I can’t work out if time does funny things to my taste – or if it’s just me…
In the course of playing the Lotto game – you know, the finger fate has chosen you to have more money than sense and, being a Dep-O-tee, this means an indulgent bout of car shopping… Anyway, I was looking at the Historics at Brooklands 9th March sales catalogue and a car which I’ve never truly lusted after, has suddenly and spectacularly caught my attention – a low-mileage left-hooker Jaguar XJ220.
Firstly, and I realise this is incredibly superficial, I was struck by the colour. XJ220s inevitably seem to follow the silver hue of the 1988 NEC XJ220 concept car, but this dark one didn’t just catch my eye it also – to mix my metaphors– tickled my fancy. All of which concerns me.
I remember being at the NEC in October 1988 as a spotty petrolhead and I remember the huge crowds which buzzed around the XJ220 concept. The Jaguar stand was right next to one of the hall’s main thoroughfares, and it was impossible to get past. Play an impromptu game of sardines? Yes. Make meaningful progress without having your nose squashed into a middle-aged armpit? No. I was impressed, but I didn’t love it.
Of course, that car was a completely different beast from the XJ220 which would be produced by JaguarSport between 1992 and 1994 – gone where the scissor doors, 6.2-litre V12 and 4×4 drivetrain. The dimensions of the Keith Helfet-styled body too, would be slightly altered and made more compact. The reason being is that the concept car was never intended for production, so Jaguar was a little caught out by the car’s positive reception. Remember, this concept paid homage to the unfulfilled XJ13 racer and was the first slinky Jaguar for decades.
Exploiting the company’s Group C sportscar parts bin, the XJ220 did become a reality with twin-turbo V6 power and rear-wheel drive. The basis of the engine was the unit from Austin Rover Group’s Group B beast, the MG Metro 6R4. Originally designed by David Wood from Cosworth – essentially a six-cylinder version of the legendary F1 unit, the Cosworth DFV V8 – this unit had been developed by TWR (Tom Walkinshaw Racing) for use in the XJR10 and XJR11. Running twin Garrett T3 turbochargers, the V6 was capable of 542bhp at 7000rpm with 476lbf.ft at 4500rpm, so it was a good job this Jag was the first road car to exploit underbody airflow and venturi to generate over 3000lb of downforce. In full road trim it managed to hit a top speed of 212mph, making it the fastest production car in the world. A reign which would run until 1994 and the mesmerising McLaren F1.
Autocar claimed: “That deals with the first misconception: that a small-capacity V6 wouldn’t cut the mustard. Savage acceleration really is a given here. What’s really incredible about the XJ220 is its ability to provide such performance in a way that never, ever intimidates. If we’re still looking for misconceptions, it would be forgivable to assume that a race-derived engine with a small capacity for its enormous output would deliver its power with the friendly progressiveness of a kick in the teeth. Not so. Its throttle response and, just as important, the weighting of the accelerator pedal, means you can draw on the Jaguar’s performance with absolute accuracy. Use only half the pedal’s travel and it goes like a Golf GTI, moving smartly into Porsche 968 territory with a little extra pressure. A bit more and you have Honda NSX acceleration on hand. The next stage takes you into the domain of the Ferrari 512TR, from which you will only erupt if you nail the pedal to the floor, something you could not conceivably do by accident.”
Only 281 £470,000 XJ220s were built, sales were kyboshed by the global recession of the early Nineties, so even back in the day this Jaguar was a rare machine.
What bothers me is that back then, I didn’t really like it. Its proportions were just OTT and its detailing a bit cartoonish, a showy ensemble of Jaguar’s greatest design hits from the D and E-type through to the XJ13. Now though, I’m not so sure. Now, I can’t stop looking at that rather sexy rear and rear three-quarter views.
In a similar way that some of today’s terrible skinny-jeaned bouffant chart fodder has driven me to revisit my dusty Eighties music collection, a sense of 2013 perspective has made me reassess the XJ220. Especially when you look at its £115-130,000 estimate, because that is a lot of whizz-bang for your buck.
Or has this child of the Eighties lost control of his taste and been bamboozled by a lick of dark black-black-BLACK! paint?
Needless to say, if you don’t have to fantasise about hefty Lotto wins to buy one of these, you can find out more information at www.historics.co.uk.