The Jaguar XJ 220 was a supercar that could have been a world beater; but wasn't. The reasons why it never quite made the grade are an object lesson in the difficulties of turning a dream car into reality.
Jaguar employees were a very enthusiastic bunch of people. A group of them used to gather together after working hours in what was known as the Saturday Club and, led by the company's chief engineer Jim Randle, they put together ideas for a supercar capable of exceeding 200 mph. This was put to the management who agreed that the project could go ahead; a target was set for producing a concept car before the British Motor Show of 1988. A 6.2 litre version of the by then legendary Jaguar V12 engine was envisaged, and a four-wheel drive system was planned. the car wasto be fast and palatial. Electrically operated scissor doors, which rotated vertically from a hinge at the front, impressed many potential buyers!
The following year it was announced that they would be going into production, at a launch price of a terrifying £361,000! Despite this orders flooded in with deposits of £50,000 per car demanded. In order to keep the value of the car as high as possible the commitment was made by the company to produce no more than 350 of them.
Sadly, the best laid plans often go astray. Production difficulties, emission regulations, cost considerations and necessary design modifications meant that by the time the cars were ready for delivery the original specification had changed dramatically. The price had also gone up to an even more terrifying £470,000, which meant that at the time made it the most expensive car ever.
Out had gone the scissor doors; they simply couldn't be made to work satisfactorily. The V12 engine couldn't be made to comply with emissions regulations and so it was replaced with a twin supercharged V6. The four-wheel-drive arrangement became rearwheel drive only.
What made things worse for the company was the fact that there was a collapse at the time in the global economy. A very large proportion of the people who were initially queueing to buy the car looked upon them as investments which would appreciate in value in the future; an economic downturn made this far less likely. Since the initial specifications had changed so much many felt that they had a legal right to cancel their orders, which vanished like snowflakes on a hot day. Ultimately just 281 cars were sold before manufacture was abandoned.
Economically the XJ 220 may have been a flop but it was, and still is, one of the fastest production cars on the road, capable of a hair raising 217 mph. Whilst it was on sale there was nothing else on earth that could beat it; and still little else even now.