Man & Machine David Lane and the UK’s sole Jensen-Healey racer

On paper, it looked good: a neatly styled MGB-sized sports car with two-litre Lotus twin-cam up front and a properly located rear axle. Yet just 10,503 Jensen-Healeys were sold from 1971 to 1976, next to half-a-million Bs. Brits often plough their own furrow, however, and David Lane has been racing his ’Healey for more than a decade. Mostly his has been the only one competing in the UK, although they were successfully raced in the US, the ’Healey’s biggest market. The Huffaker-run ‘factory’ team won the SCCA ‘D’ championship in the first year of racing in 1973, and again in 1974.

The Jensen was the first production car to receive the all-alloy Lotus 907 twin-cam, before it appeared in the Elite, Eclat and Esprit. It usually produces 150bhp from 1973cc but this Martin Shirley-built unit has a bit more, buoyed by dry-sump lubrication using Esprit parts. ‘It starts making torque at 3300rpm and it’s doing 160bhp by 5600,’ Martin says, ‘which is where standard peak power is. You won’t get big revs on 40 DCOEs; it’ll rev to 8000, but maximum power of 195bhp is at 7000-7200. So you take it a bit above 7000 before you change, otherwise it bogs down. You struggle to get a season out of most 907s but this has done five. Part of that is by keeping it cool. The ceramic coated exhaust manifold, inside and out, really helps to get heat out of the engine bay.’

Over to owner David. ‘I started racing 12 years ago after doing some trackdays and sprints. We were searching for a Lotus Europa, but the J-H has been an underdog for years. We found a car for sale and my dad put a note on it, but it was rotten, so we stripped it for the five-speed. The shell of this car was originally Martin’s. ‘It was a bit of a bastard child. Healey people didn’t really like them, nor did Lotus people. The HSCC Road Sports series fitted the bill.’ It has to remain nominally standard under the rules, but the front wishbones are upside-down for a bit of negative camber and there’s a Panhard rod on the four-link-and-coils rear.

David: ‘We ran against Alfas, GT6s, 924s. On the third outing the engine blew up, so I started the third season still with a novice cross. I’ve had a class win at Snetterton – a dreadful trophy that we’re so proud of. We didn’t race for a couple of years after a massive crash at Croft. It was a wet race and one of the Alfas had dropped lots of oil. ATR spun, hit an MGB and I hit that.’ Now it’s running in the Healey Sport hillclimb series. ‘We’re the only car in the class so we win by default. Last year we softened the back and raised it slightly. It’s a different car, much more biddable. You feel so much more confident in it.’ The Dr Feelgood logo on the front wing is a tribute to late and legendary frontman Lee Brilleaux, who died in 1994. ‘We used to go and see Dr Feelgood all over the place. At Thame, with Eddie and the Hot Rods and John Otway, I was near the front. Lee gave me the mic and I played along on harmonica for a bit. I spoke to him backstage later. “You weren’t too bad,” he said. “Shame you were in the wrong key.”’

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