By on March 18, 2013

For as long as I’ve been alive, Jaguar has been mired in identity crisis. The main problem has always been the same: the average Jaguar buyer is old. So old, in fact, that a primary bathroom break debate topic at the recent Papal conclave was the best color for an XJL. So how can Jaguar find younger buyers?

Bizarrely, for years, Jag’s answer was: leave our current models exactly how they are. Instead, add new models to attract younger buyers. Somehow, this line of thinking resulted in the creation of a Ford-based station wagon.

The same thought process also led Jaguar to build two disastrously underwhelming 1990s supercars. To no one’s surprise, they didn’t sell, which should’ve been a telltale sign that Jaguar should stay out of the supercar business.

Instead, they went racing.

Jaguar kept its supercars away from ALMS, IMSA, Grand Am and European LeMans. Instead, it chose to compete in two separate one-make race series that somehow even managed to be more ridiculous than the cars themselves.

The XJR-15

Jaguar’s first ‘90s supercar was a mid-engine, V12-powered exotic called the XJR-15. Around 50 examples were built from 1990 to 1992 by Tom Walkinshaw Racing, essentially Jaguar’s racing and tuning arm.

All of this would’ve been fine, except that Jaguar decided to price the car at around $1 million. That’s not $1 million adjusted for inflation, mind you. It’s $1 million in 1991 dollars. In today’s money, that would make it more expensive than a Bugatti Veyron.

Naturally, there were issues with this. One, it was a Jaguar. Back in 1991, Jaguar’s lineup consisted of the “XJ40” XJ sedan, which attracted nationalistic British men with low standards, and the XJS, which attracted no one.

Two, it had only 450 horsepower – and even back then, 450 horses wasn’t enough to reach seven figures. The Ferrari F40 produced more power, cost half as much, and … wasn’t a Jaguar. And three, the XJR-15 only came in right-hand drive. That meant sales would depend on the same nationalistic British men who bought the XJ, and possibly a few wealthy Japanese Anglophiles.

Going Racing

Despite the glaring issues, Jaguar was determined to make a “Halo Car” out of the XJR-15. So, eager for publicity, they invited owners to enter the cars in the three-race “1991 Jaguar Sport Intercontinental Challenge,” so named despite each event taking place in Western Europe. The cars would run before that year’s Formula 1 races at Monaco, Silverstone and Spa, supporting the F1 event and – presumably – gaining notoriety among the crowd. In theory, the young, car-enthusiast F1 fans would see the race, view Jaguar as a viable sports car manufacturer, and quickly rush to their dealers to purchase an XJS.

Sixteen owners actually took Jaguar up on the race series, which meant the courses would be jam-packed with million-dollar supercars driven by a mix of professional drivers and wealthy privateers who thought they were professional drivers.

The results, of course, were exactly as expected. When the series hit Monaco, the XJR-15s hit each other. Most drivers pressed on and returned for Silverstone, where 11 cars were damaged in one single accident. To put this in perspective: imagine 16 Veyrons plowing into each other as they raced around an F1 track. Who wouldn’t watch that?

Apparently, a lot of people. Viewership wasn’t high enough, so Jaguar decided to up the stakes. A few days before the third and final race at Spa, Jaguar announced the winner would receive a $1 million cash prize.

There was just one problem: outside of dirt tracks in West Texas, race car drivers are a clever bunch. So they started forming alliances with one another – things like “you block so-and-so and I’ll share the million with you” – as if they were contestants on Survivor.

To put a stop to this, Jaguar instituted a new rule. The $1 million purse would stand, but no one would know when the checkered flag was going to drop. It could happen on lap three. It could happen on lap 20. The race had just been transformed into a high-stakes game of musical chairs.

As expected, this caused the drivers to push way too hard, since they never knew when leading the race might matter. A veritable demolition derby followed, causing Jaguar to drop the checkered flag after just 11 laps. German racer Armin Hahne crossed the finish line in the lead, earning a seven-figure paycheck for driving just 47 miles.

The Jaguar Sport Intercontinental Challenge was over. And Jaguar’s supercar ambitions should’ve ended along with it.

The XJ220

But, of course, they didn’t. At the same time as the XJR-15 fiasco, Jaguar was developing another supercar which debuted in concept form at the 1988 British Motor Show. At the show, it had scissor doors, four-wheel drive and a V12, prompting dozens of attendees to demand on the spot that Jaguar build the car. So, they did, to disastrous consequences.

Over 1,000 people submitted deposits of around $90,000 when Jaguar announced in 1989 that its new supercar would see production. But the brand only wanted to build 350, so it returned more deposits than it took. Pricing was announced at $580,000, and the automotive world was abuzz.

When the Jaguar supercar finally came out in 1992, there were a few problems. Even though Jaguar had taken millions of dollars, the car had … changed.

For one, it no longer had scissor doors. It also swapped out the concept car’s V12 for a turbo V6. Four-wheel drive was gone. And despite its “XJ220” moniker, intended to boast about its top speed, no one ever got it past 217 miles per hour. It didn’t help that the XJ220 was wider than a Chevrolet Suburban and only a few inches shorter than a Tahoe.

