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Jensen Interceptor

Jensen Interceptor Published: 15th Apr 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jensen Interceptor
Jensen Interceptor
Jensen Interceptor
Jensen Interceptor
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Why not own a...? Jensen Interceptor

At Classic Motoring, we’ve been banging the Jensen Interceptor drum for the thick end of two decades, amazed that this classic which offers Aston like pace and character and is as prestigious as a Bentley, has been too overlooked and undervalued. Without wishing to say we told you so, we predicted that the Jensen Interceptor would soar in values and appreciation – oh, a good ten years ago.

True, it’s taken far too long for the ‘Birmingham Ferrari’ to achieve the genuine classic status it’s so richly deserved but the Interceptor is now right up there with Astons and that Italian carmaker yet it’s still one of the lowest valued top drawer classics you can buy plus it’s also one of the easiest to own and practical with its hatchback styling. It’s not too late to intercept one you know and join the likes of Eric Morecambe, Mike Yarwood, Tony Jacklin, Tony Curtis, Sir Matt Busby, Henry Cooper, Dusty Springfield, Sir Cliff Richard and legendary drummer Ginger Baker in becoming a Jensen fan.

Model choice

When launched, the Interceptor, later to be known as the Mk1, utilised the same Chrysler 6276cc V8 found in the outgoing CV8 with the same Torqueflite automatic gearbox although a few manual gearbox versions were made. It is said that the Interceptor’s styling was based on the Brazilian Brasinca Uirapuru, one of those facts that not a lot of people know.

Styling was by Touring, with assistance from Vignale, the latter also building the earliest cars. However, the following year, Jensen had taken this latter task in-house, in a bid to improve some pretty disappointing quality control and also contain costs. Now of unitary construction, all Interceptors are conventional with disc brakes all round, rack and pinion power steering, independent coil-spring/ wishbone front suspension (based around the old Austin Westminster no less!) and a live rear axle on agricultural leaf springs.

The Mk2 of 1969 saw changes restricted to a reprofiled nose, stronger brakes and a higher quality interior. More useful was the standard fitment of power steering, which is really necessary on a car with that huge cast-iron lump over the front axle. This also resulted in a new front suspension boasting telescopic damping instead of the old school lever arms. All told, unless you’re a purist you’d be better off going for the Mk2.

Development continued, with a Mk3 appearing just two years later. In SP (six-pack, for six carburettors) form this took over from the FF as Jensen’s flagship from this point on. While the regular Mk3 produced 300bhp from its 6.3-litre V8, the SP generated a prodigious 385bhp.

It’s at this point that a bigger 7212cc V8 was substituted, initially for the US market as UK buyers didn’t get this engine until May 1972. While this V8 is meatier, some prefer the more agile previous unit – it’s a bit like the longstanding 3.8/4.2 debate with E-types. For K registrations tinted Sundym glass and air conditioning was standardised.

There’s was also a special edition called ‘Director’. 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 a TV – none of which works anymore!

The fuel crisis of 1973 – and poor reliability of the Jensen-Healey (see separate feature in this issue-ed) meant that the writing was on the wall for this famous West Bromwich company but before the demise, the Convertible along with curious notchback coupé were offered, 509 of the former, only 50 of the latter.

That’s not quite the end of the story though as the S4 was briefl y launched for 1983 but just 14 examples of this now rather aged car were made, including open and closed versions.

In total; 6408 examples of the Interceptor had been built in MkI, MkII and MkIII forms. Many of those were left-hand drive, as the US was an important market for Jensen – the FF, however, was built in right-hand drive form only. Just 232 SPs were made and only 24 Mk1s were built with a four-speed manual gearbox.

What about the FF? When it was launched in 1967 it was the World’s most advanced car, boasting four-wheel drive (FF stood for Ferguson Formula) and Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes. The torque output is split 37 per cent to the front differential via a drive shaft down the left-hand side of the engine and 63 per cent to the rear one.

The front suspension layout is unique to the FF with double wishbones, each side having twin coil springs and shock absorbers situated either side of the drive shaft.

The Audi Quattro of its day, by the time the short-lived FF was canned, just 320 examples had trickled out of the factory gates. It’s not that well known but a Mk3 FF was produced with an SP-like trim and vented disc brakes; only 15 were made. The FF can be easily recognised by its four inch longer wheel base, brushed aluminium roof, bonnet scoop and twin side vents later adopted in the SP. They command a healthy price premium now but investment potential aside, if you don’t particularly want this rather primitive all-wheel drive arrangement and the complexity that goes with it, it’s best to stick with a normal Interceptor that’s now far cheaper to buy.

The car’s timeline

1966/7

Inteceptor/FF launched using CV8 running gear with stylish new sports hatch body from Touring of Italy. Power comes from trusty 6.3 V8 Chrysler engine fed via automatic but some manuals were made.

1969

SII cars introduced with many refinements plus a better ventilation set up. Also power steering, previously optional is now standard. A lifestyle version called the Director is made, complete with a built in typewriter in the glovebox!

1971

Advanced and adventurous four-wheel drive FF model is killed off due to lack of interest, high production costs and some reliability woes after just 320 examples are produced.

1972

SIII is ushered in with a new rear seat design and a massive 7.2-litre V8. Car known as SP – six pack thanks to its number of carbs employed to give 385bhp.

1974

Engine slightly derated and a very suave drophead was introduced to widen the car’s appeal, as was a strange looking booted version. Jensen stopped making cars in 1976 although production was restarted in 1982.

