AHC The Jensen Healeys

 

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The Jensen Healeys

Origin

JH1When production of the Austin Healey 3000 ceased in 1967, Donald & Geoffrey Healey busied themselves looking for a replacement. Californian based car dealer Kjell Qvale, who owned one of the largest companies importing British cars into the USA, felt the loss of the 3000, which had been good business for him. At much the same time, Jensen Motors had lost the contract to assemble the Sunbeam Tiger, as well as the sub-contract to manufacture much of the bodywork for the 3000.

In April 1970, they came together with Qvale becoming a Jensen shareholder and Donald Healey the chairman. It was hoped that Healey could help to contribute the sense of style that made the Austin Healey a hit.

Unfortunately, wrangling between key players in the partnership meant that the development of the car was often disrupted by disagreement, change & compromise. The result was that the Jensen Healey never quite had the wow factor of the Austin Healeys.

When the car was launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1972, initial impressions were good, with Autocar Magazine even describing it as a 'future classic'. However, at the end of the day, Jensen Motors was a small manufacturer and it struggled to produce both the numbers and quality required to meet demand. Typical 1970s issues of low quality steel prone to rust, cheap fittings made of plastic and cardboard, poor build quality and initially, poor reliability all eventually helped to seal its fate.

JH5In 1974, United States Government mandated rubber bumpers were fitted and the running gear 'improved' by the fitting of a five speed Getrag gearbox. The rubber bumpers looked particularly ugly on the car and did nothing for its reputation.

In 1975, with a background of industrial crisis in the UK, the oil crisis worldwide and flagging sales of the larger Jensen Interceptor model, Jensen Motors decided to focus production on a 2+2 coupé version of the car - the Jensen GT - an approach which had worked well with the MGB GT. In fact, the company were selling the GT at a loss and only around 500 were made before, in September 1975, Jensen Motors went into receivership.

Donald & Geoffrey Healey had in practice been largely side-lined once the car had gone into production and Donald stood down as Chairman of Jensen Motors in 1973.

Best Jensen Healey Photo Ever!

A fabulous photo of the Jensen Healey published by Tony Abbey on Pinterest, which sums up the fun to be had in this forgotten classic!

Flying Jensen

Design

The new Jensen Healey was based around a monocoque body construction that had been so successful with the Sprite. With the structure designed by Barry Bilbie, who had been involved throughout the Austin-Healey's development, it was cheap to repair, with bolt-on panels, to reduce insurance premiums. All Jensen panels were made in steel.

Engine

EngineThe Jensen Healey uses a 1973cc Lotus Type 907, dual overhead cam, 16 valve, all-alloy powerplant. This multi-valve engine has a claim to be the first to be used in a "mass produced" car. It provides approximately 144 bhp (107 kW), topping out at 119 mph (192 km/h) and accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds.

Vehicles for the UK (and Europe) were fitted with dual side-draft twin-throat Dell'Orto carburettors; those exported to the United States had dual side-draft single throat Zenith Strombergs in order to meet emissions requirements.

Transmission

The transmission fitted on the Mk 1 models was a four speed Chrysler unit sourced from the Sunbeam Rapier. On the Mk 2 models, a Getrag 235 five speed was used. Interestingly on the five speed gearbox the fifth gear is not an overdrive gear but a direct 1:1 ratio making this a Close-ratio transmission.

Suspension and Brakes

Suspension was simple but effective with double wishbone and coil springs at the front, and a live rear axle with trailing arms and coils at the rear.

Brakes consisted of discs at the front and drums at the rear, with servo assistance standard on all models.

The suspension, steering gear, brakes and rear axle were adapted from the Vauxhall Firenza with the exception of the front brakes which were the widely used Girling Type 14 Calipers.

Production Numbers

Model Dates Numbers
Jensen Healey Mark I March 1972 - May 1973 VIN 10000 - 13349 (3356 manufactured)
Jensen Healey Mark II and JH5 August 1973 - August 1975 VIN 13500 - 20504 (7142 manufactured)
Jensen GT September 1975 - May 1976 VIN 3000 - 30510 (509 manufactured)

 

Thanks are due to various contributors in putting together this article, including Jon Pressnell, Graham Robson and Wikipedia.