1972-1976 Jensen-Healey and Jensen GT

Though the Jensen-Healey and Jensen GT's predecessor sports car had been sent to the chopping block by its manufacturer, neither the car's namesake British designer nor its leading American dealer were content to take that lying down. It didn't take long for them to begin planning to make a successor, resulting in the 1972-1976 Jensen-Healey and Jensen GT.

1972 Jensen
In 1972, the Jensen-Healey began its four-year run.
See more pictures of Jensen-Healey cars.

Was the Jensen-Healey a success, or a failure? Do the nearly 11,000 cars produced count for anything -- or for nothing? Could the infamous first OPEC oil embargo be blamed for its death? Could, perhaps, the UK government? Or was this British sports car not good enough to survive against the new models flooding out of Japan? Some questions remain unanswered.

Although Jensen-Healeys were built for only about four years, there was a great deal of experience behind their birth. By the time the first car was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1972, Donald Healey had been famous for half a century, and Jensen itself had been building cars since 1935. But if it hadn't been for the first of many mistakes made by British Leyland planners in 1968, the Jensen-Healey might never have been born.

The day after British Leyland's boss, Donald Stokes, told Donald Healey that he was going to kill off the Austin-Healey marque, the amazing old Cornishman decided to start up again. He was already 70 years old, but so what? He didn't know how and he didn't know where, but he wanted to carry on building cars.

So, too, did Kjell Qvale, a native of Norway whose San Francisco business --British Motor Car Distributors -- had sold more Austin-Healeys than any other in the USA. Without Austin-Healeys to sell, there would be a big gap in his showrooms. It didn't take long for the two to get together and map out their future.

By 1970, Healey and Qvale had found an ideal opportunity, one that came with a strong Austin-Healey connection. Jen­sen Motors, of West Bromwich, England, which had produced all the "big Healey" body/chassis structures for BMC from 1953 to 1967, was up for sale.

Company founders Alan and Richard Jensen both retired in 1966, amid some acrimony with their successors regarding future product plans. Subsequently, Jen­sen built its own Chrys­ler V-8-powered Interceptor coupes in small numbers, but had also prospered by making the Austin-Healey shells and building Sunbeam Tigers for export to the USA.

However, by 1968, with both those contracts gone, Jensen was in big financial trouble, and an offer from the Qvale/Healey team was accepted with relief. With Qvale as the new majority stock holder, Donald Healey became chairman. Alf Vickers (later to join Cos­worth) became managing director and CEO. Vickers had already been involved in Jensen affairs as a consultant to the bankers who sold the majority stake to Qvale.

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