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Tim's Forza History Class

Jaguar XJ220

By Tim DeLong- 10-02-2015

In the late 1980’s and early 90’s car enthusiasts were blessed with the arrival of a new breed of supercar. The Porsche 959 with its technical refinement and the Ferrari F40 with its bare-bones brutal power were at the top of the supercar market. Jaguar wanted in on the action. Well, some of the employees at Jaguar wanted in anyway. Jaguar’s director of engineering, Jim Randle, wanted to build a world class supercar to pay tribute to Jaguar’s sports car heritage and show the world that the brand had not gone “soft” only producing grand touring sedans. His ideas were a hard sell to the management in charge of Jaguar Cars LTD.

At the time, Jaguar was doing well in the World Sports Car Championship with the V12 powered XJR-9 built with Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR). Randle assembled a team of twelve Engineers, machinists, and designers, nicknamed “The Saturday Club”, who volunteered to work on a supercar prototype in their spare time. The prototype the team created very closely resembled the car that would actually go into production. As on the production car the styling and the aluminum body would remain, but under the skin the drivetrain would be completely different.

The XJ220 prototype was powered by a detuned V12 from the TWR endurance racers. The power from the V12 was delivered to the pavement via a state of the art all wheel drive system. When the concept car debuted at the 1988 Birmingham Auto Show, it was an instant sensation. Almost immediately, Jaguar began to receive down payments from excited customers hoping to reserve an XJ220, should the car go into production.

The Jaguar execs could not deny the attention and money generated by the prototype’s debut. The XJ220 was slated for production for the 1992 model year. What the hopeful customers didn’t know was that the time before production was ultimately used to redesign the car. Jaguar had already established a  joint venture with TWR called Jaguar Sport. Jaguar Sport in turn formed a new company called Project XJ220 Ltd. solely for the production of the XJ220.

The new company ultimately chose to drop the V12 and the AWD system from the production model. This choice was due to several factors such as production costs, vehicle weight, emissions, and reliability. With the V12 out, the decision was made to go with a twin turbo V6. The turbocharged V6 was not only more powerful than the V12, it had much better fuel efficiency, weighed less, and was more reliable by far. Switching to the V6 meant that the overall wheelbase of the car could be shortened now that a smaller engine bay could be used.

The 3.5 liter, 540 HP, twin-turbo V6 used in the XJ220, named the Jaguar/TWR JV6, was originally  developed by Cosworth for Group B rally use in the MG Metro 6R4 (also available in Forza Horizon 2 Storm Island). The engine was altered to meet the demands of a road going supercar.

The XJ220 held the world record for fastest production car achieving a top speed of 213.478 mph. It held this record for a year until the record was crushed by the McLaren F1’s 230 mph run. One record that the XJ220 held from 1992 to 2000 was the fastest production car lap of the Nurburgring, with a time of 7:46.36, still a respectable time by today’s standards.

Production of the XJ220 was ultimately halted after only 208 of the scheduled 220 cars were built. Many of the customers who prepaid in full, or had money down, on the cars were upset about the lack of a V12 and AWD in the long awaited production car. The global financial market was not kind to Jaguar either. Many countries were facing fears of a possible recession and thus the collector car market plummeted.  Collector cars were no longer seen as viable investments, keeping potential customers from buying the XJ220.

Despite all the XJ220 had against it, it’s hard to call Jaguar’s first attempt at a supercar a failure. There was almost no factory support for the prototype, the car has a striking appearance, and performance to match, the XJ220 set a higher top speed than the cars it was designed to compete against in the marketplace, and due to its low production numbers the car did become a valuable and rare piece of the Jaguar lineage.  


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