Today, few people remember the British car manufacturer Jensen. Yet in the 1960s, Jensen produced a luxurious grand tourer that raised eyebrows at Aston Martin and Bentley. It combined the best elements of the world – Italian style, British craftsmanship and American V8 power. It was the Jensen Interceptor.
The Interceptor was designed by the Italian design house Touring of Milan (which also designed the Aston Martin DB4 and the Lamborghini 350GT / 400GT). Although its square front end looks outdated today, the rest of the design is elegant, especially the wraparound rear window that would be copied by the Porsche 924 a few years later. The interior of the 2+2 was spacious for the front passengers, well equipped and luxuriously trimmed with wood and leather like any good old British luxury car. After all, it was more expensive than even Aston Martin!
Despite its high price, Jensen followed in the footsteps of the Facel Vega and AC Cobra by using an American V8 engine. Prior to the tightening of federal emissions regulations in the early 1970s, American high-compression V8s were arguably the most cost-effective way to achieve tremendous horsepower and torque. For a small British manufacturer without its own engines, what could be more sensible than sourcing engines from Detroit? Chrysler supplies a 383cc (6.3L) V8 capable of producing 325 horsepower (gross) and 425 lb-ft of torque. It was also very smooth and quiet according to contemporary road tests. Along with a three-speed automatic transmission (again from Chrysler), the Interceptor was known for its effortless performance. At the time, few luxury high-rises could reach speeds of 133 mph and go from a standstill to 60 mph in 7.3 seconds. None of these could be achieved with so little effort on the part of the driver. The only drawback was a fuel consumption normally in the range of 12-13 mpg.
The Interceptor’s chassis was quite outdated for its class, as its rear suspension was non-independent with a direct axle and leaf springs. This was evident on uneven roads, where it suffered from a rough ride and steering setback. On a smooth road, however, the Interceptor showed decent handling and good directional stability.
During its 10-year history, the Interceptor has been updated twice. The 1969 Mk II version underwent only minor revisions. The Mk III from 1971 to 1976 saw its engine increase to 440cu (7.2 liters). The most powerful version was the Mk III SP (Six Pack), which used three dual chamber carburetors to produce 385 horsepower. In normal driving, only the middle carburetor was used. At full speed, the other two carburetors joined to allow faster breathing. Autocar was impressed with its performance – 143 mph and 0-60 mph in 6.9 sec, but was less impressed with its non-linear power.