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The Jaguar XJ220 Development Mule Was a Ford Van

I recently went on The Smoking Tire podcast with Matt Farah, and Matt told me something interesting: When Jaguar was creating the XJ220, they used a rather plain-looking Ford van to develop the 540-horsepower twin-turbo V6 powertrain. They mounted the engine in the back of the van — midmounted, just like the regular XJ220 — and drove it around to, you know, make sure it worked.

The idea here was to disguise the XJ220 so people didn’t see it before it was ready, and the only giveaway on the outside of the van was that the Transit swapped its regular wheels for XJ220 wheels. But since the XJ220 hadn’t yet gone on sale at the time, nobody would’ve suspected anything from this modification.

Frankly, it’s a great idea, and an older Road & Track article gets into some of the specifics of the van, such as the fact that it had a top speed of around 170 miles per hour (the fact that the XJ220’s top speed approached 220 mph with the same powertrain gives you an idea of just how much aerodynamics plays a role in the top speed game). The article also mentions that it had candy wrappers and tabloids glued to the dashboard, just as an actual work van would, to make it look even more innocuous.

Over the years, the van was neglected, but it eventually found its way to Don Law Racing, the specialists who perform major work on XJ220 models today, who restored it, and now it’s driven periodically at various events, such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Even there, however, it still just resembles an old van, and it’s only special to those who know — just like it was back in the 1990s when it was first used to developed the XJ220’s powertrain.

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