The Nostalgia of Forgotten Gods: Jensen, UK, 1931-1976

  • 11 May 2024
  • 3 min read
  • 4 images
The Nostalgia of Forgotten Gods: Jensen, UK, 1931-1976 image

Photo credit: Brightwells, Car & Classic, RM Sotheby’s, Wheelsage

Although the history of Jensen Motors Ltd started in England in 1931, it took a few years for the first Jensen-branded car to be released: The S-Type, a convertible equipped with a Ford V8 engine. The outbreak of war, however, necessitated an abrupt change of plans for the newly formed company, which focused on the development of military and amphibious vehicles.

The Nostalgia of Forgotten Gods: Jensen, UK, 1931-1976 - 1 Jensen built its first car from 1934 to 1936 called the S-Type and equipped it with a Ford V8 engine.

After the conflict ended, the Jensen brothers introduce a new model called PW (Post War) that was produced from 1946 to 1952 mainly in sedan configuration, but was also offered as a convertible. Production numbers, however, remained low with less than 20 units per year. There was a need for a shake-up that despite the introduction of two more models, namely the 1950 Interceptor and 1953 541, did not happen due to the fact that sales failed to take off.

Jensen changed ownership in 1959 with the brothers Richard and Alan greatly downsizing their roles and with the company capitalizing on its expertise in bodywork by signing a deal to produce the bodies of the Sunbeam Tiger, Austin A40, Austin Healey 100 and Volvo P1800. A move that only seemed to be a lucky one.

The Nostalgia of Forgotten Gods: Jensen, UK, 1931-1976 - 2 In 1962 Jensen switched to Chrysler engines with the CV8 being produced in around 350 units.

In the meantime, he continued designing his own models. In 1962 the CV8 with Chrysler 8-cylinder engine debuted, which was produced in about 350 units, including the innovative FF version equipped with all-wheel drive. The turning point for Jensen came in 1965 with the launch of the second series of the Interceptor, which was very different from the previous model thanks to the body design created by Touring Superleggera and immediately appreciated by the public. The new version of the Interceptor won the Car of the Year award in 1966 and over 6,500 units were produced.

The Nostalgia of Forgotten Gods: Jensen, UK, 1931-1976 - 3 The biggest success for Jensen was the second series of the Interceptor with bodywork designed by Touring Superleggera.

However, the dream of a definite upswing was short-lived: In the late 1960s, Healey and Volvo's bodywork orders were not renewed sending the British manufacturer into financial crisis. An attempt to save the company was undertaken by Kjell Qvale, Jensen's official California dealer, who became the majority shareholder and appointed Donald Healey as CEO. The plan was to create a new car under the Jensen-Healey name, which was eventually released in 1972.

The car, however, lacked the appeal of the famous 100 and the quality that had become standard for British sports cars. The oil crisis of the following year also complicated matters. A final attempt was made in 1975 with the introduction of the GT model, a shooting-brake version of the Jensen Healey. This, however, turned out to be the coup de grâce for the British brand, which closed its doors in May 1976. The market space for small manufacturers became increasingly smaller and the fate of the romanticized brands was largely sealed.

The Nostalgia of Forgotten Gods: Jensen, UK, 1931-1976 - 4 After the company's financial crisis in the late 1960s, the final attempt to revive Jensen Healey was unfortunately unsuccessful.