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P66: The Forgotten Jensen

Chris Haining January 6, 2017 All Things Hoon, Cars You Should Know 14 Comments

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Back before the great Intensedebate Apocolypse of 2014, I managed to find myself behind the wheel of one of the most spectacular cars ever to come out of Birmingham. Not an especially long list, admittedly, but a star-studded one. Nevertheless, the Jensen Interceptor was a British car with Italian style and American brute power – an intoxicating combination.

But what if Italy hadn’t got involved? With Britain now about to bid adieu to our European partnership once and for all, it’s interesting to look back at how the Interceptor might have developed if Jensen’s in-house stylist, Eric Neale’s suggestion had gone into production. This is the P66, the Interceptor that never did.

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There was never any doubt that the layout and the mechanical ingredients were exactly what the doctor ordered. A 389 cubic inch Chrysler V8 under a long, low bonnet, rear wheel drive and components gathered from the very finest suppliers. Including Lucas. Initially the plan was to produce a new car that would sell alongside the slant-eyed C-V8 coupe, and the first prototype of the P66 was a convertible.

That car was shown at the Earls Court Motorshow in 1965, where the plan was to gauge public reaction, and no doubt a great many people admired it.

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The Norcross group didn’t, though, and that was important because it was they who would take the reins of Jensen from the mid-sixties. Our man Neale’s slender, elegant body – I mean the car, OBVZ – was rejected because Jensen’s new Norcross overlords had Latin aspirations. In the ‘sixties, it seems, the Italians were making a bit of a name for themselves in the sports car field, and the likes of Touring, Bertone, Pinifarina, Michelotti and Ghia were doing very fetching things with steel and aluminium.

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Thing is, Norcross definitely made the right decision. As nice as this second prototype P66 is – looking like some kind of hybrid between a Maserati GT and a Bristol 406, with perhaps a touch of Mercedes Pagoda SL – it’s nothing like as memorable as the bulbous but unmistakeable Touring-penned Interceptor ended up. It somehow looked a little starchy. A bit aloof and pleased with itself.

Had Jensen not involved Italy, its most famous product would never have come to fruition. Sometimes Britain is absolutely nowhere without help from overseas.

(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017. Follow me at @RoadworkUK if you like. It kinda looks a bit like an early Buick Riviera, too)