Jensen Motors was founded by brothers Richard and Alan, who made vehicle bodies before World War II and were soon producing their own cars. The first Interceptor appeared in 1949 — a coupe with an Austin Six engine and a pioneering fibreglass body.
The Jensen 541 replaced it in 1953, despite the demands of a major contract to produce bodies for the Austin Healey sports cars. In 1961, production of bodies for Volvo’s P1800 was added and the booming company introduced the Jensen CV-8.
But the CV-8 soon looked dated, and Jensen decided to compete with big boys like Aston Martin and those luscious Latins. Although the CV-8’s updated chassis, Chrysler V8 engine and TorqueFlite automatic transmission were up to the job, Italian styling was called for. A design by Carrozzeria Touring was realized by Vignale, who created the first production bodies. This stunning new fastback bore the revived Interceptor name and its look was distinctive, with a squarish front and rounded rear topped by a huge curved rear window that was also a hinged hatchback. The interior with its wood and leather was, however, reassuringly British.
Despite intense competition in the luxury GT market, the Interceptor sold well throughout the ’60s and into the mid-1970s, despite build-quality problems and serious commercial pressures created by the collapse of Jensen’s core body-building business. The Mk II arrived in 1969 and the Mk III in 1971 with a bigger engine. A yummy convertible was introduced in 1974 and a coupe in 1975.
The stylish Interceptor is deserving of a more-than-honorable mention in the book of British automotive success stories, but in many respects its importance is outweighed by that of a commercially unsuccessful companion model. Jensen Motors had been working with Harry Ferguson (of Massey-Ferguson tractor fame) since the early 1960s, and the innovative Irish engineer was intent on producing an effective four-wheel-drive system for race and road cars.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1966 (until 1976)
6,286 cc or 7,212 cc V8
With 6.3 I engine – top speed of 133 mph (214 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.3 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Despite frequent strikes at the factory, a penchant for rapidly rusting and a relatively high ticket price, nearly 6,500 Interceptors were produced in 10 years, which compares extremely favorably with anything the competition managed to achieve.