Grand touring cars are the luxury equivalent of the supercar. Cars like the magnificent Ferrari 365 Daytona are a perfect example of the GT class. They are performance automobiles with 2+2 seating, remarkable handling, supercar speed, opulent interiors, and a colossal price tag. They are driven by the rich, the famous, and the well manicured titans of industry who own private tax shelters, and mega yachts. GT cars include the Ferrari 500 Superfast, the Lamborghini 350 and 400GT, the Maserati 3500, my own Jaguar XJ-S, and the eternally reborn – Jensen Interceptor.
The Interceptor was, and is, the quintessential British GT car of the 60’s and 70’s. It is a true “gentleman’s carriage” and was driven by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Cher, Roger Daltry, Ginger Baker, Farrah Fawcett, Princess Anne, and John Bonham (he had seven). The Interceptor had everything a person of good breeding could buy: Italian style, British class, and American muscle.
Jensen Motors was a small coachbuilder in England started by Richard and Alan Jensen. They were celebrated for producing custom bodies on cars like Morris, Singer, and Wolseley. In 1934, they created their first production car, called the “White Lady.” It was a beautiful touring car reminiscent of the Jaguar SS-100, and eventually evolved into the Jensen S-Type in 1935. It was a great first effort, though Jensen made the bulk of their money building busses and trucks.
When it came time for Jensen’s second car, they developed a bulky coupe based around Austin components, and called it the Interceptor. Made from steel, wood, and aluminum, and with an unusual wrap around plastic (Perspex) rear window, the car was an unsightly addition to the automotive world. Only 88 were made. Eventually Jensen picked up production from other makers, and built more stylish cars like the Sunbeam Tiger, The Volvo P1800 and the Austin Healy 100.
In 1966, Jensen created the next generation Interceptor, a true grand touring class car. It was designed by Carrozzeria Touring of Italy (the people who patented Superleggera construction methods), bodied by Vignale of Italy, equipped with a US Chrysler 440 engine, and finished out in West Bromwich England. The large wrap around rear window doubled as a tailgate, and the car came equipped with every luxury imaginable at the time. One year later the Jensen Interceptor FF (Ferguson Formula) arrived, and became the first production car to have four wheel drive, as well as anti lock brakes and traction control. The FF is actually 4 inches longer than the regular Interceptor, and can be identified by the dual side vents ahead of the doors on the front flanks.
The Mark I versions had beautiful Italian styled interiors, with a body design based on the Brazilian made Brasinca Uirapuru. The Uirapuru featured the same curved rear window and a squared front end. Though its styling wasn’t as refined as the Interceptor, many of the design cues were copied. Only 73 examples of the Uirapuru were ever made.
In 1969, Jensen introduced the Mark II, with revised styling and upgraded mechanics. The Mark III was introduced just two years later, and divided into G, H, and J series. The J series was the most luxurious Jensen ever built, and cost $25,000 for the convertible in 1976, three times as much as a new Corvette. The car featured a monstrous 7.2L V-8 engine and upgraded interior and mechanicals. This power and luxury forever cemented the reputation of Jensen Motors as an elite automaker.
Over the years, Jensen was plagued with financial difficulties and spent over 25 years in receivership. The company changed hands several times, and eventually was laid to rest in 1976. The Interceptor, however, refused to die. It was resurrected in 1980, 1988, 1993, 2007, 2009 and remains in a state of quasi-production today. Companies like V-Eight Limited and Jensen International Automotive will take an aging Interceptor, and breathe new life into it with a modern drive train, suspension, new paint and a bespoke leather interior – but it will cost about $148,000 dollars.
The Jensen Interceptor is a classic GT automobile, one that reeked of style, performance and luxury. It has always been one of my favorite cars, and I consider it an icon. In Britain, It is to the 1970’s as Twiggy is to the 1960’s. Like the Ferrari 365 Daytona, it has a style and look all its own. Though Jensen Motors has come and gone, and come and gone several more times over the years, the Interceptor is still with us, and like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard,” it refuses to die.
Article courtesy of Chris Raymond
Photos courtesy of Jensen International, Wikipedia, Greatescapecars.uk, Onlycarsandcars.blogspot