Total Production: 281 1992 - 1994 There are very few production cars that can claim to be have been born out of a spare-time project, but the Jaguar XJ220 is the most famous of all. Jaguars chief engineer, Jim Randle, dreamt up the idea of creating the ultimate supercar on Christmas and fired up enough enthusiasm with colleagues to start a 'Saturday club' to work on the project.
At first not even the Jaguar board knew about the secret tinkering going at its Engineering Department at Whitley in the West Midlands of Britain. When it did find out, the enthusiasm bubbled over, and the new XJ220 was wheeled out at the 1988 Birmingham Motor Sow as an official Jaguar concept car. The prototype XJ220 was an immense beast, mainly because it had to be accomodated around TWR racing components and Jaguars massive V-Twelve engine mounted in a central position. Still, Keith Helfets aluminium bodywork design was a sublime piece of sculpture.
The response at the 1988 show was rapturous, and the affluence of the times persuaded Jaguar to embark on a production run. Because of production practicalities the design was substantially modified. It was decided that the V-twelve engine was too bulky and so a race-derived 3.5 liter V-six engine was installed instead. Its state-of-the-art specifications included four camsafts, twin injectors, twin turbochargers, four valves per cylinder and dry sump lubrication, and it was capable of pumping out 500bhp.
The smaller engine meant that overal length could be trimmed down by a sizeable 10in, but there was no escaping the massive girth of this sportscar: at 6ft 6in wide, this was the broadest British car ever made.
The specification sheet of the XJ220 read like a sportscar-drivers dream. Its bodywork was an aerospace-type bonded-aluminium honeycomb with Group C racing inspired aerodynamics, The five speed transaxle was mated to a racing AP clutch, ther were centre-lock alloy wheels, massive brakes with four-piston calipers and racing-derived wishbone/inboard suspension. Jaguars performance claims were equally exciting. Its top speed of 220 mph and 0-60 mph time of 3.5 seconds made it easily the fastest road car on earth at the time. In-gear acceleration was absolutely brutal. To match that explosive power, the racing suspension made the XJ220 probably the best handling supercar ever.
A joint Jaguar-TWR venture called JaguarSport set up a brand new production facility in Bloxham, Oxfordshire, to make a stricly limited run of cars, each priced at $678,000. At first, the order book was over-subscribed by speculators but, when it became odvious that the market for supercars had collapsed, legal proceeding ensued as buyers tried to pull out- an ignominious end to an amazing story. By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2009Between 1992 and 1994, the Jaguar XJ220 was produced by Jaguar in collaboration with Tom Walkinshaw Racing as Jaguar Sport and is a mid-engined sports vehicle. Until the McLaren F1 arrived in 1994, the XJ220 held the record for the highest top speed of a production vehicle of 217 mph.
'The Saturday Club' was a very informal group made up of certain Jaguar employees in the early days of the company, and they would meet after-ours and also on weekends to focus on unofficial pet-projects. Jaguar's chief-engineer Jim Randle during the 1980's, joined this group and began work on what he considered to be competition for cars similar to the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959. His fantasy was basically a revised XJ13 that came as a lightweight two-seater with a powerful mid-mounted V12 engine. Randle went further with his ideas by choosing all-wheel drive for increased traction and more improved handling and an integral safety-cage so that the vehicle could be raced at extremely high speeds but in a safe nature. The future of this vehicle was to be able to exceed 200 mph.
Jaguar executives saw the concept and were impressed with it. They chose to formally commit company resources to produce it and introduce it at the 1988 British Motor Show. Tom Walkinshaw Racing was hired to create a 6.2 L version of Jaguar's legendary V12 engine with four valves per cylinder, a target output of 500hp and quad camshafts. FF Developments was responsible for producing the all-wheel drive system as they had extensive experience with similar systems dating back to the 1960's and the Jensen FF. Keith Helfet was in charge of the styling of the vehicle and he incorporated scissor-style doors that was similar to the ones used by Lamborghini. The designation XJ220 was used as a reference to the targeted top-speed goal of 220 mph.
When compared to other Jaguar racers, like the XJR-9, the prototype XJ220 was much heavier and weighed around 3,439 lbs. The main purpose of the car was to be a roadcar, and when comparing it against the XJS, though it was 30-inches longer, and 10-inches wider, the XJ220 was still 375 lbs lighter.
In 1989 the Jaguar XJ220 was officially unveiled and came with a hefty pricetag of $580,000 and purchasers had to deposit of $80,000 to be put on the waiting list for delivery. Jaguar had promised to limit initial production to only 200 units with total production wouldn't exceed 350 units. And because of this, many who put deposits on the vehicles were speculators that intended to sell the vehicle at a quick profit.
In October of 1991 the production version of the XJ220 was unveiled to the public after it had undergone some major changes. The drive-train was completely replaced with a different one, and the scissor doors were totally deleted. TWR set some rules and regulations for producing the vehicle and some of those rules were that the car would be rear wheel drive, rather than all-wheel drive, and the turbocharged V6 over the big V12. The V6 engine of the XJ220 is visible through the rear window, and it was the first V6 engine in Jaguar's history and was the first to use forced induction. Keeping it the lightest weight possible, the XJ220 could achieve 0-60mph in just 3.8 seconds, had a performance goal of over 200 mph.
In 1992 the XJ220 entered into production in a purpose built factory at Bloxham near Banbury and the original cars were delivered to customers in July. Elton John and the Sultan of Brunei were original customers of the Jaguar XJ220. The Sultan of Brunei and his brother Prince Jefri bought hundreds of sports vehicle and had them custom appointed by various companies. One of these models was a custom Jaguar XJ220 that had been redone completely by Pininfarina. Some of the modifications included a redesigned double-vane rear wing, and fixed headlights that replaced the pop-up versions that had been originally installed. By 1997 a total of 281 units were produced and few remained on sale. Today the XJ220 is quite a sought-after collectible sports car.
A racing variant of the XJ220 was also produced, called the XJ220C. It was driven by Win Percy and won its first race, a round of the BRDC National Sports GT Challenge at Silverstone. At the 1993 Le Mans 24 Hour race, three works XJ220C's were entered in the newly created Grand Touring Class. Though the two other cars were retired, one was driven by David Brabham, John Nielson and David Coulthard and made a first class win, which unfortunately was revoked just two weeks later when the XJ220C was disqualified for a technical infringement.
Though it had no factory support, an XJ220 was used in the Italian GT Championships in the early 1990s.By Jessica Donaldson