1972 Jensen Interceptor III: The Iconoclast’s Aston Martin V8
What would happen if a niche British carmaker, who wasn’t even as mainstream as Aston Martin, wanted to make a large coupe in the classic grand touring tradition using a honking American V8 lump that was neither quick nor fast? And just to prove they were more nichey than Aston, what if they made their car funky looking well past the point of polarizing?
What if it looked like some large insect carrying its egg pouch on its tush?
There are several companies bringing old Jaguars up to modern specifications, updating the mechanical and electrical bits while keeping the original aesthetic charm. These cars drive like modern Jaguars while fooling you into thinking you’re cool by driving an old car. It’s beautiful magic, really.
Then there’s the company in England updating Jensen Interceptors. (This isn’t one of them, by the way.) They drop in a Corvette V8, diddle with the suspension and brakes, and then largely ignore the rest. Which is just great if you want to drive a British car from the 1970s.
I kind of do sometimes.
I was never the world’s most avid Interceptor fan. In high school I joined the Jensen Owners’ Club because I was convinced a Jensen-Healey was a fabulous idea. The high point of that car was the Lotus twin-cam four-cylinder engine. The Healey was neither pretty like an Alfa Romeo Spider nor reliable like a Datsun Fairlady Roadster. More often than not, the JOC newsletter would feature Interceptors, and I’d feel gipped.
I’ve since become somewhat enamored of the Interceptor. While I initially gravitated toward the convertible – because who wouldn’t? – I now find myself looking at the coupe, with its ridiculous glass bubble butt. This 1972 Interceptor Series III could be just the ticket.
Shockingly, a big thing with these cars is rust. This one is claimed to be rust free. The paint was resprayed 12 years ago and is starting to show some age in the form of blisters and cracks. Along the way it lost its vinyl roof, which is probably just as well. I highly doubt “Electric Green” was actually a Jensen color, but the seller says it’s close to the original shade. Besides, it absolutely looks the 70s.
Mechanically, the Chrysler 440 is sorted and runs well. With new electric fans it doesn’t overheat, even in its home state of Florida. The fact someone cut louvers into the hood may also have something to do with it. Some of the suspension, the transmission, and the alternator have been rebuilt.
Further, everything is said to work, including the clock and air conditioning. The interior looks fantastic, except for the horrid aftermarket steering wheel and Jensen (symmetry!) CD player. Luckily, the original radio with 8-track player is included. Appropriately, a fire extinguisher is mounted in the boot.
I’m not really sure what I would do with a car like this. Despite being a hatchback, the rear seat doesn’t fold down so trunk space is actually limited. The aforementioned honking V8 gets lousy mileage, but doesn’t go very fast (a modern Dodge 6.1-liter Hemi would fix that). And it’s a British car from the 1970s, with everything that implies about build quality.
Still there’s a lot – indeed probably too much – I like about this car. Despite the relative lack of information and no photos whatsoever of the underside I’m kind of smitten by this Jensen, if only because it’s weird.
Weird in a perfectly wonderful, awkward, British sort of way.
I remember seeing my first Interceptor at the local riding school after a lesson in 1969. Then in high school a friend’s dad had an FF, the rare four wheel drive version of the Interceptor. Great alternative to an Aston.
Remarkable machine. Would be more popular here were it not for their remarkable thirst / UK fuel prices. That and trying to stop the rust.
Apparently, the hood louvers were a factory option on non-SP (“six-pack”) cars. These louvers are also different than SP louvers in number and shape. Learn something new every day, I suppose.
And they made 22 Mark 1’s with a four-speed manual…
The 440 Magnum was a beast of an engine, but needed more air to really run properly.
Hence the “Grabber” air injection scoop on Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth cars of that day.
Although a supercharger instantly boosted them into OMG range!!
Which is why you see one on Dominic Torretto’s Charger in the Fast & Furious series.
The other method of getting more air was the 6-pack. Three 2-barrel carbs and a
Truly funky oval air cleaner helped input more O2.