Jensen Interceptor Mark 3

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Jensen Interceptor Mark III

 1971 - 1974
United Kingdom
7212 cc
284 bhp
3 spd. AT
Top Speed:
140+ mph
Number Built:
4 star
Jensen Interceptor Mk3
Jensen Interceptor Mark III
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4


Like the Aston Martin DBS V8, the Jensen Interceptor Mk.III seemed to fly in the face of the Supercar Superscare, with its huge 7.2 litre Chrysler V8 fed through a four-barrel Carter carburetter. Of course if you speak to anyone lucky enough to have owned one of these special Jensen's they will tell you there was a therapeutic quality derived from jumping behind the wheel, something that made the cost of fuel seem somehow irrelevant. Reality probably only ever revealed itself at the bowser.

Still, once you had exited the petrol station you would find the Interceptor mark III capable of soothing the mind and body, shrinking surrounding problems into insignificance. The updated Interceptor Mk. III (released in October 1971), had changed little from the first iteration, other than in the much enhanced looks of the wheels, changed from Rostyle steel to five-spoke alloy.

However, rather more than a wheel change had gone into the Interceptor when a revised version of the Mk. III was introduced in May 1972. The earlier 6,267 c.c. (383 cu. in.), 300-b.h.p. engine was superseded by a 7,212 C.c. (440 cu. in.), 284-b.h.p. unit of the same 109.72 mm. bore x 95.25 mm. stroke dimensions used in the Interceptor SP, the high-performance, 385 b.h.p. option of the 6.3-litre Mk.II and III which was dropped due to emission problems.

Like all the Jensen engines since the CV8 appeared in 1962, the Mk. III's was supplied by Chrysler, along with the Chrysler Torqueflite Hi-Performance 3-speed automatic box, similar to that fitted as an option to the DBS V8, but in the Jensen's case a standard, no-alternative fitment. Interior appointments received detail alterations in Mk. III form, though there was very little to improve upon, and the brilliant brakes remained as before, as did the Dunlop ER70, VR15, SPs retained for RHD cars with Pirelli GR 70, VR15 for LHD models, of 205 section.

The Interceptor's shape may not have changed since its introduction in 1966, although unfortunately the same could not have been said about the price, particularly given the demand in the US for the car, and the fact that only 30 examples would roll off the assembly line each week. Those destined for the States were marketed by Kjell Qvale, Jensen's major shareholder.

In many respects the Jensen was bordering on supercar status, being capable of more than 135 m.p.h., able to accelerate from 0-60 m.p.h. in not much more than 8 sec. - all this was in spite of the massive engine being hampered by the fitment of US emission equipment, even for those cars destined for other markets. One benefit was that the 8.2-to-1 compression ratio V8 would absorb happily the poorest quality fuel. The main drawback to the emission equipment was a severe restriction on power output, more obvious on paper than from behind the wheel, 16 b.h.p. less than the old 6.3-litre engine and 101 less than the SP whose engine was somewhat different in design and carried three twin-barrel Holley carburetters.

Some felt the difference to be not so great, in spite of the power loss: the mark III was quieter, smoother and obviously had more torque. As you would expect, the pickup was beyond criticism, smooth and progressive with no lag. Relaxed and effortless it was to some more a luxury car rather than a sports car. It had simply made the performance a little more subtle by removing some of the bark without interfering with the bite. For many years Jensen relied on glassfibre coachwork for the 541 and CV8, but during the mid 1970's the Nordic wing symbol graced an all-steel construction.

The rust-preventative treatment was first class, and the body was gas and arc-welded to a massive tubular and boxed pressing chassis structure, which ensured strength and rigidity. After rust-proofing the body received two coats of primer and three coats of final finish, all rubbed down by hand, followed by undersealing.

Four quartz-halogen headlights graced the familiar front-end and at the other extremity was the unique "glasshouse" boot-lid, the curved Sundym heated screen opening to reveal a long, wide, flat, but fairly shallow, impeccably carpeted, 12 cu. ft. boot and an unobstructed view through into the interior. To enable more luggage to be carried, the rear parcel shelf within the boot lid could be removed by unscrewing a few knurled nuts.

