Buy/Drive/Burn: Supercar Failures of the 1990s

buy drive burn supercar failures of the 1990s

Our recent Rare Rides entry on the Bugatti EB110 quickly sussed out a couple of mid-90s competitors in the comments section. Today, we’ll visit the trio and pick one to take home.

An entrant each from France, England, and Italy; all of them failures in their own right. Which big money flop will it be?

Bugatti EB110

When it debuted for the 1991 model year, Bugatti’s EB110 was the first new car the company produced since the early 1960s. Taking its model number from the age of the company’s founder, the EB110 dealt in some impressive numbers. A 3.5-liter V12 produced 552 horsepower via four turbochargers. A six-speed manual sent that power through all four wheels, earning it a top speed of 210 miles an hour. And it wasn’t enough. The company’s owner had an appetite bigger than his checking account could bear, and Bugatti went under for a second time by 1995.

Ferrari F50

With Ferrari’s already legendary F40 wrapping up production in 1991, Ferrari had a successor in the works. Ready for 1995, the targa-roofed machine had all the right characteristics for success. Styling was a modern interpretation of the F40’s. The engine, located amidships, was a dual-overhead cam V12 generating 513 horsepower without turbo or supercharger assistance. Not one for all-wheel drive, power was strictly at the rear. Perhaps all the expected-ness of the F50 was its issue. It didn’t try as many new things as its father, and its higher level of refinement gave it a lower level of excitement. Everyone remembers the F40 and the Enzo, but the F50 is lost somewhere in the middle.

Jaguar XJ220

The XJ220 was intended as a follow-up model to the very limited run of XJR-15s, which Rare Rides covered previously. Engineers at Jaguar worked in their free time to create a concept in 1988 that boasted 12 cylinders and four-wheel drive. The project was approved, but serious design changes were in store. The production version went on sale in 1992 with a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 in the middle. Paired to a five-speed manual, 542 horsepower traveled only to the rear wheels. A planned top speed of 220 miles an hour (hence the name) was not met — the XJ220 managed 212 instead. Jaguar’s project went over budget, and the £290,000 original asking price ballooned to £470,000 upon the car’s introduction in 1992. And that was right in time for the very same recession which affected sales of the EB110 above. Customers could still buy 1994 XJ220s brand new in 1997.

Three relative supercar failures; which one would you buy?

[Images: seller, Ferrari, Jaguar]

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  • CarnotCycle CarnotCycle on Nov 13, 2018

    Buy Bugatti, tell inquiring gawkers its bodykit Fiero Chiron. Bugattiero. Drive Ferrari and likewise bodykit Fiero F40. Ferrariero. Each just weird, dated, and ugly enough to sometimes maybe pull hoax off. Burn XJ.

  • WallMeerkat WallMeerkat on Nov 14, 2018

    Buy - Ferrari. It still looks modern and breathtaking today, and nobody ever lost money on a rare Ferrari, did they?... Drive - Jaguar. At one point it was the world's fastest production car. This despite using the engine from the 6R4 rally version of the Austin Metro economy car (a car that was meant to replace the original Mini). To be fair, the turbo'd V6 was probably ahead of it's time given 21st century downsizing. Looks good, even the popup lights aged well. Wouldn't buy though - Jaguars aren't known for their reliability, and I'd say that Jag dealers are more used to servicing fleet XFs than a supercar. Burn - Bugatti. Yes it's rare, but those challenging looks haven't really aged well, especially since VW showed what they could really do with the marque. I'd be happier turning up outside the Monaco casino in the Ferrari or Jag.

  • Arthur Dailey For the Hornet less expensive interior materials/finishings, decontent just a little, build it in North America and sell it for less and everyone should be happy with both the Dodge and the Alfa.
  • Bunkie I so wanted to love this car back in the day. At the time I owned a GT6+ and I was looking for something more modern. But, as they say, this car had *issues*. The first of which was the very high price premium for the V8. It was a several thousand dollar premium over the TR-7. The second was the absolutely awful fuel economy. That put me off the car and I bought a new RX-7 which, despite the thirsty rotary, still got better mileage and didn’t require premium fuel. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had this reaction because, two years later, I test-drove a leftover that had a $2,000 price cut. I don’t remember being impressed, the RX-7 had spoiled me with how easy it was to own. The TR-8 didn’t feel quick to me and it felt heavy. The first-gen RX was more in line with the idea of a light car that punched above its weight. I parted ways with both the GT6+ and the RX7 and, to this day, I miss them both.
  • Fred Where you going to build it? Even in Texas near Cat Springs they wanted to put up a country club for sport cars. People complained, mostly rich people who had weekend hobby farms. They said the noise would scare their cows. So they ended up in Dickinson, where they were more eager for development of any kind.
  • MaintenanceCosts I like the styling of this car inside and out, but not any of the powertrains. Give it the 4xe powertrain - or, better yet, a version of that powertrain with the 6-cylinder Hurricane - and I'd be very interested.
  • Daniel J I believe anyone, at any level, should get paid as much as the market will bear. Why should CEOs have capped salaries or compensation but middle management shouldn't? If companies support poor CEOs and poor CEOs keep getting rewarded, it's up to the consumer and investors to force that company to either get a better CEO or to reduce the salary of that CEO. What I find hilarious is that consumers will continue to support companies where the pay for the CEOs is very high. And the same people complain. I stopped buying from Amazon during the pandemic. Everyone happily buys from them but the CEO makes bank. Same way with Walmart and many other retailers. Tim Cook got 100m in compensation last year yet people line up to buy Iphones. People who complain and still buy the products must not really care that much.