JUN 26th 2015

Cars that rock FoS 2015: Jaguar XJ220 V12

The XJ220 was a skunkworks project created by a team of dedicated Jaguar engineers in their spare time. Borrowing heavily from Jaguar’s race cars of the time, the concept car had a V12 engine and four-wheel-drive underneath its pebble-smooth aluminium gearbox. It was an instant hit: at its motor show debut in 1988, around 1500 deposits were placed for the car.


Unfortunately, by the time the car went into production a number of engineering revisions had been made. The V12 engine was gone, in its place coming a twin-turbo V6 borrowed from the MG Metro 6R4 rally car. In the wider world, the recession had hit by the time the XJ220 went into production. It was still the fastest production car in the world when it was new (213mph), but the V6 engine was reason enough for many of the 1500 customers to opt out of their purchase and, in the end, just 275 cars were built.

The lack of a V12 engine may have been a handy opt-out for recession-hit buyers, but there was clearly still an appetite for a V12 powered XJ220. Nigel Webb was one such case, and he commissioned Don Law Racing to convert an XJ220 to V12 power on a one-off basis.


It was the only place to go: having carried its first regular service on an XJ220 in 1996, the company became the go-to place for XJ220 maintenance and modification. When Ford pulled the plug on JaguarSport in 1998, Don Law Racing got the contract for official servicing work, buying up engine stock from TWR, gearboxes from Ricardo and all remaining stock from Jaguar. It wasn’t done by halves.

And neither was the V12 conversion for Nigel Webb’s car. The full-house IMSA-spec engine looks ferocious through the glass engine, and whole thing looks utterly ‘factory’ finished. It’s interesting watching reactions to it on the Cartier Style et Luxe lawn this weekend; some immediately twig the modification, others take it at face value. Small details like the Jaguar XJ220 scripts subtly make the point.

BIG 220 says the numberplate. We’d agree with that…


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