Behind the wheel

At 15’8” this was a large, stylish and imposing car with room for four adults. Thanks to 325bhp and 425lbft of torque, the Interceptor posted tremendous performance for its era not fully illustrated by the 0-60 of 6.5 seconds and crack on to a maximum of nearly 140mph. The really useful grunt was in the mid-range sector allowing lines of cars to be despatched in one go. The 7.2 V8 wasn’t really any faster as it was only 5bhp to the good. Also the high compression regular 7.2 saw its compression ratio lowered and as a result power dropped from 305bhp to around 280bhp by 1974 and further derating was carried out.

There was compensation as Jensen created the SP at the same time with 385bhp and a massive 490lbft of torque thanks to a compression ratio of 10.3:1 and three twin-choke carbs. This produced 0-60 in 6.9 seconds, 100 in 16.8 a healthy 145mph maximum and the fuel consumption of a jumbo jet. Ah yes, the Jensen’s thirst has always been cited as one of the reasons for the car’s slow rise to classic status but that is hardly fair when the same can be said of any Aston or Jaguar V12 classic (And I should know, I’ve got an XJ-S!-ed).

Handling is generally good – “on one of favourite corners taken fast in a Lotus Elan can be taken nearly as fast in the Jensen”, remarked one road test – and despite its rudimentary design, the FF offers genuine sure-footedness. It’s not as slick as the type you’d find in a modern Audi, of course; there are no electronically-controlled diffs employed either so things are really quite binary – a bit like an original Range Rover some say – but in poor weather there are few modern classics that can keep rolling with quite the security of an FF.

Not so the SP where a peculiarity of the throttle design lacked the control that 330bhp demands. Especially in the wet… Autocar was most surprised that the carb’s butterflies could sometimes open of their own accord at 100mph without the driver consciously pressing the loud pedal any harder!

From a practical perspective, the Jensen is fairly roomy super car and a versatile one thanks to the glass hatch. For its day, equipment levels were deemed extremely generous and are still well on par with today’s family cars. Certainly, travelling in a good, well sorted Interceptor remains a highly satisfying experience – arguably better than an equivalent DB or E-type in this respect.

Making one better

There aren’t many Interceptors that are still to the same spec as when they left the factory but that’s actually a good thing because these cars weren’t especially well developed over their ten year run.

Cooling systems can struggle; so too can the starter motor and alternator thanks to under bonnet heat. As a result, any car that’s had these things upgraded along with the addition of electronic ignition is more attractive due to better reliability.

The same goes for the Jensen’s suspension. The Interceptor’s chassis is pretty old fashioned which is why it’s worth playing about with the springs and dampers, to improve the handling but speak to Jensen specialist on the best set ups.

All Interceptors and FFs, came with carb fed, but a modern mapped fuel injection system can be substituted that transforms the hot starting and economy. These well known and trusty Chrysler engines boast a wealth of tuning gear and experience back in their homeland.

Only a handful of manuals were made but auto rather suits the Interceptor’s character and is made even better with a modern four-speed conversion.

You can side step all this if you go for one of the handful of recently re-engineered reborn beauties like the Interceptor R from Jensen International Automotive which rely on modern running gear and brawny Chevrolet engines!

Buying Tips

Body and Chassis

The biggest problem when vetting a Jensen is past bodging due to the car’s minimal worth. Very few owners were willing to shell out E-type restoration budgets and so cheapskate repairs are rife.

Interceptors rust – badly. Look for rust 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. 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 act as vacuum chambers for the brakes and this isn’t good news if they are rotten to the core…

Externally, look for rusty bonnets (hinge mount rust is bad news and FF ones are mega dear to replace), 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 and it’s worth looking for rear wing and fuel filler area deterioration while you are checking.

Engine

Mechanically, the Jensen is pretty painless. These 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. Cracked exhaust manifolds are quite common (they cost £325-£382 to replace), and the car’s low slung stance means damage to the system is all too common. You may find that the 7.2-litre has been fitted to early cars; you can see which one is fitted by looking at the exhaust manifold through a front wheelarch. If there’s a manifold/downpipe bolt angled towards the wheel it’s a 7.2-litre unit; if they face front/rear, then it’s the earlier 6.3 engine. A vivid orange air cleaner assembly should also donate the J-series V8.

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.

Running gear

Chrysler Torqueflite auto is extremely strong and longlasting, but it will wear out eventually so expect to pay around £1200 for an exchange rebuilt box or this amount half to rebuild your old one – a four-speed upgrade is worth considering if you need a new unit.

The Austin-derived suspension has a hard time of things due to power and weight of the car; one key weak spot is the rear leaf springs, which sag, you may have to get the existing ones re-tempered. If you can’t fit two fingers between the tyre and wheelarch with the car unladen, then it’s sitting too low and the springs need attention. Front dampers originally lever arm; only replace with good quality ones.

Check for fluid weeping from the power steering rack. Seepage from ancillary piping is common and if the rack has to come off, then this is labour intensive and costly.

What to pay…

Not so long ago you could pick up a just so Jensen for not much over £10,000 – now that’s about the going rate for a project that’s going to bleed you dry. You get what you pay for with this classic, meaning, it’s false economy to look purely at the price tags no matter how tempting they can be. You can look to as much as £250,000 for the best FFs says expert Richard Appleyard – who recently sold one for that sum – but thankfully, Interceptors are appreciably cheaper and you should be able to nab a pretty decent example only needing some TLC from between £30-£40,000. Convertibles will command at least £15,000 above a normal coupé but the quirky notchback offshoot is difficult to value – probably somewhere in between.



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