Visually striking, stunningly quick and increasingly valuable
Onlookers at the 1988 British Motor Show gaped as Jaguar flung the wraps off its show star – it was amazing to look at, astonishingly dear and utterly unexpected. So unexpected that most of the Coventry firm itself wasn’t aware it was happening. But there it was on the official stand – a super-slinky superfast supercar, its mid-mounted V12 driving both axles, and a promised speed that made Ferrari’s F40 an also-ran. At the show the firm took more than 40 orders – and a lot of those customers came to regret their hastiness.
It began as a secret project with laudable ambitions to create a raceable supercar to build on TWR Jaguar’s sports car success, especially that 1988 Le Mans victory, a car in the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40 bracket – few in number, high in price.
But XJ220 tried to surf a wave that soon broke on the rocks of the Nineties economic downturn. Development, now shared with TWR, went at a crawl and once-eager buyers began to ask for their £50,000 deposits back. Only in 1992 did the car appear, and gone were 4WD and the V12, replaced by lighter simpler rear drive and a twin-turbo V6 rumoured to come from the Metro 6R4, although that’s disputed by some who say it was so heavily reworked it’s effectively a different unit.
Either way, it was quick: 3.6 seconds to 60mph and a confirmed 217mph. And the price was equally astonishing: it had risen to £470,000. That plus the financial slump meant that the cars crept out of the showroom, the trickle finishing on 271 cars built. Which is good news for today’s buyer. Rarity, speed and striking looks make for fine investment, which is why most 220s seem to be bought. Despite the crushing performance, average mileages are so low that many retain their original tyres. Luckily the unique rubber is once again available (around £5000!), and specialist Don Law has tackled the model’s delicate clutch and poor brakes and offers engine mapping, exhaust upgrades and handling tweaks.
But this is a car that demands big open roads, if not a race circuit: it’s wide, long and hard to see out (parking sensors are a vital mod for the open road). In the right circumstances it’s sensational – and the rising value will pay for the fuel thirst.