Jaguar XJ 220

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Jaguar executives who saw the concept were sufficiently impressed to formally commit company resources to producing a car for the 1988 British Motor Show. Tom Walkinshaw Racing was tapped to produce a 6.2 L version of Jaguar’s legendary V12 engine with four valves per cylinder, quad camshafts and a target output of 500 hp (373 kW). The all wheel drive system was produced by FF Developments who had experience with such systems going back to the 1960s and the Jensen FF. The styling of the car was done by Keith Helfet and included scissor-style doors similar to those in use by Lamborghini in several of their cars. The name XJ220 was assigned as a reference to the targeted top-speed of 220 mph (354 km/h).jaguar-xj220-3-copy.jpg

The prototype car was significantly heavier at 1560 kg (3440 lb) than other Jaguar racers like the XJR-9. But as it was intended to be, first and foremost, a roadcar, it would be more appropriate to compare it with something like the XJS; in spite of being 30 in (762 mm) longer and 10 in (254 mm) wider and even with the added weight of the all wheel drive system, the XJ220 was still 170 kg (375 lb) lighter than the XJS.

The car was officially announced in 1989 with a price of £361,000 ($580,000 USD) and prospective buyers were expected to put up a deposit of £50,000 ($80,000 USD) to be put on the waiting list for delivery. Because Jaguar promised to limit initial production to 220 units and that total production would not exceed 350, many of those who put deposits on the cars were speculators who intended to sell the car at an immediate profit.

The production version of the car was first shown to the public in October 1991 after undergoing significant changes. The most obvious of which was a completely different drivetrain and the elimination of the scissor doors. TWR was charged with producing the car and had several goals/rules in producing the car: the car would be rear wheel drive instead of all wheel drive; turbocharged V6 instead of the big V12; and performance goals of over 200 mph (300 km/h), 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h) under 4 s, and the lightest weight possible.
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The 6.2 L V12 had been judged too difficult to get past increasingly strict emission regulations and there were also reportedly some design problems caused by the size of the power plant. It was replaced with a Tom Walkinshaw-developed 3.5 L V6 based on the engine used in the Rover Metro 6R4 rally car and fitted with twin Garrett T3 turbochargers, generating 549 bhp (409 kW) of maximum power at 7000 rpm and 473 ft·lbf (641 N·m) of torque at 4500 rpm. This engine was not only the first V6 in Jaguar’s history, but also the first to use forced induction. In spite of the smaller displacement and half the number of cylinders, the engine produced more power than the V12 would have. However, potential customers judged the exhaust note to be harsh and the lag from the turbos to be an annoyance. Also missing from the production version of the car was the Ferguson all wheel drive – the production car had only rear driven wheels, through a conventional transaxle – and the ABS.

The car entered production in 1992 in a purpose built factory at Bloxham near Oxford, and the first cars were delivered to customers in July. Original customers included Elton John and the Sultan of Brunei.

Many of the initial customers were dissatisfied not only with the modifications to the original specification but the significant increase in delivery price from the original £361,000 to £403,000 ($650,000 USD). Further complicating the issue was Tom Walkinshaw’s offer of the faster (by acceleration, not top speed), more expensive and more exclusive XJR-15 which was based on the Le Mans champion XJR-9. Some customers reportedly either sued Jaguar or threatened to sue—in any case, Jaguar gave the customers the option to buy themselves out of the delivery contract, as a result, many of the owners challenged Jaguar in court where the Judge eventually sided with Jaguar.

In spite of the drama surrounding its creation, a total of 281 cars were made and by 1997, few of these remained available for sale new at £150,000. Nowadays, it remains a sought-after collectible supercar.

Scribbled on January 16th 2008 in Jaguar
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