The Healey-Qvale Divorce
When Kjell Qvale bought Jensen in 1970 and started work on Jensen-Healeys and Jensen GTs, he had issued shares to the Healey family, assuring them that the company would eventually go public and that they would become truly wealthy. This, in fact, never happened; Donald Healey eventually quarreled with Qvale and finally relinquished the chair in 1974.
The Jensen GT was unveiled in Britain in July 1975.
As Brian Healey wrote, "The association with Qvale ended unhappily, in certain respects. It might be expected that DMH would have been extremely bitter over this let-down, but not a bit of it. He had had bigger knocks in the past, and he was, above all, a fighter. He took it all very philosophically, and determined that he was going to get another car on to the road." This, in fact, explains why the final development of the car, a high-speed sport wagon version along the same lines as the Volvo 1800ES and Lancia Beta HPE, was badged purely as a Jensen.
The Jensen GT, as it was called, was aimed at a different type of customer. Heavier and better trimmed than the roadster, the GT used most of the original basic bodyshell -- including the blunt rear panel -- to which a compact "estate car" cabin with a top-hinged hatch rear window had been added. The new interior trim was more luxurious than before, with a full-width slab of tree wood for an instrument panel, along with a new and more-logical layout of dials and switches. Electric window-lifts were standard; there were tiny rear seats into which willing children could crawl; and there was more padding and plush for door trims, seats, and stowage areas. An electric sunroof and leather seat upholstery could be ordered.
The Jensen GT was unveiled in Britain in July 1975, when its retail price of £4198 compared badly with the £3,130 asked for a Jensen-Healey roadster. (The U.S. port-of-entry price of $9,975 for the GT was a far cry from the $4,795 charged for the first Jensen-Healey roadster just a few years before.)
For that very simple reason, it was an interesting idea that failed. Few drivers were willing to spend considerably more for a closed car with added weight, reduced acceleration (by almost a full second to 60 mph and half a second in the quarter-mile), and two tiny extra seats.
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