These facts, coupled with a worsening economic recession, caused hundreds of people to request their deposits back. In some cases, Jaguar refused, which led to lawsuits. In other words, people sued Jaguar just so they wouldn’t have to buy the thing. The entire situation was a mess, but one thing was for sure: the XJ220 was going to be built. After all, Jaguar just had to attract those younger buyers.

Going Racing, Again

When all was said and done, Jaguar simply couldn’t sell its entire XJ220 production run, which eventually included around 280 cars – far fewer than the 350 it planned to build, and way below the 1,500 deposits it initially collected. Unsold inventory piled up, and Jaguar dealers had no interest in floorplanning a half-million dollar supercar. Something had to be done.

That something was called “Fast Masters.”

Fast Masters was a one-make, ESPN-televised race series that featured the behemoth cars ambling around the tight, 2.5-mile road course at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Naturally, this was a recipe for disaster appropriately described by a period article as “racing thoroughbreds around a dining room table.” Enthusiasts quickly dubbed the event “Crash Masters.”

To pile absurd on top of ridiculous, the XJ220 drivers weren’t serious pros or even up-and-comers trying to “make it” in the world of racing. Instead, Jaguar recruited the market it knew best: retirees. Every single car was piloted by a retired race car driver (dubbed “Past Masters”), perhaps proving that Jaguar actually wanted these things destroyed – especially since the races were run at night. It would be easier than selling them.

After exchanged paint and some twisted metal, Fast Masters ended and Jaguar wisely left the supercar business forever.

The Supercars Today

Neither the XJ220 nor the XJR-15 ever gained a following on the used market, and their values quickly entered the same free fall as the rest of Jaguar’s lineup. Today, the cars are 20 years old and function quite like any other 20-year-old Jaguar: expensively.

These days, XJR-15s sell for around $200,000. That’s more like the ceiling for an XJ220, with some examples closer to the $150,000 range. By comparison, the Ferrari F50 – priced similarly to the XJ220 when it came out in 1995 – typically trades between four and five times that figure. Of course, part of that is due to Ferrari’s pedigree and the F50’s place in the brand’s heritage.

But some of the F50’s premium comes from the Ferrari’s relative ease of maintenance. On the flip side, arriving at a Jaguar dealer in an XJ220 would elicit camera phone shots from the technicians and pleas from the sales staff to buy an XKR-S. But it wouldn’t result in any real service. That’s because virtually the only place that will touch an XJ220 is Don Law Racing, which is located in Staffordshire, England.

Yes, I am suggesting that maintaining your XJ220 will require shipping it to England. And since it’s an old Jaguar, that probably happens a lot.

These days, the XJR-15 and XJ220 are probably best as static garage art, likely owned by the same old people Jaguar was trying to avoid in the first place. Even on display, they’re beautiful reminders of the time Jaguar tried to make it in the supercar business – and failed miserably.

Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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65 Comments on “The XJR-15 and XJ220: When Jaguar Tried to Be Cool and Failed...”

  • avatar

    I’ve always loved the styling of the XJ220, but I can’t help but wonder whether the OEM alloy wheels were specifically designed to look like cheap hubcaps?

  • avatar

    “And three, the XJR-15 only came in right-hand drive. That meant sales would depend on the same nationalistic British men who bought the XJ, and possibly a few wealthy Japanese Anglophiles.”

    Possibly, but I did see an older non-tacky non-blinged non-chromed RHD brown-ish Rolls Royce on the freeway the other day here in California. An older gentleman was driving it — I assume he was British, but no idea.

  • avatar

    I completely disagree with your statements about the XJ220. I think it was VERY cool. The shape, massiveness, rarity/exclusivity, cost – all cool stuff. I personally feel it is one of the best looking supercars ever. It should be a positive that they could get supercar power from a 6-cylinder at that time, using the turbos to be much more efficient than a V12 Ferrari.

    The majority of the blame lies with the Jaguar name attached to the front, and the recession. This is, to me, one of the best supercars of the 90s. Yes, the F40 trumps it because awesome.

    The XJR-15 was kind of a joke, so I’ll give you that one.

    • 0 avatar

      I always liked the styling. But the V6 was a pretty big turn off back then. There was a lot of attempts at making supercars back then that failed. This one just happened to be attached to a larger car maker.

      • 0 avatar

        I always thought it was remarkable that they built a Turbo V6 that could hang with the V12 cars. At the same time I understand that it’s not the same, and would have been pissed if I put down a deposit for a 12 cylinder car and only received half the engine, even if it did have turbos.

    • 0 avatar

      There were 1,500 people willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a V12 powered XJ220. Jaguar had to sue people to try and make 350 of them take delivery of a V6 powered XJ220. The engine used in the production XJ220 was a turbocharged edition of the engine in the performance version of the MG Metro. People wanting efficiency weren’t the market for supercars in 1991, as they were 22 years smarter and saner than the ones that are the target audience for hybrid supercars today. Incidentally, none of the turbo Esprits, 959s, 930s, or F40s returned fuel economy that merited mention for its superiority to that of V8 and V12 exotics.

      • 0 avatar

        Back then, it was just cool to say TURBO! and slap the accompanying badges all over.

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t get much cooler than a Turbo Esprit.

      • 0 avatar

        Those Metros were mid-engined monsters which were built for Group B rallying. The category was cancelled after the fire spitting mid-engined hatchbacks caused spectator fatalities.

