Second-hand Jensen Interceptor
Fraught, frustrating and yet utterly fabulous, there was nothing quite like the ownership experience of a second-hand Jensen Interceptor.
My first clear consciousness of Jensen Interceptors began on my walk to school in the mid-Seventies in Leicester. At an agreeable Edwardian house in Stoneygate lived a bright blue example, registered 1 BLU. On frosty mornings I’d hear the distant rumble of its idle from the next street as its owner warmed it up. Two towers of condensation from its exhausts rose above the rooftops like the emissions from a coal-fired power station. The whole road would be wreathed in a rolling mist of five-star fuel.
I’d stroll slowly past, peering down the drive trying to see who was responsible for this fabulously wasteful excess. Then in my twenties, looking round a house for sale in Oadby with a friend, we opened the double garage doors to find a metallic red 1968 F-reg Series 1 slumbering under bedsheets. The lady selling the house, a widow, didn’t know what to do with her late husband’s pride and joy, and a swift deal was done for the car rather the house. In my thirties I bought a 1973 Interceptor III – for about four grand – and settled back into a lush life with a Jensen. These were the days when you could take your Interceptor to Birmingham and have it serviced by the blokes who built it at Jensen Parts and Service. Service appointments felt like you were visiting an exclusive club, with tea from bone china cups, walls adorned with photos of Jensen-driving celebrities and your car’s build and service history still written in a neat copperplate hand in the thick company records book. All impossibly expensive of course but strangely worth it. Twelve miles to the gallon and never being able to restart when hot were minor irritations. The respect and admiration shown by everybody was disarming. Interceptors have always been edgy and wherever you went you were lit by your own personal spotlight. Much more raffish than Astons or Ferraris – and certainly nowhere near as classy – they radiated a sassy antiestablishment allure, a bit like the Mk2 Jag. That image was forged by showbiz personalities, comedians, boxers and nightclub owners. I sold my ’73 to a club owner in Spain, fitted an uprated radiator and bigger water pump and drove the car from Leicester to Alicante.
What a drive. I stopped so many times for fuel it felt like I was filling the tanks of an advancing army. Bursts of 120mph on the autopista won’t have helped consumption but I remember the 1400- mile trip as one of the most satisfying drives of my life and the Jensen as rock steady, totally reliable and deliciously smooth. I have this clear recollection of looking over the big, flat bonnet, heat shimmer melting the view ahead, 100mph on the dial, thinking, ‘This must be one of life’s unforgettable moments.’
And it was. Nightclub man thumped a corner and couldn’t cope with the need for the fairly constant fettling, so I lost track of the car. But looking back, the Interceptor was one of those classics that was an honour to own, a rite of passage, a formative experience. Even though I remember mine with its bonnet open more times than it was closed, would I have another? In a heartbeat.
Quentin Willson had a nine-year stint presenting the BBC’s Top Gear, has bought and sold countless cars and has cemented a reputation as everyone’s favourite motoring pundit.
This Interceptor gave Quentin one of his most memorable drives.