Some Legends Go Overlooked - Time For Jaguars Justice


Copyright: RFMartin Photography 

Written By: Zachary Wohl

A couple of days ago, I was having a conversation with my brother and MB C & C host Connor on what the topic for the next blog should be. While I was thinking about the tragic rising prices of E36 M3s, Connor suggested an article on the forgotten hypercar, the Jaguar XJ 220. The XJ has always been one of my favorite cars, after first being exposed to it racing Forza Motorsport at a young age. The car was quick! However, in recent times, the 'Jag' has fallen out of the spotlight. It is time the XJ deserves justice.

In 1985, Director of Engineering Jim Randle wanted to build a car for the general public capable of winning Le Mans "In House" just like the C and D Type did. Even though the initial project was a go, Randle still needed more official support. A team soon came together to be known as the 'Saturday Club,' consisting of twelve volunteers who devoted their time to this fascinating project. Among the employees of the Saturday club grew the idea of a car able to compete with the Ferrari F40 and Porsche 959.

In 1988, Jaguar Sport, along with their joint venture with Tom Wilkenshaws TWR, was tasked with developing a 6.2 L V12, four valves per cylinder, coupled with a four-wheel drive system and two limited slip differentials. The name XJ 220, initially alluding to its projected top speed, was introduced as a prototype at the 1988 British Motor Show. During the first public appearance, the car was paired with a large V12 engine, scissor doors, and a full aluminum body that weighed less than the transmission.

The car gained immediate traction with the public. Jaguar was completely bombarded with requests to produce this masterpiece. Customers were so intrigued that they put down fifty thousand pounds just for a booking order. Sounds familiar… To avoid escalating the price, Jaguar set the original cost at 220,000, just like the name. However, when official production was announced in 1989, prices jumped to £361,000, and production was limited to 350 cars.

Production, however, was far from easy. Randle and the "Saturday Club" soon realized they had to change the concept's radical specification to meet production requirements. Much to customers' dismay, Jaguar had to take away the bread and butter of the car, the TWR V12. Due to emission issues and weight, the V12 was impractical. The team decided to use a twin-turbo V6 from the Rover Metro 6R4 rally car. This engine was nothing short of power; however, as a V12 lover, I found this to be no V12. The V6 engine used twin Garrett T3 turbochargers to make nearly 550 bhp. The turbo lag and harsh exhaust note made the V6 a little bit of a disappointment. In addition, the initial scissor doors and AWD system were cut from the original prototype. Factors including slow production time and the differences between the show car, fueled customers to redraw their order.

The first customer car was completed and delivered in 1992. Jaguar ended production in 1994 after producing and selling 281 total examples. In 1993 a former F1 driver we all know, Martin Brundle, took the wheel at the Nardo Circuit. The XJ clocked in at a speed of 349.4 km/h, effectively becoming the fastest production car in the world. For almost a decade, the XJ220 then held the record for the fastest lap of the Nurburgring circuit with a time of 7:46"36. The XJ220C, a racing-derived version, had a short but epic stent in racing. Competing in the GT class at Le Mans in 1993, three units lined up at the start. While trailing behind the Porsches for most of the race, Jaguar caught up to take the checkered flag first. Weeks later, the victory was annulled due to the lack of a catalytic converter. However, neither the FIA nor the Le Mans authorities have demanded the return of the trophy, which remains in Jaguar Sport's cabinet.

Unsurprisingly, all your favorite supercars from the 80s and 90s have skyrocketed over the past decade. For everyone considering purchasing a 959, F40, F50, or even EB 110, I wish you the best of luck finding one under seven figures. That is why the XJ220 is so spectacular. Having appreciated very little, in comparison, over the past 30 years, it is possible to acquire this timepiece for around $600,000. The car market is crazy! Just like choosing a stock to invest in, you don't know if it's going up, down, sideways, or jumping off the walls. In the current car market, people become emotional and persuaded over nostalgia. For example, we can all agree that an E30 M3 shouldn't be selling at 70K, but it just is. My point is that these prolific cars from this period are on a hot streak and bound to take a leap. The elegant yet head-turning design, the deep turbo whistle sound, and, of course, the astounding speed of the XJ220 have signified itself as a 90s legend that has gone overlooked for too long. If I could predict the future car market, I would see the XJ220 becoming a hot commodity that is nearly competing in price with its legendary counterparts. The Jaguar XJ220 played a significant role in the beginning of the supercar era to follow.