Why you’d want a Jensen Interceptor / FF
The new-for-1966 Jensen Interceptor had it all: stunning styling by Touring of Italy, hand-built body by Vignale, American V8 power and super-smooth automatic gearbox, plus assembly by English craftsmen coachbuilders.
To cap it all, Jensen launched alongside it the world’s most technologically advanced car, the FF, with Ferguson Formula four-wheel drive and Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock brakes.
Jensen, however, lacked the development budget of larger car makers and those early models were far from reliable. Most will have been well sorted now, but myriad improvements came over the years and most agree that the later cars are more dependable. But that’s relative – for an exotic super GT of the 1960s, simple mechanicals make it a far less daunting prospect to own than an Aston Martin or Ferrari.
Although Jensen soon took over construction from Vignale (look for wood fillets on the door panels on Italian-built cars), Interceptors remained individual.
These built-to-order cars were produced in probably more different paint colours than any other model. They also had a wide range of trim options and innumerable specification variations. No wonder many of them had individualistic celebrity owners.
The FF – longer, heavier and more sophisticated – is the engineer’s choice. Reliable if well sorted, it is perhaps overly complex for today’s classic owner.
The Convertible is a desirable machine, albeit one that’s no longer any cheaper than a V12 E-type Roadster or an Aston Volante, while the notchback Coupé, of which around 46 were expensively built from Convertible bodyshells, attracts a rarity premium.
Of the standard bodies, the SP is top of the pile with its ‘Six Pack’ triple twin-choke carbs, though in reality few owners will notice the difference over the standard car.
But more important than specification is condition, because the complex bodyshell can rot almost anywhere, especially in the bottom six inches of the structure.
Many are full of filler, often hidden behind stainless-steel sill trims, and many have been poorly repaired. Take a magnet and spend plenty of time inspecting door shut lines and looking along the sides of the car. Get right underneath, too. Then check the car’s restoration history.
Plenty have had more than £50k spent on them, but that’s understandable – prices have risen so steeply over the past decade that an FF or a Convertible can easily fetch £100k. Find a good one, though, and you will not regret it.
Images: Tony Baker
Jensen Interceptor / FF: what to look for
See above for trouble spots
Rumbling on start-up means the V8 is worn, as do an oily engine and a smoky exhaust once warm. Smoky exhaust only, with an uneven note, could be a burnt valve. A leaking exhaust manifold/head join can be cured with copper gaskets. The Carter carb is often replaced. Air-con rarely works: a modern upgrade is £2k+.
Overheating is the most common cause of engine problems, due either to a silted-up rad or failing electric fans. Look for signs of boiling/leaks.
Early suspension was ex-Austin Sheerline and heavily loaded; later is stronger, but this is a heavy, fast car, so check that all is well maintained. Rear springs are prone to sag and are not currently available; two fingers between tyre and wheelarch (when unladen) is the correct ride height.
Chrysler Torqueflite auto is cheap to rebuild; rarely fails unless it runs dry. Four-speed upgrade is appealing; diff needs bearings at 70-80,000 miles.
Leather upholstery lasts well unless
it is badly abused; look for splits beside the stitching and excessive ‘Connollising’ which can make it hard.
More complex electronics than most of this period, so expect problems, especially with cars used irregularly. High-output alternator can be fitted.
Jensen Interceptor / FF: on the road
Before driving the car, take a good look under the bonnet – does the engine appear well cared for, or is it dirty, with tatty wiring and signs of water and oil leaks (include the radiator, oil cooler and power steering system in this check)?
Listen for rumbling on start-up: the Chrysler V8 can be very long-lived, but only if it’s well maintained. Many Jensens have been through long periods of neglect or occasional short journeys. The latter can wear them out in as few as 50,000 miles.
To check whether the car is fitted with a 6.3- or 7.2-litre, look in a front wheelarch at the exhaust manifold. If there’s a manifold/downpipe bolt angled towards the wheel, it’s a 7.2; if they face front/rear, it’s a 6.3. Opinions vary as to which is more desirable: some prefer the freer-revving 6.3, others the massively torquey 7.2.
When driving, listen out for any untoward noises – clonks, rumbles, rattles, grinding: all could spell impending expenditure. Handling should feel safe, comfortable and controlled, while instant acceleration should be available at any speed – and the exhaust should sound wonderful, especially on 2in pipes.
You’re unlikely to find a manual – only 24 were made – but the Torqueflite automatic is superb. And parts for it are relatively cheap because of the huge numbers built.
Check when the gearbox is warm and the car is running: work the lever through all the gears then leave it in neutral while you inspect the level. The fluid should be pink, not creamy or black.
