That's the beauty of supercars: the disorientation, the mind-melting lack of reason. Concessions to ordinariness don't apply. You just get in, disengage the part of your brain marked 'think' and rely on instinct instead. Supercars are seductive for the simple reason that they are completely and utterly ludicrous. All very groovy, but illogicality here doesn't end with the be-thunderous, be-quick stuff: this one appears to be hermetically sealed. Thank the Lord (or Nokia) for mobile phones: "Oh Hi. Yeah, it's all going well. Yeah, the Bug's fab. Just one thing: where, precisely, is the interior door handle? Oh there. Natch. Of course. Bye."
So, in one probably-going-to-regret-mentioning-that anecdote lies the reality behind the real-world supercar experience. You have to be prepared to take the maddening with the mad. And it's the flaws that serve only to reinforce the positives. What supercars - the proper high caffeine stuff - lack in rationale, they more than make up for in extremism. And, to anyone of a certain age (let's say, cough, mid-'30s), the one that managed to bridge the gap between dreams and outright fantasy was the Ferrari F40.
To those of us then new to shaving, the spec sheet said it all. While it wasn't as pretty as the 288GTO donor (no car of the '80s was), the F40's Leonardo Fioravanti-devised outline marked Pininfarina's new-found commitment to aerodynamic efficiency. Beneath the Kevlar bodyshell, the resilient twin-turbocharged V8'was enlarged by 100cc (to 2936cc) while power rose by 20 per cent to 478bhp. This really was that journalistic cliché of a road-going race car. Bag tanks? Check. Optional dog 'box? Phwoar. This was the first 200mph (202 to be precise) supercar. No bull plop. Built to celebrate Ferrari's big four-oh, and the last car to be signed off by Il Commendatory himself, the F40 was a pure-bred. One that, when introduced in 1987, could lap the firm's Fiorano test track faster than Gilles Villeneuve managed in his 312T5 single-seater only seven years earlier.
Ironic then, that for all of the purple gush latterly bestowed on the F40, it received more than its fair share of negative ink back in the day. Some railed against Maranello's decision to sanction a racing car that would never be raced (said hacks weren't psychic; Group C still held sway) while others bigged up the rival Porsche 959 technocrat for its forward-thinking vision. Yet if the Ferrari was given a bit of a kicking, that was nothing on what was meted out to its British rival, Jaguar's XJ220.
Anyone who witnessed its unveiling at the 1988 British Motor Show was left in no doubt: basking in the reflective glow of the marque's win at Le Mans that year, the XJ220 was hyper-kinetic sculpture. Here was a car initially conjured by Jaguar boffins' after-hours Saturday Club, one that promised to take on the supercar elite despite being hindered by a budget that wouldn't keep Porsche's canteen functioning for a week. Everyone was willing the then-liberated (from Austin- Rover) firm to succeed: some 1500 or so deposits flooded in at Rs 4 crore a pop.
Fast-forward to 1991 and, when cars finally began to emerge from Tom Walkinshaw's Jaguar Sport operation in Oxford shire, the mood was very different. Officially released just as the econ¬0my turned turtle, fewer punters - most of them speculators - were willing to shell out the vastly inflated £415,544 (Rs 3.3 crore) asking price.
And they had just the ammunition needed to worm their way out of purchase agreements. Gone was the promised 6.2-litre quad-cam V12. Its length and longitudinal placement (not to mention the size of the fuel tanks) meant that the signature side scoops would have to go. It would have been a mite heavy, too. In its place came a V6 borrowed from TWR's IMSAXJR-10. Based on the MG Metro 6R4 unit, the end result bore little commonality parts-wise. The prototype's four-wheel drive was also abandoned on cost grounds, with Ricardo devising the five-speed manual transaxle. However you sugarcoat it, this wasn't the car Jaguar pledged. No, it was better. Mostly. The XJ220 was the world's quickest production car - 211.9mph (339kph) - it could lap the Niirburgring faster than most purpose-built racers (the car pictured being a former record holder), the V6 was more powerful than the envisaged V12 and the eight inches lost from the wheelbase rendered the car even prettier. Nonetheless, Jaguar - by then under Ford's custodianship - was forced to slim down projections to just 350 units. In the end, 288 cars were made, some remaining unsold until the late '90s.
