Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to have some fun in the process. While it could be argued that the featured car is actually more of a grand touring car in the tradition of a Jaguar, I will submit evidence that it is more of a gentleman’s muscle car because of one simple feature: the engine. Yes, what we have here in a fast, powerful, and luxurious coupe that happens to be built in the UK, with a big old Chrysler 383 or 440 used for motivation. Introducing the Jensen Interceptor.
The Jensen Interceptor was built in the United Kingdom by Jensen Motors between 1966 and 1976. The Interceptor name had been used previously by Jensen for an earlier car made between 1950 and 1957. The design of the Interceptor was penned by an outside firm, Carrozzeria Touring of Italy, rather than the in-house staff. The early bodies were Italian-built, by Vignale, before production by Jensen themselves began at their facility.
The debut engine was a Chrysler 383 c.i. V-8, with optional manual or TorqueFlite automatic transmissions driving the rear wheels. Power from the 383 was initially 325 horsepower. Zero to sixty took 7.1 seconds – an excellent time for 1966 – with a 135 mph top speed. The Birmingham factory produced about 600 of these Interceptors per year. Jensen offered the larger 440 in late 1971, with a traditional 4 bbl. carburetor. The SP (Six-Pack) model of 1971–73 offered 3×2-bbl carburetors; only 232 were built and had the distinction of being the most powerful car ever to have been made by Jensen at 390 HP.
The Interceptor had a distinctive large, curving wrap-around rear window that doubled as a tailgate. The original specification included electric windows, reclining front seats, a wood rimmed steering wheel, radio with twin speakers, as well as other standard equipment. Power steering was included as standard from September 1968. It may have been large by European standards, but it was about 5 inches shorter that a contemporary Camaro at 188 inches long.
The Mark II was announced in October 1969, revised frontal styling and vented disc brakes. The Mark III of 1971 had revised seats, fully-cast alloy wheels plus some other improvements. The Mark III was divided to G-, H- and J-series, depending on the production years. The “J” version of Interceptor III was the most luxurious Jensen built.
The Interceptor was briefly re-introduced in the 1980s as the Series 4 (S4), as a low-volume ‘specialist’ motor car in much the same way Bristol continue to market and manufacture their cars. Though the body remained essentially the same, a newer, so called ‘cleaner’, engine was used (the Chrysler 360) and the interior slightly re-designed with the addition of ‘sports’ front seats as opposed to the armchair style of the earlier models.
A convertible with powered soft top was introduced in 1974 mainly intended for the American market but also sold in Europe. 267 convertibles were made. Rarer still is the Coupé version with just 60 made, derived from the convertible and introduced in 1975, just a year before the company’s demise. It could be said though this version detracted from the rakish, stylish looks of the GT.
The Jensen FF was a four-wheel drive (4WD) coupe that was produced along side the standard Interceptor between 1966 and 1971. Far preceding the Audi Quattro, it was the first non all-terrain production car equipped with 4WD and an anti-lock braking system — the Dunlop Maxaret electro-mechanical system used, up until now, only on aircraft, trucks, or racing cars. The letters FF stand for Ferguson Formula, Ferguson being the inventor of the full-time four-wheel drive system employed on the Jensen FF; the first on a production sports car.
It is related to the similar-looking, rear-wheel drive, Jensen Interceptor, but is 5 inches longer. Although it was a highly influential vehicle in a technical sense, the FF was not all that commercially successful. Its price was high — about 30% higher than the Jensen Interceptor, and more than that of luxury GTs from much more prestigious makes.
The FF also suffered from a design problem, and not one easily cured. Let’s just say that the car was designed for right hand drive, and could not be converted to left hand drive. By the early 1970s, Jensen’s primary markets were overseas (particularly the United States), and the FF could not be sold there. The FF may be distinguished from the Interceptor by a few styling cues, the most obvious being the twin (rather than single) diagonal air vents on the front fender, just rear of the wheel-arches. The frontal appearance was revised in September 1968.
So, I ask you the reader, is the Jensen Interceptor, A Chrysler Big Block Powered, British built GT, an obscure Muscle Car, or once again, have I just gone off the deep end? You know what to do, and leave your comments.
Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!