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ROAD TEST an it really

ROAD TEST an it really be 25 years? It seems like six months since I collected the first production Jaguar XJ220 and spent two days on road and track, conducting what remains, at least to my knowledge, the only fully comprehensive, data-backed road test of the then world’s fastest car. Scratch that. The XJ220 was not just the world’s fastest car in 1993 – it was fastest by a mile. While rivals such as Porsche’s 959 and Ferrari’s F40 would nudge up to and, in the latter case, just push past the 200mph barrier, the XJ220 was the first car to which that once unimaginable speed was just another number on the dial. Its entry in the Guinness Book of Records quoted a recorded top speed of 217mph. ‘Hypercar’ is a term used freely today, but few realise it all started here. I’d already been waiting five years by the time I got to drive it, ever since it appeared in ‘concept’ form at the 1988 British International Motor Show complete with a massive 6.2-litre V12 motor and four-wheel drive. Just 350 were to be built and, with the global economy riding high, the offer was four times over-subscribed. But by the time the XJ220 was ready for sale, the bull market had been replaced by recession. Depositors used the fact that the car now had a 3.5-litre V6 engine driving the rear wheels as grounds to walk away. In the end, just 277 were built, meaning that today it is an incredibly rare car – rarer than both its aforementioned rivals. “Which is one reason I think they are still undervalued,” says Paul Hegarty, centre manager of Jaguar Classic Works, who is reintroducing the XJ220 to a new generation of enthusiasts. “Good cars now change hands in excess of £500,000. But if you look at what it has to offer, its scarcity, and the prices of its rivals, I’m confident it has some distance to go.” The offer was this: the most outlandish shape packing the most outrageous performance ever to be offered in road car form. A car not based on any other, but a bespoke creation built up around an aluminium honeycomb structure that looks more like something from a jet fighter than anything you might expect to be seen wearing a number plate. It came from a company that had already won the world’s greatest motor race – the Le Mans 24 Hours – Driven by a professional driver on a closed track. Do not attempt. 70 THE JAGUAR

CLASSICS Six-footer Andrew Frankel gets cosy in the Jaguar XJ220’s compact (and very analogue) cabin, before giving the mighty hypercar enough stick to bring back fond memories “ FOR SHEER SENSE OF OCCASION, I’M NOT SURE IF THE JAGUAR XJ220 HAS BEEN BEATEN” seven times, and would itself win its class with a young David Coulthard driving, before being excluded on the most tenuous of technicalities. Its presence remains undimmed. An XJ220 parked alone is an extraordinary sight, one to be savoured at length and from a variety of distances and angles. This is not a practical car: there is almost no boot space, the doors don’t open far enough and, if you’re much over six foot, it’s cosy inside. But for sheer sense of occasion, I’m not sure if it’s been beaten. The twin-turbo engine fires angrily, with a gloriously ugly voice I recall at once. This may not be the symphonic V12 soundtrack some may have hoped for, but it’s a genuine racing engine and it exudes purpose. Everything is physical in here, the clutch, the gears, the steering all requiring hefty inputs. But it seems right in a car like this that it should make you work a little. And the fact that it has no ABS, traction control or any similar safety system seems right, too. It’s just man and ferociously fast machine against the world. Even today on the track, it gathers speed at a maniacal rate, the needle sweeping past the numbers as fast as you can read them. I ease off at 140mph not because there is

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