The Jensen Interceptor
Author: Mike Billmore
Jensen Interceptor 'The Italian Car'
Shown at the October 1966 Earls Court Motor Show alongside the technically advanced 4 wheel drive FF, the Touring of Milan designed Interceptor was quite a sensation and received much praise. The fact Jensen had in the space of a year produced two completely new models was also outstanding, particularly as the two companies involved in the project were 680 miles apart. The original design penned by Touring of Milan was taken to Vignale of Turin who had the capability to produce the car in much higher numbers than Touring. Fully trimmed and painted bodyshells were delivered from Italy for assembly at West Bromwich by October 1966.
Both new cars had the 330 bhp Chrysler 383ci (6276cc) V8 engine and Torqueflite 3 speed automatic gearbox as fitted to the previous C-V8 and shared body panels from the front A-pillars back, the chassis of each car were however quite different. The Interceptor was originally a modification of the successful C-V8 chassis, the FF model was heavily modified with a different main tube arrangement to accept the 4 wheel drive system also being 4” longer. Whereas the body on the CV8 had been glass fibre, both the Interceptor and FF were of all steel construction. A new type of wheel was used, fully chrome plated 5J x 15” Rostyle wheels were fitted to both models.
Vignale and MkI Interceptor
The original cars built by Vignale in Italy required much work inside and out to meet the quality standard required by Jensen, eventually the contract was terminated and Jensen started producing the cars themselves at West Bromwich. There are many subtle differences on the early cars due to constant updating for production purposes and detailed records of changes were not kept up to date.
Mid 1969 the front suspension was redesigned replacing the king-pin type carried over from the C-V8 with independent, coil sprung, ball jointed wishbones, the lever arm dampers also being replaced with telescopic type. The twin piston Dunlop callipers front and rear were replaced with Girling triple piston types improving braking, radial tyres were fitted making the Interceptor even more sure footed than before and power steering was standard fitment.
For the October 1969 Motor Show a MkII version of the Interceptor and FF were displayed signalling the end of Vignale and MkI production with a total of 1033 produced.
The interior was stylish and obviously Italian - nothing had been seen like this before in the traditionally Britsh Jensen. On the left a very early Vignale-bodied car with many detail differences to the later West Bromwich-built cars. On the right the detail differences are plain to see, but additionally, this is a very rare manual-gearbox model.
Interceptor Mk II
Changes to the rear lights having a larger flatter area and no chrome trim although some early cars had the MkI lamps, new slimmer bumpers and flatter overriders, the front bumper being 2” higher with new indicators mounted beneath. Black trim around the headlamps as opposed to body colour with the chrome headlamp bezels removed and a remote opener for the rear hatch operated from within the driver’s door shut replacing the push button on the rear panel.
Many more improvements were introduced, the largest being a completely new interior. Totally different in appearance to the Italian styled MkI with new seats, centre console, dashboard incorporating a glovebox and air conditioning is now offered as an optional extra. The wheels changed, keeping with Rostyles now being 6J x 15” with a chrome centre section and a silver grey painted rim.
Sales figures coupled to the cost of manufacturing the FF led to a new model being introduced as the company flagship for the October 1971 Motor Show, the SP. The 383ci (6276cc) engine was replaced with a 440ci (7212cc) version from Chrysler in a very high state of tune incorporating three dual choke carburettors known in the USA as the “Six Pack”, hence the new model designation of SP. A high compression ratio of 10.3:1 required the use of five star fuel to develop the 385 bhp this engine was rated at, some 55 bhp more than the 330 bhp of the 383ci engine.
New 6.5J x 15” 5 spoke alloy wheels manufactured by GKN were fitted enabling the fitment of wider tyres and larger 10.75” ventilated discs with a dual circuit system. To make the SP stand out compared with lesser models a contrasting vinyl roof was standard plus two sets of louvres were punched in each side of the bonnet for three quarters of the length. The front bumper was altered losing the number plate mounting, the rear now had a single rear number plate lamp as opposed to two and cast aluminium surrounds made for the dual headlamps having tapered light apertures. Every optional extra was standard on the SP including the Lear-Jet Stereo 8 track tape player-radio and electric aerial. The interior was also updated having new seats and door panels, the centre console was restyled and the dashboard received two extra eyeball vents.
