At a time when a Corvette cost just $8,000, convertible Interceptors were $25,000. It's no wonder Jensen Motors Ltd. bit the dust.


In 1931 brothers Alan and Richard Jensen opened a coachwork factory in West Bromwich, U.K., which supplied many British car manufacturers. Four years later, they built the first Jensen on a Wolseley Hornet chassis. Edsel Ford was enthused at the car and authorized the sale of a Ford V8 for fitting in the "White Lady," as the car was known.

Jensen would continue to use American powerplants on through the Interceptor of 1966. The cabriolet version on offer here was one of the few built, fitted with a 7.2-liter V8 Chrysler motor. Despite the extraordinary quality of these automobiles, Jensen went bankrupt in 1976.

This is a 1975 Mark III model equipped with its original Chrysler engine and a high-performance, three-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission. Restoration was completed in December 2003. The Jensen is presented in bright red with a Connolly Havana leather interior, Reuters power seats, an electric top and air conditioning. The odometer reads 36,153 miles.

This rare and elegant cabriolet should be considered a masterpiece, with its original Italian Vignale coachwork, its simple American mechanicals, and a measure of British savoir faire.

SCM Analysis


This Jensen Interceptor Mark III Convertible sold for $30,771, including buyer’s premium, at the Artcurial Briest Poulain Le Fur auction held in Paris on February 15, 2004.

There have been many attempts to combine straightforward and reliable U.S. drivetrains with stylish European coachwork. Shelby Cobras achieved iconic status, but Panteras, Tigers, Isos, Bizzarinis, and Griffiths didn’t fare as well. While American iron indeed offers great power, massive blocks are also a heavy impediment to building a true sports car. Perhaps realizing this, Jensen set out to build the Interceptor as a high-speed touring GT.

The Interceptor saloon, with its signature curved-glass hatchback, was referred to as a “gentleman’s express” by journalists of the period. It was a separate model altogether from the convertible, and designed for the affluent businessman who desired comfortable and reliable transportation during the week, but one with enough clout (and cargo capacity) for weekend jaunts to his favorite country club.

Any of the three series of closed Interceptors accomplished this well, but at a cost. In 1975 an Interceptor with a Chrysler 383-ci V8 cost $16,000. The SP (six pack), with its three two-barrel Holley carburetors mounted on a 440-ci V8, and the FF (Ferguson Formula), the first car with all-wheel-drive and anti-lock brakes, were even more expensive. Convertibles were built between 1974-1976 in Series III form only, and at $25,000 their price was even more absurdly high, at a time when a Corvette cost just $8,000. It’s no wonder Jensen Motors Ltd. bit the dust in May 1976, Arab oil embargo or not.

Convertibles were built in limited numbers, totaling only 507 of the 6,407 Interceptors built. Every convertible carried the Chrysler 440, producing 220 hp at 4,700 rpm. This made performance brisk for its day, with 0-60 mph taking 7.6 seconds and the quarter-mile going by in 15.8, nearly equal to that of BMW’s 3.0CSi. Top speed was 126 mph, certainly suitable for effortless Continental touring duty. However, at 4,000 pounds, it’s a good thing that four-wheel Girling disc brakes were standard.

The Interceptor had an aesthetically pleasing and ergonomic dash layout, referred to as the “Qvale” wood dash, after Kjell Qvale, the company’s major shareholder. In late 1974 this design was abandoned for a layout with the gauges grouped into a central binnacle, like in our subject Interceptor Mark III, and subtle changes were made to the anodized pot-metal headlight doors.

Owning and caring for a Jensen isn’t difficult. As expected, the drivetrain is a fairly simple affair with most everything readily available at the neighborhood NAPA store-although probably not cross-listed as Jensen parts. More esoteric stuff, essentially everything not manufactured by Chrysler, is available through two U.S. supply houses dedicated to the marque.

Dings and dents, on the other hand, are difficult to correct since access to the inner side of the body panels is limited. Therefore body repairs on Jensens tend to be poorly done and usually just exacerbate the original problem. The original paint was a cellulose-based lacquer, and as such, any respray that was not taken down to bare metal will not bond properly.

If you’re looking for an Interceptor, be wary of sagging front suspensions. Vertical links are known to wear if maintenance intervals were ignored. The same is true to a lesser extent for the rear leaf springs.

Check for rust along the edges of the doors, wheel arches and hood hinges. If the car was ever improperly put on a lift, a sheet metal flange underneath can open up, exposing the door side-members to the elements.

Take the time to check each of the rocker switches on the dash, preferably simultaneously while the car is at a warm idle. British cars have never been known for the quality of their electrics, and Interceptors are no exception. The addition of halogen headlights and aftermarket stereos can tax the otherwise satisfactory 60-amp alternator.

When new, this hand-built car was assembled to a high standard and displayed quality workmanship, so don’t be swayed by a seller who insists that defects are part of the “Interceptor mystique.”

According to the VIN prefix, the Jensen Interceptor pictured here was originally exported to North America. While it appears to be in average driving condition, it’s worth noting that a recent respray, in “resale red,” was not only not a factory color, but also may be hiding further issues, as there was some rust evident.

We see few Jensens cross the block and fewer actually sell. A #3 condition 1975 convertible sold for $21,730 at Barrett-Jackson in January 2000 and, surprisingly, a 1974 #2 was a no-sale at $54,000 in Australia last year-all the money in the world for an Interceptor. Convertible Jensens are handsome and don’t share any of the quirkiness of the saloon’s styling, so they demand an even higher premium than open cars of other some marques. (By comparison, a 1976 coupe is currently advertised in our local Portland, OR, newspaper for just $8,000.)

With a dearth of comparables to adequately judge the market, let’s just say this car was fully priced for condition, and while it offers some unique visual panache coupled with easy horsepower, it isn’t a marque or model that’s destined to be at the top of anyone’s flavor-of-the-month club list any time soon.-David Slama

(Photos, historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

Comments are closed.