Jensen Interceptor Mk3 Interior
The steering wheel was the only disappointment in an otherwise brilliant interior.
The spare wheel was carried in a wind-down tray beneath the boot, open to the elements, not an ideal situation for Jensen's operating in colder climates, where the road salt undoubtedly took a heavy toll on the alloy spare. The winding-down mechanism was operated from within the boot by an adapter placed on the wheel brace, this, the Bevelift jack, spare fan belt and tin of paint being stowed in the centre rear of the boot while a comprehensive tool roll was carried in a compartment on the left-hand side of the boot.

At last Jensen moved the fire-extinguisher from its mounting in the boot, where it would have been accesssible only after the car had burnt out, to a clip below the front of the driver's seat. Another detail safety aid was a first-aid kit stowed in the capacious lockable locker between the two front seats.

The wide doors had automatic red warning lights on their rear edges when open, their quarterlights being fixed. There were generous full-length door armrests with door-pull apertures, large ashtrays, and the bottom front corner of each door contained a radio speaker, a further two being fitted one on either side of the rear passenger seats. The four speakers were activated by the standard specification pushbutton Radiomobile radio, or you could option a Radiomobile 108SR combined stereo radio and eight-track stereo or a Philips RN712 stereo/radio/cassette player/recorder.

Six separate Connolly leather hides were used in each Interceptor, and they were certainly put to good and beautiful use. The front seats were exquisitely comfortable, having reclining back-rests and built-in head-rests, each with a cloth-covered cushion attached by Velcro and map-pockets in their rears. The rear seats were deeply and separately shaped, split by a wide arm-rest containing two ash-trays. Unfortunately leg room in the rear was severely restricted when the front seats were in a normal position, meaning that the driver would have to suffer discomfort should he wish to carry a passennger behind him. To help him, the steering column was adjustable in reach by around two inches. To one side of each rear seat was a traditional Jensen lidded locker, and there was an opening quarterlight (fixed on 1974 US market cars) alongside each seat. Apart from the moulded facia cowl, virtually everything that wasn't upholstered in Connolly leather was instead treated to Wilton carpet, each front floor well being protected by a rubber heel mat.

The facia was excellently laid out to the advantage of the six Smiths instruments and Kienzle clock. In the centre of the facia, raised as close to eye-level as possible and angled in the moulding towards the driver were the voltmeter, fuel gauge for the 20-gallon tank, oil pressure gauge and temperature gauge. Below them were four eyeball fresh-air outlets, in the centre of which was mounted the Kienzle clock. Directly in front of the driver was the 160-m.p.h. speedometer with trip and 6,000 rpm tachometer, red-lined at, 5,100 rpm, the give-away to an extraordinarily lazy and under-stressed engine. To the right of that were a brake warning light with a switch to check whether the warning light was working or not (an American compulsory fitment), which usefully doubled up as a handbrake and worn pad warning light as well as low, or non-existent fluid level warning.

Further right wais the dissappointing Lucas control for the otherwise excellent two-speed wipers and four-jet electric washers. There was a stalk on the right which controlled the indicators and headlamp flasher only, the dip-switch being an organ pedal for the left foot to operate, an old-fashioned feature more at home on an early model Holden. The central transmission tunnel was a masssive structure which effectively isolated the driver from passenger, yet added to the feeling of comfort while leaving adequate foot room. The console on top of the tunnel was trimmed entirely in leather, though American market cars featured a polished wood inset. A row of rocker switches ran along the top edge of the console where it met the facia, controlling from the left the optional fog lamps, the electrically-operated fuel-filler lid on the car's nearside (operable only when the engine was switched off), selector switch for the town and country horns, aerial switch (not fitted on the 1974 cars, with automatic operation), heated rear screen switch, panel light switch (again redundant in 1974) and the lights switch.

