How did it all go wrong? On paper, the idea seemed like a smashing success.
The idea of a luxury marquee with a racing history (Jaguar) constructing a 200 plus mile per hour super car (the XJ220) seemed like a solid plan.
In fact, it was the planning itself that set the stage for the car’s eventual downfall.
Jaguar made a big production in the late 80’s of the XJ220 concept, revealing a V 12 powered 4 WD concept in 1988. As the sexy, aerodynamic and impressive looking prototype made its rounds of the car show circuit, Jaguar simultaneously designed a V 12 powered race version that would go on to be quite successful in GT class competition.
All of this public hype ground to a halt, however, when it became quite clear internally at Jaguar that the company possessed neither the financial means nor the technical expertise to apply their race technology to the actual street version of the XJ220.
By the time the public got wind of the situation, many XJ220's had already been pre-ordered, and significant deposits made. When Jaguar announced that the actual $650,000 production cars would be powered by a twin-turbo V 6 driving the rear wheels instead of the promised all wheel drive V 12, many people felt betrayed and Jaguar became mired in bad press and courtroom battles with disgruntled customers.
Somewhere in the midst of all of these compromises, legal troubles, and lowered expectations Jaguar managed to create one of the most stunning road cars of the last 50 years.
While not a V 12, the twin-turbo 3.5 liter V 6 in the XJ220 produces a staggering 549 horsepower and 473 foot lbs of torque, enough to catapult the huge super car to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds.
The Jaguar XJ220 also managed to set the world speed record for a street car, 217 miles per hour, which was held for 2 years until finally being beaten by the McLaren F1 in 1994.
The XJ220 is visually stunning, with hideaway headlights melting up out of the sculpted front end and scissor-style doors running down the very long, futuristic-looking body.
More like a fighter jet than an automobile, the large Jaguar cut an imposing figure on the small roads of its native England. The Jaguar XJ220 is impossible to ignore, and is certainly one of the most flamboyant designs every to emerge from Jaguar.
Unlike other super cars of the same era, such as the aforementioned McLaren F1 and the Ferrari F40, the XJ220 seems to have fallen through the cracks of the collectible sport scar market.
Seen more as a curiosity, when it is seen at all, the halo of negativity surrounding the initial sale of these cars has dogged Jaguar for decades, and has almost completely killed its legacy as one of the fastest automobiles ever built.