The XJ220 commemorated it’s true XJ220 love .... John Bleasdale carries a torch for the XJ220 - and celebrated a milestone for the supercar. John Bleasdale is dedicated to the XJ220, and for a 21 year commemoration brought ten cars to the plant where they were built ... We reveal more about the model, while an unknown car is emerging at the Gosford Classic motor museum. Words - John Bleasdale. - Les. Hughes. Photography - Tony Dowe - John Bleasdale - Les. Hughes - Jaguar Cars. / #Jaguar-XJ220
The XJ220 Jaguar has recently been acknowledged as one of the top ten supercars of all time, but there was a long period when it was under-appreciated, primarily because of the TWR turboed V6 engine being used rather than the concept’s glamorous Jaguar quad cam V12.
Has it been realised though that Chief Engineer Jim Randle’s inspiration was the XJ13, and the Silk Cut Jaguars which were racing when his ‘Saturday Club’, began to create the one-off car? It demanded the world’s attention when it was unveiled at the 1988 NEC Motor Show, and the crew, which volunteered its time, insisted on the V12. Tom Walkinshaw ensured production cars used his V6, and that angered a lot of buyers who had put down large deposits for a V12 car.
Things have mellowed in the 25 years since the XJ220 began being built in the JaguarSport facility at Wykham Mill outside Bloxham, south of Banbury. The same place would become recognised as the home of the first Aston Martin DB7 when the XJ220 ceased being built.
XJ220s have no keener supporter than John Bleasdale, founder of the Jaguar Supercar page on Facebook, and keeper of a massive amount of knowledge on the XJ220, 220S and the XJR-15 models.
In 2012 John staged a significant event and recalls: “To celebrate the 21st anniversary of the first XJ220 being registered for road use, and the visit of the late Princess Diana to the Bloxham factory, I thought it would be a good idea to mark those milestones. Having located the old factory, now the home of Banbury Litho, I managed to encourage the owners of ten XJ220s to drive their cars there on the morning of May 20, 2012.
“After making their appearances, they then drove in convoy to Waddesdon Manor, home of Baron de Rothschild in Aylesbury, where the owners and their cars were the guests of the Aston Martin Owners Club at their annual Concours. “That’s where one more car joined us. I believe eleven XJ220s in one place may be the largest number of 220s, all privately owned, in one place at one time. One car came all the way from Texas!”
According to a still upset member of the ‘Saturday Club’, Kit Edwards: “The XJ220 concept was originally XK220, and while that car has never run, it was created to be all-wheel-drive with anti-lock brakes. It goes without saying that ‘Stan (Paskin) was the man’ when it came to doing the 4WD on the ‘220, and most of that was done at FF Developments. Most of the assembly was done in a quiet corner at FF.
“When the XJ220 was hijacked by Walkinshaw and his cronies, we had to hand over all the drawings, notes etc so that TWR could productionise the vehicle. Disappointingly, of course, it ended up being a much diluted version of the concept car which we built.”
Jim Randle wrote: “The XJ220 was conceived as a logical modern incarnation of previous Jaguar road-going sports racing cars. At the time the programme commenced, and for some time while early design studies were taking place, Group B racing was alive and well, and indeed it appeared that it would be possible to produce a car for both racing and road use.
“The first evolution of the XJ220 was considerably different to the final product. From the start it was the intention to produce the fastest road-going car in the world, also if we were able, to achieve the 220 mph its name suggested. Like the XK120 in 1948, it had to be a usable, refined, safe expression of Jaguar’s engineering and manufacturing capability.
“Both the gearbox and the final drive had been devised by Stuart Rolt, son of Tony who, with Duncan Hamilton, had been Jaguar Le Mans winners in 1953. The gearbox was pretty clever, and to achieve all wheel drive we invented a system which took a drive from the gearbox through the engine vee, via a quill shaft, set within a girder-like structure carrying supporting bearings to an inverted differential.”
The iconic XJ220 body design was primarily the work of Jaguar’s Keith Helfet. He created many exceptional shapes for the Company including the XJ41 and XK180 concepts. The international response to the XJ220 in 1988 was estimated to be the equivalent of £14 million in free publicity. The M5 Motorway leading to the NEC was blocked for 16 kilometres as crowds flocked to see the car.
Perhaps one day the original concept may be completed and run under its own steam. Amazing as it may seem, that unique car was largely pulled down in late 1989 so items could be copied for the production mode. It was only put back together and repainted at the last minute when we (Jaguar Magazine) took 100 Jaguar enthusiasts to England in 1990 to visit the various Jaguar factories! It was said then the car would most likely not have survived otherwise.
The production programme began at the TWR Kidlington complexes on May 2, 1989. Its chief designer was race car specialist Richard Owen - who had been apprenticed under Tony Southgate, designer of Jaguar’s XJR-6/8/9 and 12 Le Mans and IMSA race winning V12 sports racers.
The production chassis was shortened, which required a total redesign - but based on the concept. Other requirements included a run of no more than 350 cars, the 3.5 litre turboed engine, reduced weight and two wheel drive.
