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Jensen FF

Jensen FF Published: 28th May 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jensen FF
Jensen FF
Jensen FF
Jensen FF
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Never call it an Interceptor – or even Interceptor FF!

According to William Boyd’s latest James Bond book ‘Solo’, the Super Spy’s choice of personal wheels is a Jensen FF. The year was 1969 and James apparently having been impressed by what he saw in Jensen’s Park Lane showroom was told by a keen salesman – “This is the car for you Mr Bond – the FF”.

Not that I knew this when I was leaning against a stunning looking example at an auction doing my duty by reporting on the sale for this magazine. Nor did I think that I would end up owning it at the end of the day. I noticed what a glorious beast it looked, that it obviously had a shovel load of money spent on a restoration and how very ‘Aston-like’ it resembled and had a guide price of at least a third that of a similar aged AM. It was a long story how and why I bought it that day over a year ago!

HAMMER BLOW?

What I soon found out shortly after the hammer went down and looked at the paperwork that my car was a rare early Mk1 FF, never call it an Interceptor or even an Interceptor FF as I was soon reminded by aficionados of the Jensen Owners’ Club that I have since joined (always a wise move). This model may be distinguished from the Interceptor by the twin air vents in the front wings and in the case of my rare Vignale built model, a few front end styling cues, plus the whole car being nearly five inches longer.

The saga of getting her home from the sale venue started the next day when it didn’t – start that is! This wasn’t a problem as all auction houses are used to flat batteries with jump-leads at the ready but eventually started, I decided to keep her running whilst insurance was arranged. Finally arranged and fuelled up, the temp gauge was nearly off the clock and with my wife following, the FF was stalling at every opportunity so I indicated to pull into the car park of a pub (conveniently serving Sunday roasts!) after making a quick decision to call the AA since I had only had a brief look under the bonnet and hadn’t a clue about doing anything to the monster Chrysler 6.3 V8 lump under the bonnet. To their credit, especially for Sunday lunchtime, the man with a van arrived promptly.

I have done some daft things in my time but what I did next is downright stupid! As the car was still very hot and whilst Mr AA was getting a few tools ready, I released the radiator cap to check the water level thinking this is one job I can do! Readers can guess what happened! A geyser of scalding fluid shot all over the engine bay and indeed the whole car covering it with what I then discovered was Evans Cooling Fluid, somewhat stickier and smellier than water. Later I noticed the cap was clearly marked as filled with this coolant…

We mopped up everything in sight helped by using a vast quantity of paper towels that I took from the pub’s toilet. My glasses, anorak and face were covered with the stuff and during an attempt at a wash and brush up in the said facility; I got some very strange looks from the pub’s customers coming in to have a call of nature!

GOOD EVANS…

I have since found out that Evans Fluid has a boiling point over 180 degrees, is not toxic but the car had been overfilled with it, hence the pressurisation on release. After mopping down, the AA man then suggested that the FF best spend the rest of the journey on the back of one of their low-loaders. Whilst waiting for this to arrive, we had our much needed Sunday lunch. It was a wise decision as the motorway was stop/start all the way but when both we and the car eventually arrived home, it was unloaded and driven into its clean and cosy garage. It wasn’t until the next day that I had my first proper look at the car and I was pleased with my impulse buy but even after a good old charge, she was still a reluctant starter. Once warmed up however, I noticed a coolant leak just under the header tank. The next day I noticed a small pool of oil under the car and being reddish in colour, I presumed it must be from the transmission, the FF of course being 4WD auto.

Looking through the huge history file and bills on the car, at least two respected Jensen specialists had tried to sort this problem over recent years with most of the transmission having been replaced or rebuilt at a cost of thousands.

But it was still leaking and frustratingly, I could never see where the oil was coming from despite putting drip trays in appropriate places with the engine running or not, wiping all casings etc but it never leaked when I was looking! By now I had a list of other ailments, mainly minor electrical malfunctions; my bete noire! As I am too long in the tooth to clamber under cars any more or to get up again in a hurry, plus being useless at electrics, it was time for help – and preferably from someone familiar with the quirks of a Jensen FF.

Enter ‘David Essex’ – or to be more precise, Dave Barnett who happens to be the Jensen Owners’ Club Area Representative of Essex! Dave who describes his business as ‘cottage industry’, works on his own with no fancy workshop, but whose knowledge of Jensens, particularly the rare FF, is just about second to none having been almost born and bred with the model. He currently has a couple of FF Mk1s, an SP and his latest acquisition, a Jensen- Healey fitted with a Rover V8.

As reluctant starting and occasional stalling were a priority on the list of problems, it seemed sensible that my FF was transported down to Dave in Hornchurch. His first job was to re-jet and adjust the Edlebrock carburettor so that it would at least fire up when required! Changes to the alternator wiring, a new voltmeter dash instrument that now showed a healthy charge was checked and rewired with the correct voltmeter, a few new relays and new ignition switch that didn’t turn round and round in the lovely wood faced centre console of the FF, the electrics were slowly put to rights.

LOTS TO FIX…

Apart from the hole in the radiator, Dave didn’t like the way the twin Kenlowe electric fans were mounted by bolts directly onto it instead of the proper brackets on the chassis so new ones were fabricated, the radiator sent off to a specialist for repair. Other electrical faults, a window riser, dash lamps and the horn to name but a few were fixed – puzzling since the car boasted a current MoT!

Dave then set about finding the oil leaks. One was found coming from the power steering pump and this was soon cured with new gaskets but frustratingly, not a drop appeared to be dripping from the FWD axles onto Dave’s floor at this point – and that was the main reason I sent him the car. It wasn’t until sometime later when he was fitting a pair of braided oil cooler pipes instead of the rigid copper lines, a popular mod amongst Jensen owners, that the fault was found. Dave jacked the car up on one side and oil started to gush out of the front input shaft of the transfer box. It would appear that there was virtually no oil left in that particular unit until the car was jacked up one side, oil from the main gearbox then being transferred over finding the ultimate cause, a broken oil seal. Had the problem been looked for on a four-poster with the car level, the wrong size and consequently split seal was unlikely to have been discovered!

Once fixed along with the other long list of jobs, the FF was finally returned after nearly a year after I bought it, with a new MoT and another large bill to add to the already fat history file of invoices – but to be fair, Dave’s charges were reasonable and he admitted he did have other smaller jobs for his regular customers to fit in between.

I have managed to drive the car now at least a half-dozen times before putting it away for the winter and I was not disappointed. The FF (Ferguson Formula four-wheel drive) is a Gran Turismo in every way with a superb quiet ride, not too firm or soft but corners beautifully. The traction and confidence of the 4WD system is soon felt and with some 330bhp instantly on tap, it seems somewhat unnatural that wheels aren’t slipping whatever the surface. Although it’s happy to burble along quietly, it has huge torque for a rapid overtake when called for.

The standard Girling hydraulic disc brake system is very reassuring without being over-sensitive to pull up quickly, I’ve yet to feel the effect of the unique Maxaret anti-skid unit; perhaps I have been too cautious in hard braking – or maybe it doesn’t work! The system however is yet another innovative feature of the FF and why it was so advanced almost 50 years ago. Steering is surprisingly light and the feel of the big, woodrimmed wheel adds to the driving pleasure of this largest technically brilliant and safest Jensen ever. Only moan so far? Don’t watch the petrol gauge when you are driving!



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