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Jaguar XJ220 - engineering marvel, commercial flop

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#1 rvec


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Posted 14 July 2015 - 12:38 PM

I always find it interesting to do a bit of research on each of the slot cars I am building. My latest GT1 is a 1/24 Jaguar XJ220. The 1:1 XJ220 was an engineering marvel. The concept car was built in ten months, at very little cost to Jaguar. A dozen Jaguar volunteer engineers worked on the project without pay on the weekends. Below is a more robust history. Enjoy.

The automotive engineering and manufacturing conglomerate, British Leyland (BL) constituted about 40% of the UK market and owned some profitable makes including Jaguar, Land Rover as well as the very popular Mini. BL, however, had fallen on hard times during the 1970s. Serious problems with its labor union, poor management, reliable imported vehicles from Japan and the oil crisis led to its downfall. Instead of allowing an orderly bankruptcy proceeding, BL was essentially nationalized. Too bad GM couldnt see the handwriting on the wall, ah but I digress.

Although Jaguar was a marginally profitable make, it lost much of its luster after production of the E-type ceased in 1975. The E-Type was a great looking car and, in my opinion, way ahead of its time. Unfortunately, the E-Type suffered from poor reliability throughout its production cycle (from '61-75). Some interesting lightweight, low drag cars were produced in the early '60s (the Klat lightweight version is shown below). The last incarnation (series 3) E-Types were fitted with a V-12 power plants. Although the E-Type never managed to win at Le Mans, it was successfully campaigned in SCCA by Group 44. See image below.



In the early 1980s Jaguar was tasked with developing a plan to show that it was an economically viable company capable of surviving on its own. Management worked tirelessly marketing the brand and developing a credible product plan. Finally, in 1984, Jaguar was privatized.

In an attempt to regain some of the luster of the brand, Jaguar partnered with Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR), to develop the XJ-S into a European Touring Car Championship winner. In 1984 this goal was achieved, boosting morale of the workforce as well as the Jaguar image. Below is an image of the racing version of the XJ-S.


During the mid-1980s the Jaguar/TWR partnership designed and produced some very successful endurance cars that raced in the IMSA and Group C championships. The first of the series was dubbed the XJR 6 and debuted in 1985 and collected its first win at Silverstone in 1986. The original design was refined and improved over time with the last of the series dubbed the XJR 12 racing in 1990. The most successful of the series was the XJR 9 which won the World Championship, Le Mans and the 24 hours of Daytona (see image below)

XJR9_Le Mans Winner.jpg

Jim Randle, Jaguars Engineering director at the time thought that the XJR series of cars were too far removed from the production Jaguars and had a bigger idea: produce a road-going supercar designed to race in the Group B (a class being developed by FIA). The engineering department was already stretched very thin working on the XJ and a major redesign of the XJ-S. Jim called for volunteers to work weekends without pay on a concept car. In the end, twelve individuals answered the call and became known as the Saturday Club.

The concept car was designed and built in about ten months at very little cost to Jaguar. Randle called in favors from component suppliers and engineering companies that had worked for and supported Jaguar in the past. In return he offered public recognition for their assistance and the possibility of future contracts from Jaguar. The concept car was dubbed the XJ220 (the 220 was the target top speed in miles per hour). Its design was quite complex and featured a 6.5 liter V12 racing engine, all-wheel drive, four wheel steering, jack knife doors, an on-the-fly adjustable aerodynamic wing and a sophisticated Alcan bonded honeycomb aluminum structure.

The concept car (shown below) was unveiled at the 1988 British International Motor Show held at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, England. The car received rave reviews and garnered serious interest from a throng of enthusiasts ready to plunk down wads of cash to own such a super car. Although the XJ220 was not initially envisioned as a production sports car, the reception at the Motor Show changed all of that. Jaguar embarked on a feasibility study and concluded that a production run of XJ220 was not only technically feasible with some engineering changes but could be a very profitable venture indeed. In December of 1989, Jaguar announced its plan for a production run of from 220-350 cars. The price was set at $536,000 (and subject to inflationary index adjustment) and Jaguar quickly collected 1,500 deposits of $92,500 each returning all but 350 (the maximum subscription)


The production version was completed in June of 1992. Although it was visually similar to the concept car, it was in fact quite different, and in my opinion, much less desirable. Gone was the 6.5 liter, 700 horsepower V12. It was replaced by a much lighter and shorter 542 horsepower, 3.5 liter twin turbo V6. As a result, the chassis was redesigned, shortened and lightened to account for the production power plant. Gone were the all-wheel drive, four wheel steering, and jackknife doors.

Several factors led to poor sales performance of the production version of the XJ220. By the time the production version was ready for delivery, indexing led to a whopping price increase of about $370,000. In addition, a serious recession coupled with the collapse of the supercar market caused many contracted buyers to renege on their commitment. These same buyers claimed that specification changes rendered the contracts void. In the end, a judge sided with Jaguar. Production ceased in 1994 with only 275 cars produced, many of which had not been sold. The last sale of from this production run yielded a disappointing $236,000.

A racing version of the XJ220 dubbed the XJ220 C was introduced in 1993 and won its first race at Silverstone (see image below for the Silverstone winner). Three works XJ220-Cs were entered in the 1993 24 Hours of Le Mans race, in the newly created Grand Touring Class and won, beating Porsche by two laps However, the class win was revoked when the Jaguar XJ220-C was controversially disqualified for failing to run with catalytic converters. Below is an image of the disqualified, factory supported XJ220-C.

Silverstone Winner.jpg


Four XJ220a were entered in the GT1 class for the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans. Neither team had Jaguar or TWR backing. The Jaguars were soundly beaten by the McLaren F1 GTR. Below is an image of one of the 1995 Le Mans cars.


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Rich Vecchio

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Posted 16 July 2015 - 12:31 PM

That's a nice article on Jaguar...Thanks!


You know why Brits drink warm beer?.....Lucas made refrigerators..... :)

Gary "Booger" Baker

#3 Noose


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Posted 16 July 2015 - 01:01 PM

That's a nice article on Jaguar...Thanks!


You know why Brits drink warm beer?.....Lucas made refrigerators..... :)


After having owned a MGB I totally get that statement.

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#4 Half Fast

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Posted 16 July 2015 - 01:05 PM

Joseph Lucas--


The man who invented Darkness! :shok:



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#5 rvec


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Posted 16 July 2015 - 02:23 PM

Thanks, all!


Watch for a complete article about the XJ220 build in the next week or so.

Rich Vecchio

#6 idare2bdul


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Posted 17 July 2015 - 02:09 AM

I had a MG1100 and a Triumph Gt6 and never had an electrical problem. Other dubious engineering issues made me a more competent mechanic than I wanted to be. Parts pricing was another issue. I paid more for just the main gear shaft in the GT6 transmission than a new complete Muncie transmission cost for a Corvette. The list goes on from there. I might add, never teach your wife to drive a stick shift in a car that you personally rebuilt the transmission. I eventually turned the job over to my Dad as it was too painful to listen to the graunching noises.

The light at the end of the tunnel is almost always a train.
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