Which is still a less calamitous yarn than the one that trailed the Bugatti. In a very roundabout way, it was Ferruccio Lamborghini who initiated the EB110. By the mid-'80s he was no longer involved with the marque that bore his name, but bashing out ideas with like-minded car types led to him bending the ear of one Romano Artioli. As the world's premier Ferrari distributor - and soon to be a very ex-Ferrari distributor - it was this impeccably coiffured motor magnate who persuaded the French state-owned SNECMA to sell the rights to the name, Bugatti Automobili being registered in October '87.
And no expense was spared. A palatial factory was built in Campogalliano on the outskirts of Modena (architect Giampaolo Benedini being Artioli's cousin) and outfitted with all the best kit. A roll-call of engineering superstars was recruited, including technical director Nicola Materazzi, formerly project leader on the Lancia Stratos. The most controversial aspect was the car's styling, Marcello Gandini's original shovel-nosed outline being deemed too similar to the Lamborghini Diablo, so Benedini made many alterations.
Unveiled at the Place de Defence, Paris on 14 September 1991, to mark Ettore Bugatti's 110th birthday (hence the initials and numerical designation), all looked rosy: the EB110GT was then the fastest production car on earth (214mph/342kph) and arguably the most advanced. Yet the world economy collapsed. Artioli's prosperous Suzuki import business was obliterated after the yen buckled, although there was still enough cash around to buy Lotus in August '93. But it couldn't last. The proposed EB1l2 super-saloon was quietly dropped as production of the EB110 gradually ground to a halt.
The first delivery was made in December '92, the last in September '95. Just 85 of the 'entry-level' GT editions were made (only one with right-hand drive), as well as 30 SuperSports and 13 development hacks. Except that wasn't quite the end. Following the bankruptcy sale, former Le Mans-winning entrant Jochen Dauer bought a number of partially built cars and has thus far finished a further six GTs. Volkswagen subsequently acquired the rights to the name for an undisclosed sum (said to be around £20m) and has since invested (lost) vast amounts more creating the 16-cylinder Veyron.
So three supercars: one latter-day icon, one technological marvel and another that, if armchair pundits are to be believed, is a corpulent old tugger. Except the XJ220 is nothing of Sure, the 90deg V6 sounds like a chemical mid-flush on start up but that's pretty much the complaints begin and end. This is a toweringly capable machine, although it's not so what it does that impresses as more what it doesn't do. At near 5m in length and more than 2m wide, you'd expect the Jag to be less than widely. But while it's the heaviest of all the cars here it's far from lardy, being 150kg lighter than a Lamborghini Diablo. Roll is barely perceptible, thanks in part to those monstrous boots (255/45ZR17 fronts, 345/35ZT18 rears). You can off, change line mid -corner and it barely twitches (in the wet it's a bit more lairy). The steer loads with reassuring but manageable effort e the accelerator pedal is ideally weighted, allowing you to draw on the massive performance reserves with absolute accuracy.
In standard form, the XJ220 will reach 100kph in 3.6 seconds. This pre-production car has been given the Don Law Racing makeover, so has close on 700bhp (up from 542). Acceleration is of the ‘would-scream-but-can't-breathe' variety. The first two gears are close coupled. Move into third, keep your toe in and you run out of road in a Picosecond. It just keeps pulling. No hesitation, no discernable lag. All too often aftermarket tuning only serves to detract from the driving experience. Not here.
Yet, leaving aside the Looney Tunes velocities, where this XJ220 - where any XJ220 - really scores is in what you can do at dawdling speeds. Drive your average supercar over rutted British B-roads and the ride is roughly akin to the Space Shuttle on re-entry. Not so here. It’s a Jaguar after all.
The Ferrari, in comparison, is far from cosset yet for sheer, unadulterated driving bliss, nothing comes close. Get yourself snug in the racy bucket (each having originally been tailored to the customer's form), and the racer pretensions are obvious: exposed carbonfibre (some of it appliqué), pull cords and no arms-outstretched, neck-cricked-to-see-out-of-it driving stance. Turn the key, press the rubber starter button and lie atonal soundscape is a little disappointing, as tithe juddering action of the dogleg five-speeder until it's warmed up.
