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Jensen Interceptor/FF

Published: 13th Feb 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jensen Interceptor/FF
Jensen Interceptor/FF
Jensen Interceptor/FF
Jensen Interceptor/FF
Jensen Interceptor/FF
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Loved by celebs, Jensen’s Interceptor went like an Aston, but was as prestigious as a Rolls. Still cheap to buy, how come interest in the Interceptor hasn’t truly rocketed, asks Alan Anderson?

What thoughts do you have of the Jensen Interceptor? Whatever they are, we’ll wager that one of the most recent ones will be about the car’s amazing value and affordability – along with questioning why the hell didn’t you buy this Aston rival when you had ample opportunity a short while back?

Until recently, Jensens have been dirt cheap to buy, for no good apparent reason at all. This ‘Birmingham Ferrari’ as it became known, was nearly as expensive as an Aston and approaching double the price of an E-type 2+2 when new. Yet, as classics, these other Brits are valued a great deal more – over ten fold in the case of a DB6.


The Interceptor of 1966 didn’t come a moment too soon for the West Midlands carmaker. It had lost lucrative deals with Healey and Volvo (the latter snatching back production of the P1800 due to poor build quality) while the brutish CV8, was looking decidedly old hat when compared to the new E-type.


It’s 1966 and all that when all was right with the world after we won the World Cup that July

In April, actress Sophia Loren marries Carlo Ponti – again. The couple were married in 1957 in Mexico but Ponti was accused of bigamy in Italy. The pair had their marriage annulled and then naturalised as French citizens, enabling Ponti to get a divorce in France.

The opening of Parliament was televised for the first time. Later that summer, soaking up the feel-good factor of winning the World Cup, PM Harold Wilson calls a snap general election only two years into his tenure.

In sport, Everton beat Sheffield Wednesday in one of the best ever FA Cup finals, coming from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2. Australian racing driver Jack Brabham wins his third F1 crown and also becomes the only person ever to win the title in his own built car. In golf, Jack Nicklaus becomes the first to win two consecutive Masters’ titles.

The space race was arguably at its peak as the US and USSR try to outdo each other. America’s Gemini two-man spacecraft carries out successive year long attempts to master docking procedures and endurance space walks while Russia sends Luna 10 around the moon that April. A year later, both countries would pay the price for rushing to get to the moon before the decade’s end…

That summer, Tony Benn puts through a bill which effectively outlaws pirate radio stations in 12 months’ time. The Beatles release their Revolver album and the Beach Boys Pet Sounds. Other hits of ’66 include Summer in The City (Lovin’ Spoonful, Wild Thing (Troggs), Green, Green Grass Of Home (Tom Jones), I’m A Believer (The Monkees), Heaven Must Have Sent You (Elgins) and This Old heart Of Mine (Isley Brothers).

Quite simply, Jensen was in trouble. The new management at the helm played it clever by keeping the DNA of the CV8 but clothing it in a very 1960’s Italian- styled coupé body with an opening tailgate, making it one of the very first hot hatchbacks plus an interior that Jaguar and Aston couldn’t match.

It was the instant hit Jensen hoped for. Producing more than 15 cars a week, it elevated the company to number one spot in the specialist car sector. For Jensen it was an out-of-this-world achievement and, by the time Neil Armstrong had set foot on the moon in 1969, more than 1200 Interceptors and FFs had been made.

Who bought them? Not your Aston or Jaguar buyer it seemed. “It’s more for the successful tycoon than sporty playboy”, opined one magazine, who thought an E-type a bit too cheap and cheerful and a post-Goldfinger Aston a touch too flash. The Interceptor was the choice of celebrities such as Eric Morecambe, golfer Tony Jacklin and actor Tony Curtis, the latter who traded up from an E-type when he resided in the UK filming The Persuaders.


With its big old iron Chrysler V8 up front, the Interceptor was hardly cutting edge, even for the mid 60s, but the FF offshoot was a different matter entirely. Launched at the same time, the FF (with its all-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes) arguably became the blueprint for the modern motorcar that we know and drive now. Co-developed by tractor maker Harry Ferguson, who pioneered an ingenious, cost-effective four-wheel-drive system for road use, the FF (short for Ferguson Formula) beat Audi with its Quattro by 14 years. Add the standard Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes and the Jensen was light years ahead of its time. Sadly, technology that was too advanced for its time led to reliability problems that a small company the size of Jensen couldn’t iron out, resulting in the FF being killed off in 1971.

