The Specialist. The increasingly collectible Jensen Interceptor has found a sympathetic home in Wiltshire. Words Martin Buckley. Photography James Mann.
Paul Lewis started #Pale-Classics
in 2012, following a career in the RAF as a Flight Engineer on Hercules, 727s and Tristars. (The name ‘Pale’, in case you were wondering, is derived from the first two letters of the founder’s Christian and surnames.) The passion for old cars, however, came long before the aeroplanes. “I restored an MGB when I was 15,” says Lewis. “My dad had a sheet-metal business in Oldham and he let me use a corner of his workshop.”
Today, as a former chairman of the Jensen Owners’ Club, Lewis is closely associated with Interceptors. At home, wife Lisa runs an Interceptor (and a Volvo Amazon), but Lewis sold his own III to focus on a rebuild of a MkI that, like the cobbler’s boots, has had to take a back seat to customer cars. There are seven or eight Jensens on site in the modern Chippenham workshop, including a four-wheel-drive FF, a ‘Six Pack’ SP and a glorious Interceptor III in Cerise, the end product of a £100,000 restoration that neatly illustrates the amount of detail work – and money – people are now willing to plough into these once-undervalued cars.
While Lewis would have to accept that he is a Jensen specialist, in some ways he prefers to see Pale Classics, which is situated 10 mins from junction 17 of the M4, as a one-stop shop for all things 1960s and ’70s, but with an emphasis on big GT cars.
The current seven-man team has worked on everything from Aston Martin DB7s (Pale offers an uprated rear subframe conversion) to Morris 8s and Facel Vegas, and they are as happy to change a light-bulb as they are to take on a full restoration.
Dave Amor, Danny Williams and Pat Stuart tackle all things mechanical, while promising youngster Peter Griffin started with the firm as an apprentice and has recently been promoted to mechanic. Panel-beater/fabricator Dave Ward has his own purpose-built area set aside for welding and grinding an FF shell. As a general rule, bodywork and painting is farmed out (the choice of bodyshop depending on the customer’s budget) – although Ward can tackle the Interceptor’s notoriously rot-prone sills on site.
Pale also has an in-house auto electrician who, when we visited, was retrofitting an 8-Track stereo unit upgraded to FM with a modern USB port. Lewis considers the big Jensens to be relatively easy to work on and the spares situation for them to be good, even the MkIs: “The only tricky panels are roofs – the tooling went missing years ago – and FF front wings. I could sell new FF wings for £5000 apiece.”
Having taken voluntary redundancy from the RAF, Lewis took on the unit on Bumpers Farm Industrial Estate as a glorified ‘man cave’ at first, drifting into taking on jobs and hiring staff as a way of covering the rent. By then, Interceptors were already a way of life. When hunting for an E-type, Lewis rediscovered the Interceptor in one of its natural habitats – a Barons auction – and soon forgot about the Jaguar in favour of this quintessential Euro-American grand tourer, which had the rear seats he needed for his children.
After that epiphany there was no turning back: before long, he and Lisa were both running IIIs as everyday cars.
It sounds ruinous but, in a way, the logic is hard to fault: “I had recently bought a Lexus brand new and lost £16,000 on it after a couple of years’ motoring. I decided that it made more sense to run two 7-litre Jensens, on the basis that they were going to go up in value. Also, being collected from school in an Interceptor did wonders for the kids’ popularity.”
Main: (l-r) Paul Lewis/Dave Amor with one Interceptor, while Peter Griffin polishes another and Andy Teare/ Danny Williams check SP’s wheel bearings. Below, l-r: Amor services V8; Griffin checks electrics; Dave Ward welds Jensen-FF inner wing.
Name Pale Classics Ltd
Address Unit 9-10 Westpoint Business Park, Vincients Road, Bumpers Farm Industrial Estate, Chippenham, Wilts SN14 6RB
Staff Seven Specialism All aspects of Jensen servicing, maintenance and restoration, with emphasis on the Interceptor and FF
Price £50 per hour
Tel 01249 657544
Email [email protected]