A BRIEF HISTORY OF JENSEN

Alan and Richard Jensen had started modifying cars – with great success – as teenagers. Their talents led them to join a local coach building firm, W.J. Smith and Sons in West Bromwich as directors in 1932. Over the next few years the brothers produced  special bodies on many chassis, including Austin 7, Standard 9, Standard Avon, Morris 8, AJS, Wolseley Hornet, Barclay 10, Morris Minor Special, Singer, MG Midget J2, Triumph 12-6, Ford Mistral, Star Cornet and BSA

1934

W.J Smith name was changed to Jensen Motors Ltd. Then some impressive cars were produced using Ford V8 chassis. These cars were known as Jensen-Fords. In 1936 the Jensen Brothers began to manufacture their vehicles and were intimately involved in the design, production and development of all subsequent models until they left the company 30 years later. 

Between 1936 and 1941 the S-Type Jensen was produced; it usually had a modified Ford V8 engine with improved performance and was available as a Saloon, Tourer or Drop-Head. Some of these cars were entered in rallies, both at home and overseas. There was approx. 50 S-Types built.

1938

Production of the longer H-Type began. The engine was a Nash straight 8, and the independent front suspension was introduced. Saloon, Tourer, Drop-Head and Fixed-Head Coupe bodies were available. 14 H-Types had been built when production ended in 1945, including one car fitted with Lincoln V12 engine. 


It was also in 1938 that Jensen Motors started to produce revolutionary commercial vehicles using high-strength light alloys. JNSN lorries and trucks and Jen-Tugs were the primary source of revenue for the company for many years. Car building recommenced after the war.

Between 1946 and 1952 approx. 18 of the PW model were produced. Most were 4 door saloons, but perhaps two Drop-Head Coupes were made. The first few cars were built with a Meadows straight 8 engine, but reliability issues led to these cars having the engines replaced with Nash Units. Some of these were replaced again by Austin 4 litre (Sheerline) engines. Later PWs had the Austin engines fitted as standard. A small side venture was the production of a short run (3) of ‘woodie’ bodies on Alvis TA14 chassis.

In the late 1930s Jensen diversified into the production of commercial vehicles under the margue JNSN, including the manufacture of a series of innovative lightweight trucks, built with unrestricted aluminium alloys, for Reynolds Tube and the prototype for the articulated Jen-Tug which went into production in the late 1940s.

During the Second World War Jensen concentrated on the war effort and produced components for military vehicles including the turrets for tanks, and on the production of specialised ambulances and fire-engines.

After the war production of the Jens- Tug thrived and Jensen also produced a new range of JNSN lightweight diesel trucks and chassis which were used for a variety of vehicles including pantechnicons and buses. A handful of Jensen buses and coaches were produced for independent operators into the 1950s, with Perkins diesel engines, David Brown gearboxes, and bodywork by a variety of bodybuilders of the time, which had the distinctive large JNSN marque cut into the sheet metal on the front of the bus, below the windscreen. In the 1950s Jensen were chosen by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) to build the bodies for the four-wheel-drive Austin Gipsy. In 1958 they built a small number of Jensen Tempo light commercial vans, pick-ups and minibuses, a German original design, built under licence in the UK, Chassis number 5 that was the 1958 commercial motor-show vehicle, fitted with a Ruthmann cherry picker, is the only known survivor and is currently being restored.

1950

Saw the introduction of the Interceptor. Available as a saloon or convertible and driven by the same Austin 4 litre engine, 88 of these cars were built. One of the later convertibles was owned from new by Sir Benjamin Britten.

1951

Jensen began assembly of the Austin A40 sports (to many eyes a smaller version of the Jensen Interceptor) Approx. 4002 were built, most of which were exported. Jensen also won the contract to build the Austin Healey 100; Production started in 1952 and by 1967 when American federal legislation sealed its fate approx. 74,000 of the Austin Healey variants had been built.

1953

Jensen announced the 541. The 4 litre Austin engine was used again but with a fiber glass body – the first production 4 seaters to was constructed in this way. The car had a top speed of 112mph. Amongst many celebrity owners were Brian Rix and Tommy Sopwith. 226 vehicles were built between 1955 and 1959, of which 53 were the De Luxe Model. 541 De Luxe production had begun in 1956; it was the first production car to have disc brakes on all four wheels.

1956

The Kelvin Way factory opened bringing an end to 20 years of Jensen vehicle production at the old Carters Green premises.

1957

Saw the announcement of the 541R, an improved variant of the 541. Production between 1958 and 1960 resulted in 193 cars built. In 1959 contracts were agreed to make Austin Champ. Between 1960 and 1963 the final 541 model, the 541S, was produced. Most were fitted with the Rolls Royce auto gearbox. In total, 127 were built. One car, minus engine, was supplied to Donald Healey, a Chevrolet V8 was installed.

1960

A contract was signed to paint, trim and assemble Volvo P1800 body shells, the venture was not a success, but the premature ending of the project resulted in a large compensation payment for Jensen Motors.

