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Jensen 541

Jensen 541 Published: 23rd Jun 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jensen 541
Jensen 541
Jensen 541
Jensen 541
Jensen 541
Jensen 541
Jensen 541
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Do you drive this great classic or are thinking of buying one? Here’s how to ensure that you get the best out of your car for years to come

If you thought that Jensen only made those suave 60’s Interceptors, then think again. The Jensen 541, and the later CV8 are earthy, manly old guard GTs of the 50s just like the Austin-Healey (of which it shares a fair percentage of parts) and can be almost as easy to own and run. Here’s how to keep your Jensen bang on the button!

1. Power output

Mod

Big six is similar to Healey unit and shares quite a few components; perhaps A-H experts can help with tuning advice here, such as Denis Welch who has a raft of go-faster parts, such as his own alloy heads, steel cranks etc but it’s all pretty pricey. 541 R had 150bhp and is a good first upgrade step. V8 yielded 330bhp min and 385 in tremendous triple carb SP (Six Pack 7.2) Interceptor guise plus there’s no shortage of tuning gear in the States.

Mend

Famous Chrysler V8 engine is unstressed and so very durable. Chief concerns are broken exhaust manifolds which are on average £450-£500 to replace, and inherent high under-bonnet temperatures. Austin 4-litre lorry unit is bullet-proof but only interchangeable with Healey 100 inners. Heads crack and crank bearings wear although a rebuild costs about the same as an MGB unit. Modified thermostat housings available from the club.

2. Brakes

Mod

541 was first car to feature all-round discs – Dunlop – as standard and worth fitting to earlier models with drum brakes although linings from Mintex Classic may suffice. Similar uprated pads from same are logical first step before looking at Volvo 240 brakes at the front (or aftermarket Coopercraft) along with better servo. Fosseway Performance is looking into supplying modified Healey uprated callipers and discs, or more likely, an Interceptor derivative, it told us at the recent NEC Restoration Show.

Mend

Most brake issues are chiefly caused by lack of regular use and servicing, allowing parts, such as callipers to seize up. Discs corrode too; £99.50 from Robey, pads £28.50. The twin master cylinder is expensive to replace (£240) but can cause some imbalance due to wear rates or fluid state; change first to see if it improves matters.

3. Bottom end

Mod

V8 reboring sees well in excess of 8-litres. Check out ‘Mopar’ websites for more details. Austin six-cylinder engine can take earlier Healey 100 pistons, but block is entirely different to Healey 3000 although could probably fit in.

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Long lived Austin needs 55lbft on the move and by-and-large it’s only rings and shells that wear. Old school V8 so simple, if heavy to repair at home. Oil pressure should be 40-60lb. Timing chain noise is common. US tuners say they ran with far too much ignition retard as standard.

4. Suspension

Mod

Austin, design needs better damping before tackling the springs (at £300 for a pair of quality of BCC units); C-V8s had Selectaride dampers but now defunct. Poly bushing is good ploy, such as leaf spring shackle kit (Superflex, £45) or full Superpro all-in kit at £182 (Interceptor kit though).

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A big heavy beast so expect tired dampers and springs. Front, bushes plus wishbone and swivels need watching. Power steering prone to leaks. Suspension is Austin A90 but better A110 on 541S and C-V8. Stub axles break, trick to fit competition Big-Healey types.

5. Body & chassis

Mod

Not much in this respect except to ape R or even C-V8 look; a fair number of body mouldings survived. New perspex rear screens available but have to be cut to size. Some parts (such as grille surround) are extinct but on the other hand, a Dutch specialist is reproducing body panels in three different composites – said to be excellent, according to JOC.

Mend

Panel supply, new and second-hand pretty good thanks to experts like Robey who purchased Jensen’s tooling as soon as company closed. Steel chassis can rot badly and biggest potential danger is those cylindrical side members which acts as servo chambers; leaks here means lack of brakes. GRP body is tough so few major problems.

6. Interior

Mod

Most popular mod is a nicer steering wheel over Jensen designs particularly as the Bake-lite design was prone to cracking and as trim parts are so scarce, it’s easy and satisfying to do your own thing when refurbishing if originality isn’t sacrosanct to you.

Mend

As posh as any Aston or Rolls- Royce, thus renovating a tired interior will cost equally as much! Rejen, based near Winchester, now produces brand new interior trim for all models; typically, a full refurb costs from £6000 upwards but switches etc are getting much harder to find.

7. Transmission

Mod

541 and Deluxe used Austin gearbox with optional overdrive R featured Jag-type Moss gearbox. As car is so high geared as standard, a cobbled up five-speed conversion isn’t worth the hassle although swifter post- ’65 Jag box may be worth fitting; ditto perhaps a more modern auto transmission. C-V8 was a mix of fourspeed manual and a three-speed auto.

Mend

Austin unit is better liked but all are as strong as an ox and any problems are purely age-related although no-go overdrives is usually the result of dicky electrics (usually a faulty solenoid or wiring) and spent oil not changed for yonks.’

8. Steering, wheels & tyres

Mod

Jensen preferred painted wire wheels; 16 inch four-stud designs before fivestuds which stayed with Interceptor, meaning these can be fitted (and there’s a wide range of designs). Steering is inherently heavy – more so with modern radial tyres – but an electric set up has been developed using stock Vauxhall bits. Failing this, look to Litesteer and EZ designs.

Mend

Early cam-and-roller develop the usual slack and slop but can be rebuilt. R and S versions went over to rack and pinion with the former featuring a LHD MG Magnette rack turned upside down (try NTG of Suffolk for this very rare part) while S has bespoke items that are said to be impossible to replace and so must be overhauled instead.

And another thing…

Martin Robey can supply most routine servicing parts but says more in-depth spares are difficult as cars changed so much over the production run. Andy Brooks of Richard Appleyard (jensen. co.uk) is one of the best contacts but says parts supply is like the curate’s egg; good only in parts.

A good number of engine bits are common to the Big Healey. Rejen believes that more Big Healey parts were actually used than most people (even owners and their clubs) give credit for, like stub axles and rear spring shackles, for instance. It adds that Donald Healey once slotted in a V8 to a 541 himself – long before the CV-8 was even thought of!



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