Right from the start, Qvale and Healey had aimed the Jensen-Healey at the USA, but when sales began in summer 1972, "new-car" development problems began to pile up. Lotus' engines were still underdeveloped, which ensured that there were plenty of oil leaks and heavy oil consumption. Build quality was not wonderful, either, so it was only the car's high performance and good handling that saved the day.
Early on, development problems hounded the
The exterior style, though rather plain, was well-received. Inside, there were plenty of dials, switches, and controls on the dash to keep dedicated Anglophiles busy behind the wheel. The fact that some of the early cars started rusting away within a year of manufacture was usually accepted with good humor.
Even Donald Healey's son, Brian, once wrote that "the soft-top mechanism was completely unacceptable." (Was it at this time that someone invented the bumper sticker that read "All the parts dropping off this car are of the finest British manufacture"?)
Even though it had an engine of only two-thirds the size of the last of the Austin-Healey 3000s, the Jensen-Healey was very fast. Several months after car's Geneva debut, Britain's weekly Autocar reported it capable of 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds, a standing quarter-mile sprint in only 16.2 seconds, and a top speed of 119 mph.
The magazine praised the Lotus engine for its flexibility and pulling power, and had good things to say about the Jensen's handling and the ride comfort of the all-coil suspension. In the States, Car and Driver hailed the car's speed, comfort, ease of maintenance, and affordability in its February 1973 issue.
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