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- Post is under moderationSome of my favourite cars are hybrids, I’ve realised, but they’re not the ones you’re probably thinking of right now. I come from an era when the word ‘hybrid’ meant something totally different. And last week I finally found one.
I had my heart set on an Aston Martin DB5, but I just can’t bring myself to justify the price. It’s not that I don’t think it’s worth it, it’s just that I grew up in an era when used DB5s were just a few grand more than an #Jaguar-E-type . The car I’m talking about is much rarer than a #Aston-Martin-DB5 . I think they made fewer than 500 of them. It’s a car that has fascinated me for some time, probably because I never actually saw one in person. Then, about a year ago at a car show in Beverly Hills, I finally did see one. It was a deep royal blue with a tan interior, just the combination I would have ordered back in 1965 when it was new. But at the time I was 15 and working at McDonald’s.
I did hear that Sean Connery, probably the biggest movie star in the world at the time, had one. Years later Sean was a guest on my talk show, I asked him about the car and he seemed pleased I knew what it was. Turns out he actually passed over a #Aston-Martin DB5 for a second-hand #Jensen-C-V8 / #Jensen . True enthusiast, or just a thrifty Scotsman? Well, that made me want one even more.
Anyway, back to the Beverly Hills car show. Showing the Jensen was a German guy named Chris. I introduced myself and told him how much I liked his car. He smiled broadly and seemed thrilled that I knew what it was. Most people at the show had no idea. ‘What year Jensen-C-V8 ?’ I asked. ‘It’s a 1965 Mark III,’ he replied. To my mind the final Mark III was the most desirable version.
Even though this was exactly what I was looking for, I never ask people at car shows if something is for sale or how much it costs. I hate when people do it to me because it just seems so incredibly rude. Chris and I chatted for a few more minutes, I complimented him on the restoration and wished him good luck.
Not quite a year later, my next-door neighbour called me to tell me a friend of his had a car for sale, and was I interested? Normally when people call me with a car for sale, it’s something like an AMC Gremlin with a Levi jeans interior.
‘Do you remember meeting a German guy at the Beverly Hills car show last year?’ my neighbour asked. ‘You mean the guy with the C-V8?’ I replied. ‘Yeah, that’s him,’ he said.
The car was less than five miles from my house. I ran out the door and bought it on the spot. No, I didn’t test drive it first. No, I didn’t put it up on a ramp and look it over like you’re supposed to do. Do you know why? Try and find another one! Luckily the car turned out to be just fine; a few small things but nothing major.
The car is called a hybrid because, back in the ’60s, ‘hybrid’ meant putting American power plants into European cars. Think early Cadillac-powered Allards, or Carroll Shelby stuffing a 289 Ford into an #AC-Ace to create the Cobra. That started a trend of sticking very powerful American engines into English cars. Jensen used a #Chrysler-383ci-V8 , sending over 330bhp through a three-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission. I like to think of my Jensen as a #Dodge-Dart-GTS that went to Oxford.
The reason I’m partial to English hybrids is that I love English styling, design and roadholding, and I understand American engines with their torque and durability. It seems the ideal combination to me. The Jensen is everything I wish my GTS could be. Four-wheel disc brakes instead of disc/drum. Classic British wood and leather interior, instead of plastic and vinyl. Sophisticated chassis with rails acting as a vacuum reservoir, to aid braking. It even has shock absorbers you can adjust from the driver’s seat. My GTS shares its body with the six-cylinder runabout model, but the Jensen has a fabulous (to my eyes) custom body made of fibreglass. Combine all this with a 130mph top speed, and you have to wonder why it’s a tenth the price of a DB5. I think there may be a snob factor involved because of the American power.
I love this era of hybrids. I also have a Monteverdi, a Swiss car with a Chrysler 440, a four-speed manual and a two-door Frua body from Italy. It was bought new, right off the floor, at the Geneva show where it premiered in 1970. I bought it, years later, for less money than the Dodge Challenger with the same engine and transmission made at the Barrett-Jackson auction.
Not all hybrids are bargains, as the Cobra proves. Yet a #Gordon-Keeble , a #TVR , a #Sunbeam-Tiger , a #Bristol-407 – if you ever see one of those for a reasonable amount of money, grab it! Because a lot of people read this magazine.
‘I LIKE TO THINK OF MY JENSEN AS A DODGE DART GTS THAT WENT TO OXFORD. IT’S THE IDEAL COMBINATION’
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- Mr. Leno: Welcome to the world of CV8 ownership, from an old lag, 39 years in this June! I alsofollow your deliberations on Jay Leno's Garage and in tMr. Leno:
Welcome to the world of CV8 ownership, from an old lag, 39 years in this June! I alsofollow your deliberations on Jay Leno's Garage and in the Hagerty Magazine with considerable interest. Thank you for your stellar endorsement of these hugely underappreciated motor cars.
I was interested in your comments about the, er, controversial front end styling of the car, which MOTOR notoriously called "a competent design masquerading as the ugliest car in the world. CV8s may have been at first intended to have covered headlamp nacelles, but Mark I and Mark II cars, while lacking covers, DO enjoy fully ducted nacelles that feed cold, high pressure air from slots under all four headlamps into the doubled walled inner front wings, whence they feed cold air to footwell vents in the interior, and to the transmission tunnel, since CV8s have something of a heat dissipation issue. That tranny tunnel air blows out into the low pressure at the back of the car via the slotted rear apron, which your Mark III retains. AFAIK, Mark III cars, having been revised to use four 5.25 inch headlamps instead of two with 2 seven-inch, no longer have this areo detail. In fact, the CV8 enjoys the same drag coefficient -so I'm told- as a Porsche 928S. Eric Neale was a downy bird, indeed!
My own car (104/2308. also blue) is a truly venerable Mark II, having been road registered and used for all of its 54 years (39 with me). If you are curious, it somehow became a vehicle of record on Wikipedia, despite its many modifications and manifest patina. Check it out online by all means.
Please feel free to post me directly at .......@gmail.com if you care to extend this correspondence. If you are ever in Nova Scotia, I offer free beer and tech support for any passing Jensen owners.
Ray Whitley More ...
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