Last revised: 26-1-2009

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Car of the Month - November 2003

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Jensen Interceptor - cabriolet body - manufactured in ca. 1952

Jensen was one of those typically British car manufacturers which concentrated on low volume luxury car production. The two Jensen brothers started out as coach builders and created their first car in 1928, based on an Austin Seven. Thereafter followed a varied line of stylish saloons, tourers and cabriolets based on chassis from British mass produced cars. At the end of the 1930s Jensen made a gradual shift from coach building to proper car manufacture, combining parts and chassis from various manufacturers with special bodywork into a specific Jensen model range. Generally these were elegant, sporty cars with large and powerful engines aimed at gentleman drivers.
After the second World War Jensen continued as before, but in 1949 a model was introduced which defined Jensen car production for decades to come: the Jensen Interceptor. It was a 2-door 4-seater convertible or sports saloon, lavishly equipped and fitted with a big engine in front under a long hood. The car was designed by Eric Nealy, who previously had worked for Wolseley, as an alternative to a Jaguar or an Aston Martin but with a more conservative styling. Unfortunately it was also more expensive than contemporary Jaguar or Aston Martin offerings; it was priced about 18% higher than an Aston Martin DB2 for instance. This rather limited the appeal of Interceptor, as did its somewhat bulky looks.
The Interceptor was based on the underpinnings of the Austin A70 saloon and featured the 3993 cc 6-cylinder in-line engine from the Austin Sheerline limousine. This engine produced 130 hp @ 3700 rpm, enough to power this 1524 kg car to a maximum speed of 164 kph and a 0-96 kph acceleration in 13.1 seconds. Its body was constructed from alloy sheet metal over a steel frame, and from 1953 the Interceptor had a glassfibre bootlid. The sports saloon version was similar to the cabriolet but had a vinyl-covered hardtop with panoramic Perspex rear window. The Interceptor was not so much a sports car as it was a comfortable grand tourer; it was a silent running car, capable of travelling at high speeds without much strain thanks to the oversized engine matched to a manual 4-speed gearbox with overdrive.

This line of Interceptors was produced from 1949 till 1957 and only 88 were built, so it wasn't very successful. Yet it paved the way for the models which established the Jensen name; the lightweight, comfortable and powerful sport coupes. This line of cars culminated (after the 541 and CV8 models) in the new Interceptor of 1965, designed by Touring and bodied by Vignale in Italy. It became more or less an icon and the car Jensen is identified with and had nothing in common with the original Interceptor, which it completely obscured.
The Jensen marque survived (with lapses) until 2002 but never managed to equal the fame of the second line of Interceptors. Jensen cars have a strong 'cult' following, which explains the impressive amount of Jensen cars still around, despite the often extremely low production numbers. These exotic Brits flavor the classic car scene and usually are regarded valuable, yet not exorbitantly priced.
You can find more info and pictures of this "early" Interceptor at Tony Baily's Brochure Homepage, a wonderful collection of historic Jensen advertising publications on the web, very recommendable.

© André Ritzinger, Amsterdam, Holland

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