        It was probably a case of corporate expediency to use the V6 engine developed for a dead rally series, rather than spending scarce cash wringing extra power out of the V12. The official line was that the V12 was too heavy.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, except maybe the massiveness part – it’s just TOO big. But it was VERY fast, the turbo V6 was actually miles cooler than a regular V12 (though I only realized this as an adult, as a kid I thought the V6 was lame in comparison – I think the rich people still think like children). That said, they should have told TWR to just put the V12 in because the rich people would have a hissyfit, it’s not like they didn’t make tuned versions of the V12! TWR was trying to make the best car, but didn’t understand that the buyers and Jaguar would have been better off with a poorer car that pressed the right buttons in ignorant rich people.

      The one-make racing was really, really lame though. One make raching is ALWAYS lame unless you’re competing in it. It also doesn’t tell you anything. That said, the XJ220 did compete and actually did pretty well in a few real races as well, such as at Le Mans (beating Porsche) but were hampered by various problems – political ones at Le Mans that resulted in disqualification after the fact.

      • 0 avatar

        It wasn’t the V6, it was the massive single turbo that made an old school 911 turbo seem lagless, yes it could put out the V12 numbers, but by the time the single turbo had spooled it would be doing those numbers with a view.

        the 959 and F40 represent the pinnacle of supercars (the 959, like the veyron, a technical marvel to see what was possible (199mph, with all wheel drive and steering)and the F40, with a Twin Turbo V-8, and not much more than the ricaros to cut as much weight out (201 moh, have only seen one of each and I was young.. The modern equivilents would be the veyron (except its ugly) and the MC F1 (the F50 was blah to me, always wish ford had built the original 4 turbo GT concept rather than the retro car, of course add a few turbos along with the SS and you’ve got one hell of a supercar at sportscar pricing)

  • avatar

    I remember the 220 but never knew the history of Jaguar racing. Thanks for the history lesson.

  • avatar

    Top Gear didn’t script this?? Really, it would be epic!

    • 0 avatar

      It wasn’t Top Gear per se, but I think it was on one of Jeremy Clarkson’s specials where he drove an XJ220. One memorable sequence was where he accelerated and the radio literally shot out of the dash.

  • avatar

    This is basically Jaguars LFA. Can you really blame any manufacturer for trying the’re hand at a supercar though? The R&d cost for future tech that will trickle down the product line is easily offset by a supercars high price tag.

  • avatar

    It is these failures that makes Jaguar so special. Just like their cars, the brand is flawed but lovable. When I see a late model BMW or Audi flagship sedan, I am honestly not impresses. But when I see an XJ, I think “there goes an independent thinker.” To me Jaguar has always been a half step above the German competition in my personal perception, even if objectively they are worse. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for sexy British cars.

    • 0 avatar

      Agree. The other day at work I was glancing out the window, and a circa 2000 XJ-L went by. Dark green, tinted, looked like perfect condition. I thought, “Well there’s someone who is trying hard, and cares about cars.”

    • 0 avatar

      “But when I see an XJ, I think “there goes an independent thinker.””

      I also thought that yesterday when I saw a Ford Pinto Shooting Brake that was quite well-preserved.

      A few months ago, I saw another well-preserved almost-showroom condition Sunday driver Pinto. That old guy’s kids must think he’s nuts.

      • 0 avatar

        I used to have a 1974 Pinto wagon. I put aluminum “mag” wheels on it and painted the centers metallic gold, I also had Pirelli tires on it that I made into white letter tires by hand painting the Pirelli logos white with vinyl roof dye. The best part of all was the rattle can paint job I did on it, white with dark blue/baby blue/red stripes, and blacked out chrome trim.

        Do those colors sound familiar ?. They should to a true racing enthusiast. I was the only one in the world with a Pinto station wagon done up in the Martini Racing colors !. It looked like a Pinto wagon 935, I even had the tailgate and tail light trim blacked out.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. The X308 XJRs are what a “saloon” should look like. Should I ever own one, I’d find one with it’s AJ V8 grenaded (won’t be hard) and GM LS swap it. Then it would be a joy to own and actually put miles on.

      • 0 avatar

        I found a shop out in SF region which specializes in the X308 and XK8 swaps, of course it ain’t exactly cheap. Most of what I find on the subject is limited to the XJ40s and earlier.

        • 0 avatar

          Yep the ’98-’03 Jag LS swaps are gaining popularity and there is enough stuff that can be ordered now that someone with the will and good wrenching skills can do the swap.

          Yes, the swaps are expensive, but if you find a car where the timing chain tensioners have let go, or the transmission is smoked, you can get the car for very fair price. Once the LS swap is cleanly done, you’ll have invested roughly what you’d have in a clean good running AJ V8.

          Then, you can enjoy your Jag with the peace of mind that nothing in the engine or trans will cost you very much should it fail, and parts are generally available in your average GM pickup.

          Yes, I too really like the sound of the AJV8 S/C, but not sure I’d want to own one for the long haul.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree, the X308 has aged so gracefully (perhaps because it was pre-aged when new) My favorite thing about the x308s is the seating position. It makes you sit with your legs almost horizontal in front of you. Very unique Indeed.

