By on November 13, 2018

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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31 Comments on “Buy/Drive/Burn: Supercar Failures of the 1990s...”

  • avatar

    All I can think of when I see this list of cars is the number of hours my brother and I spent playing split screen “Need for Speed 2” on the family Compaq. Good times!

  • avatar

    If Forza 7 is any indication, buy the Ferrari, drive the XJ220, burn the Bugatti. In hood view the car’s looks are irrelevant, and the Ferrari is brilliant to drive. A cheater car in S Class.

  • avatar

    Not one of these is a failure.

    Buy the Jaguar because it is a timeless figure of automotive beauty. I’d argue it is the single best looking mid-engined car ever conceived.

    Drive the Ferrari for its intoxicating soundtrack and being the final manual top-dog Ferrari.

    Unfortunately that leaves the EB110, sorry.

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t agree with your assessment.

      XJ220: 61% more expensive than it should’ve been. RWD instead of AWD, 6 cylinders and not 12. Still available new at dealers 3 full years after production ended.

      F50: Forgotten middle sibling of two other amazing vehicles. Doesn’t look all that hot.

      EB110: The company’s rebirth was also its shuttering.

      • 0 avatar

        The Enzo is only fondly remembered because like the Carrera GT and Zonda, it was one of THE supercars of the teenage years of the current generation. Same reason the F40, Countach and 959 are icons. The Enzo is ugly, viewed objectively, and didn’t have a lot of new ideas either.

        There just weren’t as many car loving teens growing up in the 90’s, and the McLaren F1 pretty much overshadowed everything ele anyway.

      • 0 avatar

        Can’t put a price on art for the Jaguar, and the F50 is only forgotten by people who forgot it.

      • 0 avatar

        Small displacement V12’s aren’t exactly known for reliability anyway.

  • avatar

    Burn the Ferrari with all haste.

    Since the brakes in the Jag were almost existent, that leave the EB110 to drive without crashing on a milk run and I guess that leave you to buy the Jag.

  • avatar
    A Scientist

    Buy: the Ferrari. I liked these a lot as a teenager back then. While the front end is….polarizing to say the least, and the F40 is clearly superior all around, the rest of the car IMO is sleek, sexy, and very 90’s Ferrari. And I haven’t even mentioned the engine….

    Drive: the Jaguar. Never cared for the way this thing looks, but it’s gotta be a total blast to drive right?

    Burn: the Bugatti. Ugly as sin back then, and it’s aged even worse. To me, it looks like a futuristic car idea from a awful 80’s B-grade Sci-Fi movie. Probably starring Reb Brown…

  • avatar

    I think it’s hard to classify these as failures besides the Bugatti, but nevertheless all cool 90s cars.

    Buy – Ferrari. It’s an icon and I would argue has the best sound and handling out of this trio.

    Drive – Jag. Always loved this car, it straight up looks like a concept car ready to drive on the street. Something about 500+ hp from a V6 always amazed me when I was younger.

    Burn – Bugatti. Forgettable then, forgettable now. Just look at that thing, ew.

  • avatar

    Buy: Ferrari. It’s a cool car, but I actually have more “Toyota” reasons for choosing it (resale, parts availability, etc.).

    Drive: XJ220. I really want this to be the buy, but there’s just too much unobtainium on this car if you want to actually drive it a few times a month.

    Burn: Bugatti. It likely has the same issues as the Jaguar, but it’s also not especially attractive.

  • avatar

    Is it just me, or does latest generation or two of the Corvette look like they borrowed some ideas from the F50?

    Anyways –

    I’ll fall in line with the (very) general consensus so far:

    Buy: Ferrari – it’s still a Ferrari
    Drive: XJ220 – beautiful
    Burn: Bugatti – so much ugly

  • avatar
    John R

    Buy the F50
    Drive the EB110
    Burn the XJ220

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. I’ve always thought the XJ220 overpraised and the F50 underpraised. The Bugatti gets points from me for being such a weird car. I can’t think of anything other than a Murcielago that combines AWD, manual gearbox, v12, and scissor doors – the last of which is crucial to the Tres Commas crowd.

  • avatar

    Dang. Right down the rabbit hole. I’ve been reading about the EB110’s on the registry now for an hour.

  • avatar

    Buy the F50 – All the swoops and scoops were all in the right places for this car. More tame than the F40 or not it still excites what little boy racer is left in me.
    Drive the Jag – Pure poetry in motion.
    Burn the Bugatti – When I first saw this in the Rare Rides article, my first thought was “How could something so sleek be so ugly all at the same time?”

  • avatar

    As a child of the 80’s, I used to dream of and very much love supercars, but when I can drive across town and buy a Honda Civic with 300 hp for 35k, I just don’t see the point anymore.

  • avatar

    Buy the Jaguar and put it in a hermetically sealed case.

    Drive the Ferrari – drive the s*** out of the Ferrari

    Burn the Bugatti (weep)

  • avatar

    This Buggie resembles 300Z. Burn these? no way

  • avatar

    None are my kinda car, but the Jag is the most beautiful (so buy), the Ferrari is likely the best driver (so drive, despite its boyish looks) and the Bugatti is the ugly misfit (so burn).

    Corey, I figured you’d do station wagons you can buy new today for your next d/b/b.

  • avatar

    Buy the Bugatti. Unlike the VW tanks that wear the badge today, the EB110 was an attempt to make a legitimate supercar for drivers instead of MGS sufferers.

    Drive the F50. Other than beauty, it has everything I want in a sports car. It has an F1-derived, naturally aspirated V12 connected to a manual transmission. Everything else that costs more than a low mileage S2000 is pure folly.

    Burn the XJ220. The only reason they’re worth anything today is Quantitative Easing and Jaguar resorting to demolition derbies to rid the world of as many of these products of a failed bait-and-switch as possible. People sued for their deposits when they saw the MG turbo-V6 powered fraud they were going to receive for their V12 down payments. FastMasters was the best comedy on tv though.

  • avatar

    Buy the Jag. It’ll make a fabulous driveway ornament.
    Drive the Bugatti. AWD and the looks are, if not pretty, unique. I like oddballs.
    Burn the Ferrari. The styling is just trying too hard.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Buy the Ferrari…Eventually Wayne Carini will show up and buy it.

    The rest will likely burn themselves up and save me the trouble.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Where, oh where can you place a front license plate on these vehicles.
    The Bugatti has a spot, just to the side of the vestigial Bugatti horsecollar ‘grille’.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Buy and drive the Ferrari. Burn the other two.

  • avatar

    Buy the Jaguar, because it’s freaking awesome.

    Drive the Bugatti, just so I can I did. Really the biggest POS of the bunch, but I just have to drive it and tell others I did.

    Unfortunately, my desire to drive something as fugly as the Bugatti means the Ferrari gets burned.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

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