Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Alfa Romeo Spider Vs Jensen Healey

Sophisticated sports classics Published: 4th Jul 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Alfa Romeo Spider Vs Jensen Healey

What The Experts Say...

“Why not compare one to an Alfa Spider?” That’s the verdict of Jensen- Healey Owners Club Registrar and expert David Booth who reckons that not only was the Brit the faster car in its day, but also had a lot more prestige about it. “You were a cut above an Alfa owner if you had a Jensen-Healey back then”, Booth reckons and while admitting the J-H had a poor reliability reputation, David feels that the Big Healey replacement fared no worse than any compatible 1970s car in that respect.

Alfa Romeo Spider Vs Jensen Healey
Alfa Romeo Spider Vs Jensen Healey
Alfa Romeo Spider Vs Jensen Healey
Alfa Romeo Spider Vs Jensen Healey
Alfa Romeo Spider Vs Jensen Healey
Magazine Subscription
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

Classic sports cars can be somewhat rough and ready, and many viewed them this way even when they were new, witness the Triumph TRs, MGBs and the Sunbeam Alpine. The more sophisticated enthusiast would instead have been tempted by cars like the Alfa Romeo Spider or the Jensen-Healey. Buyers loved their exotic twin-cam engines and modern chassis designs, if not their higher price tags. However, the higher price meant a certain exclusivity that might finally persuade that long-legged blonde from the typing pool to join you for a posh chicken-in-the-basket pub lunch! Today, you can also add a touch badge snobbery into the bargain. But, which is the best of these smoothie sportsters?

Which one to buy?

Brio against bulldog spirit

When launched in 1966, the Alfa Romeo was always a cut above the rest, and a world away from its cruder rivals. All that changed in 1972 when Jensen, in cahoots with Healey, came up with the modern replacement for the much-loved, if old fashioned, beefcake Big Healey, which was put out to graze just as the Alfa Romeo Duetto debuted. Based upon mainly Vauxhall hardware (along with a Chrysler transmission) this Healey replacement made the established TR6/MGB ranges look archaic, even if the styling rather aped that of a pumped up Triumph Spitfi re and was rather bland. The Alfa certainly has the most style; it is Latin after all! However, the Jensen has its good points, plus, in its latter years, had the option of a closed GT, rather like a posher MGB GT. In terms of value, Jensens are the much cheaper bet as they never caught on even when new and remain so now, perhaps worth as little as half the price of a top Alfa. Spiders are coveted classics, especially the early boat-tailed models which show the car off in its best form; the later US-orientated cars are slower and uglier but newer and cheaper. As the Alfa survived well into the 1990s there’s far more scope of buying the right car you need, so long as you accept left-hand-drive, fat rubber bumpers and so on. The J-H remained in service for just a handful of years and remains a lot rarer plus was never a big seller.

What’s the best to drive?

A close run thing…

Both cars are in a different league to the likes of the MGB and a TR6, in terms of their mechanical make up and overall sophistication on the move. The talian led the way in this respect, with its twin-cam engine, standard fi vespeed gearbox, all round disc brakes, coil springs et al. The Jensen closely mirrors this layout, although there’s only fourspeeds, plus the suspension is largely Vauxhall Magnum-derived. The Alfa feels the classier of the pair; the engine is sharper (the 1750 is the sweetest) and the car is a delight to drive, thanks to its purer engineering, although the more modern design Jensen-Healey matches the Italian for pace, especially straight-lining where (if still developing all its 140bhp) it can be extremely rapid, hitting 60mph in under eight seconds. Autocar described the Jensen-Healey as more akin to the original 100/4 in terms of character and sound and praised its secure handling in particular. The Alfa has less cornering speed, thanks to its aged design and narrow tyres, but the fun factor probably exceeds the Jensen’s. The Alfa’s five-speed gearbox is welcome, although as the Italian is geared for performance not cruising, it’s not that much more restful than the Jensen at higher revs. The Brit can be sadly unrefi ned when extended however, especially the rough Lotus engine that lacks torque.

Owning and running

Italian wins on penalties

The Alfa is the clear winner here. Notwithstanding the superior spares and club support, its better engineering means added reliability – rare for an Italian we know! In contrast, only the very best Jensen-Healeys will be trustworthy as they were fi ckle even when new and far too many are only average now. Both cars really come good with some proper re-fettling from known specialists; they both use a brace of twin-choke carbs that really require expert knowledge and setting up to make the most of the engines, for example.Running costs should prove similar, with around 20-25mpg the realistic fuel economy. Both hoods are pretty easy touse and reasonably snug. The Jensen’s cockpit is streets ahead of an MGB and is more ergonomic and comfortable than the Italian, although less appealing from a classic point of view. Try both and you’ll see what we mean when we say that there’s more a sense of occasion with the Alfa.

And The Winner Is...

It depends what you want from a sports car. As we said, both are streets ahead of the usual Brit buys. The 1970s Jensen-Healey was a bold attempt to break away from the Big Healey mould and make a modern replacement. Autocar reckoned that the Brit was going to be a future classic back then but it hasn’t really worked out liked that, thanks to the car’s reputation. That said, we like this British underdog and reckon that its day in the sun will come! But with the Alfa it’s already sunshine all the way if you fi nd a good Spider. Both cars still pull admiring looks and will give you some extra clout when it comes to asking that nice girl in the IT department to go out for some Sushi at lunchtime!

Share This Article

Share with Facebook Share with Facebook

Share with Twitter Tweet this article

Share bookmark with Delicious Share bookmark with Delicious

Share with Digg Digg this article

Share with Email Share by email

User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Subscribe Today
Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Britians top classic cars bookazine