Jay Leno is a decade older than I am and I was born in 1957, the xj220 concept was created in 1988 as a show car, so I’m confused about your statement that you and Jay were born when this car was created.
Yes, it’s expensive, but totally untrue that only 1 or 2 people around the world can fix it. Now that my car has been disassembled, and after reading the service manual and helping with the disassembly, it’s actually not a hard car to fix at all. It’s a simple but heavily reinforced aluminum 90 degree V-6 (cast iron cylinder liners) with one T3 turbo on each bank, controlled by a primitive but robust Zytek ecu. This engine was built to handle a ton of boost. I was up at the shop yesterday and gave Mike a hand removing the suspension, alternator, water pumps, fuel pumps, starter, and everything else that is going out to be rebuilt or cleaned. Now that I’ve seen the guts, my Ferraris have much more complex engines (except the pre-ecu Dino 246GTS). My daily driver STi is more complicated. The XJ220 is a straightforward engine once it’s out of the car. Anyone who’s worked on cars for a while and doesn’t mind reading a few manuals could work on this car. And there is so much room in the engine bay that unless you are changing the fuel cell (engine out), pretty much everything else is easily accessible through the top or bottom.
What was hard initially was getting parts. Because Don Law took over for TWR with Jaguar’s blessing, they got all the spares and the rights to reproduce parts, and the contracts with outside suppliers in the UK. They also got agreements with Premier who made the original fuel cell to only sell to Don Law, and bought the XH21 transaxle oil formula from Castrol and had Morris Oil reproduce it. And Don Law refuses to sell anything, he wants all the cars shipped to him.
So: After a few months of research I now have every part we need for a complete rebuild (except the engine which doesn’t need anything, but is getting new turbos). TWR, being a race shop and not a car manufacturer like Jaguar, utilized the best parts they could find from any supplier. So the pumps are all Bosch (the lifter pump in-tank is same as Jaguar E-type), the injectors are Bosch/Denso, the alternator is Denso, as is the starter motor. ATL is making our new fuel cell bag using the old one for measurements, and all suspension parts are going out for rebuild (shocks) and cleaning/coating.
So pretty much everything is available if you know where to look for it and now I know where to look for it. Even got tranny oil with higher EP levels than the old XH21 from Castrol (Castrol Syntrax EP, F1 cars use this). The only problem I can foresee is putting a hole in the block. Then you need to deal with Don Law. But in 40 years I have never holed a block or burnt a piston or bent a valve, and I raced some hairy cars, so I’m not particularly worried about the block. I’ll just run 110+ octane and retard timing when the boost is up on the track, and run it on pump gas at low boost on the street. I am installing an electronic boost controller with cockpit adjustment of boost levels. I may run a second Zytek ecu with a race map (700-800 bhp) so I can swap back and forth between ecus. I don’t believe the Zytek has the ability to store and switch between multiple maps, but I haven’t really gotten to play with the Zytek yet since the car is apart.
I suppose if you holed the block on a DB4 or Maser 3500 you’d be paying a big chunk of change for a new one of those, if you could find one. So the XJ220 is not hard to work on if you have some experience. It’s the parts that were hard to get without using Don Law, but we took care of that. At this point any competent mechanic could service this car. I could do it myself in my home shop but I’d be afraid of pulling the engine with no help, and it requires an engine/tranny dolly which I don’t have and don’t feel like getting, as well as another pair of hands. The only other problem you may run into is if your CEL comes on, or you need to access the ecu for some reason. Only about 24 Diagnostic Kits for the TWR cars (XJR-15, XJ220, XJRS) were made, and dealers had to cough up roughly $110,000 to buy the kit back in 1992. None were ever sent to the USA. I am aware of 1 kit in Vancouver, but the owner will not let it leave his sight, another in Nashville, Tenn. at a shop that used to be famous for working on xj220s, and I own the last one on the planet, which is available to any owner in need, but can’t be shipped because if it gets lost it’s game over. So you’ll have to come to my home in Westchester county, NY or the shop in Torrington,CT.
I’ve read every article and book on the XJ220 I could get my hands on, and spoken with some pretty knowledgeable people, including a retired engineer who worked for TWR during the xjr-15/xj220 days, and the engineer at Zytek who developed the communications protocol (the infamous Zytek Diagnostic Kit with its mysterious interface box). Here is the story as best as I can interpret it:
Jaguar built a one-off show car (initially developed by Jim Randle, Keith Helfet and the “Saturday Club” to show what it could do in the supercar/hypercar class. It was built as a response to the awd Porsche 959, as well as to compete with the Ferrari F-40. The XJ220 concept had awd (built by FF) and was powered by TWR’s race version of the 6.2 liter Jaguar V-12. This was never meant to be a production car (for example, the drive to the front wheels was via a quill drive from the rear diff, thru the “V” of the v-6, to the front diff, not exactly a production-ready car) but the response at the Birmingham 1988 auto show was so overwhelming (people offering blank checks to Jaguar on the spot-none were taken by Jaguar) that Jaguar decided on a limited run of 275-350 cars. They did not have the ability to build these cars, so they turned to their favorite race builder, Tom Walkinshaw, to build the cars. They already had a formal partnership called JaguarSport. They even built him a factory at Bloxham and an engine manufacturing plant. This is around 1989, and TWR won a lot of races for Jaguar, including LeMans in the Silk Cut car. So TWR began planning. They brought over Mike Moreton as project manager. Mike had been at Ford for 23 years, and was heavily involved in designing and producing the DFV engines. TWR quickly realized that the V-12 could never meet emissions regs for 1992 while at the same time keeping the car competitive. The big V-12 was heavy and the awd system (with rear wheel steering) was also heavy and complicated. This V-12 was being used in the very limited run XJR-15, where it only succeeded in making 450 bhp. So TWR decided to drop the awd and drop the V-12 in favor of the lighter and more powerful Group B V-6 TT which powered the XJR-10 and XJR-11. This engine was derived from the 3 liter MG Metro 6R4, but was expanded to 3.5 liters and redesigned to be much stronger (the MG Metro International rally cars made 400 bhp from an NA 3 liter car in the mid 1980’s). Mike Moreton was heavily involved in the redesign of the 6R4 into the TWR V64V, and he was a Ford DFV guy. Most contemporary sources agree that the final result was much closer to a DFV than to a 6R4. Shortly after, Group B was banned. By 1989 all these specs were laid out and were on every customer order form. The books were opened for reservations in late 1989 with deliveries to begin in 1992. It was only at this point that Jaguar began taking orders from customers. So the whole theory of “bait and switch” is ridiculous. Buyers knew they were getting a RWD V-6TT when they signed the purchase contract and wrote a deposit check for $82,000 (1990 money). Elimination of the V-12 and awd was already public knowledge.
