The 1980s are characterized by economic stagnation, followed by recovery and then strong growth in the economy, with the stock exchange tripling in that decade. From the mid-1980s, money was spent like flowing water. As a result, the prices of classic cars rose rapidly. But car enthusiasts also started to gain interest in new supercars. Potential customers were clambering over each other to be able to buy such a car. Porsche presented the 959 in 1983, followed by Ferrari in 1987 with the F40. Bugatti was revived and Jaguar announced the XJ220.
To put the brand in the spotlight once again, the leadership of Jaguar wanted to develop a supercar. The British wanted to compete with the Germans and the Italians, so in 1988 Jaguar presented a concept car at the British International Motor Show in Birmingham. It was a model fitted with a twelve cylinder engine with a capacity of 6.2 litre and four wheel drive. Even today, the organic alloy coachwork stills looks surprisingly modern.
In the previous years, rare classic cars – in particular those produced by Ferrari and Bugatti – had risen sharply in price. This led to some people opting to invest in new limited production sports cars with the expectation that these, just like the classic sports cars, would become more valuable after their acquisition. Jaguar announced in advance that a limited number of the new supercar would be manufactured, further fueling speculation. A year later, the factory announced that in the UK the price of the car would be £360,000 (more than the Ferrari F40 and the Porsche 959 from a few years before). Jaguar would make at least 220 and at most 350 cars.
The Jaguar XJ220 was revealed in 1991 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The car resembled the earlier concept car, but was technically modified. At the same time Jaguar had increased the car’s price to £410,000. In addition, the factory had announced a new supercar that was even more expensive, the Jaguar XJR-15. All this affected the demand but equally important was that the economic environment had changed. The new Jaguar appeared too late to the market.
The Japanese economy stagnated in 1990, followed a year later by those in other Western countries such as the United States, the UK and Germany. In the course of 1990, the market for classic and modern sports cars went into decline. And even before the Jaguars were delivered to their owners, a number of buyers could no longer meet their obligations or wanted to cancel the purchase. In November 1990 (before the cars were delivered), several vehicles were offered for sale by private consumers. The declining interest for the XJ220 had consequences for the factory and buyers. Instead of the intended maximum of 350 cars, only 281 were eventually manufactured. The expectations for the price evolution were far too optimistic and those who had bought the car as an investment were disappointed. Years later, cars that had hardly been driven at all were offered at auction for relatively low amounts.
Afterwards, the layout of the Jaguar XJ220 was criticized (even the sound of the engine were panned). Instead of the twelve cylinder engine, the XJ220 had a six cylinder engine, and plans for four wheel drive were eventually cancelled. But on the other hand, the V6 developed 542, against the V12’s 500hp. The engine’s power was greater than that of the six cylinder Porsche 959 and the eight cylinder Ferrari F40. These cars had an output of 450hp and 487hp respectively. The Jaguar XJ220 was also the fastest production car in the world: It reached 217 mph, versus the Ferrari’s 199 mph and the Porsche’s 195 mph top speeds. The engine of the XJ220 was derived from a race engine designed by Cosworth for the 1986 MG Metro 6R4 Group B Rally car. The Jaguar proved it was fast and also reliable during the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1993, where one of the three participating cars finished first in the new GT class… however, the car was later disqualified for failing to run with catalytic converters.
The Jaguar was expensive and offered a lot of quality and comfort, equipped with a luxurious leather interior. It also had standard air conditioning and electric windows. Nevertheless, due to circumstances, the image of the car was damaged. While the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40 were later appreciated by enthusiasts and increased in value after the year 2000, the value of the XJ220 saw little movement upwards.
A factor – in addition to the availability of tyres – that played a role is that both the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40 had sold very well. Ferrari even sold more than originally intended. In addition, both brands later introduced new, appealing (and costly) models, whereby they retained the attention of enthusiasts and collectors. Porsche developed faster (and more expensive) versions of the 911 Type 993, such as the Turbo S and the GT2, and later the Carrera GT and the 918 Spyder. The Ferrari F40 was followed up by equally exclusive models, such as the F50, the Enzo and the LaFerrari. By contrast, Jaguar remained silent. The last supercar of the British factory was sold not only in less numbers than expected, it also had no real successors, resulting in little appreciation for the XJ220 compared with its peers.
Starting from the year 2000 up to and including 2014, the prices achieved for the XJ220 at auctions was weak. Around 2000, the highest amount paid at auction was approximately £120,000. In 2014, RM Sotheby’s auctioned one for £165,000. Until that point, this was the highest price achieved at auction – not including the XJ220 that had belonged to Sir Elton John, which was auctioned by Christie’s in May 2001 for nearly £235,000. In 2015, Bonhams sold one at auction for £323,700, the highest result so far.
The price development of the Jaguar stand in contrast with those of the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40. Both models received the interest of enthusiasts far sooner and also increased more in value. The highest auction result for both cars rose from approximately £210,000 in 2002 to £1.1 million in 2015. The difference in value between the XJ220 on the one hand, and the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari F40 on the other hand, increased over the years.
But let’s appreciate the Jaguar on the basis of the performance and production numbers. On those factors, it turns out the Jaguar outperformed the Porsche and Ferrari. The Jaguar is also a rarer beast, with just 281 cars produced. Porsche made 337 cars, including 37 prototypes and pre-production models. Ferrari made no less than 1,311 cars. Seen from this perspective, it seems the supercar made by Jaguar is under-appreciated. The current gap in the price between the XJ220 and the Porsche 959 and Ferrari F40 seems, as a result, too large.
1992 Jaguar XJ220. Geveild door Bonhams op 4 februari 2016 voor € 299.000 (£ 229.800). Foto Bonhams.