        An LS swap would be nice, but honestly, I enjoy the Supercharged AJ just as much. so smooooooth, and just the right amount of supercharger whine and exhaust growl.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh god a 70-80’s XJ is one of the most beautiful car designs ever, my brother currently has one having V12 (along with pumps with everything else under the hood), transmission and Lucas bits all replaced by GM (LS1 or some equiv. engine) and Delphi bits. I’m waiting for my 70’s 300D to come along (would love the Jag, but doing the swaps sound expensive and I would want a SS on the engine, if the right one comes around and I can get the work for close to cost, then maybe, but once ford raised the height it kind of ruined it alittle, although a massive increase in quality which still sucked (however forgot which 2-3 years in the 90’s when the XJ had an all aluminum frame and body (held on by epoxy and aluminum velcro), but thats probably past my range and would be collectable one day, they switched back to Steel body (and some plastic) soon enough, b/c unlike LR, they couldn’t built expensive all aluminum vehicles that people would buy regardless. that was Jag’s bane, like porsche with the 911, the XJ design was so classic the base wouldn’t allow it to change, porsche just found its way around (toyota cost cutting), introducing 4-5 other models (related to other VAG components) and alot of 6 figure 911’s, with bottom line 911’s for what the $30k LS400 was, just to get them in the showroom. Jaq went all hidious with the thier retro (the LS with 4 round headlights up front would have done wonders for starting the imagechange ) and mondeo based whatever, when a small sedan based on the mustang platform would have been so much better, along with a roadster based on a stretched miata platform and…too late for that now, atleast they left JLR and Volvo in great shape for the new owners

  • avatar

    Don’t forget the “CX-75” concept, which had a turbine, which they said they would build, but then didn’t.

  • avatar

    To give Jaguar credit, their body styling has been truly outstanding, all the way back to the 1950’s. They have consistently designed (with the notable exception of the XJ-S)extremely attractive cars, instantly recognizable as Jags and often the best-looking cars on any road.

    Mechanicals may be another matter, of course….

    • 0 avatar

      The styling of these two super-cars still looks fresh. If I had looked at them without labels, I might have thought 2015 Acura NSX for the XJR-15 and 2013 Lambo for the XJ220.

    • 0 avatar

      Original XJ was probably the most beautiful sedans of its era (any car that could still be sold 30 years later with minimal changes and still catch the eye, would be as hideous as a 911).

      Or do you mean the new XJ? ford had to break the 911 curse at some point, just wished it would have looked like a bigger XF, instead of the hatchback thingy and have been lowered a good 4-6 inches.

      I mean at some point Jags going to have to redo thier roadster and seeing as the AM DB/vantage and whatever else they have were just based on the XK concept with a V12, imagine that it would be wise for them to pick up Bristol (has prestige, just nothing modern) and AM and make Jag thier BMW fighter (lower beautiful cars again, from the a small roadster to a 7 series XJR type (and Tata has the cash, Ford isn’t competing, they have the technology to sale and co-develope, also helps them into india market), Bristol (square and tall) for a little below Bentley (until quality and technology gets where it needs to be and AM for supercars, people seem to buy them regardless, but those cars are from a what 12-14 year old design (body, engine, etc).

      • 0 avatar

        You’ve really gotta work on sticking with one topic per sentence, and having actual sentences. I can’t even read this, because you switch between AM, Bristol, and Jag in one sentence, and are never specific as to WHICH you’re referring to.

        Your whole second paragraph is ONE sentence.

  • avatar

    I loved Crash Masters. Was it on during a big baseball strike? I thought the baseball strike was the best thing to ever happen to TV. Suddenly we had exotic car demolition derbies and Afghanistan peasant head polo tournaments to watch. Pretty much everything they used to fill ESPN air time was more interesting than baseball.

  • avatar

    Funny article, I giggled a few times.
    That being said, two comments:

    “Of course, part of that is due to Ferrari’s pedigree and the F50’s place in the brand’s heritage.

    But some of the F50’s premium comes from the Ferrari’s relative ease of maintenance.”

    I don’t think the F50 places that high in the brand’s heritage. Amazingly enough, they trade at about the same prices as F40s, probably due to fewer having been built.
    And to refer to a Ferrari’s relative ease of maintenance is saying something. If I am not mistaken, the F50 has cambelts that require changing every three years which involves removing the engine.

    OT: Commenting is going really slow these days. I am on Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 9.

  • avatar

    Reading this honestly gave me nostalgia for those old Need For Speed games that I used to play, I don’t recall driving the Jags very often even though they looked great.

    I have to say that Jaguar was pretty insane with these racing ideas, I watched some of “Fast Masters” online and maybe half the pack was out of the running within the first few heats.

  • avatar

    I used to travel to London frequently for work and use a parking a garage in West Minister that housed a decent collection of super cars including a XJ220. The owner never moved it and it had about one inch of dust on it. It was also parked under a leaky pipe that left a huge calcium (I think) deposit on the hood that etched the paint and caused all kinds of corrosion down to the bumper. Sad really.

  • avatar

    If Jag wants to get young people behind the wheels of its cars it has to make cars they can afford. Original E-Type was an equivalent of $40K in today’s dollars, and has more beauty + character than Jaguar’s whole line up combined. F-Type STARTS at $70K. So the only people who can buy it are rich, who tend to be old. A Jag is about as relevant to a normal young person as an S-Class- which is also popular with other people.