While it’s idling, make sure that the electric fans come on and keep the coolant temperature under control.
Jensen Interceptor / FF price guide
Convertible / FF
- Show/rebuilt: £150,000
- Average: £80,000
- Restoration: £35,000
- Show/rebuilt: £70,000
- Average: £35,000
- Restoration: £20,000
Jensen Interceptor / FF history
1966 FF prototype shown, as a C-V8 with 4x4 running gear; Interceptor launched at Earls Court
1967 Production moves to West Bromwich
1969 Front balljoints instead of kingpins, radial tyres std
1969 Oct Interceptor II, auto only, power steering, optional air-con, new dash and seats
1971 Interceptor III: G-series engine (lower compression, less bhp), revised interior, alloys
1971 SP (Six Pack) replaces FF: 385bhp 1971/’72 7.2 engine (Nov ’71 LHD; May ’72 RHD)
1971 Aug Air-con and Sundym glass standard
1973 Oct Last SP of 232 built (216 UK); Interceptor III Series 4 launched; trim changes
1974 Convertible announced: c500 built
1975 Sept Receiver called in
1976 Jensen Motors ceases trading
1983-’93 14 Series IVs produced: 5.9 V8
The owner’s view
“I bought my Mk1 as a very nice original car that had been repainted,” says owner Steve Hodder. “Upon further investigation, although the paint was good, the sills had been repaired badly. After a few months I bit the bullet and sent it to have new inner and outer sills – the bottom 6in – on both sides, plus doorskins, tailgate, et cetera, and a full respray.
“It’s been a great everyday classic – bar the fuel consumption! Fast, comfortable and classy, with power steering and electric windows, it’s a real occasion when you drive it.
“It’s straightforward to work on, too. Get friendly with the Jensen specialists, join the club, and it’s easy to source parts. Mine has had an uprated engine and a gearbox rebuild.”
Half the price new and slightly faster, it’s no wonder that the V12 E-type outsold the Interceptor. There’s not much in it those days, though, with E-type prices very similar to those for a comparable-condition Jensen.
Sold 1971-’75 • No. built 15,290 • 0-60mph 6.4 secs • Top speed 148mph • Mpg 10-17 • Price new £3474 • Price now £15,000
Faster than E-type or Interceptor, pricier new and substantially dearer now, to buy, run and restore. The Aston, though fabulous, shows how much a Jensen offers for the money. But if you want the best, it has to be an Aston.
Sold 1969-’89 • No. built 3228 • 0-60mph 5.7 secs • Top speed 155mph • Mpg 10-18 • Price new £8749 • Price now £30,000
Jensen Interceptor / FF: the Classic & Sports Car verdict
If you can live with the mpg, which is no worse than comparable grand tourers, the Interceptor makes a superb classic GT: stylish, very practical and user-friendly.
Prices have risen steadily over the past decade, to the point at which they can no longer be described as a bargain – but provided you find one that doesn’t need major bodywork, they’re surprisingly inexpensive to maintain. Buy one with a good bodyshell and enjoy it regularly.
- Near-supercar performance
- Striking yet practical design
- Comfortable and relaxing to drive
- Structure prone to extensive rust
- Accurate body restoration is expensive
- High fuel consumption
Jensen Interceptor / FF specifications
Sold/number built 1966-’76/6408 SI-III, 320 FF
Construction steel body welded to tubular steel frame Engine all-iron, ohv 6276/7212cc V8, with four-barrel Carter carb or triple two-barrel Holleys; 300bhp @ 4800rpm- 385bhp @ 5000rpm; 380lb ft @ 3200rpm-490lb ft @ 3200rpm
Transmission four-speed manual or Torqueflite three-speed auto, driving rear wheels (all four on FF) through Powr-Lok lsd
Suspension: front wishbones, coil springs (double on FF), anti-roll bar rear live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, Panhard rod; telescopic dampers f/r (f lever-arm to ’69, r Armstrong Selectaride on SI)
Steering rack and pinion, assistance optional from ’68, standard from ’70
Brakes discs, with servo, Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock on FF
Length 15ft 8in-15ft 11in (4775-4850mm)
Width 5ft 10in (1780mm)
Height 4ft 5in (1345mm)
Wheelbase 8ft 9in-9ft 1in (2665-2770mm)
Weight 3500-4030lb (1590-1832kg)
0-60mph 8.7-6.9 secs
Top speed 126-143mph
Price new £6127 (SIII, 1972; FF £8008)
BUY A CLASSIC JENSEN INTERCEPTOR