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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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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2 of 31 comments
  • 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.

  • Zerofoo I'm pretty sure driving this thing in any respectable town is considered probable cause.
  • Doc423 Well said, Jeff.
  • Urlik My online research seems to indicate it’s an issue with the retaining clips failing and allowing the valve spring retainers to come out. This results in the valve dropping into the cylinder.
  • EBFlex Typical Ford. For those keeping track, Ford is up to 44 recalls for the year. Number one recalled manufacturer (yet again) by a wide margin.
  • Lorie Did they completely forget the damn 2.0 ecoboosts that have the class action lawsuit? Guess those of us that had to pay out of pocket for an engine replacement for a fail at 76k miles are out of luck? I will never buy a Ford again.