1962

A new model, the C-V8, was produced. It had a new chassis, with a fibreglass body and a 5.9 litre Chrysler V8 engine; this had the reputation as the fastest full 4 seaters of its day. All cars were fitted with the Chrysler Torque Flite auto gearbox. A total of 68 vehicles were built.

The Sunbeam Tiger go into production. By 1967 approx. 7,000 had been built.

1963

The C-V8 MkII version was introduced. The first 50 cars retained the 5.9-litre engine, but after that, a 6.3 litre was fitted. By the end of production in 1965, 250 vehicles had been built; 7 of which had a manual gearbox. Celebrity owners included Susan Maughan, Hardy Amies (one of two cars with unique pigskin interior designed by him) and New World Pictures. This vehicle was used in the TV series ‘The Baron’.

1965

The C-V8 MkIII came along. The car was mechanically similar to the MkII, 181 cars were built including 2 manual gearbox cars.

1965 also saw the P66 prototype being shown. Two cars, one hardtop and one convertible, were built. The convertible was subsequently broken up, but the hardtop survives. The P66 was not intended to replace the C-V8; it was a two-seater sports car. The Jensen brothers had started the development of a four-wheel-drive version of the C-V8, known as the C-V8 FF; it was shown alongside the P66 (which would have been known as Interceptor) at the 1965 Earl’s Court Motor show.

1966

Was a momentous year for Jensen Motors, it saw the introduction of the Interceptor that we know and love and the groundbreaking FF; as these bodies had been designed and produced without the approval of the Jensen Brothers, they felt obliged to resign from the company. The Interceptor had similar chassis as the C-V8 with a steel body that had been designed by Touring of Milan. Touring were unable to produce prototypes in the time available, so the job was given to Vignale.


Vignale produced the first few bodies, but production soon switched to West Bromwich. The FF was the first production car to have four-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes (Dunlop maxaret system), and in 1967 it was awarded ‘Car of the Year’. It was distinguished from the Interceptor by its extra vent on the front wings, a different bonnet and early cars, a brushed stainless steel roof. The FF is 3 inches longer than the Interceptor, the extra length being in front of the windscreen to accommodate the four-wheel-drive unit. Between 1966 and 1969, saw the production of 1024 Interceptors, 23 of which had manual gearboxes.

Celebrity owners included Mike and Bernie Winters, Henry Cooper, Ian Hendry, Jack Nicklaus and Cliff Richard. Between 1966 and 1969, 195 Mk1 FF’s were built. Among the many celebrity owners were Tony Jacklin and Ginger Baker. One early car was sold to Porsche Cars.

1969

Saw the introduction of 1128 MkII Interceptor. It was the fastest of the various Interceptors, thanks to its E series engine. Between 1969 and 1971, 110 MkII FF’s were built. 

1971

Saw the introduction of the SP with 7.2-litre with 3 x dual-barrel carbs (six-pack) giving 50 more BHP that the 7.2 used later in the MkIII. 232 cars were built.

1971 also was the introduction of the MkIII Interceptor, initially with a 6.3-litre engine – H series. Later cars had the 7.2 litre – J series engine. 1975/76 cars had a walnut dash. When production ceased in 1976, 4255 MkIII’s (of all types) had been built. The FF was also upgraded to MkIII specification in 1971. Only 15 were built, all with 6.3-litre engines.

1972

The Jensen Healey was produced. Using Vauxhall Magnum suspension and braking systems with a Lotus 1973cc engine and steel body, top speed was 120 mph, and handling was true British Sports Car. The car’s reputation was tarnished by many early problems caused by lack of proper development before the launch. Despite this, 3356 MkI cars were built. 

1973

Saw the MkII version given a facelift.

1974

A Getrag 5 speed gearbox replaced the 4 speed Chrysler unit. A total of 7142 MkII cars were built.

1974 also saw the Interceptor Convertible introduced. 456 were built.

1975

Production of the Jensen GT started, most cars were trimmed in cord, but a few were trimmed in leather and even fewer in a blue patterned cloth. 509 vehicles were built.

1976

Saw the Jensen Factory and contents go in to liquidation. Jensen Parts and Service Ltd was set up in one small corner of the Kelvin Way Factory to keep Jensen’s on the road. The company proved so successful that in 1983 Ian Orford decided to re-start small scale production of the Interceptor. Between 1983 and 1992, 14 cars were built.

The rights to Jensen’s trademarks were brought with the company and it had a brief operation in Speke, Liverpool, England, from 1998 until 2002.

Under subsequent owners, a new version of the Jensen Interceptor was announced 2011. This was planned to bring back manufacturing of this new model to the former Jaguar Factory In Browns Lane, Country. Unfortunately, this did not happen

Then In 2015, a new company calling itself Jensen Group released a very professional press statement while announcing its intention of ultimately producing a brand new (rather than using donor cars) Interceptor. This car, with a probable launch date in 2017 will be called ‘Interceptor 2’.

In the interim, a bridge car will be produced, in very limited numbers and will carry the name ‘Jensen GT’. This car was to be developed in conjunction with JIA, Jensen International Automotive

he press release appears to have been very successful, being carried by most national and local newspapers together with motoring magazines and websites.

Nothing more was heard of it!!!