Jensen, the classy British brand founded in 1934, has had more start-ups and close-downs than a travelling circus. But it’s on the go once more.
The two Jensen brothers, Alan and Richard, got going with the business of building special bodies for various UK makes such as Singer, Morris, Wolseley and Standard and then US actor Clark Gable got them to design a car using a Ford V8 flathead engine.
It was quite a hit in 1935 and evolved into the Jensen S-Type. Beautiful roadster models emerged and just when things were looking rosy, WWII broke out and car production stopped.
In 1946 they fired up again with the luxurious Jensen PW saloon. That was followed, from 1950 to 1957, by the popular Interceptor. Then came the 541 and the CV8, the latter using a big Chrysler engine instead of the Austin 6.
Jensen also built bodies for Austin-Healey, and produced their own sports car -- the unfortunate problem-prone Jensen-Healey.
At various times Jensen also produced bodies for Goldie Gardner’s record-breaking MG K3, the Volvo P1800, Sunbeam Alpine and a variety of trucks, buses and jeeps.
The company was taken over by the Norcros Group in 1959 and by US car distributor Kjell Qvale in 1970. In mid ’76 Jensen stopped trading, crippled by the Jensen-Healey’s dismal record of troubles.
Next, an outfit called Britcar Holdings got involved, but soon sold out to Ian Orford who put the Interceptor back into production as the Mk IV. Only 11 cars were made before the company was sold to Unicorn Holdings, which also produced just a handful of cars.
A striking two-seater cabrio, the Jensen S-V8, was launched at the 1998 British Motor Show, and 110 orders were placed. However, only 38 made it to the production line and of them, only 20 ever left the factory. The company went into administration in mid- 2002. In 2010 SV Automotive had a go, followed by JIA and then CPP (not City of Perth Parking).
Now two men well acquainted with Jensen techniques are doing ground-up restoration of old Jensens in a bid to keep the name alive. Trading as Jensen Motors Ltd are Gregg Alvarez, who worked at the original firm as a young apprentice, and Steve Barby, who has broad marketing experience in the classic car and engine tuning industry.
Jensen Motors Ltd has ambitious plans to produce eight examples of authentic Jensen models to celebrate 80 years of the marque this year. "We want to keep preserving and protecting Jensen cars as a prime example of British engineering and heritage," he said. Good luck. Jensen deserves a break.