This was a good test of a Hoon, one which 90% of the people milling around this participant of the Cartier Style Et Luxe at Goodwood this year, failed. Even those who took the time to read the accompanying datacard. “Hey, an XJ220!” they said. They paused, they looked, they appreciated, then they moved on. But did they catch the big “AND”?
The clever yet subtle decal says it all. V12 XJ220 . Yes, this particular machine has twice as many cylinders as your regular garden variety hypercat, and that makes it just a teensy bit special in my book. Indeed I began to get a little light headed as I looked around it, and I apologise if the images get increasingly pornographic after the jump. Actually, perhaps I don’t.
Some folk say that the XJ220 is the worst of the genus that became known as hypercars. Experts decry it as too bulky and heavy to cut it in car-on-car high-speed combat, where it would be beaten soundly by such comparative flyweights as the Mclaren F1. It is also criticised for being a broken promise. When the XJ220 was first unveiled as a semi-fantasy show car back in 1988, it had four wheel drive and a V12 engine. It was also absolutely gigantic.
By the time the actual limited-run production model arrived, a couple of feet had been sliced from the overall length, drive to the front wheels had been deleted and the engine had been swapped for a V6. OK, this wasn’t quite as horrific as it seemed, we’re not talking about some tarted-up production engine from elsewhere in the Jaguar / Rover parts bin, but a proper race-bred unit named V64V. This developed into the Jaguar / TWR JV6. And it was serious. Formidable enough in the Metro 6R4 Rally Car where it began its life, with the addition of twin Garrett T03’s, 542bhp gave a confident answer to all those who cried about insufficient cylinderage. OK, perhaps it didn’t make such an evocative noise as it might have, but it still gave the XJ220 genuine hypercar credentials. You’d have to be mad to need anything more.
Nigel Webb is mad. In the best possible way. He wanted an XJ220 as he thought it should have been, and so he built one. Well, he signed the cheques anyway, I’m not certain how many of the wrenches he twirled. Don Law Racing, though- who performed the build- put together something of a masterpiece. A genuine XJ220 V12. They call it a prototype, it was a kind of prequel to the production machine.
I know dirty pictures like the above have no place on a “U” rated website. Perhaps this story should be posted after the kids have gone to bed. For the rest of us, though, the sight of twelve beautifully finished intake trumpets will trigger the release of certain enjoyable chemicals. Particularly as the cam covers are marked V12 Four-Valve. This means that this isn’t just a unit salvaged from an old XJS and polished up a bit.
Nope. This here is a race motor. IMSA spec, quad cam, 48 valve. Profoundly powerful, it wouldn’t be absurd to suggest a figure north of 600hp, if the comparable engines in the XJR series of IMSA race cars are anything to go by. Don Law Racing happen to be the only outfit officially sanctioned by Jaguar as XJ220 specialists, having taken over where JaguarSport left off when Ford pulled the plug in ’98. Still actively racing class-c and IMSA Jags to this day, and with the engineering knowhow and an Aladdin’s cave of components to pick from, they’re the guys I’d want in charge of my XJ220 build.
I must give them a call.
It seems disingenuous to call a sixteen-foot long hypercar subtle, yet in almost-brown burgundy metallic Nigel Webb’s creation is getting close to just that. That’s one of the things that the XJ220 always had going for it. It had a curvy, feline form penned by Geoff Lawson (who also shaped the ’94 XJ, the XK8 and S-Type and oversaw the X-Type and next XJ6…) which somehow eschewed the outrageousness and visual hyperbole of certain other cost-no-object machines. Instead, it looked, somehow, like a Jaguar. Like the kind of car that a (slightly rogueish) gentleman might step into, do two hundred miles per hour for a spell, and then emerge at his destination having “forgotten his wallet”.
The XJ220 was always my favourite hypercar. I don’t care that the McLaren F1 was better than it in every measurable hypercar statistic, but there’s somehow something a little sterile, a little calculating about that machine, phenomenal and awesome as it is. The XJ220 seems somehow warmer of character, and yes I realise I write this having never driven either, nor even being a passenger.
Nigel, if you’re reading this, you can change all that.
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2015)