 21st-century supercar. Or a Jaguar for that matter. But that doesn't really matter, because this is a tool for going fast in, not for showing off. OK, going fast can be showing off too, but you know what we mean.


You're on your own
The car-from-a-different-era thing is also reflected by the absence of any electronic driver assistance - there's no power steering, no ABS and certainly no ESP. It is also massive. Today's super fast cars are often as much about usability as they are about outrageous styling and speed. The XJ220 is not. Practicality can go hang. Mind you, despite the heavy clutch, woeful turning circle and lumbering unassisted steering, the XJ220 is actually perfectly biddable at low speeds, the suspension riding relatively softly over car park lumps and bumps and the engine happy to crawl along at little above tickover without complaint.

Once you do get a chance to explore a bit more of the power envelope, however, you realise that this is anything but a docile machine. OK, so it might not have the glorious howl of the V12 that was originally planned for it but then you’d have had to put up with an engine that was too big and heavy to fit into the huge body. And you would have ended up with a Coventry take on late-80s Lamborghini handling. But boy does the 550hp twin-turbo V6 go.


Goes well, stops ... eventually
Like everything about the XJ220, the throttle pedal is a distinctly analogue device, with a long travel requiring you to push hard before anything really happens. But once it does, and once the moderately noticeable turbo lag has been overcome, well, wow. I can honestly say that modern supercars do not feel a great deal faster once the XJ220 gets into its stride. We only had a chance to test the car briefly on the rural roads immediately around Jaguar’s Gaydon HQ but the big supercar feels surefooted, grippy and very, very fast. You just need to watch the brakes – there’s a lot of effort required to bring the speed down once you’ve built it up.

It’s a strange car really, the XJ220. In some ways it very much feels of its time – an engineering compromise built on a shoestring, effectively in a company’s spare time. But in oh-so-many other ways it is truly wonderful. Brilliantly fast, gorgeously dramatic, and surprisingly tractable. Those city types who threw their deposits back in Jaguar’s face didn’t know what they were missing.


JAGUAR XJ220
Engine:
 3,498cc twin-turbo V6
Power (hp):550
Torque (lb ft):475
0-62mph:3.6 sec
Top speed:213mph
On sale: 1991-94 
Price new: £460,000
Price now: c. £150,000-£200,000

   


   
Riggers
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Author Discussion

Skater12

Original Poster:

472 posts

44 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
£150k-£200k current estimate.

So its this, or a used 458 Italia then?

I know which one i'd rather invest my money in!

MG511

1,517 posts

127 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
I love this XJ220S RM sold in January http://www.rmauctions.com/CarDetails.cfm?SaleCode=...
Not sure about the Lamborghini Reventon Grey respray or the 'Infiniti projector headlights' but it does look stunning, and it's got 700BHP! Looked a bargain at $230,000 (£145,000)

Krikkit

5,149 posts

67 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
Quite right!

This was the supercar I salivated over as a boy, along with an F40 - both before my time really, but they were the idols nonetheless.

OdramaSwimLaden

1,938 posts

55 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
Skater12 said:
£150k-£200k current estimate.

So its this, or a used 458 Italia then?

I know which one i'd rather invest my money in!
I give up?

If you're "investing" money can I assume it's the Jaguar?

RevOne

39 posts

38 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
Just reminded me, ive been meaning to check behind my stairs for one one of these for weeks now...

http://www.autotrader.co.uk/EDITORIAL/CARS/news/JA...
Advertisement

Riggers

1,851 posts

64 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
RevOne said:
Just reminded me, ive been meaning to check behind my stairs for one one of these for weeks now...

http://www.autotrader.co.uk/EDITORIAL/CARS/news/JA...
They do seem to be hard to keep track of...

http://www.pistonheads.com/news/default.asp?storyI...

PHMatt

177 posts

34 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
OdramaSwimLaden said:
I give up?

If you're "investing" money can I assume it's the Jaguar?
Indeed, only one of these cars will be an investment that will almost certainly continue to appreciate. And it's not the Ferarri.

Not to mention I've already seen 3 458's being driven around.
20 years later and I've never seen a 220 in the flesh.

MRCC

261 posts

43 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
Massively under valued on the market currently, if you have the liquid cash buy it will be a god investment.

Regards,

Mr. CC.

Skater12

Original Poster:

472 posts

44 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
PHMatt said:
OdramaSwimLaden said:
I give up?

