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Jensen Interceptor

Published: 27th Apr 2011 - 2 Comments

Famous badge but lacks prestige? Famous badge but lacks prestige?
Elegant styling has stood the test of time well while the hatchback facility was ahead of its time. Elegant styling has stood the test of time well while the hatchback facility was ahead of its time.
Excellent cockpit well up to Aston and Jag levels and air con was fitted to many Excellent cockpit well up to Aston and Jag levels and air con was fitted to many
American engines meant lazy power. Overheating is a worry, and they are thirsty American engines meant lazy power. Overheating is a worry, and they are thirsty
Rear seats are really only suited for children but luggage capacity is pretty good Rear seats are really only suited for children but luggage capacity is pretty good
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What is a Jensen Interceptor?

It’s the supercar classic that can’t quite seem to catch on! Italian styled, powered by a muscular American V8 and one of the most technically advanced cars of all time, the superb Jensen Interceptor is the only genuine muscle motor that’s still an affordable dream – but how long can this absurd state of affairs continue? After all, they may be a fraction of the price but the Birmingham Ferraris are as good as any Aston or Jaguar.


Jensen, a specialist carmaker better known for making big Healeys and early Volvo P1800s, first screwed the Interceptor badge to a plumplooking drophead in 1949, but the name returned in 1966 as a much more sleek and svelte supercar. Based upon the rugged and respectable CV8 chassis, styled by Italian design house Touring (and subsequently tweaked by Vignale ) this Chrysler 6.3-litre V8 powered 2+2 was way ahead of its time. And it still looks the business today.

Priced mid-way between the fantastically valued Jaguar E-Type 2+2 (£2427) and Aston’s pricey new DB6 (£5084), the rich and the famous (such as Eric Morcombe, Tony Curtis and golfer Tony Jacklin) who could cheerfully stump up the not inconsiderate £3743 asked, loved Interceptors while serious drivers craved the ground breaking FF versions, even at £5340, that became the blueprint for the modern motorcar we know and drive now. Co-developed by tractor maker Harry Ferguson who pioneered an ingenious four-wheel-drive system for road use, the FF (short for Ferguson Formula) beat the innovative Audi Quattro by 14 years while innovative features such as its Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes are now taken for granted as part of a modern car’s makeup. Sadly what should have been a world-beating package was sullied by reliability problems - causing Jensen to ditch technology that was too advanced for its time. Essex expert Colin Holley reckons that the FF was a waste of time for Jensen, who should have concentrated its efforts into better developing the conventional car.

The FF was killed off in 1971, after being facelifted two years earlier along with the Interceptor. The 1969 Mk2 examples enjoyed a better ventilation set up while the interior (which was always streets ahead of a DB or E-Type) was made even plusher. However, perhaps the most important upgrade was installing a 20 gallon fuel tank (useful given the car’s prodigious 12-15mpg thirst) and standardised power steering.

A wonderfully quirky lifestyle version wearing ‘Director’ badges was also offered. Claimed to be the work of one of the QE2 ocean liner’s designers, it boasted a built-in typewriter (located in the glovebox), a radio-telephone and even TV! Mk3s saw engine size increased from 6276cc to 7212cc, and an SP version was sold for the first time (this stood for ‘six pack’ and referred to the number of carburettors employed - but the sentiment is similar!). This 385bhp GT did nothing for the Jensen’s horrendous thirst as you can imagine and it died in 1973, a victim of the Middle East war and the subsequent energy crisis. Together they sped Jensen towards extinction.

For 1974 the engines were detuned and a very suave drophead Interceptor joined the ranks but both steps failed to stop the sad slide. A really strange looking booted version that totally ruined the looks hardly helped either. Of the fifty odd made, only around twelve were right-hand drive. Jensen stopped making cars in 1976, with the remnants of the company carrying on supplying parts and service. This wasn’t quite the end of the Interceptor however and very limited production restarted in 1982. Fixedhead and convertible versions, now with 5.9 V8s, trickled onto the market but it was all to no avail.


The Interceptor was way ahead of its time and 40 years on doesn’t feel terribly dated. With a big, lazy 330bhp V8 sitting under that aircraft carrier style bonnet (385bhp on the 7.2-litre SP models), this Jensen can still hold its own with any GTi while the surprisingly agile handling makes an Aston feel like a lorry in comparison. That said, don’t get too carried away by thoughts of Audi Quattrolike ability with the FF. As expected, this 1960s design developed by a tractor maker is a fairly crude system and feels much like oldschool Range Rover with a fair amount of shunt, slop and clonks compared to modern systems.

