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Wednesday 8th August 2012

Jaguar XJ220 - the inside story

Late nights, cardboard models and true dedication - the hidden history of the Jaguar XJ220



The Jaguar XJ220 will forever be the car that wasn't. Whereas really, it should be celebrated for being the car that was, against all odds.

Professor Jim Randle, former Jaguar director of engineering, takes up the story, which starts in the early 1980s. “Sir John Egan had been tasked with demonstrating Jaguar was still in business and could independently survive.” A work level “bordering on the unbelievable” ensued for every director, selling the Jaguar brand and “inventing a believable product plan – which we didn’t have… but so good was our deception, BL believed it!” After six frenetic months Jaguar was privatised in August 1984. “We were then told to make it work.”

Sexy, swoopy and sensuous - the XJ220 concept
Sexy, swoopy and sensuous - the XJ220 concept
In Randle’s words, this meant “selling the sizzle became more important than selling the sausage”. Jaguar needed to get its pride back. More was needed than just new models like the XJ40. In stepped Tom Walkinshaw, who convinced the board he could win in ETCC. With the XJ-S, in 1983, he did. The workforce loved it. Later, he would do the same with Le Mans. But Randle had another idea: produce a road-going supercar designed to race in the fledgling Group B championship being mooted by the FIA. “I spent Christmas 1987 thinking about what we could do, and ended up with a CAD model, which I still have.” CAD for Randle is, it should be noted, cardboard-aided design…

“Intentionally complex”
This was given to the styling department. “Put a frock on it, make it echo the XJ13.” Randle also deployed an unwritten understanding with suppliers such as FFD, QCR, Triplex. If they did work, and it worked, they’d get the work. He wrote an internal memo, requesting volunteers to work, in their own time, on a supercar project. 12 people signed up, forming ‘the Saturday club’ and giving Randle “the opportunity to do the job without any money.”

Concept's drama carried over into final car
Concept's drama carried over into final car
And so, the gestation of a 220mph car started. “XJ220 was fitting. It was 40 years after the XK120 did 120mph. That was a Bill Heynes car, (development legend) Norman Dewis told us ‘honour Bill’.” 

“It was intentionally complex: four-wheel drive, rear-wheel steer, variable aerodynamics so it could ‘drive-to-race’, though being a downforce car it would have to lower by a few inches from road guise. The aero was to produce 1,360kg (yes, you read right) of downforce at 220mph – although, what tyres could manage such forces? They remained a problem throughout the entire programme.

“The V12 engine was originally designed by Walter Hassan in the 1960s. It was developed with Cosworth and raced in 1986, and a road car study discovered it was powerful, but uneconomical. It wasn’t carried on, but we were able to steal one of the five development engines for our concept.” Cue one 700hp 6.2-litre V12 engine, complete with driveshaft running through the open vee.

Infamous switch to V6 power was controversial
Infamous switch to V6 power was controversial
About that V12…
Just one of many clever innovations. “We designed the rear-steer system not for cornering but to put yaw damping in the system. Suspension was relatively conventional but, as it was height-adjustable, we accounted for caster change constraints.” The bodywork was 4000-series aluminium, with an FIA roll cage buried within the structure. “It had astounding crash performance.”

Keith Helfet did the styling, “knowing I was going to lose, how can to better the old cars?” But he went ahead, using the XJ13 as inspiration. Within the constraints of a design “that couldn’t be fully oval as we had the constraints of the Group B aero stuff”, he aimed to replicate Malcolm Sayer’s design language of form being all, getting acceleration into the design, “making it look fast standing still.”

Making it work was a real test of mettle
Making it work was a real test of mettle
It was an aero-led shape. “I didn’t want flame surfacing and feature lines, but shapes that made sense.” Jaguar couldn’t afford a full-scale model, so everything was done in quarter-scale. It was tested and honed in MIRA’s new wind tunnel, and this optimised model became the final car. “It was scary – the thing looked the size of a house. You can’t scale the sense of scale! I actually felt guilty, too: we’d made the aluminium body panel beaters’ job so hard. Luckily, they disagreed and said it was the highlight of their careers – they’d never been stretched so much.”

More late nights
And so, 10 months after the project started, the 12-strong team wheeled the car direct from its press material photoshoot into the 1988 NEC Motor Show at 3am on opening day. “One of the team found six bottles of Champagne. At 6am, we all went home worse for wear.” The crowds flocked in, your 10-year-old writer was squashed by them, Ferrari became increasingly desperate to draw attention to the F40 parked next door (“They moved the car, then got an attractive lady, who then started taking her clothes off – still nobody turned around.”), an extra 90,000 people visited the Birmingham show just to see it – the XJ220 sizzled alright.

