WHEN JAGUAR ANNOUNCED PRODUCTION OF THE XJ220, 1400 people worldwide laid down a £50,000 deposit. In Australia, the company was getting two purchase enquiries a day on average, with many firm offers. Initially, seven cars were set aside for Australia, but when orders closed on February 14, 1990, only three were allocated; one each to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.
The XJ220 concept debuted at the 1988 British International Motor Show in Birmingham, producing an overwhelming response from the public. It even overshadowed the Ferrari F40.
Jaguar's idea was to produce a car in-house that could run in Group B at the Le Mans 24 Hour race and also be accessible to the privateer teams. Its inspiration was the C-Types and D-Types Jaguar designed and produced in the 1950s.
The concept car was fitted with an ex-TWR 6.2-litre dry-sump V12 engine. It was also all-wheel drive. Initially, the project did not have official support, and Chief Engineer Jim Randle put together a group of volunteers who worked after hours to design and build the concept. The concept itself did not cost Jaguar very much to construct, because Jim pulled in favours from eager suppliers and engineering companies.
It was not originally considered as a production road-going car, but due to public demand, a feasibility study found it was technically and financially possible. The proviso was that some engineering changes were needed. Jaguar could not build it in-house because it was concentrating on the XJ and XJ-S. The project was handed to JaguarSport, a joint venture which existed between Jaguar and TWR. JaguarSport formed a new company titled Project XJ220 Ltd.
When the build was announced on December 20, 1989, the list price was estimated at £290,000 (ex-VAT) with a limited run of 350 cars and delivery beginning in 1992. The customer waiting list was four times oversubscribed. The V12 engine was replaced with a highly modified 3.5-litre twin-turbo version of the Austin Rover V6 - owned and raced by Tom Walkinshaw in his Silk Cut and Bud-Light Jaguar sports racing cars. The official reason was emission requirements, but a rumour suggested it was more to do with commercial reasons.
Other significant changes included dropping the all-wheel drive for rear wheel only, no ABS brakes and changes to the body such as larger air intakes and no scissor doors.
The first production XJ220 came off the purpose-built production line at a newly built factory outside Bloxham, Oxfordshire in October 1992. Princess Diana officially opened it and unveiled the first car. An average of one car per day was produced.
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