The Interceptor is best as a leisurely cruiser where there is ample space for a 2+2 family and even that hatchback is fairly usable, too. For its day equipment levels were extremely generous and still well on par with today’s LX/GLX repmobiles. Certainly, travelling in a good, well sorted Interceptor is a highly satisfying experience.


Watch it! Interceptors can sell for a song but you can be buying trouble. “They go from about £1500. You couldn’t buy an E-Type bonnet or a set of wheels for that money,” says Essex expert Colin Holley, who has been working on them for over 30 years. “It could cost you up to £20,000 to put such a car back on the road,” he warns. Reckon on £8000 as a more realistic figure for a decent, usable Interceptor, rising to £12-£15,000 for the nicer examples, says. Richard Appleyard Restorations. A mint Interceptor or FF will fetch between £20-£25,000 but such cars are rare. Both this and the drophead - famous for having no rear vision with the hood down - usually command a price premium, but the gap is surprisingly minimal. With a Jensen it’s condition that counts above all else but all things being equal go for a MK3 SP.

What To Look For

  • Interceptors rust - badly. Look for it everywhere from about six inches up! Particular concerns include front and rear valances, which can virtually disintegrate unseen. Leaky water seals and damp carpets could spell rotting floor pan/boot floor problems.
  • By and large, chassis tube rot isn’t an issue on two-wheel drive versions, but those on the FF mounted on the outer edge of the chassis also act as vacuum chambers for the brakes and this isn’t good news if they are rotten to the core… Happily surprisingly few ever get that bad Richard Appleyard Restorations says.
  • Externally, look for rusty bonnets (hinge mount rust is bad news), crusty front wing tips and cruddy air intakes behind the front wheel arch. Inner wings can let go and the door bottoms invariably rot out. Those sexy stainless steel sill covers can hide buckets of rust (remove if you are allowed) and it’s worth looking at the rear wing and fuel filler areas for deterioration while you are doing the rounds.
  • That massive fishbowl tailgate’s frame corrodes if its drain holes become blocked – and they do. Frequently.
  • The biggest problem when vetting a Jensen is bodging due to the car’s minimal worth. Not every owner is willing to shell out E-Type restoration budgets and so cheapskate repairs are sadly rife. That said, more and more enthusiasts are spending proper money on these cars and that can only be a blessing for the future.
  • Mechanically the Jensen is pretty okay. These lovely cars are mechanically tough but look for signs of overheating from those V8s plus low water levels - and make sure the car runs to temperature and that the thermostatic fans cut in. If it runs too cool, then has the thermostat been removed to mask problems (shades of the Stag)?
  • Cracked exhaust manifolds are pretty common (they cost about £200 to replace), and the car’s low slung stance means damage to the system is all too common as well.
  • Fuel economy will never be good and there are plenty of carb components to wear out, making setting them up difficult. Aftermarket fuel injection is becoming popular as it not only improves mpg by a couple of digits, but also improves hot starting. This can be a problem due to the sheer heat soak under that massive bonnet causing fuel evaporation; Cropredy Bridge Garage is regarded as the best expert on this conversion.
  • Look for rear suspension settling, as tired springs are a familiar malady. Check for fluid weeping from the power steering rack. Seepage from ancillary piping and track rod ends is common and if the rack has to come off, then this is labour intensive and costly.
  • Watch for electrical woes caused by failing wiring. The under bonnet area gets very hot indeed, so wire insulation can harden and perish over time. Ignition-related electrics are a particular weakness for the same reason.
  • The usual caveats for low volume specialist cars apply to the Interceptor and a tired cabin will be very costly to rectify. Check to see if the interior boot release is doing its stuff. It’s sited in the Bpost and has a wicked cable run to reach the boot. Replacing it is a pain, we are reliably informed.
  • Some good news for a change! Parts supply is very good, even body panels. Martin Robey, better known for his Jaguar expertise has most of everything you’ll ever need. Door skins cost about £100, rear quarter panels are £300 each, while the critical front wings cost a reasonable £400 per side. A bonnet can be had for a monkey or so (£500) - but if it’s for an FF then multiply this by five because the lid is unique for that car and not interchangeable.
  • Robey has owned Jensen for more than a decade and has all the records of cars made. For £18 he can supply a Statement of Origin giving full details of your car plus can also supply details of its service history and that’s brilliant news for any Jensen enthusiast.
  • Colin Holley, who has the last ever Interceptor made, says the reason these cars have never taken off is due to their lack of pedigree and motorsport success. He adds that typical owners are the sort who can’t quite stretch to an E-Type or DB and as a result can’t see Jensen values increasing greatly in the future. So don’t buy one as an investment Colin warns, even though he admits late Mk3 versions were very well sorted compared to earlier cars.
  • Our own classic expert Jeff Bailey has owned five of these ‘Birmingham Ferraris’. “The key is always to ensure the cooling system is ok - even better, that it’s been uprated with a higher flow rad. I’d always recommend going through the engine bay and replacing all hoses as a matter of course, too. These two simple things will ensure that those high underbonnet temperatures don’t catch you out. Apart from that, the Chrysler V8 American engines are typically lightly stressed and bullet-proof in service.
  • In Bailey’s opinion the MKII is the best car because it has the MKIIIs vented dash and sumptuous interior, plus the smaller 383 Chrysler unit (same as the Dodge Charger) which doesn’t run any emission gear. It’s far more responsive than the emission- strangled 440 (7.2) lump and quicker. Best of all, they’re the cheapest… Honestly, I wouldn’t hesitate if I could find one that fits the bill”.
  • Bob Cherry of perhaps the best known Jensen specialist, Cropredy Bridge Garage, says the vast majority of cars under £10,000 are a liability (he has mint cars selling for up to £35,000!). The problem is running costs – you wouldn’t believe the bodges we see claims Bob - because people just don’t want to spend the money on them. A typical Interceptor needs between £500-£1000 spent annually to keep it sound and reliable.


