1966-1991 Jensen Interceptor

1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 Jensen Interceptor
The big news for the early-1970s Jensen Interceptor was that there was a second, more potent model, the SP, here a 1972.
The big news for the early-1970s Jensen Interceptor was that there was a second, more potent model, the SP, here a 1972.

The 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, and 1973 Jensen Interceptor would sell, and in numbers far above those of most Italian rivals, though early prospects didn't seem all that promising. In the late 1960s, Jensen seemed to be in continuous trouble of one sort or other -- if not financial, it was strikes; if not strikes, it was quality problems.

By this time, the aging Jensen brothers had sold out to a conglomerate holding company called Norcros, which was quite capable of sustaining occasional losses. Trouble was, Jensen Motors was losing money with alarming regularity.

On top of this now came the sizable expense of putting the new Interceptor and FF into production, aggravated by the end of Jensen's last two body contracts (for the Tiger and A-H 3000). The only real way to improve the bottom line was to improve sales, yet the big new GTs were initially set to be built at a combined rate of only 200 a year, which was far from enough.

Seeking to avoid disaster, the Jensen board hired Carl Duerr in 1968 to help straighten things out. In a way, he did. Within months he arranged to sell the firm to merchant bankers William Brandt, Sons, and Company, Limited. But he also managed to boost Jensen output to 506 units in calendar 1968 -- a better than twofold increase -- followed by 644 in 1969, the year the 1,000th Interceptor was built (in August).

With triple two-barrel carbs, the 1972 Jensen Interceptor SP's Chrysler 440 V-8 packed 385 horsepower.

Another 594 cars were completed in 1970, when a new savior appeared in the person of Kjell Qvale, a prime U.S. West Coast purveyor of British cars from MG to Jaguar to Rolls-Royce.

Qvale quickly moved to bolster faith in Jensen Motors, making Alfred Vickers -- of the famed British aero-engine family -- his managing director. Even more heartening for enthusiasts, he installed world-renowned sports-car builder Donald Healey on the Jensen board.

Because Qvale had sold a lot of Healey 3000s, he naturally saw a lower-priced, higher-volume Jensen sports car as the best route to prosperity. Indeed, he had agreed to take over at West Bromwich only if Healey and his son Geoff would design a new two-seat roadster for Jensen to sell.

Autocar magazine ran one 1972 Jensen Interceptor SP from 0-60 in 6.9 seconds and topped out at an impressive 143 mph.

The result emerged in 1972 with four-cylinder GM/Vauxhall-derived power, making it a sort of latterday Austin-Healey 100. Called the Jensen-Healey, it's another story altogether.

Meantime, sales of the big Interceptor and FF continued to climb despite inflationary pressures at home and abroad, plus the extra production burden of the new Jensen-Healey. The combined 1971 big Jensen total was 808, followed by 1,043 for calendar 1972, and 1,253 in 1973.

Of course, the Interceptor still accounted for the vast majority of these sales, no surprise given its lower price and virtually identical appearance compared to the FF. Indeed, the four-wheel-drive model had been canceled at the end of 1971, a victim of minuscule sales that made modifying it for looming U.S. safety standards uneconomic. More surprising, perhaps, was that the Interceptor was selling better than ever despite its well-known tendency to early rusting, a trait shared with the FF.

Although the basic Interceptor/FF design would not see any fundamental alteration for a decade, a good many detail changes were made, and were always applied to both models at the same time. Power steering became an option effective with October 1967 production and was made standard equipment in 1968. Mark II versions arrived in October 1969 with larger fuel tanks; standard radial tires, replacing biasplys; and newly optional air conditioning, a belated concession to the important U.S. market.

To learn about the next generation of Jensen Interceptors, the Mark III, continue to the next page.

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