Under appreciated, is the XJ220 due a revival?
Under appreciated, is the XJ220 due a revival?
So that was the concept. It was a bold Jaguar board that agreed to green-light it, targeting a 1992 launch just three years hence. And, with no racing intent in mind, it was a focused project engineering team that led to the road car makeup which disappointed so many.

Engine? The Metro 6R4 V6, a shortened Rover V8 whose design had since been sold to TWR. It had racing pedigree (in the Group C cars), it was powerful, it didn’t weigh loads. But for the V12 promise, it was ideal. The Porsche 959 could get away with a six-pot turbo, so why not Jaguar? As for four-wheel drive, it was heavy, compromise-laden, unnecessary: it went. Rear-wheel steer, height adjustable suspension and active aero followed suit. All were sound engineering decisions that created a lighter, faster, more able car than would otherwise have been the case.

Cut and shut
Helfet knew the car had to shrink. The V6 allowed it to. “This was before the days of Photoshop: we ‘cut and shut’ photographic prints to get the proportions of a smaller car. I’d have liked it shorter, but Tom [Walkinshaw] wouldn’t have it.” Bigger openings for the turbo intercoolers were created, but the XJ13-inspired glass engine cover was retained, as was pretty much everything else from the show car. Which in itself is remarkable. Few realise they are so very different. Few realise the show car was never designed to make production. Underappreciated is the fact it did at all.

The Jaguar supercar could be due a revival
The Jaguar supercar could be due a revival
Production ceased in 1994, 281 cars into the planned 350 total, with a fizzle. Yes, history is unkind to the XJ220. It was, at 213mph, the fastest car in the world, despite being developed on a shoestring at breakneck speed. The recession, the no-V12 fallout, the court cases from aggrieved owners, all shadow what is a pretty stunning accomplishment: an automotive minnow turning a race-inspired piece of conceptual engineering brilliance into a roadgoing reality that beat every other supercar on the planet. 20 years on, it’s time we celebrated it.

richardaucock
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Author Discussion

GTRene

Original Poster:

9,034 posts

111 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
story said:
The Metro 6R4 V6, a shortened Rover V8 whose design had since been sold to TWR
is that V6 a shortened Rover/Buick V8?
with that much power?

did not know that (or forgot :-))
must have some changes internal I guess? otherwise you could tune those Rover/TVR V8's also that way I guess... biggrin

SirSamuelBuca

1,120 posts

44 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
amazing engineering and an amazing car.

BelfastBoy

592 posts

47 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
It's a truly beautiful car, deserves a re-evaluation for sure. If nothing else, it can still outpace most modern cars, despite having 'only' 542bhp. For a while it was the only car that could keep the McLaren F1 honest!

dukebox9reg

1,058 posts

35 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
always loved these. When i was first driving on the M1 many moons ago i was catching slowly up to a very large poo brown car filling the road. Eventually i saw XJ220 across the boot and i was 10 again.

I pulled up next to him and smiled, dropped my clutch and revved my little 1.4 and the very nice driver replied by dropping a couple of cogs and nailed it up the road with a little bit a black puff out of the exhaust and a massive squat of the back end. Lol ill always remember that.

Always said that would be my lottery win car over anything. Not a brown one though

pozi

1,149 posts

74 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
GTRene said:
story said:
The Metro 6R4 V6, a shortened Rover V8 whose design had since been sold to TWR
is that V6 a shortened Rover/Buick V8?
with that much power?

did not know that (or forgot :-))
must have some changes internal I guess? otherwise you could tune those Rover/TVR V8's also that way I guess... biggrin
For some reason the story about using the old V8's as a base for the engine seems to have become an urban legend when in reality the 6R4 engine is completely different.

There is some truth that a shortened Rover V8 was used in the early development cars but the eventual V6 was designed specifically for the 6R4 by ex-Cosworth employee David Wood.

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The Crack Fox

10,061 posts

79 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
I saw one in Coventry not long after it was launched. The most beautiful thing in Coventry since Lady Godiva. Which, to be fair, isn't saying much.

Great 'under-dog' story smile

mike325112

1,041 posts

71 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
dukebox9reg said:
Always said that would be my lottery win car over anything. Not a brown one though
Would be my first lottery win supercar purchase.

