The cars we loved.
Ever since its dissolution in 1976, the British car maker Jensen has been the focus of revival talks. It’s Interceptor GT and FF cars from the 1970s were fast and comfortable cruisers that still have a strong following. Recent exposure in the latest Fast 6 film introduced the Interceptor (in customizable form) to the PlayStation generation. There is once again talk of reviving Jensen. This time the Interceptor name is slated to return in 2014. Prior to the most recent announcement, there was an actual revival complete with a new car to show for it at the turn of the century.
After creating a small sensation at the British International Motor Show starting in 1998, a confident and resurgent Jensen Motors displayed the S-V8 roadster (and later a coupe). Over 100 orders were taken for the new roadster by 1999. In 2000 after much speculation and protracted dealings with the city of Liverpool, a deal was struck and Jensen Motors had built a spanking new high tech manufacturing facility. The English new factory was staffed with a new workforce that would build Jensen’s first new car since 1976 from scratch.
All of the new S-V8’s parts would not come from Jensen’s factory. The engine came from Ford of America, the same one in the Cobra Mustang. At 4.6-liters it made 320 hp in the S-V8 and was fitted to a 5 speed manual transmission. Special attention to building a modern interpretation of the “Jensen Passion” went into the production of the new car. Despite its old world Ford drivetrain, the S-V8 had aluminum body panels and a race car like control arm suspension at all four corners. It only took 5 seconds to pass 60 and could reach a top speed north of 160 mph.
The S-V8 would put to use the latest in advance computer simulation with “thousands of virtual s-V8s built to determine optimum styling”, according to company literature. The looks were odd, if not off putting due to the gaping mouth front end, later refined to Aston Martin like standards. The rear was equally unloved with strange its strange mix of contrasting oval and angular forms. The S-V8 was best viewed from the side or from the driver’s seat. The interior was more universally admired with its flowing center stack, black on white dials and tasteful aluminum accents. It was certainly built for comfort with a ride on the softer side.
While production was ramping up for the roadster, a coupe was shown generating even more interest. Jensen may have bitten off more that it could sell at this point. While trying to deliver on the orders placed, production problems brought things to a halt, delaying cars that customers had been patiently waiting for. The problems persisted to the point that the company could not bear the weight of the production glitches.
With only 20 completed cars coming out of the factory and another 18 in various states of completion, Jensen was once again forced to go under. In 2003 a English company SV Automotive stepped in and bought up Jensen’s assets, sold off the roadsters (and presumably the 1 coupe prototype) while the remaining 18 partial builds were completed with some kept for parts.
In the flash of two years Jensen had risen from the ashes and fell back again, like an extinguished flame. While not quite a flash in the pan, the S-V8 did contribute to the modern legacy of the famed Jenson brand. An off shoot of the company, Jensen International Automotive was founded and carved out a niche by buying old Interceptors and restoring them.
The sports car market had changed significantly, making it difficult for low volume players like Jensen to survive. The S-V8 would have had some tough competition anyway, not to mention competing with updated and restored Interceptors. While it cost more than a Porsche Boxter S, it’s exclusivity may have made it worth it assuming you had no problem with its looks. The S-V8 would not have been sold in America due to the high cost of federalizing the car. This exclusion could have only hurt potential sales, putting more pressure on the ideal of a low volume Europe only car. All was not lost for Jensen fans, as the storied marquee will likely return in 2014 with an all new Interceptor.