Once up and running it's oh so different. Think 0-200kph in 12sec different. Acceleration is blisteringly swift but that's not what focuses your attention. There are faster supercars - quite a few of them - but none as singularly hardcore as this. Hit 4000rpm and it's frantic, angry even, the turbo boost gauge needle rotating like a windmill a hurricane. It's mental. Ker-clunk each shift against the H -pattern gate, pile on the revs and only fear - plus the lack of a collision damage waiver - gets in the way of reaching for the sun.
And then there's the steering. No other supercar - no other car - has such communicative steering as the F40. It feels never less than mechanical in action, telegraphing messages. You're constantly aware of what it's doing and where it's going. To a point. F40s are notorious for going arseways into the scenery, which is entirely understandable. Get too comfortable, relax a little and if the back steps out it'll stay gone. Keep it clean, focus and you'll be amazed at just how fast you can drive one of these.
The EB110 is its polar opposite. If and when someone gets around to writing the definitive history of the supercar, chances are the Bug' will be mentioned only as a footnote, an intriguing 'what might have been'. But it deserves so much more. Yes, it's a bit of a road going gargoyle but you still would. Get past the 'challenging' styling and there's brilliance here. This SS edition - 603bhp rather than 550 for the GT; carbonfibre panels rather than aluminium - is revelatory. If it was built today, the EB110 would still stack up. Everything feels meticulously honed and obsessively focused.
If anything, the cabin is disappointingly normal. Somehow you expect something a bit more out there, but pull down the scissor door (the release is hidden under the armrest in case you were wondering) and your neck is in line with the base of the windows. Headroom is tight but the leather clad seats are ultra-comfy, the pedals only slightly offset towards the centerline and all the instruments are visible. And it has proper ventilation. Remarkable.
Fire up. Expecting an eruption of sound, there's initial disillusionment: a muted burble. Ease in the clutch - stiff, naturally - give it a bit more gas and, heading out over calloused asphalt, there are no creaks, groans or thuds from the structure. The suspension seems to soak up the worst of road imperfections and, at moderately enthusiastic speeds, it's all very civilised. Forward visibility is reasonable, it doesn't feel remotely intimidating and the gear change is super-slick while the power-assisted steering, with just 2.8 turns lock-to-lock, doesn't feel edgy.
So far, so shopping car. Then comes the good bit. At around 4000rpm, the turbos start to inhale air. Acceleration builds abruptly but smoothly. Ease off and you can hear all four huffers exhale sequentially left to right, left to right. Power on again, keep the throttle nailed open this time and forward thrust is shocking. This is one car in which you genuinely do get pinned back in your seat. Peak torque (66.22kgm) arrives at 4250rpm and the four-wheel-drive arrangement provides unfeasible levels of grip.
There's seemingly never ending - and hugely satisfying - boost but without any stumbling or flat spots: you're left slightly detached from the surreal madness of it all. That a car with more than 600bhp can be this usable - so refined, so exploitable - is a feat of breathtaking creativity. It's a pity that so few will ever get to experience this kind of a rush.
Except, of course, the lack of superficial prettiness ultimately stymies it short of greatness. The Jaguar, in comparison, should be welcomed back in from the cold because it really is a hugely capable machine. Thing is, its prominence in the supercar firmament remains middling due largely to the whole it's-not-the-car-it-was-supposed-to-be period bluster. That and the arrival of the McLaren F1, which did for every supercar, showing what could be achieved with the right materials, the right budget and a genius as a designer. But that too lost money. Which brings us to the F40. It's far from perfect. Actually, perfect isn't even on its radar but it's brutal, ballistic and a bit scary. Magic. That it's routinely cited as the greatest supercar of its generation (and when did you last hear anyone mention the Porsche 9591) isn't just journalistic shorthand for emperor's new clothes: try getting hacks to agree on anything other than mutual antipathy. No it really is that good.