Is all that glitters gold?

  • 15 May 2020
  • 2 min read
  • 4 images
Is all that glitters gold?

The end of the hedonistic 80s was fertile ground for car manufacturers who wanted to try their hand at expensive technological showcases. Added to this was the surge in value ​​of vintage cars (the famous 1989 boom), so for each new supercar car launched, sellers filled their order books in a snap. Mission accomplished?

Anyone who was a teenager in the 80s and 90s cannot have forgotten the seduction of some truly celestial models in terms of image, content and prices: the very first hypercars. Today those same teenagers must have had brilliant careers to revive memories of their childhood and put one of those objects in their garage. Let's see some of them: today we’ll talk about the Porsche 959 and the Jaguar XJ220.

First off the mark was the Porsche 959, presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1985. This car was full of “alien technology”: four-wheel drive, two sequential turbochargers, titanium connecting rods, magnesium wheels and electronically-controlled suspension. Imagine all that at the time when the most powerful road Porsche was the 911 Turbo which, with its 3.3-litre engine, was good for 300hp. This model, with its 2,850cc engine produced some 450hp and – listen carefully – it could exceed 310 km/h. And let's talk about the “Komfort” version because the S models developed over 500hp. The car was created to win the famous Group B class and therefore the goal was to produce at least 200, but in the end they sold 292 for the astronomical figure (at the time) of DM420,000 – the equivalent of 13 normal Porsche 911s.

porsche 959 3 komfort The need to homologate the car in Group B in 1984 pushed Porsche to plan the production of 200 examples of the 959. A number widely exceeded due to the success on the model

Now how much would it cost to put one in the garage, or rather, in the living room today? The last one sold at auction was in March this year when a Komfort example, silver with just 5,822 miles on the clock and complete with the well-known Canepa tuning kit (for those who want more power...) was sold for $1,050,000. Previously, in December 2018, another Komfort example, this time in black with 41,000 km on the clock, went unsold at $870,000 (against an estimate of $950-1,100,000). However, if you want a very rare Sport version (29 examples) you will have to consider doubling that amount. The latest offering dates back to Pebble Beach in August 2019. That 1988 example had just 5,000 miles on the clock and belonged to the famous Porsche collector Otis Chandler. Against an estimate of $2-2.4 million, offers stopped at $1.7 million; however, there was a happy ending because the auction house declared that it sold soon after the auction for an undisclosed but by no means a small amount.

porsche 959s -1-scaled The S version of the 959, lightened and with decidedly track-like characteristics, was produced in only 29 examples

How did Jaguar's XJ220 project come to be?

At the 1988 Birmingham Motor Show, Jaguar presented its “asphalt warrior”: a 6.2-litre, race-bred V12 engine that took advantage of the year in which it won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, something that hadn’t happened since the era of the D-Type. Over 500hp, all-wheel drive and a top speed of 220 mph (352 km/h)! The commercial side of this car totally reflects what was said previously: with a price of £361,000 and the obligation to pay a deposit of £50,000 per order, buyers came in droves with many, needless to say, motivated by speculation. When the car was finally presented three years later in October 1991, it was equipped with a 3.5 V6 biturbo engine from a much less noble MG Metro 6R4 (originating from Group B). Although it still produced 542hp, many potential buyers were disappointed by this change and tried to get rid of their contracts. More importantly, in the meantime the supercar market had literally collapsed and speculators – many, as it turned out later – lined up to get rid of those pieces of paper that forced them to buy a car they never really wanted in the first place. In the end, after fierce legal battles, an agreement was reached: those who had signed a purchase contract could pay another £100,000 apiece for the right to not take delivery of the vehicle – alternatively they had to pay an additional £311,000 to put it in their garage. Of the 1,500 customers (more or less) who had paid the deposit, only 281 withdrew.

jaguar xj220 4 In the best Jaguar tradition, the pure and well-connected shapes favoured the very high top speed of the XJ220 which was timed at 350 km/h

After nearly thirty years, who was right: those who spent £150,000 to not have it or those who paid £361,000 for it? In 2020, two examples went under the hammer with quite comparable results. The 1993 example sold in January by Gooding had just 2000 km on the clock and whoever bought it took home a bargain. Against an estimated estimate of $375-450,000 the lucky owner took it home for just $340.500. From RM in Paris instead they offered an example with just 850 km on the clock coming straight from the "Poster Car" collection. This time it was the seller who smiled because, against an estimate of €300-350,000, it went for €398,750.

Considering that £361,000 in today’s money is worth roughly $600,000, buying a car, keeping it for thirty years and then reselling it for $350-450,000 doesn't seem like a good deal but there is a trick here. The trick lies in the famous £150,000 deposit (£50,000 first and £100,000 later) which equates to around $250,000. The difference then drops to just $350,000, and the situation is reversed.

jaguar xj220 3 Impressive in size, the XJ220 presents a sophisticated research into the use of ground effects through the large extractor and the small wing connected to the bodywork