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1972-1976 Jensen-Healey and Jensen GT

Settling the Design for the Jensen-Healey and Jensen GT

Although it was Qvale's money which shored up production of the Jensen-Healey and Jensen GT, he left development of a new car to the Healey family, and to Kevin Beattie, a company employee since 1960 who was by now Jensen's chief engineer.

While everyone involved agreed that the new sports car should be a two-seat roadster and that it should be at least as fast as the Austin-Healey 3000 had been, it took ages to get the style settled and to decide on the running gear.

1974 Jensen
Designing the Jensen-Healey was a
large-scale collaborative effort.

Although Jensen was determined to make its own unit-body structures, using a multitude of small pressings supplied from nearby contractors, it would have to buy in all the running gear. At first, the intention was to use engines, transmissions, and suspensions from Vauxhall, General Motors' British subsidiary. That idea soon foundered, as the ohc 2.0-liter Vauxhall engine was not powerful enough, and the change quality of the gearbox was awful.

Beattie and Geoff Healey -- Donald's son and a member of the Jensen management board -- then spent a great deal of time running round Europe's motor industry, looking for an alternative before settling on the brand-new Type 907 16-valve dohc 2.0-liter (120-cid) four from Lotus.

Even in fully detoxed form (the 8.4:1 compression ratio was low enough to accept unleaded fuel), it looked good for an SAE net 140 bhp, which guaranteed a top speed of nearly 120 mph. As in Lotus models like the Esprit, which followed, it was installed in the car at a 45-degree angle. To match it, Jensen adopted the close-ratio Chrysler-UK gearbox from the Sun­beam Rapier H120, a smart Barracuda-like fastback coupe sold in the U.S. in 1969-70 as the Sunbeam Alpine.

Jensen did retain the Vauxhall front and rear suspensions. That included front wishbones with coil springs, and rear trailing links with coils. Steering was by unboosted rack and pinion; brakes consisted of power-assisted Girling discs in front and drums at the rear.

There were several attempts to settle the body style. The first shape came from Hugo Poole, and a revised version followed from William Towns (more famous for his work with Aston Martin). With an eye toward exports, the U.S. government's regulations on the size and placement of bumpers and lighting very much figured in stylists' plans.

Several different front ends and tails were built before the final, rather anodyne, style was adopted. Ultimately, a "grilleless" look was used, with a sloping engine hood and headlamp shells tapering to a compulsory energy-absorbing bumper. (Radiator cooling air was inducted from below.) The flanks were smooth. Though built on a 92-inch wheelbase that matched that of the Austin-Healey it replaced, the Jensen-Healey body was several inches longer and wider.

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