    Like everyone Jag has to chase volume to stay afloat. They need to make affordable cars for young men that aren’t gussied up Ford Mondeos. A modern E-Type or even XJ, with the same lightness and smallness of the originals, would do well I think. I am personally tired of the overweight + sanitized excuses for sports cars and sedans that are out today. An E39 is smaller than an F30. If Jag wound the clock back a bit and created their own niche they could have a winner.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      Grace, pace, space as Sir William said. Lots of aluminium, Connolly leather, and a V-8. Room for 4 to travel comfortably and luxuriously. Price it around 50k and it would sell (lease) all day. Make mine claret colored and I’ll “fah” at stoplights.

  • avatar

    Wasn’t the Jaguar Sport Challenge actually conceived as a sequel to Python’s “Upper Class Twit of the Year” competition?

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    I have been in a position to visit a private collection where there is both side by side. The XJR15 is the car they should have sold because it is stunningly beautiful when seen close . It’s also half the size of the 220. But let us not forget the 220 is fast at 212 MPH, it has 540 hp and had enough torque to out accelerate a Pagani Zonda as shown on top was also faster than the Zonda too.
    It was actually only the speculators who failed and that is a great thing. Collector Auto speculators need to be burned often …to keep them in their place and away from cars.
    For the truth a visit to you tube will correct most of the rubbish in the above article.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Oh, and check out the great Tiff as he peddles a new one around Silverstone in 1992…
    far more exiting than the latest mercedes SLS …

  • avatar

    I forgot all about the XJ220. After this article I looked them up online and found a huge problem with them. It has possibly the worst looking interior of any supercar, let alone a Jag. Owners of these must have been jealous of Taurus drivers from the same vintage.

    • 0 avatar

      Very true, but so are the interiors of Lamborghini Diablos and other supercars of the same vintage. The F40 didn’t even have much of an interior to speak of, missing door handles and all.
      I’m glad the XJ220 exists. It’s one of the most beautiful cars ever made in my eyes. I remember reading about it and staring at pictures in a magazine over and over when I was a kid.. It did a lot more for me than any of the other supercars.

  • avatar

    some historical notes Doug – the ALMS, ELMS, current IMSA organization, and Grand-Am were not around at the time of this racing. You had the FIA’s World Sports Car Championship and “old IMSA” here in the US. Jaguar did compete in those series with their XJR prototype series racecars (there was no production based GT category at Le Mans from 1985 to 1993), and were quite successful, winning multiple championships and major races including the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Rolex 24 twice each. The XJR-15 was actually based on the successful XJR-9 racecar, essentially being a street going version of that design.

    As for the XJ220, yes the engine and drivetrain were a disappointment in terms of being a V-6 instead of a V-12. That being said, it was still the fastest street legal production car in the world from its launch till the Mclaren F1 came along, and held the production car Nurburgring record for several years. The engine did have a race heritage, being the powerplant from Jag’s XJR-10/11 IMSA GTP/FIA WSC cars. The XJ220 itself did have a not unsuccessful race career. Victories include wins in the BRDC National Sports GT Challenge and an unofficial class win at Le Mans in 1993 (it was incorrectly disqualified).

  • avatar

    The best XJ220 was the Ford GT90. Ford used the Jag chassis and put on everything that should have been there, crazy doors, and a maniacal V12 quad turbo. Then they didn’t build it. Jag didn’t use their V12 cause they couldn’t get as much power out of it as the V6.

    I love how all the supercars from this era looked the part. Sleek bullets. The epitome of this in my opinion was the 220. I especially like how the headlights were hidden under trap doors that slid down and forward.

    Their reliability is probably not accurate. I’m sure they have more in common with a race car than a luxury saloon. They are probably simple, and to the point.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh yeah, the GT90. Because of the quad turbo, the exhaust needed special heat shielding that was quite similar to the heat tiles that was used on the US space shuttle.

  • avatar

    “So, eager for publicity, they invited owners to enter the cars in the three-race “1991 Jaguar Sport Intercontinental Challenge,” so named despite each event taking place in Western Europe.”

    Those wacky Ford marketers! Ford bought Jag in 1989. Must have copied the idea of the World Series played only in the USA, where the winners are declared World Champeens. Despite the fact that the original series were sponsored by the Daily World newspaper, nobody remembers that.

    Saw my one and only XJ220 in Bristol UK on the high street in 1993. Rattly engine at idle, just like CAR magazine said. Turning circle of a garbage truck, but having accepted the huzzahs of the small crowd of onlookers, the driver managed to get it underway and give us half of low gear. Looked like a manta ray among the square tin boxes of the common folk. Excellent.

  • avatar

    I have to disagree with the XJ220 portion of this article. At the time the XJ220 was the coolest of the cool.

    I was a kid in the 90’s and one of my first memories of my car obsession is reading a book called “Cool Cars.” The book featured such classics as the Espirit Turbo, the Corvette Zr-1, the Ferrari Testarossa and the Acura NSX. However, according to that book, the Jaguar XJ220 was the coolest of the cool.

