Rust is a concern, almost as if the factory took perverse pride in building the most horribly corrosion-prone bodies
The 1970s have been called "the decade without quality control," and alas, the Jensen-Healey was a product of that era. While it should have taken the sports car world by storm, much the same way that the Datsun 240Z swept aside mediocre competition like the MGB-GT and Triumph GT6, instead the Jensen-Healey was gone in just three years. It was a better car than most of its British contemporaries, and it deserved a better fate. The car has its genesis in the late '60s, when Kjell Qvale, noted British car importer and then-owner of the West Bromwich-based Jensen firm, enlisted the help of Donald and Geoffrey Healey to fill a perceived gap left by the demise of the Austin-Healey 3000 in late 1967. The resultant Jensen-Healey bowed in March 1972, following the standard practice of swiping as many volume-production sedan components as possible. Front suspension came from the estimable Vauxhall Firenza and the four-speed gearbox was a Chrysler U.K. product. The engine, however, was a new Lotus 907, a 2.0-liter, 16-valve, alloy four-cylinder with a novel cogged belt driving twin overhead camshafts. After decades of cast iron pushrod lumps, a modern powerplant in a mid-priced British sports car was a revelation. Even fitted with twin Zenith-Strombergs in emissions trim, the engine produced 144 hp, 35 more than the Triumph TR6's 2.5-liter six-cylinder. Unfortunately, the engine testers (alternatively known as "customers") discovered, much to their chagrin, the engine's propensity for prematurely eating timing belts and tensioner bearings. The results were predictably dire, with valves meeting pistons and such. In all fairness, however, the Lotus 907 was among the first interference-type engines with a timing belt, and the notion that these had to be changed regularly was probably not ingrained in most owners or service providers. Adding insult to injury, the slant of the engine meant that when the inevitable cam-cover leaks developed, gravity conspired to direct the errant petroleum straight onto the hot exhaust manifold. The resulting smoke and smell made driving a Jensen-Healey a lot like following an asphalt paving truck. But road testers universally praised the Jensen-Healey as an excellent handler. Its rear axle was live, but its four-link location meant that it behaved quite well most of the time. Road & Track even pitted one against the vaunted BMW 2002 tii and found that while the cars were evenly matched in a straight line (both cars did 0-60 mph in around 9.5 seconds), the Brit scampered away from the Bavarian in the corners, in spite of the Bimmer's more sophisticated independent rear suspension. Owing to the short production run, lasting until just 1976, changes to the Jensen-Healey were few. Some new colors, a less austere interior, impact bumpers on post-1974 cars, and a five-speed Getrag gearbox on the last cars about sums it up. An odd wagon-esque fixed-head coupe was offered as simply the Jensen GT, mercifully dying along with the whole firm in 1976. The appalling quality of early examples and they styling perceived as bland quickly tainted the Jensen-Healey, and the car's reputation never recovered. As is so often the case, however, committed aftermarket suppliers can offer fixes for most factory gaffes and a well-sorted Jensen-Healey can be a really satisfying sports car. Delta Motorsports in Phoenix ( has long been in the business of catering to owners of Jensen-Healeys and Interceptors, and is the place to start when improving or restoring these cars. Mechanical issues center mainly on the Lotus engine. Stock timing belts should be changed every 18,000 miles or after two or three years, and timing belt tensioner bearings should be changed at the same time. An upgraded timing belt and adjustable pulley gears are available from Dave Bean Engineering ( for about $300, and these should last 30k-40k miles. If no receipts are present for a belt change, do it, as it's cheap insurance. Rubber cam cover gaskets are also available to take care of those annoying leaks. Finally, beware of burned valves and bad head gaskets. Even more so than most old cars, rust is a concern with a Jensen-Healey, almost as if the factory took perverse pride in building the most horribly rust-prone bodies. Certainly, it was part of Jensen's heritage, as Interceptors have the same reaction to moisture as an Alka-Seltzer tablet. This means that even Jensen-Healeys that have lived all their lives in the California desert are often found with floor rust, which is no laughing matter as this is a structural part of the car. As for the styling, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but at the worst the Jensen-Healey is inoffensive. In the right color-darker colors tend to hide the rubber bumpers-a Jensen-Healey can look quite handsome. Its long, slim profile and Kamm tail are somewhat reminiscent of a TR6, but the Jensen-Healey is a much better car. More comfortable seats, a wider, roomier interior, stiffer unibody construction, a better-controlled ride, and a modern engine make it no contest. Why, then, are Jensen-Healey values about half that of a comparable TR6? A nice Jensen-Healey can be bought with enough change left from $10,000 to purchase upgrades such as 14- or 15-inch Panasport or Revolution wheels, modern rubber, and twin Weber or Dell'Orto carbs. Add sway bars and lowering springs and you can even go Miata hunting with confidence. But old reputations simply die hard. The collector car world is littered with potentially excellent cars that gained bad reputations when new, and while specialists often develop fixes, the word rarely seems to get out to the public. Thus fear of problems and general obscurity have kept Jensen-Healey values low. Several years ago, offering anyone money for a Jensen-Healey was like offering to lance a boil, and the best one on the planet could be had for $4,500. Lately, however, it appears that prices are on the upswing. Now it takes about $7,500 to bring home a nice Jensen-Healey, still just mediocre MGB money. I'll take mine in black.

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