The Interceptor fell from grace as quickly as fat sideburns, leisure suits,
razor-cut hair, and other artifacts of the '70s

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Jensen Interceptor cruised near the top of the food chain. It was an expensive, handmade gentleman's express built to blast across Europe at triple-digit speeds, powered by a lazy but unfussy Chrysler V8, like the Facel Vega a decade earlier.

By the time the 8-track music jammed during the fuel crisis (and the tape was flung out of the window), Jensen had produced 6,387 Interceptors in hatchback coupe (saloon), convertible, and notchback (coupe) form. After that, the Interceptor fell from grace as quickly as fat sideburns, leisure suits, razor-cut hair, and other artifacts of the '70s, never to regain its initial popularity, although the car was revived briefly as the Series IV.


The Interceptor made its debut at the 1966 London Motor Show. Vignale's Italian styling was a vast improvement over the grotesque CV8. Strangely, Jensen-which had built bodies for Sunbeam and Volvo-allowed Vignale to supply bodies for the first Interceptors, and virtually all of these cars have turned to rust.

Vignale did a creditable job of styling the massive Interceptor. The only controversial aspect was the huge fishbowl glass rear hatch. But even this has aged well, perhaps because the Porsche 924/944 picked up the feature and it no longer looks as odd.

At 4,000 lbs, the Jensen is no sports car, with a Chrysler autobox the only choice in the U.S. However, the 383-ci Interceptor II was plenty quick, with 330 hp, 425 ft-lbs of torque, and quoted 0-60 times of around 7 seconds. The 440-ci Interceptor IIIs lost considerable power to emissions and could only hit 0-60 in the high 9s. All Interceptors, however, sound great with two large angled exhausts.

The power steering rack was supplied by Adwest. Road feel is not up to the standards of ZF, but miles better than any Mopar muscle car of the era, as are the brakes-Dunlop four-wheel discs.


Jensen did a fine job of setting up the car to ride well and handle decently within limits. The rear axle is live and located by a Panhard rod. It's no match for tight corners on poor roads, but as a fast "grand routier" the Interceptor is extremely pleasant, prompting Road & Track to deem it one of the best cars in the world.

In keeping with their gentleman's express image, Interceptors were comfortable. According to factory literature, five whole cowhides were used inside every Interceptor. Polished walnut found its way onto the dash of the Interceptor III, and all cars came fully equipped with every period luxury, including air conditioning, 8-track stereo, electric windows, dual tone horns, and even little corduroy pillows that attached with Velcro to the headrests.

Aside from pollution regulations and the switch from the Chrysler 383 to the 440, changes during the production run were few. The upholstered dash of the Series II gave way to wood, and the Rostyle steel wheels were swapped for bespoke alloys in the Series III. One retrograde step was the loss of the handsome three-spoke drilled steering wheel in favor of a truly ugly wheel with a massive plain horn pad. It looks like it came from a Ford wagon, and was probably responsible for a spike in Nardi sales. The few late 1975 and '76 cars also sported a lower and larger dual bar bumper and a different dash design with still more wood.

1974 brought Jensen's first post-war convertible, if you don't count the unloved Jensen-Healey. It was undeniably good looking, and as a swaggering, 440-powered four-seater, it's a realistic (and reliable) alternative to an Aston Martin Volante V8. Removing the roof from the saloon also made possible the third Interceptor body-style-the odd coupe, a convertible with a fixed roof containing a fussy and useless targa-style bar. Few were produced and it shouldn't carry a premium over the glass back saloon. Two variants that should carry a premium, however, are the FF and the SP.


The FF (for Ferguson Formula) was advanced for its day, sporting both all-wheel drive and Dunlop Maxaret antilock brakes. FFs have a longer wheelbase and an extra side vent. When they do show up, they seldom bring more than $40,000. Interceptor SPs-Mopar-ese for "Six Pack," as in three two-barrel carburetors-were rated at over 350 hp and came with factory-louvered hoods.

Mechanically, Interceptors present no problems in either maintenance or restoration. Many parts are off the NAPA shelf. A surprising number of other bits can be sourced by Delta Motorsports (www.deltamotorsports
.com) in Phoenix, AZ. However, body panels, bumpers, and glass are expensive when available.

As for those body panels, sadly, Jensens are extremely rust-prone. Any spot is fair game, including under the stainless steel rocker panel trim. Wheel arches, floors, and even hoods and hatch surrounds are likely spots. Overall, panels should be fitted and finished to a high standard. These were handmade cars with bodywork that was finished with lead and numerous coats of hand-rubbed lacquer.

Besides rust, the biggest issues are worn suspension uprights and leaf springs, and cooling and electrical issues. Most of the time, in English cars, the latter can be traced to poor repairs, modifications by subsequent owners, or charging systems not up to the task. Interceptors, perhaps due to the myriad electrical accessories, did seem to have issues from new with setting themselves on fire-an extinguisher was installed in the trunk at the factory. Cooling issues can be addressed with uprated radiators, electric fans, and by louvering the hood.

Given the current state of the market, restoring an Interceptor is a labor of love. Resprays are bare metal affairs because most of them were originally finished in lacquer, incompatible with any other paint system. The bovine-intensive interior requires a quintet of cows per car, but many Jensen owners cheap out by using vinyl, which kills the character of the car, but spares the cud-chewers.


I'm frankly amazed that a really pedestrian Coronet R/T with a 440 can cost $40,000 and a 383 'Cuda is probably close to $80,000, while a 440 Interceptor saloon is less than $20,000. Even a convertible can be bought for about $30,000. Such Dodges and Plymouths were casually assembled production cars, built cheaply. Stopping and handling for them is theoretical at best.

A Jensen goes and sounds like a Mopar muscle car, but also stops and handles. Instead of slippery vinyl seats, crummy gauges, and cheap plastic dashes, you get Connolly leather, burled walnut, and real Smiths gauges. The difference is, of course that it was not lusted after by a generation of kids whose collecting strategy as adults is jammed in first gear, as they try to acquire the dream cars of their youth.

Strangely, Jensen Interceptors, forever derided as "hopeless" collectibles, may now be the last bastion of affordable Mopar muscle. (Lot #996, a straight but tired '74 Interceptor coupe, sold for $6,784 at Silver's Reno auction in August).

Honestly folks, a lousy 340 Duster will pull more at an auction than an Interceptor. Wake up. Has anyone noticed soaring Facel Vega prices lately? Don't say you weren't given a heads up.

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