Jensen Motors Cars and History

Jensen Motors Ltd was a British manufacturer of sports cars and commercial vehicles in England. Jensen Motors built specialist car bodies for major manufacturers alongside cars of their own design using engines and mechanicals of major manufacturers.

Alan Jensen (1906-1994) and his brother Richard Jensen (1909-1977) coachbuilders first for New Avon Body Co, affiliate with Standard Motor, designed the first Standard Avon open two-seaters produced from 1929 to 1933. Jensen went on to design two more cars for Avon then moved with his brother to Edgbaston Garage, a car servicing business was setting up a coachbuilding operation in Bournbrook, Birmingham. The Jensen brothers made bodies for the new Wolseley Hornet and Hornet Special chassis.

In 1931 the Jensen brothers had gone to work for W J Smith & Sons in West Bromwich to build bodies for small sports cars. Smith announced an open 4-seater and a lowered 2-seater both to be known as Jensen Wolseley Hornets. In 1934 Smith died and the brothers managed to buy a controlling shareholding in Smith & Sons. They later changed the name to Jensen Motors Limited and expanded to build exclusive customised bodies for standard cars produced by several manufacturers including Morris, Singer, Standard, Wolseley including a deal with Ford to produce a run of Jensen-Fords with Jensen bodywork with a Ford chassis and engine.

They also started to design their first true production car under the name White Lady. This evolved into the Jensen S-type which went into production in 1935. Jensen diversified into the production of commercial vehicles under the marque JNSN, including the manufacture of a series of lightweight trucks. Jen-Tug which went into production in the late 1940s. During World War II Jensen produced components for military vehicles and specialised ambulances and fire-engines. Production of cars ceased during the war.

In 1946 a new a luxury saloon was offered, the Jensen PW. The Jensen Interceptor made its debut in 1950 as the second car made after World War II. The Interceptor was built until 1957.

The Austin Motor Company requested that Jensen develop a body that could use the Austin A40 Sports mechanicals. The aluminium bodies were built by Jensen and transported to Austin’s plant for final assembly were manufactured from 1951–1953. Although Jensen’s design for a new Austin-based sports-car was rejected by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1952 in favour of a design provided by Donald Healey, Jensen did win the BMC contract to build the bodies for the resultant Austin-Healey 100 and the rest of the “big Healey” cars.

In 1955, Jensen started production of the 541. The Jensen 541 was produced from 1954 to 1959 which used fiberglass for its bodywork.

The Jensen 541S, a luxury GT model of the Jensen 541 series produced between 1960–1963. The 541S was replaced in October 1962 by the C-V8, The Jensen C-V8 is a four-seater GT car produced between 1962 and 1966 with a 6-liter Chrysler V8. The large engine in a lightweight car made the Jensen one of the fastest four-seaters of the time.

The C-V8 FF went into production in 1966. The Jensen FF is a four-wheel drive grand tourer produced between 1966 and 1971, The letters FF stand for Ferguson Formula, after Ferguson Research Ltd., who invented the car’s four-wheel drive system.

In 1960 Jensen won a contract from Volvo to assemble and finish the bodies for their Volvo P1800 coupé. Also in the early 1960s, Jensen was also involved in the development and production of the Sunbeam Tiger.

The New Jensen Interceptor, second generation produced between 1966 and 1976. The Interceptor was offered in fastback, convertible and coupé versions. Jensen used Chrysler V8 engines for the Interceptor with optional manual or automatic transmissions. The Mark II was announced in October 1969, with slightly revised styling and air conditioning was an option and The Mark III introduced in 1971. Production of the Interceptor ended in 1976 with 6,408 produced

Jensen Motors was bought by Norcros Limited, an industrial holding company in June 1959. Alan Jensen retired from the positions of joint managing director and alternate chairman in October 1964 though he remained on the board. Richard Jensen “relinquished” his appointment as joint managing director in November 1965 but remained chairman.  Alan and Richard Jensen resigned from the board in 1966.

In September 1967 Jensen Motors announced they were hit hard by the US safety regulations. They expected there would have to be many redundancies resulting from the drop in demand for the Austin-Healey 3000 and Sunbeam Tiger though both had been modified to meet the regulations. At the end of the year they advised their shareholders that Austin-Healey and Sunbeam Tiger contracts had now ended. An American management consultant, Carl Duerr, replaced the chief executive. It was decided that from now on Jensen Motors would be a full-time car manufacturer.

