Pride of the big


Jaguar XJ220, Silverstone Classic

A QUARTER of a century ago that big cat of the performance car world, Jaguar roared with pride at the birth of a true icon.

The occasion was the launch of the frighteningly fast Jaguar XJ220 a scary beast of a car which made heads turn around the world

Now, 25 years on more than 40 Jaguar XJ220s came together at the Silverstone Classic in a record-breaking reunion to mark the birthday of what was once the fastest production car in the world.

The dramatically-styled, mid-engined, two-seater supercar was introduced in 1992, featured a top speed of 212.3mph making it Jaguar's quickest road-going car - an accolade it still holds to this day.

Just 271 XJ220s were manufactured in tandem with Jaguar's competition partner Tom Walkinshaw Racing between 1992 and 1994 - each priced at an eye-watering £470,000 - and such is their rarity that no more than a handful had ever previously been seen together.

At the event, 42 XJ220s from all around the globe helped to create a spectacular on-track parade led by David Brabham driving the car in which he claimed GT class victory at Le Mans in 1993 before being controversially disqualified.

In fact, all four competition specification XJ220Cs in existence were on show at Silverstone, including one which had come all the way from Japan just to be part of the anniversary celebrations.

Although originally conceived to feature a V12 engine plus four-wheel-drive, to meet emissions legislation and performance targets, the showroom XJ220 model arrived with a 3.5-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 developing 542bhp, delivered to the rear transaxle via a five-speed manual gearbox.

I never got behind the wheel of one of these cars but I was given a demonstration drive on a race circuit and quickly came to the conclusion that this was no tame pussycat of a sports car.

In fact it was a monster which demanded a degree of driving skill that was far in advance of the majority of people who could legitimately order one.

It was such a handful that it left the track in the hands of the demo driver who walked into the pits with a very red face.

I walked away with the distinct impression that when it came to pure power, the Big Cat marque had very sharp teeth indeed.


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