    In addition to this credible source (joke), you have to look back at the time period. The car could go 217mph! The F40 could barely break 200. I believe the Diablo topped out at 201. 217 was an incredible feat for the time. Heck, even today its an incredible feat, the McLaren P1 will top out right around 217, I assume the LaFerrari will top out around there.

    Until the Mclaren F1 came out, the XJ220 was arguably the king of the hypercar mountain. I say “arguably” because the XJ220 kicked off a hypercar war that featured combatants such as the Bugatti EB110, the F50, and ultimately the F1.

    The mid 90’s was a great time to be a car obsessed kid and that was due mostly to the hypercar war that was started by the XJ220.

  • avatar

    Search for “Fast Masters Jaguar” on YouTube. You will not be disappointed. It really was a complete disaster.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “That’s because virtually the only place that will touch an XJ220 is Don Law Racing, which is located in Staffordshire, England.

    Yes, I am suggesting that maintaining your XJ220 will require shipping it to England. And since it’s an old Jaguar, that probably happens a lot.”

    What a load of bollocks…What is so special about the innards of an XJ220 that it requires that level of specialist? Answer nothing. Probably the only issue is parts supply.

  • avatar

    There are those that talk about these cars and then there are those that own them. I am always fascinated to read the so called facts about the 220 and the 15. I own both models and nobody sued me to buy them.
    I was at the 1988 motor show in Birmingham (UK) when the XJ220 was revealed. Bar none, in terms of motor manufacturers at the show, it blew them all away. It was an awesome sight and the sheer scale of the car was amazing. Tom Walkinshaw, the boss of TWR was at the show with Peter Stevens, the designer of the XJR-15 and the McLaren F1. Walkinshaw asked Stevens if he could come up with something better, and as a car designer, he of course said yes…. and this was the beginning of the XJR 15 story. At this point TWR had not been commissioned to build the XJ220 and when they were asked to do so this presented a conflict of interest. In fact the XJR-15 was the source of much friction between Jaguar and TWR when the XJR-15 emerged. As a result of the friction between the two, the XJR 15 was never fully developed as such. In principle there appears to be three versions of the car. There is the race car, a 6Ltr, 6 speed crash box, stripped out version, a road car which was also 6Ltr but with a 5 speed synchro box, air conditioning and good road manners and finally a quite rare LM version said to have a 7Ltr engine with a 5 speed synchro box, air conditioning and a modified body to improve handling. These are basically race cars with no creature comforts and are akin to the sparse specification of the F40. For the car buff, the XJR-15 is good to look at, it is very rare, sounds great and goes like stink (or a bat out of hell if you prefer). For the armchair critic it is a rich source of Jaguar ridicule (for a car that has never seen the inside of a Jaguar factory or showroom), and then there is the driver… that’s a different story. In truth I have a road and race car. The first time I drove the race car on the public highway, it was a great thrill. I have converted the car to street legal in the UK, just a few modifications were required such as a hand break and a horn. The car has certain draw backs if you are tall, but what a great thing to drive on the road. It is like being in charge of your very own roller coaster. It takes a while to get to grips with the 6 speed crash box, but well worth the effort. I have owned and or driven all sorts of exotic cars, including some track time in an F1 car and I can honestly say that the XJR 15 is fabulous. Following my first drive, I think I had a grin on my face for days afterwards. The road car is less fierce than the race version, but still a great drive.
    The XJ 220 is a pleasure to own. My car has straight through exhausts, and whilst I agree that the engine rattles at idle, you should here it when it’s on song. I drove mine through London a couple of years ago on a super car run and the video was posted on Youtube, it sounded fantastic. Inside the car the space if excellent, unlike the XJR 15 which is cramped, the seats are very comfortable and once the car is doing 70 mph or so it is quiet and smooth. An excellent long distance GT car. Whilst the 0 – 60 mph time of 3.5 seconds is impressive, the 7.8 seconds for 0-100mph is awesome. The XJ220 is still in the top 10 (or so) fastest cars ever built. For the owners of these cars it’s much more about the experience of driving and owning them than picking holes in what the dash looks like, or what car did this switch come out of.
    When Jaguar announced the format for placing an order of an XJ 220, through JaguarSport appointed dealerships, I was very tempted to place an order. The power plant for me was never an issue. They wanted a £50k deposit, plus Vat at 15%. Whilst that was a bit tricky, the main issue was that the final price for the car was open ended. It was a basic price of around £350 – 400k (as I recall) and then subject to increase based on the RPI with no actual delivery date. I though that was a bit of a lottery and I decided not to play. I knew a number of people who were just speculators who placed orders, some were awarded orders. As I recall the power plant for the car was never specified, but people assumed that it would be the V12. To put the market in perspective, at the time Jaguar were marketing the XJ 220, so late 1989, here in the UK, F40’s were changing hands for circa £1m and a Testarossa was about £350k. By comparison the XJ220 was not that expensive. Of course in the post 1990 recession era where the second hand market saw F40 tumble to about £125k and a Testsrossa was about £35k, the XJ220 at £460k looked ridiculous. As a result it was not surprising that the speculators, who had lost their proverbial shirts on other supercars tried to get out of their contracts for the XJ220. Properly wealthy people just paid up and bought the car they had ordered. I have no doubt that many of them were a little sore in doing so, but pay up they did. The speculators had placed their deposits for £50k, so Jaguar had that. Those that Jaguar litigated against had to pay a further £75k + to hand back their orders, and then the remaining cars were sold. Eventually a jaguar Dealer called Grange bought up the remaining cars, all left hand drive and they were sold over a period. I don’t know what Grange paid for them, but they were selling them for between £175 – 225k. So whilst the XJ220 was a PR mess, it was not the financial disaster that the motoring media liked to promote it as. Currently in the UK a nice XJ220 will set you back around £250k and an F40 is about £350k.
    In terms of servicing and maintenance, Don Law has really become the centre for this for both the XJ220 and the XJR 15. As far as I know he is happy to ship parts and provide technical support. I have always found his firm to be very helpful and without him it might be that the XJ220 would be in a very bad place right now. In my view it is to Jaguar’s detriment that they have not fully supported these cars, but that may be partly due to the falling out with TWR, who after all, were the manufacturers of the cars.

