t was common practice for would-be automotive engineers to tinker with the ubiquitous Austin 7, but Alan and Richard Jensen went one step further than most, removing the body entirely to fit their own race version to the chassis, at the time the brothers still mere apprentices in the Birmingham motor industry. Their hand-crafted Austin would catch the eye of the Standard Motor Company’s Chief Engineer, leading to them being given the contract to create something similar on a Standard chassis.
In 1931 the brothers joined W. J. Smith & Sons body works in West Bromwich, and in 1935 the first of their designs was revealed, an open tourer powered by a 3.5 litre Ford V8. Dubbed the “While Lady”, most commentators consider this to be the first true Jensen. In 1936 William Smith would pass, and the company would be renamed Jensen Motors. Profits from wartime contracts would ensure the company was financially able to get a good start after the war, their first iteration being the 1948 Jensen PW, a large luxury saloon aimed at the well heeled.
would see the introduction of the Interceptor, featuring a sleek streamlined appearance and constructed from light alloy it was powered by Austin’s 4 litre six. The 541, first seen in prototype
form in 1953, entered series production in 1955 and, like the Interceptor, it was powered by the Austin six, but was revolutionary in its use of a fibreglass body. Desirable as long range touring cars, 541's continued in production until 1962
when a much more powerful Jensen grand tourer made its debut. The C-V8 boasted a 6 litre Chrysler engine and was one of the fastest four-seaters around; production had reached 500 by 1966
when the decision was made to contract the firm's next body design out to Italy.
The Jensen brothers were not too happy with the decision, and given their ill health and age decided to call it a day. Later that year two new steel-bodied Jensen’s made their debut at Earls Court, the Touring-designed Interceptor and the similarly styled but radically different FF, a four-wheel drive variant with Maxaret anti-lock braking. Financial problems would see the company taken over by Brandts Bank in 1968
, then in 1970
another takeover by American Kjell Qvale, he wanting the company to develop Donald Healey’s new sports car.
Prototypes of what would become the Jensen-Healey, with a Lotus 16-valve engine, were running in 1971
, the year in which the FF was phased out and up-rated versions of the Interceptor were introduced. Now Jensen-Healey, the company entered production in 1972
and for a time things looked positive, but the oil crisis combined with ongoing reliability and quality control issues would take its toll on the company. The writing was on the wall, and in 1975
the receivers were called in.
Also see: The History of Jensen Motors - Short Lived but Spectacular (USA Edition)