Recently, at RM Auctions’ London event, a Jaguar XJ220 sold for over a quarter of a million dollars, and that pleased me greatly. I’m not the seller, I have no stake in the sale, but I am pleased as this marks something of a resurgence for a car that’s always seemed strangely maligned and unloved to me. For the better part of the last decade, you could pick up an XJ220 for about $100,000 – much less than its contemporary competition like the Ferrari F40, and McLaren F1.
That seems strange to me, as the Jag succeeded the former and was toppled by the latter for the title world’s fastest production car. It could and did do over 210mph. It accelerated faster than the F40, a car that seems to be all things to all enthusiasts. On paper, everything is there for the Jag to always have been a darling of the collector car circuit, but for most of the twenty-five years since the car was introduced, customers seem to have met the XJ220 with a collective shrug of indifference.
Part of the blame lies in forces beyond Jaguar’s control – the XJ220 launched in the midst of the economic recession of the early 1990s, which helped keep customers at bay. This doesn’t quite explain the lukewarm reception for the car though, as all manufacturers were equally affected, and at any rate, prices should have shot up once the recession eased – but they didn’t, at least, not as much as they did for competing cars.
The usual explanation for the Jag’s poor showing in the minds and hearts of the collector audience is down to some questionable decision-making on the part of Jaguar. When the car was previewed, it was supposed to have a fiery V12 and blistering performance. However, due to the recession – and partly because Jaguar was not yet owned by the deep, deep pockets of Ford – the XJ220 arrived with a turbocharged V6. The body was made from aluminum at a time when carbon fiber was already the obvious way forward in the supercar class. On paper, both of those facts are a bit of a letdown. Pre-orders evaporated, and after two years, less than 300 were made.
That low production number – less than a quarter the number of F40s Ferrari churned out – ensured that the Jag couldn’t be ignored forever. This is especially so, since – despite the seemingly pedestrian cylinder count, the XJ220 was always the faster car. The 3.5 liter turbocharged V6 was a Group B rally engine. It made the Jag the fastest car, period, for an entire year until the McLaren F1 debuted in 1993. Even though the body wasn’t space-age, it didn’t lack drama. Today, the XJ220 is still a beautiful car to behold. It is seriously long, low, and wide – all textbook proportions for a supercar (though the front always did look a bit like a carp to me). Looks may be subjective, but there are no glaring errors in the way the car was styled.
It was really only a question of time before the world re-discovered the Jaguar XJ220, and though we might be in something of a collector car bubble, I think the surge in prices for the XJ220 is here to stay. Any commoner with a million dollars to blow can have a Ferrari F40, but you’ll probably be the only guy at the collector-car gathering with the ultimate Jaguar. If I had a spare quarter-million dollars lying around, I certainly wouldn’t hesitate – this thing’s got to qualify as some sort of collector-car investment.