THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT… THE JENSEN INTERCEPTOR
For so long undervalued – the Jensen Interceptor fell in with cars like the Triumph Stag and Reliant Scimitar inasmuch that they became a bit unfashionable and either unreliable or cost a fortune to run. The Interceptor with its Chrysler V8 was horrific on fuel – you won’t see much more than 10mpg overall, 12 if you’re lucky and 15 on a long run. That made them dodgy used cars in the ‘Seventies when they got old and ropey and in the ‘Eighties, they were worth buttons, with very few cars being properly maintained. They sort of had a blip in the late ‘Eighties when all kinds of rubbish was dredged up and ‘restored’, fell out of bed again in the ‘Nineties and it’s only quite recently that they’ve begun to be worth proper money and thus worth restoring. Good cars start at around £40,000 with the all-wheel drive FF’s starting at around £60,000 and prices for minters can stretch to over £100,000 for these now very desirable models. The days when these were being sold for £10,000 are now long gone!
Carrozzeria Touring of Italy were responsible for styling the Interceptor’s bodywork…
As a car, the Interceptor is a big old thing with a lot of torque from that Chrysler unit, it was always better than anything Ford or GM made, allied to a superb three-speed automatic. Convertible models appeared in 1974 and sold in the low hundreds but a lot of the Interceptor’s appeal is in the styling with that huge, wrap round rear screen.
DID YOU KNOW? 10 FACTS ABOUT YOUR CLASSIC
- The Interceptor was a pretty expensive car when new, but not outrageously so. When it arrived in 1966, the 6.3 litre, 140 mph car was priced at £3700 when an Aston DB6 cost £5000, an Iso Rivolta £5250 and a Gordon Keeble £4000. However, the Elephant in the room was the 4.2 litre Jaguar E-Type FHC at just £2100 with similar on-paper performance but not as effortless as the Jensen.
- When the Mark III appeared in 1971, the price difference was even more marked. By this time, the Interceptor was packing 7.2 litres from the latest Chrysler V8 although it gave less power and more torque. A 135mph top speed was similar to before but in 1974, the price of £7100 was still £1500 less than a BMW 3.0CSi E9 and £2500 less than the Aston Martin V8.
- Original production lasted 10 years, from 1966 to 1976. Jensen went bust in 1975 with the last original cars being built early the following year to use up stocks of parts. In 1989 an attempt was made to re-launch the car as a Mark IV and four years and 36 cars later, the company again went bust. The Interceptor was revived again in 2010, but this time completely rebuilding existing cars rather than produced brand new ones.
- Whilst most Interceptors used the Chrysler Torque-flite three-speed automatic, there were a few manual gearbox versions – but only 22 Series I cars. The Series II and III were virtually all automatics, although there was talk of a special build manual or two being produced – true or false? These days, you can convert to manual using either an expensive modern six-speed unit or an old Chrysler A-833 OD overdrive box.
- The original Interceptors were built by Vignale in Italy, but they required so much remedial work on arrival at the Jensen factory that the company later took production fully in house. This was ironic when Jensen lost the contract to build the original Volvo P1800 Coupé due to build quality problems. Certainly, the West Bromwich cars were decently built, but not always without paint quality issues.
- The Interceptor originally used the king pin type front suspension from the CV8 but this was changed to a new system with telescopic dampers and wishbones as well as revised Girling brakes replacing the original Dunlop types, plus radial tyres and standard power steering (at last). These modifications took place in mid-1969, around three months before the much-improved Interceptor MkII was launched.
- The Interceptor SP was launched in late 1971 as a higher performance model to compete with the Aston Martin V8 Vantage. The 7.2 litre engine featured three twinchoke carburettors to develop 385bhp, this giving a 6.9 second 0-60 time and 145mph top speed. Not quite Aston Vantage fast but useful enough. Wider GKN alloy wheels, vinyl roof and bonnet louvres marked out the SP.
- However… The 1971 Interceptor MkIII also gained the new wheels and vinyl roof shortly after, meaning that you need to be sure an SP is the real thing and not a Series III with the six-pack carbs bolted on. Despite this, the Series III became the best selling of all the Interceptor models, with over 3400 cars leaving the West Bromwich factory between 1971 and 1976.
- The FF was the four-wheel drive model that ran alongside the Interceptor to 1971, being replaced by the Interceptor SP after 320 were built. Looking similar to the Interceptor, the FF had a four-inch longer wheelbase, a different chassis as well as different wings to accommodate the longer wheelbase. The vast majority were Series I and II cars, with the short run Series III being incredibly rare.
- One of the most famous Interceptors, the 1967 MkI registered 13SDV met it’s end in 2017. Unused since 1990, this blue Vignale built car sat outside the owners house in Leicestershire for 27 years and became something of a landmark. Sadly, when the time came for it to be sold it was so rotten that when it was moved, it literally broke apart and fell to bits. Will this car ever live again?
WE FOUND ONE
With prices for a decent looking Jensen Interceptors starting out at around £49,000 in the UK, we thought it would be worth casting the net a lot further in an attempt to find a decent road worthy example and a quick online trawl netted this left-hand drive Californian based 1971 MkI for sale at $29,500 USD. That amount of greenbacks converts to around £23,000 and even allowing for shipping costs and taxes, this has to be a keen price considering the same website included a UK located ‘barn find’ Interceptor requiring a full restoration for what we thought was a heavyweight £5500. If this US based car looks as good as its described in the advert, it’s a bargain despite having the steering wheel on the wrong side of its black leather clad cabin.
BEVERLY HILLS CAR CLUB INC 4576 1/2 Worth Street Los Angeles CA 90063. www.beverlyhillscarclub.com
The Jensen Interceptor is still regarded as a very capable long distance Grand Tourer. All wheel drive FF versions are identified by having two air vents in the front wing. The majority of Interceptors were powered by a Chrysler sourced 6276cc V8 but the desirable SP (Six Pack) had a monster 7212cc unit lurking under its louvred bonnet… A spacious interior ensured the Interceptor was a comfortable long distance tourer…