As the British might
say, it not only looks
bloody lovely but it is
a world-beater! And
what supercar would
they be talking about?
The Jaguar XJ 220!
At first, the car was
condoned, and it did
not have official Jaguar
support. Furthermore, it
was an after-hours effort.
Designers Geoff Lawson
and Keith Helfet designed
the exterior and longtime designer Nick Hull did the interior. All in all, about a
dozen men worked on the XJ 220. The goal was to manufacture a street-legal 500
hp 200 mph sustained top-speed supercar capable of taking on anything in the world.
To make the project a reality, the design team reached out to Jaguar suppliers for
specialty machined parts as well as other components. However, in 2006, Jaguar
management wanted to know precisely what was going on. So compelling was the
XJ 220 that rather than putting a stop to it, management asked almost immediately
for the car to move forward into production.
Jaguar had shown a prototype of the car at the 1988 Birmingham Motor Show,
and the public when crazy. As reported in Hemmings Sport & Exotic Car, Jim
Helfet told Jaguar Quarterly, “It was important to me that the car should continue
the strong Jaguar marquee identity.” Helfer wanted the car to have an evolutionary
link to Malcolm Sayer and Sir William Lyon’s (the original Jaguar stylists) designs.
However, the XJ 220 had a number of features such as a high squared off rear rather
than the traditional tail of the E-Type and XJ13 that were described as an aerodynamic
disaster. So the designers of the XJ 220 tried to take all of the necessary functional
elements of the car and put some great surfaces between them. Be sure to see this
bloody gorgeous Jaguar XJ 220 in the slide show below!
The XJ 220 was a long car as its V-12 midengine, tanks, and four-wheel drive
system resulted in a 112-inch wheelbase. The car was huge and it had great
appeal. When the okay was given for its production, customer deposits started
to arrive fast. In 1989, Jaguar officially began the production of 220 XJ 220s
and they were priced at 361,000 pounds (one million dollars). If the market
demanded, production could be increased to 350 cars. It cost customers
about $150,000 to reserve a place on the waiting list for the car. Within
a week, 250 customers had put down the money for the car. However,
later on, taking huge deposits came back to cause Jaguar lawsuits as
their production of the car differed from the concept customers were
expecting to receive.
The development team understood that the prototype XJ 220 could not be
manufactured on the standard production line at Brown’s Lane. As a result,
a new company was formed (likely to help shield Jaguar from legal liability)
by Jaguar Sports and Tom Walkinshaw Racing. The new company was named
Jaguar Sport. Eventually in 2007, the project was sold to specialist Don Law
(who had worked with Jaguar to start a maintenance shop to service the XJ 220).
Walkinshaw said that he could build the XJ 220 and that the car would perform
as intended. However, he could not build it with a V12, four-wheel drive, and
with everything on the concept car. One problem was that the tires would not
last a reasonable amount of miles with the V12 engine, the four-wheel drive, and
the heavy weight of the car. As a result, it was proposed that the XJ 220 be equipped
with a V6 engine and that it become much shorter and lighter. However, it would
retain most of the styling cues from the original concept car. Furthermore, the
benefits of the four-wheel drive system did not justify the complexity, weight,
and the cost.
Be sure to check back for part two to see the technical details of the Jaguar JX 220.
Kyle Busch is the author of “Drive the Best for the Price…” He
welcomes your comments or car questions at his auto web site: