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Jensen-Healey Published: 11th Dec 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Fast Facts

  • Best model: MkII
  • Worst model: Anything ratty
  • Budget buy: Average cars
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4115 x W1605 mm
  • Spares situation: Ever improving
  • DIY ease?: Excellent
  • Club support: Very good
  • Appreciating asset?: Picking up strongly
  • Good buy or good-bye?: If you’ve had your fill of MGs and TRs then the J-H needs to be considered, soon if you want a bargain
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Eagerly awaited Healey for the 1970s that failed to live up to its promise, mainly due to reliability issues. Ever improving support from specialists and clubs have made the Jensen-Healey one of the best buys for 2016 and they are still cracking value. But not for long

In a sports car market still populated by old school MGs and TRs the all new Jensen-Healey looked a pretty tasty proposition almost 45 years ago. With famous names such as Lotus, Sunbeam and Aston Martin (stylist) also involved, the Jensen-Healey certainly had all the right ingredients but, sadly, the mix left a bad taste in the mouth of many once enthusiastic owners.

What did they say about this ill-starred spotster – engine by Lotus, transmission by Chrysler, suspension by Vauxhall… and development done by owners? That may well have been the case, but you can’t deny that, on paper, lurked a British alternative to an Alfa Romeo Spider. Sadly, this Midlands’ marvel failed to gain the recognition it always deserved and you can pick one up for MGB money. However, values won’t stay so long for much longer now the jinxed Jensen has finally come good. Spares and specialist support is now excellent and it’s a genuinely different drive to an MGB or TR.


1972 The Jensen-Healey was intended to make its début at the 1971 Earls Court Motor Show, but it didn’t arrive until spring of the following year. Healey’s idea for the car was right on the money for the more conservative 1970s where a lucrative US market had been crying out for a new British sportster for years. First customer cars were delivered at £1874 – well over the anticipated £1500 that Donald and Geoffrey Healey originally planned on. 1973 The earliest Jensen-Healeys were riddled with major problems – many of which originated from the Lotus engine, which Jensen’s rather naive owner Qvale bought without a warranty!

They were fixed quickly, although the damage to the new car’s reputation was done already by the time of the introduction of the MkII in September.

This much improved Jensen-Healey also featured a wood-grain finish on the dash and better soundproofing. A Getrag fivespeed gearbox also replaced the previous four-speed unit in late 1973.

1975 Dubbed the Jensen GT, there were no Healey references now because Donald Healey had quit the company by the time the first Roadsters had been delivered to customers. To assist sales of this upmarket spin off, the original convertible was discontinued in December. By the time production was wound up in 1976, only 473 GTs had been built, more than half of which were exported to America. Of the 10,453 Roadsters made, 7709 went to the States who, reliability aside, loved ’em.


If it wasn’t for the build and reliability issues, plus Jensen folding in 1976, then the J-H would have become one of the best British sports cars ever we reckon.

For starters, it was one of the most comfortable and ergonomic sportsters around with a fine driving position and ample space for two. Despite its running faults, the Lotus engine was no mean performer in the J-H even if it never sounded as happy as the old Ford-based twin cam. But 140bhp was a respectable figure back in the early 70s and still provides plenty of sports car shove that will blow any TR6 away, but you have to work hard to get the horses going.

Despite the Jensen being set up on the soft side to appease the US driver, the handling was always deemed excellent as is the ride; in fact, the chassis was almost too supple. A well set-up J-H is a delight to drive and far more modern in feel than any MGB or TR. Really, the Jensen-Healey was the logical development of those 1960’s classics but much better suited to today’s driving thanks to modern dynamics and better crash protection.

To say that the Jensen-Healey was eagerly awaited is an understatement. Motor called the acceleration of 0-60mph in only 7.5 seconds ‘exhilarating’ and complemented the handling and ride adding that the driving position was “One of the best we have tried”. However, it was critical of the flimsy hood: “A car of this calibre deserves better weather equipment – the hood on the MkIII Healey was superior in every respect”. The weekly also “found the standard of finish rather disappointing”. Testing the MkII almost three years later (now with five-speeds) it felt that “the advantages of five-speeds are not nearly so apparent” as the car was both slower and thirstier than the original. The Roadster, now cost over £3250, which was the thick end of a grand dearer than the outgoing TR6, and similar money to a Scimitar GTE.

Curing a lack of refinement from that Lotus engine “would go to a long way of making the whole car quite exceptional,” judged their testers.

In January 1976, just months before Jensen folded, Autocar tested the fixedhead GT, saying that it was aimed at a different sort of buyer to the Roadster, not least because it cost almost £4200, which was the same price as an Alfa GT and slightly cheaper than Datsun’s 260Z and Triumph’s Stag. In its original 1972 report, Autocar headlined its test “Everything a Healey should be” but four years on the testers were very critical of the bad flat spot that afflicted far too many J-H’s but overall “liked the Jensen GT very much”.

Both weeklies ran a Roadster for long term tests and both suffered more than their fair share of troubles causing Autocar (who had two engine rebuilds in its first 12,000 miles…) to quip “Engine by Lotus, transmission by Chrysler, suspension by Vauxhall… and development done by owners?” However, it kept theirs for close to 40,000 miles and was sorry to finally sell it. “It is undeniably a proper sports car” Autocar concluded.

Perhaps it was because the testers were younger but Hot Car wasn’t quite so smitten. The monthly regarded the Spitfire on steroids styling, “boring… Nowhere has Jensen tried to do anything remotely original… it doesn’t turn you on”, thought that the handling was “not in the same league as, say, a Lotus Elan”, would have sacrificed comfort for better handling and felt that the concept as a 1970’s sports car disappointed yet finished by saying that for less than £2000 it wasn’t a bad buy.


The Jensen-Healey won’t remain a bargain for much longer say specialists, so if you want one act swiftly. Owners are cottoning on to their increasing values and some are prepared to spend sizeable sums on theirs to make good – we’ve heard of up to 30 grand on restorations. The general price for a good example is around £6000-£9000. The much rarer more upmarket GT, which makes a great alternative to an MGB GT, is probably worth up to £2000 more. Projects can still be bought for not much more than £1500 depending upon condition.

Specialists Rejen, based near Winchester and has recently moved (01962 779556/, advises not to delay if you want one now the word has got out, adding they are streets ahead of an MGB and even a TR6 yet cheaper, points not lost on an increasing number of enthusiasts.

Jason Lawrence says condition counts more than whether it’s a MkI or later MkII although the GT’s rarity means it’s a case of what you can get. Virtually everything you will need is available either new or used, apart from bonnets which are extremely scarce sadly; apparently when Jensen closed, 100 lids were pressed before the tooling was scrapped – and they were all used up by 1980.


The J-H was criticised for being a tad underdeveloped – better in MkII and GT guises to be fair and thanks to its pick ‘n’ mix of components, it can be uprated easily. The suspension is mostly Vauxhall Magnum items, which benefit from a damper and spring swap plus ‘polybushing’ the rear axle retaining arms although Jensen used its own bushes that differ from Vauxhall spec. Strangely, in standard trim, the sports car lacked anti-roll bars but there’s no reason why Viva GT/Firenza items can’t be utilised.

Stock Viva 2.3/Magnum discs are fitted and with harder pads, such as EBC’s Green Stuff, may suffice for most needs before going to a larger disc and calliper combo; note that Firenza HP used plain but larger Victor/Ventora discs so these can technically be substituted for an effective low cost improvement – if you can find them. Plus if you use Victor/Ventora front wishbones it gives better geometry into the bargain.

The Lotus engine (2.0-litres but a lustier 2.2 after 1980) can yield in excess of 250bhp (as it did in the Lotus Esprit).

Healey himself says he wished he’d have also tried the versatile Rover V8 (which fits) and we’ve seen cars packing (Ford) Pinto power. But it’s a shame to ditch that Lotus unit because once set up on a rolling road to banish the flat sports, performs more than adequately.

What To Look For



  • They cars rot badly and there are few original cars are left. The low values of Jensen-Healeys means they were often bodged and you’re bound to come up against your fair share when Healey hunting.

  • The good news is that the spares situation is pretty good and improving all the time. Robey (who bought up all the Jensen tooling and stock of parts), Rejen, Cropredey Bridge and Appleyard have much of what you need although a restoration isn’t MGB-easy. The Jensen-Healey Preservation Society is a great site.

  • Martin Robey offers parts from the original stock of Jensen and manufacture parts using the original Tooling and specifications held. Vehicles can be serviced, repaired or restored at the Nuneaton works. New wings cost £307 (bottom section just over £100), boot £473, door skin £240 for example.

  • Most were exported to the USA. If you don’t mind LHD (you can convert for under £2000) and a de-tox engine running on more reliable Stromberg carbs, you can pick up rot free models although the interiors are invariably sun-damaged as a result. American Jensen-Healey Parts & Spares has a great supply of bits and tuning gear, so check out the website.



  • The good news is that the majority of interior panels are now available; Rejen says a complete interior package costs in the region of £1500. Carpet seats are under £300 as are seat covers and it can recover vinyl seats with leather inserts.
  • The vinyl-trimmed seats split and carpets wear easily. Early MkIs featured rubber mats with the Jensen Healey logo embossed in them, are they still there? Dash surround is brittle and the instruments known to play up.
  • Look at the condition of the hood, as replacement isn’t cheap; vinyl will cost around £400 with mohair a few hundred more, plus fitting of course. The hoods were notoriously bad fitting on the Mk1 and the header rail rots so make sure any new replacement is much improved on these points. Hard tops were made by Lenham and then Jensen.
  • J-H used a mish-mash of components from major car makers; much of the switchgear was BL sourced, door handles are Chrysler Avenger and Vauxhall FD (interior) – all available although rarer finds and consequently dearer than an MGB bits.



  • The all-alloy twin-cam engine is okay if looked after, but hates neglect. Original units were notoriously fragile, but a much stronger casting was designed for MkII cars. With its more rigid structure, the oil leaks that plagued the first cars were cured. That said, a typical is a life-span of 50,000 miles before it’s banjaxed is usual before a £3000 is required.
  • Bottom end is a mix of Lotus and Vauxhall – where the latter’s cast iron crank was retained. Parts supply is reasonable, but you can’t use a stock Vauxhall block and fit Lotus head on it without considerable re-engineering although it has been done. If you need a replacement engine, Elite/Eclat unit is easier fit than mid-mounted Esprit.
  • Oil pressure should be 40-60lbft and this unit is a known leaker, from the oil seals and cam boxes.
  • Change cam belt every 24,000 miles or three years to avoid disaster. If it breaks, valves clash with pistons and you’ll need a complete rebuild. A new belt costs around £30 and replacement is fairly straightforward. Valve clearance needs checking every 6000 miles.
  • Flat spots at just over 2000rpm are common with Dellorto carburettors, as the accelerator pumps are prone to seizing. This is cured by lubricating the lever mechanism and replacing the two pump diaphragms. A carb rebuild costs £300 a go but well worth it.



  • Checking the outer panels for the dreaded tin worm is easy, but repairing them isn’t. Start by the bits you don’t see such as inner panels, sills, floors and in particular the front chassis legs, located just ahead of the front footwells; repairs here are tricky.
  • To restore the sills properly, the front and rear wings need to be removed, although they’re bolted on to make matters fairly easy. It’s often the leading edge of the sill that corrodes first, and if left to advance, the rot spreads throughout the sill. By the time it’s reached the back, the car’s condition has to be seriously considered as worth fixing.
  • Rot in the chassis legs is an MoT failure point obviously, and an involved job to put right as access is poor and the metalwork awkward to plate. The engine, gearbox and front suspension all have to be removed (or at least dropped) to get to the affected area.
  • Sills corrode from the top down and whole panel has to be replaced in one go. They’re around £130 each, but by the time any welding has been done and the wings replaced, the total bill is going to be at least £600 per side; to fit and spray new wings you can spend up to £1500.
  • The footwells are a notorious area, especially the corners, for rot. Another serious rust area is the front subframe which, along with rotten floors, may render the car beyond saving – J-H’s may be going up in value but they aren’t that rare or precious just yet so do the sums carefully.
  • Front wings rot along the lower edge above the sill, as well as at the leading edge where the headlamp cowl is positioned. Also look where it’s bolted to the inner wing along the top edge plus the wheelarch lips. To buy you get little change from £250 a side.



  • Earlier Chrysler (four-speed) gearbox is nicer to use than the later Getrag (five-speed) version, but the former is weak and it’s possible to break it as it was designed to handle not much more than 120bhp. If the ’box is on its way out it’ll jump out of gear. Parts aren’t exactly plentiful, try a Rootes’ club.
  • The five-speed unit is much stronger and can be substituted if you use its bellhousing. There aren’t many around, but if you find a serviceable one, expect to pay £500 for it. Again, parts are getting ever harder to find plus with this ‘box a slight ‘clonk’ from the drivetrain is a characteristic. You could try the Toyota ’box that’s fitted to the later Lotus Excel and dead reliable, of course.
  • Clutch plate is Sunbeam Rapier H120 but the clutch cover is the same found on TR5/6 and 2.3-litre Vauxhalls. The gaiter for the clutch cable is frequently perished or missing.
  • The Salisbury back axle, taken unchanged from the Vauxhall Magnum/Viva 2.3, is strong and will last for well over 150,000 miles without problems. Don’t expect the unit to be quiet though – they whined and rumbled from new. If the noise becomes unbearable, fit a used unit for around £100.



  • The chassis is essentially Vauxhall Firenza 2.3 HC, strangely sans – strangely – anti-roll bars. Originalspec springs are soft, leading to the car leaning to one side when worn. It’s usually the offside that sits the lowest for obvious reasons – check on flat land.
  • It’s also important to check for oil contamination of the front suspension mountings, thanks to well known engine leaks. The mounting rubbers rot once they’ve been soaked in lube, but replacements cost £15 or so each. with three on each side.
  • Although mostly Viva-derived, Jensen used different spec compliance bushes although Vauxhall ones may well have been used. Some fit polyurethane bushes instead for a tauter feel, although standard rubber ones give the car a better ride, so you choose.
  • Tie bar rubbers and wishbones perish but quite a bit of play is normal on this set up; there are greasing points but are often neglected. Girling dampers and springs settings differ from Vauxhall spec parts which will fit; adjustable dampers are best answer now to get settings more to Jensen’s specification.
  • Vauxhall brake parts will naturally fit, but Jensen specified a different pad material to even out brake balance. Rear brakes are drums and while discs can be grafted on they are unlikely to be needed.
  • The only braking problem afflicts post-November 1974 models, which were fitted with Lockheed selfadjusting rear brakes. These stop adjusting themselves, so you’ll need to free them up and file the teeth of the adjusting mechanisms, so they engage properly.
  • If you have to replace the master cylinder and find the Jensen part at over £130 a tad dear, a TR6 one bolts straight on but the bore is slightly larger. We’re reliably informed that a Land Rover SWB (short wheel base, LWB ones have an unsuitable larger bore) type is identical including the bore size and plastic fluid reservoir plus is cheaper than the Triumph item…

Three Of A Kind

Launched just after the Jensen-Healey, the Lotus Elite and later Eclat is more a rival to Jensen’s GT hatchback and all use the same engine. A much larger 2+2 than the Jensen, these 1970’s wedge-shaped Lotuses are also dirt cheap to buy mainly because they also suffer from similar build and reliability issues – and it has to be said, lack of respect in the classic car market. However, we can see this changing over the next few years so buy now while affordable, especially the superior Excel.
The Jensen-Healey could be called the ‘British Alfa Spider’ thanks to its similar size, mechanical specification and resultant sophistication over our normal offerings at the time. Unlike the modern Healey, the Italian stayed in production for 30 years surviving into the 1990s but suitably updated along the way. The earlier versions up to the ’80s are best and most desired with best spares and support. Alfa Spiders are universally loved and boast a terrifically cool image that can only enhance over the years.
Introduced at the tail end of Jensen-Healey production, this was another modern sports car that was totally different to the icons it replaced. Like the J-H, Triumph’s TR7 was made with American buyers in mind and so was too soft to be called a sports car yet it handled far better than earlier TRs and was great for touring. Available in original and controversial coupé style, and the much more coordinated convertible, the TR8 was the true modern Healey. All are great value and worth considering.


If you’ve had your fill of the usual but are not quite ready for something modern like an MX-5, consider a Jensen-Healey. Back up is good and the J-H is no harder to keep sweet than a TR6. And where else can you buy so many famous names and pedigree as well as an appreciating sports classic for so little?

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