The radio was located below them and below that the rotary air-conditioning control switches, between which was a rocker switch to activate the air-conditioning pump. An aircraft-type sign below screamed "Fasten Seat Beits" if you hadn't. Electric window switches flanked the conventional automatic gear-lever at the front of the flat part of the console and at the rear were a hazard warning switch, parking light switch to override the main lights to operate the driver's side sidelights only, a balance knob for the speakers and a cigar lighter. On the left of the facia was a lockable cubby hole, and underneath the facia a point for charging the battery. Naturally the 15 inch steering wheel, controlling a reasonable, for the car's size, 38 ft. turning circle at 3.4 turns lock-to-lock, had a hide rim.

Behind The Wheel

By the early 1970's the Interrceptor was old-fashioned and almost primitive in design, the suspension being not too far removed from that of the Austin Westminster. The live rear axle was suspended by semi-elliptic, dual rate cart springs with rubber button interleaved separators. The only other location was by a Panhard rod and Armstrong telescopic dampers.

Independent wishbone-type front suspension had coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and an anti-roll bar. The arrangement could hardly have been less sophisticated, yet it worked admirably and had the added attraction of being relatively cheap and easy to maintain. Indeed the whole car required very little more routine maintenance than an ordinary family sedan: service intervals were restricted to every 4,000 miles, when attention was required to, among other things, the good old-fashioned chassis grease points.

Adwest power steering was fitted as standard, perhaps a little too light to some tastes but still possesing good feel. Girling ventilated disc brakes were fitted to all four wheels, 11 in. diameter at the front and 10 in. at the rear. There were separate systems for front and rear brakes with a tandem master cylinder, direct-acting servo, aided by a vacuum reservoir in the main chassis tubes, and with a load-conscious valve to prevent rear-wheel lock-up. In general the Interceptor's handling was reasonable, its ride comfortable, while remaining firm enough to give good control without reverting to the sogginess of a Rolls-Royce system.

However, the Interceptor was far from being as sure-footed as the Aston Martin DBS V8, its nearest competitor. The Interceptor needed delicate control in the wet, particularly under power, when the rear end, in spite of a Salisbury Powr-Lok differential, could soon lose traction and sideways adhesion - and it was not an easy car to regain control of. This was very much a car to treat with respect when cornering at speed and was much more at home travelling flat out down motorways and autoroutes. Apart from a distant hum, wind-noise was non-existent at any speed and the big V8 behaved as though insulated in a sound-proof box.

The Mk.II gave quite a marked V8 warble when opened up, while the Mk.III's 7.2-litre engine was almost completely unobtrusive. When the throttle was floored the gearbox changed up at 40 m.p.h. and 76 m.p.h. or on a light throttle at 11 m.p.h. and 15 m.p.h. with the engine at not much more than tickover speed. Maximum speeds in low and intermediate gears available by using the manual hold were 48 m.p.h. and 82 m.p.h., but this was purely academic, as the engine could be left in Drive more happily than just about any other automatic car.

Progress was lazy, effortless and utterly relaxed, the Interceptor proving to be a tremendously easy car to drive when not trying to break any records, yet when overtaking performance was required, kickdown gave a tremendous thump in the back, the start of impressive and safe acceleration which ensured the Jensen remained one of the World's best high-performance cars. Starting those eight cylinders from cold was equally drama-free: the throttle needed to be depressed fully and slowly to activate the automatic choke, after which the pedal could be left well alone, as when the key was turned the engine invariably fired and could be driven away smoothly and cleanly immediately.

The hand-book warned that a small amount of throttle should be applied when starting a warm engine and that 15 sec. of churning was not unusual. Twin thermostatically-controlled electric fans and a 28-pint cooling-system kept the engine cool and for cars destined for warm climates (including all cars shipped Stateside) a louvred bonnet was available as a no-cost option as an aid to removing unwanted underbonnet heat.

After more than seven years the almost futuristic Vignale body style remained undated and the Jensen Interceptor remained the epitome of the high-speed executive express. It would have benefitted from a more sophisticated chassis design to improve its high speed cornering behaviour, but beyond that the hand-built West Bromwich Interceptor rivaled that from Aston Martin, its nearest competitor. In terms of comfort and silence, the Interceptor was more relaxing to drive because it was more compact and had far more precise handling - and it was faster.
Jensen Interceptor III

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Also see:

Jensen Interceptor and FF
The History of Jensen Motors - Short Lived but Spectacular (USA Site)
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