Jensen Interceptor

Jensen Interceptor RSince the fall of the automotive industry in the UK, it seems all they have left to do is refurbish, update and modernise cars from their once illustrious manufacturers. A recent piece I wrote on a reincarnation of the Jaguar E-Type prompted some investigation into the concept and I found that there are numerous firms in the UK offering this service. One car in particular, however, caught my attention.

The Jensen Interceptor was first built in 1966 by Jensen Motors. It’s a proper British sports car; two doors, coupe shell, front engine, rear drive. This said, the car was also somewhat of a trend breaker for Jenson Motors, being the first from their stable to have a steel bodyshell, as oppose to glass-reinforced plastic.

A big volume Chrysler V8 was housed under the bonnet, 6.2 litres to be exact. This great lump of American iron produced 290 kW, all of which was channelled to the wheels via an automatic gearbox (a manual version was produced but is properly limited numbers). Unfortunately the underpinnings weren’t entirely designed to deal with the power on tap, reportedly making the Interceptor a wild ride, thanks in part to a live rear axle.

Having spent a good number of hours getting lost in the vastness of the interweb and its numerous photo galleries, I have to admit I think it’s a truly magnificent car. The big, long bonnet, clean lines and unusual wrap around rear window were penned by specialist design firm Carrozzeria Touring, of Italy. In fact the Interceptor was so cool it appeared in movies alongside Simon Templar in The Saint.

Unfortunately production of this icon ceased in 1976 – until now that is. In May 2010 Jensen International Automotive was set up with backing from Car Phone Warehouse (a popular electronics store in the UK) founder and chairman, Charles Dunstone. The company picked up where a few others left off to complete a limited production run of Interceptor S’s. The real gem however is the R; restored, remodelled and re-engineered by hand to suit the modern era, with all the glory of owning a 70’s icon.

Every car is stripped to its shell before being stabilised and remodelled to accommodate the subtle design changes such as the deeper front valance and modified side vents.

Then they throw away the old American lump and replace it with a General Motors LS3 V8 from the Corvette, which delivers an impressive 320 kW through either a 4-speed automatic or 6-speed manual gearbox.

All the archaic suspension and chassis technology is also ripped out to be replaced by a fully independent setup, developed specifically to fit the R. Finally the AP 6-pot braking system complements the additional engine power with appropriate control.

The Jensen Interceptor R is a true Grand Tourer. Lifted from its past and re-engineered to meet the demands of today’s motoring, it is powerful without being brash, luxurious without feeling cosseted, and most of all, uniquely hand-built for its owner – for approximately R1.2 million, I’d consider that a bargain.

Miles Downard
* First published in Autodealer KZN on 19 August 2011

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