The Jaguar XJ220 is one of the great white elephants of automotive history. It was conceived for Group B racing by a small group of Jaguar engineers known as the Saturday Club, who worked on it in their spare time, inspired by the great Jaguar race cars of the 1950s and 1960s.
Group B had been cancelled by the time the XJ220 was unveiled at the British Motor Show in 1988, but it still caused a sensation. Despite having no real production plans, Jaguar took 1500 deposits of £50,000 on the V12-engined, four-wheel-drive missile.
When the production version finally arrived in 1992, it had become rear-wheel-drive and was powered by a 3.5-liter, twin-turbo V6 engine. Many of the depositors pulled out in disgust at the final spec, and more besides baulked at the £470,000 sticker price - an insane amount during one of the worst recessions of the 20th Century.
A production run of 350 was planned, but only 275 were built between 1992 and 1994 - the last few didn’t actually find buyers until 1998. The XJ220 had its merits, though. Thanks to its 540 horsepower (403 kilowatts) motor and super-slippery body, it became the fastest car in the world, clocking a top speed of 217 miles-per-hour (349 kilometres-per-hour). And it won its class at Le Mans in 1993, only to be disqualified for running an exhaust without catalytic converters.
Ultimately, the XJ220 has always been regarded as something of a problem child, so interest on the collector market has always been quite low. But in the last couple of years, interest has picked up as buyers priced out of contemporaries like the Ferrari F40, Bugatti EB110, and Porsche 959 have started turning to it. Which has led to some maintenance problems.
Originally, the XJ220 was fitted with unique Pirelli P Zero tires, which haven’t been available for years. Now though, Jaguar Classic has partnered with Pirelli to produce a new P Zero tire for the XJ220 which, it claims, will allow owners to get the best out of their cars. Part of Jaguar’s Special Vehicle Operations and opened earlier this year Jaguar Classic is currently restoring two XJ220s.
Don Law Racing, meanwhile, has long been the go-to XJ220 specialist and has also announced it has partnered with Bridgestone to develop a new tire for the model.
Now that two tires packages are available, owners will have no excuse not to use their XJ220. Which can only add to its appeal as a collector car.