300bhp/ton

29,629 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
GTRene said:
story said:
The Metro 6R4 V6, a shortened Rover V8 whose design had since been sold to TWR
is that V6 a shortened Rover/Buick V8?
with that much power?

did not know that (or forgot :-))
must have some changes internal I guess? otherwise you could tune those Rover/TVR V8's also that way I guess... biggrin
It isn't. What I've read elswhere said there was a V6 based on the RV8 as a test bed for the 6R4, however the actual DOHC production engine is not the same as these early mules.

300bhp/ton

29,629 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
I always really liked the XJ220, never really understood any of the hate implied against it.

mikey77

570 posts

75 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
If you'd paid a non-returnable deposit on something that eventually appeared with half the spec, at nearly twice the price, accompanied by a legal notice binding you to the original agreement, you might understand a bit more.
Looks nice though...

300bhp/ton

29,629 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
mikey77 said:
If you'd paid a non-returnable deposit on something that eventually appeared with half the spec, at nearly twice the price, accompanied by a legal notice binding you to the original agreement, you might understand a bit more.
Looks nice though...
Not really, more fool them for letting themselves be so entrapped or not understanding what they'd actually signed into. Guess it just shows money doesn't buy brains.

Also it wasn't half the spec, such a stupid comment and a play on 6 cylinders being half of 12 rolleyes

mikey77

570 posts

75 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
...and 2WD instead of 4WD?
...and smaller?

I rather think that in today's infinitely more litigious society, Jaguar wouldn't have got away with what it did at that time.

pozi

1,149 posts

74 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
300bhp/ton said:
mikey77 said:
If you'd paid a non-returnable deposit on something that eventually appeared with half the spec, at nearly twice the price, accompanied by a legal notice binding you to the original agreement, you might understand a bit more.
Looks nice though...
Not really, more fool them for letting themselves be so entrapped or not understanding what they'd actually signed into. Guess it just shows money doesn't buy brains.

Also it wasn't half the spec, such a stupid comment and a play on 6 cylinders being half of 12 rolleyes
V12 to V6, 4 wheel drive and 4 wheel steer to 2 wheel drive and 2 wheel steering means by my man maths there are a number of features dividable by 2 wink


mikey77

570 posts

75 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
Not agreeing with a comment does not, by definition, make it 'stupid'.

Prof Prolapse

9,950 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
mikey77 said:
...and 2WD instead of 4WD?
...and smaller?

I rather think that in today's infinitely more litigious society, Jaguar wouldn't have got away with what it did at that time.
They didn't get away with it then.

Lots of demands for deposits returned and lawsuits.

300bhp/ton

29,629 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
pozi said:
V12 to V6, 4 wheel drive and 4 wheel steer to 2 wheel drive and 2 wheel steering means by my man maths there are a number of features dividable by 2 wink
Yet lighter and more powerful and more torque mean faster, higher top speed and better cornering. Not really half the spec, just a different spec.

300bhp/ton

29,629 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
mikey77 said:
Not agreeing with a comment does not, by definition, make it 'stupid'.
In this case it does. It is not half the spec by any stretch of the imagination.

300bhp/ton

29,629 posts

77 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
Prof Prolapse said:
mikey77 said:
...and 2WD instead of 4WD?
...and smaller?

I rather think that in today's infinitely more litigious society, Jaguar wouldn't have got away with what it did at that time.
They didn't get away with it then.

Lots of demands for deposits returned and lawsuits.
What was the result of these lawsuits?

Also is it really any different today? Cars change specs all the while. I once placed an order for a Morgan +8 4.6, they stopped making it long before my order came up. Can I sue them for not making the car any longer?

Krikkit

5,188 posts

68 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
Regardless of the change in spec from concept to road it shares my top spot for favourite cars with the F40 (the only two turbo'd cars I really like).

I remember seeing a purple one of these in a tiny town near me, pottering around past all the boring late-90's euroboxes, something so totally exotic and interesting blew my mind. In fact it's one of my most endearing childhood memories, along with visiting the Jaguar Heritage Museum and seeing the prototype a few years later.

mikey77

570 posts

75 months

[news] 
Wednesday 8th August 2012 quote quote all
>>I once placed an order for a Morgan +8 4.6, they stopped making it long before my order came up. Can I sue them for not making the car any longer?<<

So did they offer you a Plus 4 for more money instead?

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