Tuesday, September 21, 2010

1976 Jensen GT "Project Car"

Although not called a Jenson-Healey, this was the last of the Jensen-Healey cars and, really, the last gasp for Jensen.

The Jensen GT was the last version of the Jensen-Healey, which started out as a roadster in 1972. To create the original roadster, four great names in British car history, Donald Healey, Jensen Motors, Lotus and Kjell Qvale, came together. Qvale bought Jensen, installed Healey as chairman and the car had a Lotus engine.

The roadster was initially a problem prone car, but by 1974 most of the bugs had been worked out of it and it had become a very nice traditional British sports car.

Donald Healey left the company in 1974. The popular notion is that he left because of dissatisfaction with the Jensen-Healey car. More than likely, he left for financial reasons. When Qvale bought Jensen in 1970, he offered shares of the company to Healey, assuring him that the company would eventually go public and that he would become wealthy. That was part of the deal that brought Healey to Jensen. That never happened and Healey, unhappy about that and with Qvale in general, left the company. That's why this car is known as the Jensen GT and not the Jensen-Healey GT.

The Jensen GT used most of the roadsters body panels, but had a hatchback style roof. Its interior was far more luxurious than the roadster, with a dashboard trimmed in burled wood, power windows and optional leather seats. It also had a tiny back seat that was unsuitable for anything other than a very small child or a dog. A sunroof was optional. The Jensen GT was more of a pint-sized Interceptor than a true sports car. In my eyes, it's a great looking car.

The Jensen GT was not a bad car by any means. What killed it was the price. A Jensen GT cost just under $10,000.00 in 1975. The roadster had sold for under $5,000.00. Not helping things was the added weight of the roof, which made the GT slower than the roadster. More money, extra weight and reduced acceleration is not a recipe for automotive success.

Jensen was in very big financial trouble by the time this car was introduced. They were only able to build around 500 before shutting the doors. This is a rare car.

This car is being offered for $3200.00. There isn't much of a description of the car in the ad, but it seems like the seller is saying that it's "80%" restored, but still needs work. He says it has just 34,000 miles on it. The seller leaves his phone number and says that a full description and more photos are available "upon request".

Depending on just what it needs done to it (and it looks like it needs at least paint and bodywork), this could be a nice winter restoration project. Out of the original 500 or so, how many can be left? It would be a hit at any British car show.

Located in Simi Valley, CA, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

Footnote: After Jensen closed and Qvale walked away, Donald Healey tried to restart the company. He approached the British government for financial backing, but was rejected. It was the same government which, ironically, went on to lend 50 times as much money to John DeLorean to set up the DMC-12 facility in Northern Ireland. I suspect they might have done better by investing in Healey.

1 comment:

Al said...

I see that the Jensen has been tinkered with. The stock carbs have been replaced with Delorto's, which adds at least 20 hp, making up for some of the added weight.