If you're "investing" money can I assume it's the Jaguar?
Indeed, only one of these cars will be an investment that will almost certainly continue to appreciate. And it's not the Ferarri.

Not to mention I've already seen 3 458's being driven around.
20 years later and I've never seen a 220 in the flesh.
Funnily enough, I live near Brighton and i've seen 6 or 8 different 458's recently, and 2 XJ220's on the road, but i think that's just luck.

The chances of a 458 being worth half it's money in 10 years is slim, but look at how the 220 has been at around the £200k for the past decade regardless of inflation and economic climate.


The Jolly Todger

1,934 posts

66 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
I have always liked these and had a model one as a kid. My favourite aspect (apart from the performance) was always the way the dials were set into the door.

quantum_man

253 posts

96 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
Saw a silver XJ220 in Brighton last summer... had to double take but it looked genuine! Was heading up Dyke Road from memory. Anyone else seen it?

RevOne

39 posts

38 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
quantum_man said:
Saw a silver XJ220 in Brighton last summer... had to double take but it looked genuine! Was heading up Dyke Road from memory. Anyone else seen it?
Never seen one around here myself, not even at the last 4 Speed Trials. Ive heard there are big cats roaming the downs though...

DoubleSix

5,602 posts

62 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
Meh, my neighbour has one parked up. Ugly beast I must say, does nothing for me. Patriotism gone mad a la Jag E-Type.

MG511

1,517 posts

127 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
DoubleSix said:
Meh, my neighbour has one parked up. Ugly beast I must say, does nothing for me. Patriotism gone mad a la Jag E-Type.
The man with a 1 series BMW thinks the XJ220 is ugly...Even Specsavers can't help you!

Skater12

Original Poster:

472 posts

44 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
quantum_man said:
Saw a silver XJ220 in Brighton last summer... had to double take but it looked genuine! Was heading up Dyke Road from memory. Anyone else seen it?
Probably the same silver one i saw a couple of weeks ago, parked on Madeira drive next to the pier. Left hand drive, with a dolly-bird in the passenger seat.

Ozzie Osmond

16,221 posts

132 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
Misty-eyed sentiment over the XJ220 is IMO misplaced. It looks OK in pictures but if you stand next to one you realise it's absolutely huge - far to big for what it was trying to be. And for a sports car, particularly a sports car of that size, its turbo 6-pot fell a long way short of credibility.

Interesting car in many ways. Failed for good reasons.

DoubleSix

5,602 posts

62 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
MG511 said:
The man with a 1 series BMW thinks the XJ220 is ugly...Even Specsavers can't help you!
Not sure even Specsavers can help you with your 'selective' vision.

Been in an XJ220? Got properly up close and and spent a good hour or so prodding and pressing buttons?

I'm afraid in reality the car has not held up to those Athena posters.

Skater12

Original Poster:

472 posts

44 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
Ozzie Osmond said:
Misty-eyed sentiment over the XJ220 is IMO misplaced. It looks OK in pictures but if you stand next to one you realise it's absolutely huge - far to big for what it was trying to be. And for a sports car, particularly a sports car of that size, its turbo 6-pot fell a long way short of credibility.

Interesting car in many ways. Failed for good reasons.
Too big means you just need a bigger garage, which you'd have if you could afford one in the first place.

This car wasnt about smashing lap times around a certain german track, but instead about breaking the production car speed record, which it did.
Fair enough that title was lost very quickly, but other than the McLaren F1, name another British car to hold that title in the past 30 years.
That alone gives it suitable street-cred in my opinion.


MG511

1,517 posts

127 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
DoubleSix said:
Not sure even Specsavers can help you with your 'selective' vision.

Been in an XJ220? Got properly up close and and spent a good hour or so prodding and pressing buttons?

I'm afraid in reality the car has not held up to those Athena posters.
I have been in one, though only for a few minutes. None of the 'Athena poster cars' are that great inside, I've been in an F40, F50, 512TR, Countach etc and none are that great when you play with the switches, buttons etc. I'd still love one, love to drive one, far more desireable than a 130 or a Cayman IMHO.

lazyitus

19,609 posts

152 months

[news] 
Thursday 8th March 2012 quote quote all
Managed to have a drive of one of these just 3 weeks ago.

Absolutely everything I'd ever hoped it would be.

Admittedly, it was on the playstation but it only went to reinforce how much I'd love to own one.

They look better and better as the years roll by. yes
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