Saturday 24th August 2019,
Inopian

Jensen Motors 1934 – 1976: The Unsung Hero of Automotive History

The Jensen brothers, Alan and Richard, were working for W.J. Smith Coach-builders when, in 1934, the proprietor died. Funded by their father the brothers took over the company and re-named it Jensen Motors. The business involved building bespoke bodies for various different manufacturers.

One early project of note was a `one-off` special built on a US Ford chassis for the actor Clark Gable in 1934. Also in that year they built their first car, the `White Lady` which went into production in 1935 as the `S type`. In 1938 they began manufacturing small and mid-range trucks and buses under the name JNSN. During WWII Jensen manufactured ambulances and fire-engines.

In 1946 Jensen released the PW, a luxury saloon although very few were made. In the same year the brothers were joined by Eric Neale, Wolseley`s designer, who went to work on a new project, released in 1950, the Interceptor Coupe.

Jensen 541 by Gust

Jensen 541 by Gust

Eric Neale`s masterpiece was the Jensen 541, launched in 1955, featuring a glass-fibre body-shell. In 1962 Jensen launched the C-V8 with a Chrysler V8 motor. The power-to-weight ratio was exceptional, making the C-V8 coupe one of the fastest GTs in the world.

1966 was a year of change. The Jensen brothers sold out to Jensen`s majority shareholder and went into retirement. The new owner, Kjell Qvalle, was an American businessman with a large Jensen concession in California. In the same year the Jensen Interceptor was launched and enjoyed great success.

Styled by Carrozzeria Touring of Italy it was available as a convertible, a coupe and the most popular version, the fast-back. The first Interceptor bodies were made by Vignale in Italy but later cars had British-built bodies.

Late in 1966 the Jensen `FF` was launched. It used the Ferguson Formula permanent four-wheel-drive system. This was the first time it had been seen on a road vehicle, and it was revolutionary. The `FF` closely resembled the Interceptor but was, in fact, six inches longer. The `FF` also debuted ABS braking, the Dunlop Maxaret system.

In 1968 Donald Healey joined Jensen and by 1970 he became the chairman. In 1972 Jensen produced the Jensen-Healey sports-car and in 1975, just prior to the company`s closure, launched the Jensen GT, a GT/estate-car based on the Jensen-Healey. Jensen Motors closed it`s doors for the last time in 1976.

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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.

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