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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK


Jensen's marque of distinction

Jensen: Flying the flag for luxury sports cars

The name Jensen has long been to motoring what Saville Row is to tailoring - classics like the Jensen Interceptor are renowned as the gentleman's jam jar of choice.

The famously beefy, handcrafted cars were however sadly never able to stand up to the rough and tumble of the sports car market.

The company, established by brothers Alan and Richard Jensen in 1935, twice went under.

A West Midlands company is reviving the marque, aiming to build 600 of the new Jensen S-V8s with a pricetag of £40,000.

[ image: The new S-V8]
The new S-V8
If the company - headed by former Rolls-Royce boss Graham Morris - is a success, it will recreate part of Britain's sometimes troubled motoring legend.

Jensen's belief in styling and innovation was never a suitable talisman to ward off hard times.

It was the first European motor manufacturer to cram a throaty V8 engine from America under one of its lovingly finished bonnets.

The company also pioneered the use of anti-lock brakes, non-rust plastic bodywork and introduced the world's first four-wheel-drive sports car.

The Jensen Director was conceived as a mobile office for the style-conscious executive.

Complete with typewriter, TV set and radio telephone, the 1969 car seemed like something straight out of a James Bond film.

Despite Euro-styling to rival the great names of motoring, such as Aston Martin, Maserati and Lamborghini, Jensen's insistence on "American" performance proved fatal.

Petrol guzzling engines made driving Jensens a less attractive proposition than gazing at them adoringly through the showroom window.

[ image: The cheapest way to drive the thirsty Jensen]
The cheapest way to drive the thirsty Jensen
The oil crisis of the 1970s ended the party for the Jensen and probably its best known model, the Interceptor.

Although the brothers had used the name before, it was the 1966 version of the Interceptor which was to become to Jensen what the E-Type was to Jaguar.

Accomplished stylists themselves, Alan and Richard Jensen handed the task of designing the Interceptor to Alfredo Vignale - famed for his work with Lancia and Maserati.

With the release of the 1966 Interceptor, the Jensen brothers retired from the industry.

Their swansong product proved an instant hit, with the great and the good eager to slip behind the wheel of the luxury vehicle.

Sir Cliff Richard, Sweeney star John Thaw and ex-heavyweight champ Henry Cooper have all owned Interceptors.

Comedian Eric Morecambe reputedly had his first heart attack in one and convinced a passer-by to chauffeur him to hospital in it.

[ image: Roger Moore as The Saint with his Jensen-built Volvo P1800]
Roger Moore as The Saint with his Jensen-built Volvo P1800
Such celebrity endorsements did see Jensen resurrected in 1983, but the economic slump of the early 1990s caused even this limited production to cease.

Though much loved by car enthusiasts, Jensen has always enjoyed a more discreet profile than its contemporaries.

Not for Jensen were the vulgar film and TV appearances afforded to Aston Martin and Jaguar.

Indeed when Roger Moore found himself in Jensen heaven for 100 episodes of the cult TV show The Saint, the car was actually badged as a Volvo.

The low-slung Volvo P1800 of the early 1960s was built not in Sweden, but by the craftsmen of West Bromwich.

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12 Oct 99 | The Company File
Jensen roars back to life

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