The Jensen Interceptor
A Gentleman’s Car Armed with American Power
The Fast and the Furious has used some wild cars over its 15-year run, including a Japanese-powered 1967 Ford Mustang, a supercharged hot pink Honda S2000 and a carbon fiber Lucra LC470. But it’s the old-school Jensen Interceptor that wins the most unique spot in the entire lineup. The Jensen was never designed to be a street razor — it’s meant to be a British luxury machine that attracts a well-heeled sporting driver. And while the Jensen Interceptor never made it big like Jaguar’s E-Type, it did carve out its own well-respected niche by virtue of power, luxury, four-wheel-drive and a slick fastback design.
What It’s All About
Jensen didn’t exactly loom large on the automotive radar before the Interceptor arrived. They were, in fact, largely known for doing work for other manufacturers like Volvo and Austin-Healy, as well as building commercial trucks. They did produce their own cars as a side business, but that happened without much fanfare or success. When their assembly business started to dry up, they had to reinvent themselves and do something big and bold in order to survive, and they hoped for support from exporting cars to the United States.
So Jensen went to Carrozzeria Touring, the Milanese design house responsible for such icons as the Ferrari 166 MM and the Maserati Ghibli. Carrozzeria came up with a British grand tourer influenced by Italian design. The Jensen’s look — which uncannily resembles the Brasinca Uirapuru, a short-lived Brazilian GT car built between 1964 and 1966 — has a less creased profile than the Uirapuru, with flush-mounted quad round headlights instead of bug-eyed twin lights and a smaller rear window.
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Despite the fact that Jensen was able to export cars to the United States and build three generations of the Interceptor, the worldwide recession kicked Jensen in the teeth, and production of the Interceptor ended in 1976 when parts were no longer available to build it. Jensen briefly resurged in the 1980s with the help of a group of investors to produce an updated Interceptor, known as the Series 4. It was built in very small numbers by hand, powered by a smaller 5.9-liter Chrysler V8 with only 230 horsepower and with a slightly revised, more modern interior. Production of the Series 4 Interceptor ended in 1993 due to poor financials, and the company was liquidated for its assets.
Certainly one of the most unique aspects of the Interceptor was its powertrain — a Chrysler V8 with either a 6.3-liter V8 good for 270 or 305 horsepower (with four-barrel carburetor) or a 7.2-liter V8 delivering 330 horsepower (with three two-barrel carbs, known as the “Six Pack”). This came in the 1971 version, which was the most powerful Interceptor ever made. After 1971, Chrysler no longer made the 7.2-liter engine with the two-barrel carburetors, so the engine was detuned to 280 horsepower. In its fastest iteration, the Interceptor could hit 60 mph in 7.3 seconds and top out a 133 mph, properly quick for such a large GT car.
What also set the Interceptor apart from rivals was its gorgeous leather seats, armrests, door inserts and dash paneling (with even leather-lined ashtrays), along with copious use of wood veneers. It was a rich cabin befitting a British GT car. The Interceptor made it to America and garnered respect for its beautiful interior, exotic GT styling and respectable power. A stunning convertible version was made, as well as an all-wheel-drive version known as the FF (Ferguson Formula). The FF was brilliant for its technological advancement, which boasted an all-wheel-drive system, anti-lock brakes and a traction control system. The FF was known for 0-60 times in under seven seconds despite the car’s additional five inches in length and the added weight that carried.
Its Place in History
Though the Interceptor’s production ended twice, as did Jensen Motors itself, the car still garners respect in automotive circles two decades after its second demise. Cars in excellent condition are still eyed by collectors thanks to the Interceptor’s cult following, British heritage, largely un-British build quality and, of course, its famous American power.
Jensen International Automotive (JIA), a company that specializes in rebuilding Interceptors using modern components, now plans on delivering the next generation of Interceptors with wholly updated styling. They’re aiming for a build evocative of the original GT car, with a touch of 21st century styling. The new Jensen GT loses the bulbous fastback design in favor of a more abbreviated and cohesive tail end, but, in keeping with tradition, the Jensen GT will derive its power from an American engine, this time a GM-sourced 6.4-liter supercharged, direct-inject V8 with 665 horsepower and 630 lb-ft, easily eclipsing the old car and matching the power expected of modern supercars.