The fastest Jaguar at the time never sold much, but may yet have its day when it comes un­der the ham­mer next week.

Briefly the fastest car in the late eight­ies, the unloved XJ200 may fi­nally fetch a high price

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - — NewAt­las.com

HIS­TORY has gen­er­ally been kind to au­da­cious su­per­car projects and their lucky own­ers.

It seems we’re fas­ci­nated by the drama and ro­mance in­volved in chas­ing speed records, send­ing the value of cars like the McLaren F1 sky­wards the se­cond they launch. One ex­cep­tion to the rule is the Jaguar XJ220, briefly the fastest car in the world. Since 1992, val­ues of the big cat have never made it past their list price and six years af­ter its launch, there were still cars left on Jaguar lots at the end of pro­duc­tion in 1994.

But this could be about to change when the car re­turns to auc­tion next week.

Great ex­pec­ta­tions

The XJ220 was the brain­child of Jim Ran­dall, Jaguar’s di­rec­tor of en­gi­neer­ing, and boy, did he have big dreams for it. Ran­dall en­vi­sioned it as a halo for the Jaguar range, a car which paid re­spect to its an­ces­tors but also looked to move the game on with its per­for­mance.

In 1988, an XJ220 con­cept was un­veiled at the Bri­tish In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show promis­ing to do all those things. Hid­den be­neath the al­loy body was a V12 en­gine send­ing power to all four wheels, like the Porsche 959, and the crowds in­stantly fell in love.

Based on the over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive re­sponse it re­ceived, Jaguar started ac­cept­ing pre-or­ders with a de­posit of just £50 000 (about $96 000 at the time). In the end, around 1 500 peo­ple laid down their cash, and de­liv­ery was slated for 1992.

Tweak­ing the for­mula

The XJ220 might have been slated for big things, but Jaguar wasn’t go­ing to be able to han­dle development on its own. Hav­ing forged a re­la­tion­ship with the com­pany on the track, Tom Walkin­shaw Rac­ing stepped in to lend a hand.

Early on, it be­came clear the project wouldn’t get far in con­cept spec­i­fi­ca­tion. Power came from a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the V12 fea­tured in the Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9, which won Le Mans in 1988, and the four-wheel drive sys­tem was fiendishly com­plex. Nei­ther of these fac­tors was a prob­lem sit­ting sta­tion­ary on a stand in Birm­ing­ham, but proved prob­lem­atic in the real world.

In­stead of run­ning with a beau­ti­ful rac­ing-de­rived V12, the pro­duc­tion XJ220 was fit­ted with a twin-tur­bocharged V6. Based on the en­gine from the Austin Rover rally Metro, the Jaguar/ TWR JV6 would be eas­ier to pack­age than an en­gine with twice the cylin­ders, all the while pro­duc­ing more power. As if that wasn’t enough, the V12 quickly proved too thirsty to meet in­cum­bent emis­sions leg­is­la­tion, rul­ing it out as a vi­able op­tion.

It was a sim­i­lar story with the all­wheel drive sys­tem, as it was dropped be­cause of its com­plex­ity and cost.

Fast, sexy and unloved

When it landed in the hands of re­view­ers late in 1991, the XJ220 was a very dif­fer­ent car to the one promised at the 1988 Bri­tish Mo­tor Show. Even so, the big Jaguar won plenty of fans with its sav­age ac­cel­er­a­tion, high-speed sta­bil­ity and im­pres­sive en­gi­neer­ing.

Fast, as in world’s fastest, with a top speed of 350 km/h. Even though the twin-turbo V6 had half the cylin­ders of the orig­i­nal con­cept, it still pumped out 542 hp (404 kW) of power and 644 Nm of torque. That wasn’t enough to stop the McLaren F1 steal­ing its man­tle in 1994.

Un­for­tu­nately, these at­tributes weren’t enough to save the big cat from be­ing a big, ex­pen­sive flop. Some of the buy­ers who’d slapped down de­posits in 1988 had been hit hard dur­ing the re­ces­sion of the early nineties, leav­ing them un­able to com­plete the pur­chase. To com­pen­sate, Jaguar bumped the sticker price from £350 000 (over R6,1 mil­lion) to £470 000.

Just 281 ex­am­ples were built, and some left-hand drive cars were still un­sold in 1997, three years af­ter pro­duc­tion wrapped up. Some buy­ers, des­per­ate to get out of their con­tracts, tried to sue Jaguar for mak­ing such dras­tic changes to the spec­i­fi­ca­tion, but that court case was de­cided in the car com­pany’s favour.

Un­der the ham­mer

Even though it stands out as a fas­ci­nat­ing step in Jaguar’s his­tory, the XJ220 has never man­aged to pass its orig­i­nal list price at auc­tion. Thus far, the model record sits at $462 000, achieved when a 2 818 km ex­am­ple sold last year.

Even though it’s seen five own­ers, the Monza Red ex­am­ple that is go­ing un­der the ham­mer dur­ing Mon­terey Car Week has cov­ered just 871 km since 1993, mak­ing it as close to fac­tory fresh as is pos­si­ble for a 26-year-old car to be.

Russo and Steele is there­fore ex­pect­ing it to re­turn “well over half a mil­lion dol­lars”. We’ll see if that pre­dic­tion is cor­rect when the XJ220 goes up for sale next week, be­tween Au­gust 18 and 20.

PHOTO: NEWAT­LAS

Those curves on the XJ220 don’t just look pretty, but help to keep the Jaguar sta­ble at high speeds.

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