Jaguar XJ220 Concept Car Reviews
Designed after dark by a group of boffins and petrolheads, the Jaguar XJ220 is the perfect antidote to mega bucks speed machines with no drama, personality or soul.
There might be faster and better looking hypercars, but the XJ220 was the first to make Stuart Milne sit up and take notice.
There are fast cars - and then there's the Jag XJ220. In fact, the Big Cat was the first world record breaker to which I'd really paid attention.
Part of this was to do with the styling - for me, it's the perfect Jaguar - but mainly it was to do with a group of enthusiasts who built it in their spare time.
When most of the workers at Jaguar's Brown Lane factory downed tools and headed home, The Saturday Club would indulge their automotive fantasies.
I love the romance of all this - that a group of boffins became so passionate about their cars; they would actually build them in their spare time. It's almost impossible to imagine this happening in today's health and safety and profit-obsessed world.
One club member, Jim Randle - who also happened to be Jaguar's chief engineer - felt the urge to build a car which could rival the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40.
So that's what he did.
Randle wanted a light, two seat, four-wheel drive supercar with a V12 engine mounted amidships.
When Jaguar's bosses clamped eyes on the project, they decided almost immediately to officially commission the project to produce a car for the 1988 motor show.
The company was preoccupied with its day job producing the XJ and XJ-S to build the new supercar itself, so commissioned Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) to produce it.
TWR simply couldn't make Randle's V12 powerplant fit into the engine bay and slotted in a modified version of the 3.5-litre V6 engine from the unstoppable Metro 6R4 rally car.
His longed-for four-wheel drive system - originally developed by the same team which designed the system in the Jensen Interceptor - wouldn't happen either because it would make the XJ220 too heavy.
But by making these tough decisions, TWR created a car with a frenzy of big numbers - 549bhp, 473lb/ft of pulling power, 0-60mph in less than four seconds and a top speed target of 220mph.
Just 281 XJ220s rolled off the purpose-built production line near Oxford, and some of the first examples were said to have found homes with Elton John and the Sultan of Brunei.
The XJ220 was dogged by controversy - in 1993, Jaguar took the chequered flag at Le Mans in a car driven by David Brabham, John Nielsen and David Coulthard, only to be disqualified a fortnight later for an illegal exhaust system.
And its 1992 world record-breaking top speed of 217mph was only achieved by disconnecting the catalytic converters and raising the rev limiter - but stood until 1994, when the McLaren F1 clocked a staggering 231mph.
But it really didn't matter. The XJ220 was on the cover of every car magazine around the world and worked its way into the hearts of thousands of petrolheads - including mine.
With such a low number built, you've got to be quick - and rich - to find one. Set aside at least ?100,000 for yours, and up to ?1m for some of the last 220s.
L.A.T.W.O.T. Video of the Week
Check out Colin McRae at the wheel of the car which gave the XJ220 is engine.View PhotosView Videos
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