Oil crisis? What oil crisis?

The Jensen Interceptor and the end of the petrol age

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Sometimes you see a vehicle and think to yourself ‘How many of these will you ever see? Ever?'.

Between 1966 and 76, Jensen Motors made a grand total of 6,500 vehicles. All of them versions of the Interceptor – a grand tourer in saloon, hatchback and convertible flavours.

The Interceptor III was introduced in 1971, a power crazed 6.3L or even bigger 7.2l Chrysler V8 under the bonnet, with luxury features, a sophisticated leather interior with Italian design, alloy wheels and aircon as standard.

The styling of an Interceptor is instantly recognisable. That long bonnet and the huge sweep of the rear window is iconic and unique. Although non-car enthusiasts might ask if it’s a ‘Wayne’s World car’, an AMC Pacer, any unfavourable preconceptions are instantly wiped out a single blip of the meaty V8, a sound which confirms its pedigree as a genuine grand tourer.

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These cars were all manufactured in West Bromwich, part of a peculiar British trend - along with Bristol Cars – for crowbarring enormous American engines into innocuous looking family saloons. Take the 1976 Bristol 603 which plonked a 5.9l US V8 into their rather quirky-but-dull looking four seater. A car that wouldn’t exactly turn heads on the A58. The power to weight ratio was even more disparate in earlier versions of the Interceptor which were built with lightweight glass fibre bodies.

However, this combination of a massive engine and a mid-size normal looking British vehicle created a hugely powered car with what must have seemed an ‘invigorating’ drive on British country lanes. These days the lack of modern tools like ABS and traction control make it an acquired taste. The intention for these cars was for truly long distance driving. Grand tours like Dover to Dortmund or Northampton to Nice.

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Unsurprisingly, the oil crisis of the 1970s hit Jensen hard, and sales of the thirsty (c10mpg) large-engined Interceptor fell. Jensen ceased production and went into receivership in 1976.

Forty years later, the Interceptor in front of me looks immaculate. A glimpse under the bonnet reveals a shining polished air intake and pristine components. The alloy wheels gleam. The hubcap logo, a J shaped with a nod to trans-Atlantic styling, is perfect. The car glows, a tribute to restorer Tennyson James.

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by James Cartwright at 8 Sep 2017, 00:00 AM