Archive : Jaguar celebrates 20 years of the XJ220

It’s 20 years since the astonishing XJ220 burst on to the scene – and today it still has more road presence than any other supercar of its era.

With a top speed of 213mph, it was briefly the fastest car in the world. It’s still up there, today.

Supercat at twenty!

The XJ220 remains the fastest Jaguar ever produced and when launched in 1992 and, at 213mph, had the highest maximum speed of any production car. Constructed using advanced aluminium honeycomb, the car was immensely strong and, despite its size, weighed just 1470 kg.

Originally conceived as a concept car, dreamed up by the legendary Saturday Morning Club, the XJ220 debuted at the 1988 British Motor Show. Designed by Keith Helfet, the car was signed off for production in December 1989 with TWR selected as the partner for the project.

Powered by a 3.5-litre, twin turbo V6 derived from the MG Metro 6R4, the XJ220 channelled its drive through the 18-inch Speedline rear wheels shod in specially developed 345/35 Bridgestone Expedia tyres via a five-speed gearbox and an AP Racing twin-plate clutch. The XJ220 developed 542bhp and 475lb ft of torque to allow it to accelerate to 60mph in under four seconds. Braking was supplied by a set of AP Racing discs and four pot callipers.

Built by hand in an all-new factory in Bloxham, Oxfordshire, prototype 001 was completed in 1990 while car 002 achieved 186 mph at Bruntingthorpe in September of the same year. The first customer car was completed in June 1992 with a retail price of £470,000. The XJ220 courted controversy, too, and not just for its towering performance – the classic and supercar bubble had burst, and prospective buyers were trying to back out, demanding their deposits back, citing the production version’s differences to the V12-powered 4×4 concept they’d first seen in 1988.

Production ceased in 1994, by which time 275 cars had been built.

The silver car in attendance at the recent Jaguar Experience Day held at the Heritage Motor Centre, Gaydon is chassis 004, one of 10 pre-production vehicles. This example was used for extensive tyre and high speed testing at Fort Stockton, Texas, in 1991. Andy Wallace achieved a maximum speed of 213 mph in the car during the testing process.

Once these duties were completed the car was converted to race specification and was campaigned by Justin Law in the British GT Cup. On being retired from racing it was returned to its standard, road-going specification.

The yellow car is an XJ220 S – chassis ‘220-803’. This is the very first XJ220 S, built using spare parts from the Le Mans cars, including single-piece carbon fibre front and rear clamshells, revised springs and dampers and a claimed 690bhp. The luxurious interior of the road car was dropped in favour of Kevlar bucket seats and pared down, carbon trim. The car was unveiled at the Autosport Show in 1993.


Keith Adams


  1. I used to work in Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent and just round the corner was Don Law Racing who is probbaly the leading specialist on XJ220. There were always loads around in his workshop or just parked up outside in a dodgy looking street. I popped in a few times for a chat and he showed me around. Tjere were around 10 XJ220 when I visited once including a couple of racing ones.

    He also owns the E reg (?) Transit van with the XJ220 engine in it. That certainly got people looking at the lights when it went for a run.

  2. Gorgeous looking car and certainly prettier than the McLaren F1 but crikey it sounds rough… Think of an XR3i with a Peco exhaust and you get the idea..

  3. its doesnt look a day older than 5, it goes to show that quality(if thats what it was… well it sure looks good) never goes out of style :-). alex

  4. I while back I sold a 4 litre xj40 engine whic was elft over from wreacking a car, the guy only what the head….his plan was to build a quad camV12. he said it was no problem to do as he was used to casting bits and pieces. quite easy to do with modern silicone and so on. but it does make you wonder, most of the xj40 cars have probably had thier day, yet thier engines were wonderfully reliable (better than a Subaru 2.5 litre) day,,,,and would it be feasible to actually build the quad cam v12 to deal to the xj220, I have read though that while the Quad cam v12 sounds cool, Jaguar never got the pwoer from it they expected, due to breathing difficulties. alex

  5. Must be a great feeling for the Citreon CX driver to know he shares his wing mirrors with An XJ220, Aston Martin DB7, and a TVR ?

  6. … I’ll never understand why they didn’t use the smoked version of the R* rear lamps.. Or why owners don’t retrofit them. Surely it’s a given that they would smarten up that dark rear grill a bit?

    Also, that’s a Rover mirror adjustment knob, isn’t it? And those heat/blower knobs MUST be another shared part? Surely?..

    And a re developed BL motor sport engine? HA!

    The XJ 220, A handbook for budget super car design…
    (still, gotta love em, aint cha’) 😀

  7. I always chuckled that half the interior parts came from the Mark 4 Escort – the door handles, air vents, mirror switches and at least a dozen other items.

  8. @Alexscott.
    You can’t just dump 2 XJ40 heads on a V12, while one will work the other will cause a lot of problems, as the exhaust ports will be in the middle of the bank this is a very difficult issue to resolve, you could alter cam timing to make them inlets.. however the porting is all wrong and I belive the exhuast valves are smaller than the inlets.
    It has been done, but don’t expect any change from £10K to get the second head to work properly, and even then you would get more power from the standard heads, a set of webbers and bored out to 6 litres

  9. “I always chuckled that half the interior parts came from the Mark 4 Escort – the door handles, air vents, mirror switches and at least a dozen other items.”

    To be fair the XJ220 was never really intended as a production car, so the random, “what fits” switch gear could be excused sligtly. But then Ford used the same formula on full production Aston Martins, that looked poor

  10. @Dr Bobby Love

    Smoked one’s were 1993MY on the R8 so they didn’t exist at launch of the XJ220

    Parts bin sharing is very common with supercars to this day;

    Rover 45 Climate control in then Zonda anyone? 🙂
    Mk1 (93-97) Mondeo Saloon rear lights on the Noble M12 etc 🙂

  11. Actually thinking about it, these days most car parts are bespoke items, if you think back to the 60’s a lot of things like Lights and mirrors were just ordered from the Lucas or Cibie catalogues and the same item could be found on several cars of differing pedigrees.

    So really it’s nothing new.

  12. Ahh, the car of my youth-full dreams. I remember drooling over these just before I got my driving licence. Now I’m trudging around in a slightly less exotic Rover 75 (though it does have a turbo). Am I really that old?

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