If we’re talking about British supercars from the 1990s, the conversation generally begins and ends with one entry: The McLaren F1. Of course, that grossly oversimplifies things. Why? Well, for one, there were also the bonkers high-horsepower cars coming in from TVR. Plus, the Lotus Esprit gained a twin-turbo V8 engine and 350 horsepower in the 1990s (that was a lot of power for a light car).
And then, of course, there was the criminally unloved Jaguar XJ220.
A 200-plus mile per hour supercar that was unveiled to great fanfare in the late 1980s, the XJ220 was supposed to be Jaguar’s great return to the upper echelons of the performance car world. But it wasn’t meant to be. Beset with years of engineering and production delays, by the time it was launched in 1992, the company had a tough time finding any buyers. The result? They only built 271 models over a two-year span.
So if the McLaren F1 is the icon, and the XJ200 is the odd man out, then a car that bridges the gap between the two must be truly bonkers, right? Well, it is.
Jaguar was riding high in the late 1980s. In 1987, it partnered with Tom Walkinshaw Racing and designer Tony Southgate to design a prototype racer to compete in endurance racing. For the first time in 30 years, the new partnership would catapult the company back to the forefront of the sport. Built around the company’s venerable V12 engine, the Jaguar XJR-8 debuted in 1987 to immediate success, winning eight out of 10 races and taking the World Sportscar Championship title. It was also named Autosport’s Racing Car of the Year.