Why only 280? why not the full 350 Jaguar wanted to produce? Unfortunately Jaguar got caught in a storm it had nothing to do with. The insane speculation of the late 1980s/early 1990s (when people put syndicates together to buy F-40s for $2M each, thinking they would sell them for a large profit) and Dinos approached the $1M range came to a crashing halt once the speculators (almost all the buyers) got hit with the double whammy of the car bubble popping at the same time a global recession hit. The speculators tried selling their contracts at a loss (the contracts were written with built in price escalations triggered by certain events. The purchase price nearly doubled between 1989 and 1992).
Many tried to sue Jaguar to get their deposits back, but Jaguar won every case because the specs were written into the contract.
So only 280 of the planned 350 were built, and as late as 1997 you could still buy a brand new xj220 for about $180,000. Many FastMasters drivers were offered their cars at $80,000.
However, let’s remember that McLaren planned on building approximately 250 F-1s in the mid-90s, but only found buyers for 106, of which roughly 2/3 were street cars with the rest being race cars. The mid-90s were no fun for supercar makers. Today McLaren F-1s are valued at $15-20M.
Tires: With the V-12 and awd, plus venturi tunnels capable of making downforce of 3,000 lbs. at 200 mph, the car got so heavy at speed that production tires could not cope with the speed, weight and temperatures. Even with the lighter engine and rwd it was still a challenge to go that fast and carry that much downforce. Bridgestone produced special tires for this car. But it is unknown whether these tires could have coped with a V-12 and awd, since it was never tested. According to most sources, the 1988 show car was not driven much (if at all). So the tires may have played a small part in changing the spec, but it was emissions and weight that killed the idea of a V-12 and awd.
Tires: Were a big problem until 2017. Imagine owning a supercar with a detuned Group B race engine, and having to drive it on tires that were over 20 years old. Dangerous. Many cars stayed in storage. The race cars ran slicks, which were and are available, but in the wrong sizes, but close enough to work with the optional BBS rims. The slicks were 335/30/18 in the rear, and 265/40/17 in the front, effectively negating the anti-oversteer setup of 345/35/18 rear and much smaller 255/45/17 front. Just watch a few episodes of FastMasters on YouTube and the cars are spinning out constantly. Having more rubber out back and less in front might contribute to light understeer, but it avoided massive oversteer which is a much bigger problem (this is solely my opinion, but there is a reason for staggered setups on oversteer-prone race cars).
In 2017 Bridgestone and Pirelli both started making tires again, so the cars are getting back on the road and getting attention. Prices as recently as 2012 were as low as $120,000 (auction result, car may have been crashed) with an average of $150,000 for a #3 car. Prices spiked 50% in 6 months, only to crash back by end of 2012. By the end of 2013 the climb started for real and shows no signs of slowing down. According to Hagerty, a #3 car today is $400,000, with a #1 concours car at almost $600,000.
Race cars: In 1993 TWR pulled 12 cars off the production line for special treatment. 3 were built as “C” race cars, with carbon fiber body panels replacing the aluminum and cutting weight by over 600 lbs. while tweaking the engines to 700-800 bhp. One of these C cars won the GT class at LeMans in 1993 with David Coulthard, only to have it’s win revoked for not having catalytic converters. The decision was overturned on appeal, and so they really, really did win, except they didn’t. The ACO decided that the appeal was filed too late and it was tossed on a technicality, but a Jaguar XJ220-C won the GT class at LeMans. 6 more cars were turned into “S” cars, road legal versions of the C cars, with carbon fiber panels and 680bhp and a huge wing out back. These were far more civilized than the C cars, with full leather, a/c, stereo system, etc.
3 more TWR race cars were built for the Italian GT series in 1993, at the behest of the Benneton family. These are XJ220-N cars (sometimes erroneously referred to as XJ220-GT cars because they ran in the Italian Gt series), and carry TWR chassis plates 001, 002 and 003. They did not get the carbon fiber treatment and big wing, but were lightened significantly, and apparently tuned to 700 bhp. The interiors are stripped, carbon/kevlar race seat, external fuel and ignition cutouts. Chassis 001 and 002 raced the entire 1993 season, the #11 race car in Martini livery (001?, and the #12 race car in white and blue livery sponsored by HAAN and a few others (002?). The #11 car came in to a podium finish every race, but always 2nd place, behind a Ferrari F-40 LM, but ahead of 5 other F-40s. The third car, chassis 003 was a backup car and never raced, now showing a bit over 400 miles on the odometer, and I’m hoping to have it ready for Lime Rock opening day. All 3 of these cars exist today, despite some claims to the contrary. The Martini car is in the UK, the white and blue is in Germany, and the Spa Silver is right here.
I hope this clears up a little bit of the confusion. Personally, I can’t wait to get it on the track:)