1954 Jensen InterceptorEarly Interceptor
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Jensen 'Early' Interceptor 1954
It probably is the most unknown and unsung hero of british motoring and most people will have a newer Interceptor in mind when they hear its name. In 1949 Jensen Motors Limited introduced the Interceptor as a convertible for the first time at the Earls Court Motor Show. A two door saloon followed in 1951 and our example is a later, slightly improved, version from the year 1954, still with the hand built aluminium alloy body on a steel and wooden chassis. Nowadays we talk about ‘early’ Interceptors, or Straight Six Interceptors when we discuss the 1950-57 Interceptors.
The first Interceptors were near 5 metres long high end cars that could be used for daily commute and long distance travelling. They were meant as touring cars instead of a fast sports cars, without being slow. The Jensen Interceptor was produced alongside the Jensen PW from 1949 until the summer of 1957. The early Interceptor got its drivetrain and chassis from Austin, but was noticeably lighter than its stepbrothers with only 1480 kg for such a large car with a big engine and oversized gearbox. The two door Saloon, as shown here, was fitted with a perspex rear window, fibreglass rooftop and boot lid. The rooftop itself was covered with vinyl.
The 4 litre inline six engine and gearbox with overdrive made the car very pleasant to drive. The two-cycle carburetor was enough to produce 132 bhp and 284 Nm of torque. Just a couple of these ‘early’ Interceptors were left hand drive and only a few had triple carburetors. The only example with a Chrysler Hemi V8 power plant was developed by Briggs Cunningham for a Canadian owner. In stock form the straight six offered enough power at lower and high speeds, but saved fuel compared to cars it competed with, like the Bentley R Type, Bristol 401 and Jaguar MK VII. The ride was comfortable and smooth, especially due to its long wheelbase and the soft suspension. Inside the car it was much quieter up until high speeds compared to cars in the same price range, but as luxurious. With its grey leather seats, banjo steering wheel and wood trim all around this example shows the classical British interior like it should be.
The Jaguar MK VII was a direct opponent, but compared to the Bristol (nearly 3 times the Interceptor’s price tag) and the Bentleys (3.5 times the price) of the same era it was very clear that the Jensen offered a top class driving experience for far less money. And the Interceptor was also the quickest. Perhaps it’s better to compare it with the American Hudson Hornet and the Italian Lancia Aurelia. Both cars with much higher production numbers, but the same sleek looks and sporty feel without being uncomfortable with four people on board.
The Interceptor was the first Jensen designed by Eric Neale, who had worked for Wolseley, Austin and Singer before. The “Ponton” styled bodywork was built in house by Jensen itself and this makes the Interceptor one hundred percent British grand tourer. If you open the doors you’ll see how a clever design of the floor pan used the space under the front seats for the rear passengers and battery. Just like the Hudson Hornet, the Interceptor had a low and sleek look and could easily seat four or five people, without a high roofline. The coupe shaped two door saloon was far more practical than most 2+2’s coupes of its time. A full width rear window not only gave light into the interior, but also provided excellent all-round rear vision. The boot had a large capacity and a spare was fit underneath for easy access without removing luggage.
An overdrive was standard on this later model and can be operated by pulling the gear lever towards the drivers left leg in fourth gear, and back to return to fourth. Because of the high amount of torque the car can be driven in fourth gear at low speeds. Top speed in overdrive is 170 kmh, but cruising around 130 kmh is where the Jensen Interceptor is at its best. While not being a sports car, the Interceptor performed well and could easily outrun most sports cars of its time. Nowadays Jensen lovers and collectors are getting interested in these early Interceptors, because there’s no substitute for its unpretentious looks. Much is still unknown to the main public about these high end cars and thus prices are still low. Perhaps this car stands for everything British motoring is all about and it’s up to the new owner to let people know and experience how special it actually is.
Most of this car’s history is known and includes correspondence between the previous owner and The Jensen Onwner’s Club about the car’s history and specific details on this car. So most homework has already been done. In the documents we can read the car had got a new head gasket in 1987 and refurbished shocks including a heavy duty upgrade that suits the car better. The car was then exported to Norway. The car has only driven 10.000 miles since then. In 2007 it was purchased by its current Dutch owner, who road registered the car and then stored it for nearly ten years.
Maintenance is easier than on other exclusive cars of the same era, because most parts are Austin. There’s not much electronics on board and this helps to keep the car in running condition for over a long period of time. Despite these facts only 15 drivable examples were known to date in the year 2000 and the most current numbers say 20 are still in existence of the 52 saloons produced. Also 32 convertibles and assumingly four sedanca versions were made. It’s easy to conclude that a Jensen collection won’t be complete without an ‘early’ Interceptor like this. It still is a very rare, undervalued, aluminium bodied Jensen.
The car is not road worthy. At JB Classic Cars we’ve only checked the running gear. The engine and drivetrain all work, but require service if the car gets back on the road for long distance travelling. The brake system needs a complete overhaul. It’s up to the next owner where he would take this Interceptor. Keep it as it is in a collection, restore it, or just enjoy driving it after an overhaul. We think it will fit perfect in a collection of other Jensens or hand built aluminium bodied cars. Come over and check it out at our workshop in Bodegraven, near Gouda in The Netherlands, or get in contact so we can discuss the current state and details of this Interceptor. Follow us on Instagram @jb.classiccars and on Facebook @jasper-beukenkamp-classic-cars.
Jensen Interceptor F.H.C 1954 (Aluminium Body)
Chassis nr. INT 414451 (Car nr. 41)
Engine nr. 1D10391M (Currently fitted: D2R 169 X)
4 speed gearbox with overdrive (1st gear is emergency gear)
Exterior: Metallic silver
Jasper Beukenkamp Classic Cars