The Jensen-Healey is a two-seater convertible sports car that was originally produced between 1972 and 1976 by Jensen Motors, Ltd. Roughly 10,000 were produced at West Bromwich, England. A related fastback, the Jensen GT was introduced in 1975.
With the demise of the Austin-Healey 3000, car dealer Kjell Qvale was looking for a new product to replace it. He entered into discussions with Donald Healey and Jensen Motors, who had built the bodies for Healey's Austin-Healey cars. Kjell Qvale became a Jensen shareholder and Donald Healey became the chairman. The Jensen-Healey was designed in a joint venture by Donald Healey, his son Geoffery, William Towns and Jensen Motors. It was hoped that Healey could help to contribute the sense of style that made the Austin-Healey a hit. The unitary body understructure was designed by Barry Bilbie, who had been responsible for the Austin-Healey 100, 100-6 and 3000 as well as the Sprite. It was designed to be cheap to repair, with bolt-on panels, to reduce insurance premiums.
In 1974, United States Government-mandated rubber bumpers were attached.
Engines and transmissions
Many engines were tried out in the prototype stage including Vauxhall, Ford and BMW units. The Vauxhall 2.3 L engine met United States emission requirements but did not meet the power target of 130 hp (97 kW). A German Ford V6 was considered but industrial action crippled supply. BMW could not supply an engine in the volumes needed so Jensen looked to Lotus who had a new, untested engine available. Thus all Jensen-Healey models came equipped with the then-new 1973 cc Lotus 907 engine, a two litre, dual overhead cam, 16 valve all-alloy powerplant. This setup puts out approximately 144 bhp (107 kW), topping out at 119 mph (192 km/h) and accelerating from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds.
Vehicles for European distribution and sale contained dual side-draft twin-throat Dell'Orto carburetors; those exported to the United States had dual side-draft single throat Zenith Strombergs in order to meet emissions requirements. The oil cooler was absent in the earliest models.
The initial transmission was a four speed Chrysler unit sourced from the Sunbeam Rapier. Later 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 braking
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. 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.
Jensen-Healey interiors started out austere and functional, with plastic centre consoles and all-black colour schemes. (Some earlier models do sport brown interiors, however.) In August 1973, aesthetic extras such as a clock, wood grain on the dashboard and glove-box and padding as well as air conditioning as an option were added. 1976 Jensen GT models went even further by offering an elaborate burr walnut wood dashboard and paisley-patterned cloth seats, with leather as an option.
The oil crisis hit Jensen Motors hard, greatly damaging the sales of their very large V8 Interceptor model and thus degrading their financial condition as a whole. The Jensen GT was then hurriedly brought to market, requiring massive labour expense and taxing the firm's budget even further. As the Jensen-Healey continued to garner mediocre sales in the United Kingdom (though the car was relatively popular in the United States), the situation proved to be too much for the company, which, amid strike action, component shortages and inflation, proceeded to liquidate in 1975 and close their doors in May 1976.
Jensen Motors ran a factory team to capture the SCCA D Production Championship in 1973 and 1974. This effort was put together by Huffaker Engineering in California.
The initial drivers in 1973 were Lee Mueller and Jon Woodner. In 1974 the lone entry was Lee Mueller. Although it was a new car, the Jensen-Healey went on to become one of the few cars in SCCA History to capture a championship in its first year of racing (1973). Lee Mueller captured a second D Production championship in 1974. The factory support ended in 1974, however the West Coast Jensen-Healey dealers combined to put together a late effort in 1975. Huffaker built a new car and although beginning the SCCA season late Mueller, driving again, was able to qualify for the runoffs in Atlanta. A third championship nearly came to pass but the Healey was edged out by the Ex C Production Triumph TR 6 factory team car of Group 44 racing, driven by John McComb. The Huffaker factory cars were later campaigned by the likes of Carl Liebich, Stefan Edliss, Tim Lind, Joe Carr, Tom Kraft and Jim Reilly.
Bruce Qvale and Joe Huffaker Jr. from Huffaker Engineering, of Sears Point Raceway, Sonoma, California, successfully campaigned a Jensen Healey in SCCA E Production, winning the SCCA title in 1995. From 2005 until 2007, Ron Earp of Cary, North Carolina campaigned a 1974 Jensen Healey in SCCA Improved Touring S class.
- 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)
| Classic production cars
| Classic prototype cars