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      This is a wonderful post and although it’s probably not going to be seen by many because it’s been a few weeks, I’m incredibly glad you shared it. I read every word and I appreciate the insight.

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        I was doing an online search for extra info on the XJR-15 when I came across this article. Even if it’s well over 4 years old by now, I just had to step in and do something because this is about the biggest bunch of nonsense that I’ve ever read and it’s published on a website that calls itself ‘thetruthaboutcars’. So in order to prevent future readers that come across this from being told a very bad joke, I just have to place things in perspective. To start with: almost every fact in this article is wrong. And if it does happen to be correct, the right background info is missing, making it look as a part of the bad joke again.

        So here’s a little real truth:
        Jaguar has always been pretty succesful at racing on every attempt in the 20th century. First in the ’50’s with the C-Type and D-Type and later in te ’80’s and ’90’s Group C era. The only thing that came to haunt them over and over again, was changes made in regulations so their cars weren’t eligible anymore. It happened in the ’60’s with the gorgeous XJ13, which had a 4.8L V12 only to see the Le Mans rules restrict engine capacity to 3.5L before it was finished. It happened again in the ’90’s when Jaguar was a the top of the racing world. That’s right, Jaguar wasn’t the loser brand it’s pictured to be in the article above, they were dominating everybody. In the ’80’s the Group C endurance competition had gained a lot of followers. The rules were very open so manufacturers could enter almost every engine formula (turbo or naturally aspirated) they wanted. This resulted in a domination of Porsche 956’s and 962’s with turbo engines. Nobody could match the Porsches until Jaguar came along. American Bob Tulius had been using Jaguars for racing since the late ’70’s and the Jaguar headquarters had seen the results improve so they decided to make a manufacturer effort along with the Tom Walkinshaw Racing. In ’87 they got close at Le Mans, but in ’88 they won the illustrous race beating the unbeatable Porsches with the mighty Jaguar 7.0L V12 engine. The same year they also had already won the Daytona 24h, putting Jaguar on the map as the top contender. By that time sportscar racing had become so popular that it was becoming a threat to F1 so the FIA decided something had to be done. They announced a set of new rules, limiting engine capcity for sportscars to 3.5L. This proved to be a problem for Jaguar, as they had only experience with the big V12’s. They relied on TWR to build the XJR-10 (3.0L IMSA version) and XJR-11 (3.5L Group C version) to remain competitive. Because this was a totally new turbo engine lay-out for Jaguar (LOOSELY based on the MG Rover 6R4 Group B rally car, that was named rally car of the year in ’85), it wasn’t as succesfull as the previous V12 Jaguars. FIA in the meantime had to postpone their severe rule changes because nobody could match them, allowing Jaguar to enter it’s V12’s again in the 1990 24H Le Mans race, claiming victory once more and proving that Jaguar was still top of the racing world. The massive crowd at Le Mans even prevented the winning Jaguars to cross the finish line. In 1991 however, the FIA had definitly forced it’s rules upon Group C, banning turbo engines entirely, making the XJR-10 and XJR-11 efforts obsolete. Jaguar responded with the XJR-14, arguably the best race car of it’s era. It was designed by Ross Brawn (who later teamed up with M. Schumacher to dominate F1) and was on a different level than it’s competitors. The XJR-14 combined the Ford Cosworth F1 engine with a splendid chassis, making Jaguar the world champions once more in 1991. Because FIA had messed up completely with their rules making Group C too expensive to compete for many manufacturers, the 1992 season had to be cancelled because nobody showed up, only for Peugeot to step in and force it anyway (remember both Peugeot and the FIA were run by the French at the time). Jaguar however saw no future in it and decided to call it quits. They were proven right because the 1993 sportscar season never started thanks to the FIA idiots. In just 2 years time FIA had managed to kill the most successful racing formula ever. The conclusion: as long as Jaguar was competing, they were winning. They were just forced out of racing once more as they were in the ’60’s with the XJ13.

