Background: Jaguar XJ220 transmission

In 1988 when I joined the company we had an isolated building at the back of the site. There was clearly something going on there at evenings and weekends, as the doors would be discretely closed anytime I came near.

In time I learned this was one of the locations where The Saturday Club worked…the loose group of Jaguar Engineers and suppliers assembled to build, on a voluntary basis, the prototype V12 4WD XJ220 debuted to great acclaim at the 1988 UK Motorshow.

By 1990 we had been selected to design, develop and produce the transmission for the production car, which had evolved into a V6 engined 2WD vehicle. One morning I received the instruction: get down to Millbrook proving ground and assess the gearshift on the prototype car. This was an exciting prospect: XJ220 was at the time likely to be the fastest production car in the world. On driving the car it soon became clear that the performance was stunning, but the gearshift, particularly the shift duration into first and second gears was unacceptably slow.

We were able to respond very quickly, and within a few weeks modified parts incorporating triple cone synchromesh on first and second gears were being tested, with successful results.

23 June 1993 Autocar road test “….the gearbox a pure delight….The change itself is superb and has not been compromised by the need to handle the thick end of 500 lbft of torque. The lever slices accurately around the gate, unerringly finding the correct ratio…”

A display model was professionally prepared from surplus parts and displayed at various conferences and Ricardo sites.

c2004 as Henry Ford said, “history is bunk”, and during a reorganisation the XJ220 display model was thrown in a skip. Adie Turner, a long time employee who had been a key contributor to the XJ220 project rescued the gearbox from a skip, and stored it under a tarpaulin in his back garden.

2011 Adie Turner sadly passed away, making the future of the display piece even less certain. A few long time employees retrieved the transmission, and secreted it away on site at the Ricardo Midlands Technical Centre in Leamington Spa.

2014 With the Ricardo Centenary on the horizon the possibility of restoring the transmission was discussed, and agreed.