Performance figures gave the SP 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds, 0-100mph in 16.8 seconds and a top speed of 145mph.
Interceptor Mk III
With the introduction of the SP, the Interceptor gained the same interior and exterior treatment becoming the Interceptor MkIII. The GKN alloys and brakes were also added and the culmination of so many small details gave the whole car a fresher, more modern look compared with the previous models. The 383ci engine remained but as time went on Chrysler were having difficulty meeting emission regulations and the power output was dropping so 1973 saw the introduction of the 440cid engine with a single four barrel carburettor. This MkIII model was the most successful achieving the highest production figures of any Jensen at 3432.
When the motoring world were assuming US safety law would see the end of convertible cars, Jensen had in development a convertible with a hydraulically operated hood they released in March 1974. US safety law did not change leaving Jensen as one of the very few manufacturers with a luxury convertible on the market at a time when most others had ceased production and development. The convertible sold well with over 467 being sold during the next two years.
Very little chassis work was required to improve strength and rigidity, a new rear end was designed with a boot lid which lent itself well to the giving a very balanced look. The roof folded hydraulically at the push of a switch, continued pressure lowering the rear quarter windows down into the panels out of sight.
Interceptor Mk III S4
Visually a very similar car to the MkIII Interceptor except for badges, but numerous detail changes under the skin. Note the j-Badge on the rear deck now, on the Oatmeal example. A massive change to the interior came a few months later with the replacement of the moulded plastic dashboard and the introduction of a completely redesigned dash in leather-trimmed walnut. Matching walnut panels (previously an option) on the centre console were now standard.
Unveiled at the London Motor Show in October 1975, the Coupe used the convertible rear panel work, a Jaguar XJ6 rear screen and a roofline designed by Panther having a unique dark blue tinted panel behind the rear windows continuing across the roof. Only 54 were built as the company was in receivership and at the time there were 3 prototype fixed head cars utilising the standard Interceptor rear quarter windows with the XJ6 rear screen.
Jensen went into receivership in 1975, although they managed to trade until May 1976 at which point two new companies set up by Jensen owner Kjell Qvale took over, Jensen Special Products (which was basically Jensen’s engineering department) and Jensen Parts and Service (as the name suggests to continue to supply parts and service the cars).
Jensen Parts and Service was run by Ian Orford, who then bought the company in 1982. JP&S worked out of the old service department buildings and had carried out several full restorations and displayed a fully rebuilt Interceptor III at the 1983 Motor Show. This car was then rebuilt with the latest Chrysler 360 cubic inch (5.9 litre) engine and numerous other changes to become the first Interceptor S4. The company name was also changed to Jensen Cars Limited. These changes included new door handles to meet the latest safety standards, the wood dash from the last of the Interceptors carried over although this being the 80s a digital clock was fitted. The seats were electrically adjustable Recaros re-trimmed by Jensen. A redesigned lower valence was fitted including a discrete spoiler which was actually welded and leaded into the valence rather than some naff fibreglass extension. The headlamp surrounds were now of a flush fitting more modern design.
This is Tim Clark's Interceptor S4. Note the new front spoiler and door handles.
For more photographs see Studio 434's Interceptor S4 hard top
Jensen also offered owners the option to update their own car to S4 spec taking whichever elements they wanted, so you will see quite a few earlier cars with the S4 spoiler for example.
Ian Orford later decided to sell the company to a new owner, Hugh Wainwright, with the intention of larger scale production of a new Interceptor. The new company, the Jensen Car Company started to produce a prototype of a new design but alas the project was abandoned and the company went into receivership.