A Classic Cars Guide: Jensen Interceptor

Have you always wanted to work on your very own classic car restoration project but not sure where to start? The Restoria Classics guide to classic vehicles will take you through some of the most iconic cars to hit the road.

Jensen Motors Limited was a British manufacturer of sports cars and commercial vehicles based in West Bromwich, England. They’re most known as manufacturers of sports cars and commercial vehicles, like the Jensen Interceptor. 

Jensen showcased the first Interceptor in 1950 but it was the Jensen Interceptor MK1 released in 1966 that really began to grab attention. This was the first Interceptor to be built outside of England, although production did eventually return. Instead, the MK1 was designed by Italian Coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring and built in Italy by Vignale at their factory. The earlier Interceptor models had been built at the Carter’s Green Factory. 

The Jensen Interceptor has since been a British icon and remains one of the most popular choices for car restoration. The sleek design has a classic design that looks just as striking on modern roads as it did in the 60s, and the interior can be restored using the original leather designs or modernised with fabric for maximum comfort.

In fact, it’s such a staple of the classic car scene it was named one of Jeremy Clarkson’s Top 100 cars of all time for its beautiful design and surprising power.

Interior of a blue Jensen Interceptor Early MK1

What are the different Interceptor Models?

Between 1950-1992, there were many variations of the Jensen Interceptor vehicle released. Each iteration built on the previous model, with everything from updating the suspension or souping up the engine, to adding convertible models and electric windows.

An honourable mention goes to the Jensen FF which was launched in 1966 at the same time as the Interceptor mark i. They share very similar designs but have some very significant differences. The FF was the first British car to feature a permanent 4-wheel drive and anti-lock brakes.

The Original Jensen Interceptor 1950-1957

The original Interceptor debuted in 1950 and was actually the second car ever made by Jensen after the second world war. It was designed by famous car designer Eric Neale and based on Austin components.

The aluminium body featured an ash frame and was available in both two-door and four-door saloon and convertible models. This first model used a 4.0L Austin l6 engine and used Austin parts for the chassis and transmission. 

There were exceptions to this though, as racer Briggs Cunningham had a left-hand driver Interceptor which featured a Chrysler brand engine. This engine would go on to become a mainstay in the Interceptor.

The MK1, MK2 and MK3 Jensen Interceptor 1966-1973

Mark I

The Mark 1 Interceptor was when Jensen first moved out of England and began to collaborate with Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring. It was also when the Austin transmission and engine were replaced for Chrysler. From this model on, Chrysler became a go to within the Interceptor.

This new model did come with its problems and it took 1967 to work out the kinks. Luckily, with modern techniques and resto-mods, you can enjoy the aesthetics of the earlier Jensen Interceptors without the difficulties earlier owners found.

The mark i was available with either manual drive or TorqueFlite automatic transmissions, although the manual drive was built in limited numbers.

 

A good example of an early Jensen Interceptor MK1 restoration project completed by Restoria for a very happy owner

Mark ii

The Mark ii Interceptor refined a lot of the initial Mark I design but kept the iconic design, which is thought to possibly have taken styling cues from the Brazilian Brasinca Uirapuru. Looking to appeal to a wider market, the Mark 2 had a significant revamp to the interior design so that it would fall in line with American regulations. It was also the first model to feature air conditioning, perfect for long drives during the hot summer.

The mark 2 also featured revising styling around the headlamps, front grille, bumper and revised rear lights.

Mark iii

The MK3 Jensen Interceptors was one of the most significant advancements for Jensen, and the press dubbed it ‘The Gentlemen’s Express‘. It was the first to be launched under Kjell Qvale, an American importer and dealer that had taken over from Jensen Motors. This connection helped launch the Interceptor’s popularity within North America and it remained a firm favourite in Britain.

The Mk3 was driven by everyone from the British Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington to Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. So, if you own a mark iii Interceptor, you can feel comfortable you’re in good company. 

Jensen Interceptor SP 1971-1973

The Jensen Interceptor SP was the most powerful car ever built by Jensen. It’s argued when it was built between 1971 and 1973, it may have been the most powerful car in the world.

The SP model packed 390 horsepower and the six-pack engine was actually made illegal in the USA. This power did lead to some reliability issues though. The carburettors’ individual functions were different, with the centre unit being smaller than the secondaries. At high speed, the car continued to gain speed even after the driver had removed their foot. This is because the secondary carburettors would come into operation at speed, as the primary carburettor drew more air. While this made for an impressive top speed, it wasn’t the most efficient.

The SP could be driven more economically though and it was easy to achieve 16mpg once the new owner had gotten over the excitement of such a powerful car.

Jensen Interceptor S4 1983-1992

What was in vogue changed a lot between the 70s to the early 90s, but the enduring popularity of the Jensen Interceptor’s classic silhouette remained. The S4 Jensen Interceptor featured the same Chrysler engine and was essentially an update of the original Interceptor series.

This was designed and produced in a very short number, making them true collector pieces, especially if you can find one in very good condition. Of course, even if you find one in less than great condition, restoration is always an option.

How many Jensen Interceptors are left?

Because of how popular this model of classic car is in the media, you might think the Jensen Interceptor models enjoyed large production runs. In fact, many Jensen Interceptors were created in very small runs. For example, there were only 6,408 Interceptors made across the entire MK1, Mk2 and MK3 range. If you’re looking for an mk1 with a manual drive, you’ll need to look hard as only 22 were built! The Jensen Interceptor S4 is only believed to have had a total of 14 cars built!

Don’t let this dash your dreams of finding your own Jensen Interceptor though, there are still many in the wild waiting to be restored back to their original specification. When keeping track of how many are left, you’ll see the numbers actually go up on some models. This is thanks to restoration enthusiasts bringing out previously garaged cars and restoring them back to their former glory.

We keep a range of project cars in stock so you can always contact us to see if we have what you want. Even if we don’t, we have an experienced team who are able to help you source your dream project.

Is the Jensen Interceptor a good classic car for restoration?

We’ve worked on quite a few Jensen Interceptor restoration projects over the years, so we might be a little biased. But, we do think they’re wonderful restoration projects.

Check out our case studies to see some of our Jensen Interceptor projects which involves everything from repainting body panels to completely rebuild

You can check out some of our specific Jensen restoration case studies here:

1966 Jensen Interceptor Restoration Project

Jensen Interceptor MK1 Restoration Project

One problem that can come with early Interceptors is rust. While Jensen Interceptors were loved when they were first released, many were garaged as fuel prices rose for more fuel-efficient car models.

When sourcing a Jensen Interceptor for restoration, you want to try and find one that is rust-free where possible. If it’s not, our team has plenty of experience bringing even the rustiest of shells back to their original condition.

Here is an example of a Jensen Interceptor MK3 Restoration Project we’ve been working on, bringing it from a rusty shell to a shining vehicle.

Otherwise, mechanical parts are still available, and car fabrication is an option for any proving slightly more tricky to source and the driveline is sound. This means they’re great projects to work on and you can enjoy showing off this British icon at car meets, or just on the way to the shops!

Get In Touch with Restoria

Already own your dream car, or need a little help working out what’s right for you? Get in touch with us and we’ll be more than happy to help.

Share your thoughts