When you’re the founder of arguably the most infamous supercar rally on the planet, everyone will be expecting you to turn up in something exceptional. So when Maximillian Cooper, founder of the Gumball 3000, was in that position during the rally’s early days, he bought something that had never featured in the event’s history – a Jaguar XJ220.
True to form, it was no ordinary XJ220. It was the lesser-known XJ220 S - albeit one with a non-standard backstory. The original S version was built by Tom Walkinshaw Racing back in 1993 to homologate the XJ220 for competition use. TWR constructed three racing variants – dubbed the XJ220 C – and six roadgoing examples. (What we like to call the good old days of homologation specials.)
TWR started by putting the supercar on a radical weight loss programme. Nearly 400kg was removed by swapping out the car’s aluminium body panels for carbon fibre-reinforced polymer. The production car’s trick folding headlights were also replaced by a lighter fixed unit with Perspex covers, bringing the car’s weight down to a svelte 1,080kg.
As befits a track special, the aerodynamics were modified, too, with a chunky front splitter, wider sills and an adjustable rear wing. Small inlets were also fitted either side of the engine cover to improve cooling. Coupled with the lightweight bodywork and aggressive aero package, TWR installed upgraded suspension and fitted a set of centre-locking BBS rims.
Naturally, there was a healthy power boost to go with the chassis work. The XJ220 S retained the standard car’s 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, only with power increased from 550hp to 680hp, thanks mostly to a brace of larger turbos. Significantly, this made the S the most powerful production car ever made back in 1993, beating the Bugatti EB110 Super Sport and McLaren F1. There’s no traction control, either, potentially making wet weather drives (and Gumball appearances) a little sweaty.
What makes Cooper’s XJ220 S a little different is that it’s not actually one of the super-rare half dozen roadgoing S variants built by TWR. Instead it started life as a standard XJ220 back in October 1993, before it was upgraded to S spec by Jaguar specialists Don Law Racing in the late 1990s. At the same time its Spa Silver paintwork was changed for TWR Jaguar White, while black seats with Alcantara trim replaced the original grey leather interior.
Like its previous owner, this XJ220 S has been all over the world through its various appearances at the Gumball 3000, not to mention cameos at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and The Quail. Remarkably, in all that time it’s covered fewer than 14,000 miles
It’s listed for £449,950, which is only slightly more than standard XJ220s are fetching today. Sure, it’s far from cheap, but when you consider its rivals are now changing hands for seven figures, this XJ220 S comes out looking like a bit of a bargain. A Bugatti EB110 SS sold for €2.24m last year, after all, while McLaren F1s are well into the tens of millions. And this is more powerful than both…
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