It was a mammoth job, and the bodies were hand-built at Abbey Panels using a honeycomb structure over which were hung aluminium panels. They were trucked to Bloxham and assembled in the new factory, but not before all the legal complexities had been taken care of including frontal impact.
In another vivid insight into the thinking processes of Tom Walkinshaw, in August 1989 Mike Morton, head of the entire XJ220 programme, was told about a possible home for the XJ220 build programme at an old seed mill at Bloxham. It stood in 13 acres of open land, and had a 30 year old industrial building on it. Unknown to Morton - the entire place had just been purchased by Tom...
JaguarSport, a joint venture company between Jaguar and TWR, moved in straight away, and the XJ220 production build job began even though the place was yet to have a full make-over.
A secret test lab for the XJ220 production car was a 1989 Ford Transit fitted with the 542 bhp engine and running gear. It even had a ladder and roof rack fitted as part of its disguise, and unless you noticed the big ZR high speed tyres and XJ220 alloys there are few clues as to what was lurking underneath.
The replacement of the race winning V12 Jaguar, with its Walter Hassan designed quad cam heads, was a huge disappointment to the many hundreds who had put down a deposit on the XJ220 when it was announced the car would go into limited production. Even the lavish sales brochure showed the V12 and outlined its specifications. However, it was a great success really, despite, like the hallowed D-Type before it, the final few cars being put in storage and difficult to sell.
There would be the production V6 cars, four Le Mans racing XJ220Cs (including the spare) and a number of cars which ended up in the hands of Tom Walkinshaw, having been severely raced and crashed in the US in the 1993 Fast Masters series. They were intended to be returned to Jaguar in England, and while they did get back, they went to TWR in Kidlington.
When the partnership between TWR and Jaguar in JaguarSport ended, five of those crashed racers were converted by TWR into what they named the 220S - not Jaguar XJ220S. They used many of the panels and parts created for the racing XJ220C. Gary Bartlett in the US played a major role in having the XJ220 approved for import there, and was the official service agent for the model in that country.
Gary told us he knew which were the former Fast Masters cars from their electronic chips. There is one more car which masquerades as a 220S but isn’t genuine.
John Bleasdale again: “I am sure you will have all noticed that when an XJ220 pops up for sale it will often state, for example, ‘one of 280’, or ‘one of 279’ etc. So how many is it really? “I am talking production cars, and am not including the five prototypes and the five pre-production cars. XJ220 chassis numbers start with highest first from 220900 through to 220617. If my maths are correct, that comes to 287 cars. “The last numbers are 220616, 220615 and 220614, but they never got beyond the tub stage so that reduces the output to 284. Four chassis went to Le Mans 220839 (spare), 220838 (#52), 220837 (#50) and 220836 (#51). That now brings the numbers down to 280. It was intended 350 would be created. “Two bodies, 220780 and 220661 were damaged and scrapped, and although I can’t find the number yet, one more body was scrapped.
“That leaves a total of 277 production cars, of which a whopping 208 were LHD and only 69 RHD.
JaguarSport even sent staff to the tiny country of Brunei because its Sultan needed his large fleet of XJ220s serviced, including one he had modified by Pininfarina in Italy.
Recently in Australia a car has surfaced and been purchased by the owners of the Gosford Classic Motor Museum. It will be displayed alongside the former Jordan Roddy XJR-15. If you love the XJ220, follow John Bleasdale on Facebook.
‘HAVING LOCATED THE OLD FACTORY, NOW THE HOME OF BANBURY LITHO, I MANAGED TO ENCOURAGE THE OWNERS OF TEN XJ220S TO DRIVER THEIR CARS THERE.’
Two prototype XJ220s standing at the front of the Bloxham Jaguar Sport plant in mid-1991. The silver car is chassis #0003 and the blue one is #0005. The one on the left was used for electrical, hot climate testing and engine development. The other was for high speed and 25,000 mile durability testing.
TWR claimed the XJ220 could not be produced with a V12 engine - UK collector Nigel Webb proved that was untrue - his car has one!
Ten XJ220s gathered with their owners in 2012 at the former JaguarSport factory they were assembled in. John Bleasdale stands between the blue car on the left and the yellow. One of the Fast Masters racing XJ220s in Indiana.
Five of those cars became the 220S model.This is chassis #220838 racing at Le Mans in 1993.
ACCORDING TO JOHN BLEASDALE’S CALCULATIONS AND RESEARCH, A TOTAL OF 277 PRODUCTION XJ220s WERE BUILT. MOST WERE LEFT HAND DRIVE.
The previously unseen Gosford Classic Motor Museum XJ220 in the new facility standing with our former cover car XJR-15 which was restored in Melbourne by Jordan Roddy. The XJ220 has been in Australia for many years.
The XJ220 model being built in 1993 at the Bloxham Jaguar Sport factory. We carefully counted ten cars in this shot... and this is the once secret Ford Transit XJ220 test bed being demonstrated at Goodwood.