Jensen Motors Ltd was a British manufacturer of sports cars and commercial vehicles, based in West Bromwich (in the West Midlands, west of Birmingham).
Jensen began as a small coachbuilding firm run by brothers Richard and Alan Jensen; they bought out the body works of W.J. Smiths & Sons where they worked after the owner's death and renamed it Jensen Motors in 1934. They built exclusive customised bodies for standard cars produced by several manufacturers of the day including Morris, Singer, Standard, and Wolseley. In 1934 they were commissioned by American film actor Clark Gable to design and build a car for him based on a Ford V-8 chassis. The resultant car won them much acclaim and stimulated huge interest in their work including a deal with Ford to produce a run of Jensen-Fords with Jensen bodywork on a Ford chassis. In 1934 they also started to design their first true production car under the name White Lady. This evolved into the Jensen S-type which went into production in 1935.
In the late 1930s Jensen diversified into the production of commercial vehicles under the marque JNSN, including the manufacture of a series of innovotive lightweight trucks, built with aluminium alloys, for the Reynolds Tube Company and the prototype for the articulated Jen-Tug which went into production in the late 1940s.
During World War II Jensen concentrated on the war effort and produced components for military vehicles including the turrets for tanks, and on the production of specialised ambulances and fire-engines.
After the war production of the Jen-Tug thrived and Jensen also produced a new range of JNSN lightweight diesel trucks and chassis which were used for a variety of vehicles including pantechnicons and buses.
In the late 1950s Jensen were chosen by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) to build the bodies for the four-wheel-drive Austin Gypsy.
Production of cars ceased over the war years, but by 1946 a new vehicle was offered, the Jensen PW (a luxury saloon). Few were produced since raw materials were still in short supply. Also in 1946 body designer Eric Neale joined the company from Wolseley and his first project was the more modern coupe which followed in 1950, named the Interceptor, which was built until 1976. In 1955, Jensen started production of Neale's masterpiece, the 541R, which used the then-revolutionary material of fiberglass for its bodywork. The 541R was replaced by another Neale design, the CV8 in 1962, which replaced the Austin-sourced straight-6 of the previous cars with a 6 litre American Chrysler V8. This large engine in such a lightweight car made the Jensen one of the fastest four-seaters of the time.
For its replacement (the Interceptor, launched in 1966) Jensen turned to the Italian coachbuilder, Touring, for the body design, and to steel for the material. The bodyshells themselves were built by Vignale of Italy and later by Jensen. The same 383 in³ Chrysler wedge-head powerplant was used in the earlier cars with the later cars moving to the 440 cu in engine. The Interceptor was offered in saloon, convertible and coupe versions. The saloon was by far the most popular with its large, curving wrap-around rear window that doubled as a tailgate.
Related to the Interceptor was another car, the Jensen FF, the letters standing for Ferguson Formula, Ferguson Research being the inventor of the full-time all wheel drive system adopted, the first on a production sports car. Also featured was the Dunlop Maxaret anti-lock braking system in one of the first uses of ABS in a production car. Outwardly, the only differences from the Interceptor were four extra inches of length (all ahead of the windscreen) and a second row of air vents behind the front wheels. The small number of 320 FFs were constructed, and production ceased in 1971.
Although Jensen's design for a new Austin-based sports-car was rejected by the British Motor Corporation (BMC) in 1952 in favour of a design provided by Donald Healey, Jensen did win the BMC contract to build the bodies for the resultant Austin-Healey 100 from 1952 until 1966.
In 1960 Jensen won a contract from Volvo to assemble and finish the bodies for their P1800 coupé. Pressed Steel manufactured the body-shells at their Linwood plant in Scotland and shipped them to Jensen in West Bromwich to be finished, painted and trimmed, before then being shipped to Sweden where Volvo completed the final build.
In the early 1960s Jensen were also involved in the development and production of the Sunbeam Tiger.
Jensen Motors ceased trading in May 1976. Two new companies: Jensen Special Products (JSP) and Jensen Parts & Service Limited (JP&S) were created to pick up the pieces of Jensen Motors. JSP was created as a specialist engineering and design company from Jensen's development department. JP&S was created to provide parts and service to the existing Jensen customer base. Both JSP and JP&S were bought by a holding company, Britcar Holdings. In 1982 JP&S, with the rights to use the Jensen brand names, was sold to Ian Orford.
Cars manufactured by Jensen:
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