In mid 1968 Norcros decided to sell their automotive subsidiary. It was bought by a merchant bank.

When production of the Austin-Healey 3000 ended Donald Healey opened discussions with Jensen Motors, who had built the bodies for Healey’s Austin-Healey cars. The largest Austin Healey Car Dealer in the US Kjell Qvale was also keen to find a replacement to the Austin-Healey 3000 then became a major shareholder of Jensen. Donald Healey became a director of Jensen Motors in 1970 and a result of this was the Lotus-engined Jensen-Healey which appeared in 1972. The Jensen-Healey was developed in a joint venture by Donald Healey and Jensen Motors.

The oil crisis hit Jensen Motors hard, greatly damaging the sales of its very large V8 Interceptor model and thus degrading its financial condition as a whole. The Jensen GT was then hurriedly brought to market, requiring massive labour expense and taxing the firm’s budget even further. By 1974 Lotus was able to supply the required number of engines and production reached 86 cars a week but despite this, the overall situation proved to be too much for the company, which, amid strike action, component shortages and inflation, Jensen Motors had fallen on hard times, The company was placed into receivership, and the receivers allowed production to continue until the available cache of parts was exhausted in 1976  and then close in May 1976.

Alan Jensen died in Brighton in 1994 and his brother Richard Jensen died in London in September 1977.

The rights to Jensen’s trademarks were bought with the company and it briefly operated in Speke, Liverpool, from 1998 to 2002. Under subsequent owners, a new version of the Jensen Interceptor was announced in 2011. It was planned to bring manufacture of that new model back to the former Jaguar motor plant in Browns Lane, Coventry.

In 2011, Healey Sports Cars Switzerland Ltd (HSCS), who owns all assets, intellectual property, designs, and brand rights for the Jensen and Interceptor brands announced CPP Global Holdings was appointed to engineer, develop and build the new Jensen Interceptor planned for late 2012, with deliveries to customers beginning in 2014. As of October 2017, no additional announcements have been made.

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The Jensen-Healey Sports Car

The Jensen-Healey was a British two-seater convertible sports car produced between 1972–1976 by Jensen Motors Ltd. in West Bromwich, England. A related fastback, the Jensen GT, was introduced in 1975.

Launched in 1972 as a fast, luxurious and competent convertible sports car, it was positioned in the market between the Triumph TR6 and the Jaguar E-Type. The 50/50 weight balance achieved by the use of the all alloy Lotus 907 engine led to universal praise as having excellent handling.

Various engines were tried out in the prototype stage including Vauxhall, Ford and BMW units. Donald Healey designed this new Jensen-Healey using Vauxhall components but it was unable to comply with the emission standards set in place in USA. He resisted offers from Saab and Ford to produce a new sports car. Colin Chapman of Lotus offered, and Jensen accepted, his company’s new 1973 cc Lotus 907 dual overhead cam, 16-valve all-alloy engine. This setup puts out approximately 144 bhp (107 kW), topping out at 119 mph (192 km/h) and accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds (8.1 seconds for the emission controlled U.S. version).

Hugo Poole did the styling of the body, the front and back of which were later modified by William Towns to take advantage of the low profile engine and to allow cars for the U.S. market to be fitted with bumpers to meet increasing U.S. regulations. The unitary body understructure was designed by Barry Bilbie, who had been responsible for the Austin-Healey 100, 100-6 and 3000 as well as the Sprite. It was designed to be easy to repair, with bolt-on panels, to keep insurance premiums down. In 1973, United States Government-mandated rubber bumpers were attached. In 1974 “5mph” bumpers were required.

In total 10,503 were produced (10 prototypes, 3,347 Mk.1 and 7,146 Mk.2)

Jensen-Healey sales by country

Markets Mk. 1 Mk. 2 Total
USA and Canada 1945 5689 7634
United Kingdom 1114 906 2020
Europe 125 209 334
Australia & New Zealand 75 211 286
The Far East 98 87 185
The Middle East 0 33 33
Jamaica 0 1 1
Unspecified 0 10 10
Total 3357 7146 10,503
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