        Now put your article on the XJR-15 and XJ220 in this timeline. Because Jaguar was dominating the racing scene since the mid ’80’s they wanted to translate this success to their road cars. The XJ220 originally was an after hours concept by a few Jaguar engineers, inspired by the racing success, called ‘The Saturday club’. They wanted to make a road going Group C racer, so naturally they planted the V12 in the back for it’s debut at the 1988 Birmingham Motor Show. Originally a concept, the car was a massive success based on its looks so Jaguar decided to develop it further. Nobody knew anything about the performances this car would bring aside from the claimed top speed of 220MPH (giving the car it’s name). As told before, the racing rules were evolving in the mean time as were the emission rules for road cars. This forced Jaguar to come up with a solution, because the V12 could never deliver enough power to make the 220MPH mark and complying with the emission rules. So they switched to the 3.5L turbo engine of the XJR-11. When the car came out in 1992, it delivered exactly what it had promised: a top speed of 220MPH (yes it only did 217MPH in the road test, but nowadays cars only meet the emission and MPG numbers on the test bank as well). However by 1992 there were a few factors against the XJ220: a global recession and the fact that a lot of deposits were made by Americans who were basically no brain car ignorants that only think in cubic inches and that were let down by the switch from the V12 to the turbo V6, not knowing that the latter was in fact a lot more sophisticated. Hence the Fast Masters effort to prove to the Americans that the XJ220 indeed was a true supercar. So yes, commercially the XJ220 wasn’t a success by the time it was released, but it was the greatest sports car of it’s era. The fact second hand prices went down, was due to Jaguar letting the car go because of the commercial hangover and even more so because Bridgestone stopped producing the original tires for it, the only ones that would fit. However in a joined effort with Don Law Racing, Bridgestone has redevelloped the tires only recently and Jaguar has reinstalled it’s Classic car maintenance program, causing the resale value of the XJ220 to double immediatly. It would ‘ve been one of the best investments if you bought one at the time when this article was published.
        The XJR-15 on the other hand, was the TWR vision of the road version of the XJR racing cars. TWR absolutely wanted to make a V12 supercar, so it did. Tom Walkinshaw was a very persistent man, causing troubles between him and Jaguar later on (and at Benneton F1 a few years later). But the XJR-15 came into existence and was actually finished before the XJ220. Because TWR’s business with Jaguar was ending in sportscar racing, they created the Jaguar Intercontinental Challenge to put the XJR-15 into the limelight along with the F1 races as FIA was aiming all efforts to F1. It was a necessary move given the fact that FIA had destroyed the sportscar competition. And to get things right: the XJR-15 Challenge was disputed by A-class drivers from the start. It didn’t do much good to the XJR-15’s popularity but it wasn’t a joke either. In fact it was no different than the many Porsche cups or Ferrari challenges that have been held all over the world. What else was there to do when the ruling body changes the playfield in their own interest all the time? Jaguar simply was forced out of the game in favor of F1.

        Now to get to your comparison with the Ferrari F50, that’s only to make the joke complete. First of all Ferrari are somewhat the losers in the racing world. Yes they manage to pretend to be the top of the world, but in reality they aren’t that great. Before the Schumacher era, their last F1 world title was in 1979 with Scheckter. Then there was the magic trident Schumacher – Brawn – Byrne that would have made any F1 team world champion and a late Raikonnen spur but after that it was back to losing again for Ferrari. They didn’t even bother to compete in sportscar racing for 20 years after their beating by Ford in the late ’60’s until the rules changed in their favor in 1993 and they could use an F1 engine in the 333SP, which wasn’t that succesfull at all in the big races either. So their racing pedigree is mainly based on the fact that they’re the only manufacturer that has always been present in F1, what deservedly earns them a lot of respect but also causes them to try to influence the rules in their favor all the time. The same goes for their road cars, which have been great but never the best at the time of release. They’re always beaten by someone. Not so the XJ220 in 1992. So praising the F50 over the XJ220 is just due to a lack of knowledge.

        For the record, a McLaren F1 also needs maintenance from the original factory, making it necessary for a technician to travel around the world or the car to return to Britain. If you have the money to buy a ’90’s supercar, that can’t be a stumbling block.

        So the next time you publish an article on Jaguar being not cool, please do check the facts. They have produced some of the greatest racing cars of all time that have timeless looks. It caused me to become a Jaguar fan in the ’80’s in a world where Ferrari and Porsche are all over the place all the time. Nobody forced me to make a choice, but Jaguar simply were the coolest. And they still are, keeping true to their designing style with Ian Callum at the helm. That’s the real truth about cars.

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      The XJ 220 and XJR 15 are incredible cars. I feel that the article “When Jaguar tried to be cool…” missed the point of these amazing cars. In this article, Jaguar is depicted as a company interested only in making comfortable road cars for geriatric people, and then out of the blue tried to change their image. There was no mention of the vast racing heritage of Jaguar going back to the 50s with the C and D type cars and the beautiful XJ13 (which never actually competed) and continuing in the 80s and 90s with the group 44 Jaguars, then the TWR cars which were incredibly successful in racing, culminating in defeating the mighty Porsches at Lemans. The article also failed to mention that both the XJR 15 and XJ220 were direct decendants of this racing pedigree—the XJR 15 a very close relative of the XJR9 which won at Lemans, and the XJ220 actually won its class at Lemans. I am lucky enough to own both cars and enjoy driving them. They are beautiful to look at, beautiful to hear especially at speed, and the sensation of accelerating at seemingly fighter jet speeds can not be described in words–you have to experience it to appreciate it.

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