To boost sales, Jensen changed tack with the Mk2, adding a super luxury model to the line-up. Badged the ‘Director’, this all bells and whistles lifestyle version, that was said to be the work of one of the QE2 ocean liner’s designers, boasted a built-in typewriter (located in the glovebox), a radio-telephone and even television! When this failed to lift stagnating sales, Jensen went for pure Brummie brawn with the Mk3, and upped the engine from 6276cc to 7212cc and further strutted its manhood with an SP-badged version. SP stood for ‘six pack’ referring to the number of carburettors the 385bhp engine now employed. But the sentiment is similar!

Interceptors were never famed for their economy and, predictably, the SP was dropped from the line up in the wake of the 1973 Middle East War and subsequent energy crisis, a period that Jensen never recovered from, despite the introduction of a very suave drophead and a far less attractive booted version. Three years later, and with the ill-fated Jensen-Healey failing to make its mark, Jensen folded.


Given that just over 6500 Interceptors (including FF) were produced, and the car is almost 40 years old, why has it taken this Jensen so long to achieve the classic status it richly deserved?

One reason that’s still touted is the horrendous fuel economy. We don’t buy this because, while 12-15mpg is no laughing matter, it’s no worse than what you wring out of a V12 E-type or any Aston Martin, and hardly deters buyers of these cars as high-end classics.

If anything, the fact that most were automatics, thus making the car more a cruiser, was more of a deterrent for sporting drivers.

The real reason probably boils down to breeding and pedigree. Despite Jensen’s undoubted credentials as a premium carmaker, it strangely has little to back its status up by way of heritage, especially in motorsport, an area where rivals such as Aston Martin, Jaguar, Ferrari, Porsche etc excel. However, on the road, the Jensen is faster than most of them and just as satisfying to drive. In 1968, Motor reckoned the Interceptor was, “An outstanding high performance car” and hailed the FF as the best handling car (of its size and power) it had ever tested, and further predicted that the new-fangled antilock brakes, “could prove a life-saver” in years to come.

Instead, the Interceptor was side-lined and overlooked, as other less worthy cars became classics. Ten years ago, you could still pick up a decent example for ten grand, or less, while iffy ones could be had for a few thousand pounds.

Sadly, it was the car’s sheer cheapness that sullied its reputation even further because too many chancers bought one on a whim and ran it on a shoestring (admittedly the mechanicals are surprisingly simple to maintain at home, especially the ohv V8), meaning the overall standard of cars on sale rapidly diminished, forming a vicious circle.

Happily, and not before time, the Jensen is being considered its true worth, which broadly speaking is Aston DBS money. Cheap cars still reside around the ten grand mark but excellent cars now sell at £30,000 or more, especially for one of the rare convertibles, whose folded hood totally blanks out any rear vision.

Go for best of the best and valuations have been put as high as £80,000 for an FF but this is still the exception and anyway, this is still far cheaper than a comparable E-type or DB6.

There are two major Interceptor specialists, well known expert Martin Robey and V Eight Cropredy Bridge. Robey has owned Jensen for more than a decade and has all the records of the cars made. Cropredy not only maintains and restores them but produces an all-new Interceptor boasting modern mechanicals called the Interceptor S. It’s everything a modern Jensen should be (and should be with six figure price tags) – but actually there’s little wrong with the original. Buy while they remain affordable and see for yourself.

When The Car Was The Star

The Interceptor should be best remembered for its appearances in The Protectors – a ludicrous half hour detective series ITV ran in the early 1970s. The Jensen was the transport of Harry Rule (Robert Vaughn), a good guy not unlike The Man From UNCLE’s Napoleon Solo role he played a decade earlier but with longer, trendier hair and, being the 1970s, flared trousers. The series (which Vaughn himself allegedly described as “tasteless junk”) was the work of Gerry Anderson, no less!

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