The Jaguar XJ220: Spare Time Well Spent

We should all try to enjoy the work that we do, and when you are an automotive engineer it would seem as though working for the Jaguar company would be a pretty satisfying gig. However, the engineers at Jaguar didn’t always get the opportunities to work on the cars that they really wanted to see, so they organized a group called The Saturday Club. Those who chose to participate would get together on Saturdays and after hours to brainstorm their own ideas outside of the official auspices of the company.

For Jim Randle, who was the chief engineer at Jaguar, The Saturday Club was the venue for developing a concept that he envisioned in the 1980s. He wanted to produce a lightweight mid-engine two-seat V12 that could compete with and ultimately outrun cars like the Ferrari F40. Randle hoped to develop the fastest production car on the road at the time, and safety at such high speeds was a concern. So to this end he decided that all-wheel drive could provide maximum traction, and he augmented this with the inclusion of a safety cage. The concept car was named the XJ220 because the goal for the car was a top speed of 220 miles per hour.

The company brass was eventually sold on the idea, and they approved the production of a prototype that would be unveiled at the 1988 British Motor Show. The Jaguar V12 engine was modified by Walkinshaw Racing, who provided a 6.2 liter version that could deliver 500 horsepower. FF Developments was tapped to produce the all-wheel drive, and the styling of the car was designed by Keith Helfet, who borrowed the Lamborghini concept of the scissor doors for the sleek and exceedingly aerodynamic Jag XJ220.

The car was announced to the public the following year. The initial production run was for 220 vehicles, and the cost was $580,000. The company required a $50,000 deposit to secure a place on the waiting list, and two of the first owners of a Jaguar XJ220 were the Sultan of Brunei and Elton John.

The Saturday Club did in fact achieve their goal of producing the fastest car in production, though it didn’t quite reach 220 mph. They did get close, however, as Martin Brundle was able to get one up to 217.1 miles per hour. Production versions of of the Jaguar XJ220 were available for model years 1992-1994, and a total of 281 of them were ultimately produced.

Contributed by Fossil Cars Staff Writer

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