When will the Interceptor have its day in the sun considering the car’s impeccable credentials? A fabulous mix of power, exclusivity, classic style and fun, these cars were hand made, cultured and as expensive as an Aston or Rolls when new, remember. But where as DBs have soared in value, Interceptors resolutely remain at MGB price levels. But it can’t stay this way forever really, can it?

Classic Motoring

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User Comments

This review has 2 comments

  • Hello to all you gang out there!!
    it is miss Mae here!

    Out of interest, we had a SP JENSEN a while back, it was one of the first built and registered in 1971 - an orange one with black everflex roof and cream leather trim.

    We bought the car with 45,000 mls on it and with a full service history - critical with the SP variant-and save some fettling with the six pack carburation 3+2 6BBL system and a set of new tyres -have had very little concern with the car overall as regards reliability- so often cited as among the more deceptive areas of this particular model of jensen.

    Some- punters have had their six paks¨ returned to a more manageable 4bbl carb setup while retaining the the SPs edelbrock manifolds and 10.3 :1 comp that is more reliable and less of a compromise in everyday use so i,m told- They ARE something you need to fully understand to get the best of them -

    OK so now fuel used is premium with the high compression motor and actual fuel consumption is horrendous at 12 mpg av to as much 14- if you have a light foot - though if you are that concerned with fuel mileage frankly you are looking at the wrong car in the first place ! - and are missing the point entirely.

    What these cars were and - still ARE all about is performance capacity and whats beneath that big bold bonnet! and with 7.2 litres i,ll say you cant find a much bigger motor at least in europe!
    Getting real for all of you petrolheads out there about to get carried away with the figs - the 385 advertised horsepower was a little optimistic - typical chrysler bombast! of the tail end of muscle car era in 1971 - but then the famed hemi didnt make one hp per cubic either- no you,re looking at around 330 real ponies to be fair although what WAS there was more than enough for most.

    OK so my car has been untypically totally trouble free till 68,000 mls over four years tenure - still have her right as i speak - she has just had a new battery and new drivers door seals installed and i am about to sell her on at a considerable profit to a current enthused girlfriend so the investment side of things cannot be totally discounted.

    As a fan of the marque for some yrs through my research If you intend on buying I would recommend you look deep into these cars before purchase particularly FFs- and would recommend a mk11 built from oct 19 69 onward as the most desirable purchase for everyday give and take motoring and not the SP which is a degree more specialist and takes a little getting used to over time.

    Earlier mk 11s- that is those cars manufactured from the point of introduction to about start of 71 have the beefier powerplants and what you see is REALLY what you get- so as a result these mk11s make fine fast motorway tourers with capacity for four big adults or three children up to say 11 yrs across the sofa back seat-

    Ok so to end this little reveal i,ll only impress on you that these are handbuilt motorcars from the start and originally built to close tolerances and also to almost bentley standards and as such need to be be both thought about a little prepurchase and subsequently treated in accordance with their stature in the world of motoring hierarchy which is pretty much near the top

    Good luck with your prospective purchase and happy continental motoring !!

    From Mae .

    Comment by: mae chang     Posted on: 01 Jul 2011 at 11:58 AM

  • It's a star buy for 2012 we reckon - as good as an Aston for MGB money

    Comment by: Editor     Posted on: 30 Jul 2011 at 09:43 AM

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