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Jensen Interceptor

Jensen Interceptor Published: 20th Jan 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What The Experts Say...

Cropredy Bridge Garage of Banbury is one of the UK’s leading Interceptor specialists and says that after years of being ignored, this Midlands GT is finally getting the recognition the ‘Birmingham Ferrari’ has finally deserved. That said, Cropredy’s Oliver Smith warns “it’s not out of the woods yet” as there are still many poor examples around, suffering decades of neglect. Oliver adds that in terms of investment potential, the FF is without doubt the Interceptor to have although for many enthusiasts the simpler Interceptor is more suitable. What makes the Jensen now an appealing classic is that this once “poster car” and celebrity status symbol when new enjoys a classless element about it. Cropredy is now selling its own special restored Interceptors (see news pages).

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Last month we pitched Jensen’s fine 541 against Jaguar’s pricier XK. Can the Interceptor be as good as Aston’s DBS for half the price?

What is it that they say about good things coming to all who wait? It’s more like poetic justice for this pair of classic ‘Cinderellas’ which took far too long to achieve the collectable status they richly deserved for decades.

Why the DBS has always followed in the tyre tracks of the earlier DBs can only be put down to the ‘Bond effect’ while the Jensen Interceptor – the Birmingham Ferrari – suffered from its lack of competition success and dare we suggest a lack of pedigree despite the Brummie’s supercar body being styled and built by two of the world’s leading design houses.

The Interceptor was launched half a century ago with the DBS just a year later. Surprisingly, in view of the Aston’s name and supercar credentials, the Jensen sold in considerably larger numbers until the company folded in 1976 although the Aston lasted another decade in production (albeit updated) before being replaced by the indifferent and under-developed Virage.

It wasn’t that long ago – a decade at best – that you could pick up these brilliant bulldog Brits for a comparative song, especially the Jensen which could be had for not much more than MGB or TR6 money. Those days are gone, sadly, but both still represent strong value for money although values are fast rising so you need to act fast if you want one of these fastbacks. What’s best for you?

WHICH ONE TO BUY?

HALF THE PRICE, TWICE AS GOOD?

The answer to this question is probably financial. All things being equal, the Interceptor is a cheaper buy than a DBS and will remain so as the Aston moves fast up the social ladder in DB circles. In broad terms, a DBS will cost twice as much as an Interceptor t/
Mechanically, the Interceptor is derived from the brutal looking CV-8 and all derivatives used V8 power. Due to time constraints, the DBS was launched with the DB6 engine before the much awaited V8 arrived in 1969, which also carried on until 1972 when Aston Martin was sold by David Brown to Company Developments Ltd who swiftly removed the DB initials creating the six-cylinder Vantage and the ‘V8’ also known as the Series 2.

The later car is instantly recognised by the twin headlight grille shaped in the DB2-6 style. Little happened in 1974/5 when few cars were made and in 1977 the V8’s lump was upgraded to 375bhp. A year later which brought not only the fastest V8 with 0-100 in 12.9 seconds and a 170mph max, but also the gorgeous drophead Volante, now worth around £90,000+.

The Series 5 was launched in 1986 with a change back to fuel injection, thus removing the need for the, we think, vulgar bonnet bulge but the Aston was now fast showing its age that even added power couldn’t compensate for.

In total, around 900 ‘sixes’ were made against 3300 V8s so it is possible that, owing to rarity, the slower six might be a good investment although as a performance car this heavyweight can feel wanting especially as an automatic although it provides fine cruising capabilities.

The first Jensen Interceptor, retrospectively known as the Mk1, relied on a beefy Chrysler V8 and Torqueflite auto box from the previous CV-8 although a few manuals were also made. The MkII arrived in 1969 boasting with ventilated front discs, revised front and rear styling and a new, higher quality interior with optional availability of air conditioning. The MkIII of 1971 with its cast alloy wheels, boasted even bigger front discs and, from 1973, the engine was increased from an already mighty 6.3-litres to a massive 7212cc.

The huge 900cc stretch was needed to offset increasing emissions regulations but it came just prior to the Energy Crisis… The higher tuned SP (standing for Six Pack) packed 385bhp and 490lbft of torque, thanks to three twin-choke Holley carburettors and is no mean performer or drinker. There’s also the ‘Director’ and this special edition Interceptor with its posher trim (said to be the work of the QE2 designer) incorporating a typewriter concealed in the glovebox. In this age of the iPod would you ever use it?

