When the Jaguar XJ220 launched in 1992, it was one of the fastest cars any amount of money could buy. It was capable of hitting a Guinness Book of Records certified 217.1 miles per hour or 349.3 kilometres per hour and of lapping the Nurburgring in seven minutes, 46.36 seconds (a time that stood unchallenged until the turn of this century).
However, for the past 12 years, anyone lucky enough to have this car in their collection has been unable to do little more than simply look at its lines or to listen to the turbocharged V6 engine ticking over. And that’s simply because there has been no way of getting tyres for the car. Production of new rubber for the unique-sized wheels stopped when production of the car itself ceased in 1994.
“Owners have been reluctant to use their cars because of the tyre shortage. There have been no new tyres since approximately 1995,” said Tony O’Keefe, Jaguar Heritage’s head of communications. “Quite simply if anyone got a puncture, your car was off the road for good.”
This lack of new rubber is also one of the reasons why, as well as being a rare sight at concours car gatherings, the XJ220, despite ticking every conceivable classic supercar checklist box, hasn’t been shooting up in value in the same way that its 1990s contemporaries have.
But all of that is about to change. To coincide with the car’s 25th anniversary, Bridgestone and Pirelli have been working ‘tirelessly’ to develop new tyres for the car and get it back on the track where it belongs and those new tyres will be coming to market in a matter of weeks.
Both companies revealed their plans to re-shoe the car in September, and the excitement was felt well beyond the XJ220 owners’ club. “I believe [the announcement] is one reason why the prices of the XJ220 have risen by at least 20 percent in the last nine months,” said O’Keefe.
To get its tyres right, Bridgestone used a pre-production XJ220 for track tests and picked the brains of many of the engineers that helped develop the original car.
“We brought the engineers and test drivers from 25 years ago back together, so we were pretty much guaranteed to do the job right,” said Bridgestone test driver Justin Law of the development process.
And while the Bridgestone tyres will no doubt do the job, Jaguar has been working directly with Pirelli on a set of P Zero tyres (the de facto standard for every seriously exotic sportscar since debuting on the original Ferrari F40) for the XJ220 with a view to creating P Zeros for a number of its other classics in the future. As such, they will be the only “J-Rated” — i.e., Jaguar approved — rubber available for the XJ200.
Tim Hannig, Director of Jaguar Land Rover Classic, said: “This new tyre permits the full performance of the glorious XJ220 to be exploited where appropriate.”