Similarly, would the benefits of the crude but still effective Ferguson all-wheel drive system of the slightly larger FF be needed in a high days and holidays classic? Both the Aston and the Jensen can be had as sophisticated sun-seekers and the drop tops carry a fairly hefty price premium.

A rather odd looking Coupé was added to the range in 1975. Based upon the convertible, it lacks the balanced look of the fastback and loses the surprisingly useful hatchback facility, but their sheer rarity (only 60 were made) will count in the years ahead.

The Interceptor refuses to die. More than a decade after Jensen’s closure, it was relaunched with a smaller 5.9-litre engine and fresher interior but less than 40 were built until the final curtain call in 1993. But that’s not the end as a couple of companies have reinvented the Interceptor as a modern bespoke build classic utilising today’s technology (see news pages concerning the new Cropredy Interceptor).

As we said at the beginning, it may all boil down to how much you have to spend; a DBS can cost twice as much as an Interceptor but it’s not automatically twice as good.

 

WHAT’S BEST TO DRIVE?

ASTON, BUT A CLOSE RUN THING

Aside from the innovative all-wheel drive, anti-lock braked FF, the Jensen and Aston surprisingly similar in concept and as a consequence so to drive. They’re heavy big-engined GTs to pilot responding better to a slow-in, fast-out cornering style, ideally with a lot of road room, in case you need to correct the tail slides.

The Aston’s suspension, thanks to the De Dion back end is the more sophisticated so the DBS handles better in ultimate terms but – surely – these lovely old classics shouldn’t be driven that hard? Bear in mind that the FF is no Audi Quattro. Sure, grip and stability is there but, not unexpectedly, is refinement as the all-wheel drive system dates before the FF’s introduction; those familiar with Range Rovers will be equally familiar with the feel. If you’re not a fan of automatics then it’s going to be tough going as most Astons and virtually every Interceptor are self-shifters, a shared lazy American ‘box that makes both cars smooth rather than sporty.

In V8 guise there’s not much in it performance-wise, both hitting 60 in under seven seconds. The DBS6 feels significantly more sedate than the meatier V8, especially in automatic form where a V6 Capri can keep station with one; few Aston lovers speak well of this model but at least prices will be lower.

Manual DBSs came with fivespeeds but also a very heavy clutch action would do a lorry proud. Aston experts, thankfully can reduce the load with certain mods.

Economy, which can easily dip perilously close to 10mpg if really booted, discourages GTi chasing. Strangely, and short-sightedly, the Jensen’s thirst is blamed partly for the car’s previous lack of popularity yet it’s no worse than any Aston or V12 E-type…

As you’re hardly going to use one daily it hardly matters that much, does it?

Choosing a winner is more down to matters of taste. Both cruise nicely and their well appointed cockpits are great places to be – and to be seen in – but the Aston gives the impression of being more thoroughbred. One comparison test report probably got it right when it said that the vast majority of enthusiasts would be well satisfied with an Interceptor – until they drive a DBS that is.

 

OWNING AND RUNNING

ADVANTAGE ASTON, ONLY JUST

With an ever-ending appeal, an army of specialists plus factory help, owning, repairing and restoring a DBS is that bit easier than an Interceptor even though back-up for Jensens just gets better by the day, the latter helped by the amount of proprietary parts used. Throw in that old school ohv Yank V8 and the Interceptor can be more easily maintained and repaired by an enthusiastic owner or general workshop than an Aston Martin.

Because they were overlooked classics, both cars have suffered in the hands of skinflint owners and there’s strong chance that poor past repairs and resto work has been carried out, the difference being that you regard an Aston as an investment that’s not quite the case with an Interceptor just yet but with prices for top models nudging £70,000 (more for FFs and convertibles) the Birmingham Ferrari is slowly getting there.

Three decades ago you could pick up a quite decent DBS for around £300 and, not so long ago, for as little as 12 grand but that has now quadrupled and budget on 100K for top cars with the late 70’s Vantage/Oscar India – and all Volantes – the most desired. Typically, a project DBS will go for £20-£30,000 but there’s no such thing as a cheap restoration. Bargain sub £20,000 Interceptors still exist but, be warned, you generally get what you pay for.

 

And The Winner Is...

If money were no object then the Aston would get most folks vote. It’s the more exciting and satisfying GT and the badge is one of the most coolest and coveted around. But don’t think that the Jensen trails a distant second. As we remarked earlier, if you have never driven a DBS/V8 you’d be mighty pleased with the purchase. Interceptors are also rarer, cheaper and a bit more flamboyant yet in a tasteful way. Always liking an underdog we’d probably go for an Interceptor and wear our 1970’s cravat with pride!



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