The Jensen Healey promised so much, yet delivered so little. Disappointing when you consider that the car was born from such a fine pedigree. After all, the impressive Jensen FF
was the world’s first production car to use a four-wheel-drive system, and was widely regarded as an engineering masterpiece.
When Jensen obtained the services of Donald Healey
, who had just finished working at BMC, together with Donald’s son Geoffrey, the idea of a stylish yet affordable Jensen seemed a shoe in. The winning formula would capture much of the charisma of the 1960’s Austin Healey’s
, and combine that with the engineering prowess of Jensen. That was the theory.
Unfortunately somewhere along the line the Jensen-Healey went awry, the finished product looking far from the goods, and the attempts to keep the costs down had meant that parts were sourced from some pretty inappropriate places, particularly for a sports car.
The Jensen-Healey’s bland looks would not set your heart racing with desire, and one drive in it around some twisty stuff would be sure to wipe the smile off your face. The chassis was awful, offering a handling experience more akin to that experienced in a Vauxhall Viva
. But that made sense, as the chassis was based on Vauxhall Viva components!
There was one standout to the car however, the Lotus
sourced 1973cc twin overhead cam 907 engine, a four valves per cylinder unit producing 144bhp, propelling the car to a respectable 119mph and passing 60mph in 8.7 seconds.
The Jensen Healey was launched at the 1972
Geneva Motor Show, the following year the Mark II being launched, mainly in an attempt to quell growing criticism of the cars (many) faults. Even the Lotus engine came under the microscope, the continued oil leaks not what one would expect from a new car of this calibre. Another minor upgrade was made late in 1974 to address US safety regulations, although the new 5 miles per hour rubber bumpers made an already questionable style look worse.
But the change was needed, given most of the Jensen Healey’s were being sold in the US. In retrospect the decision by Jensen to build a cheaper 4 cylinder alternative to the Interceptor and FF
was a good one, given the sharp rise in oil prices during the early 1970’s. It perhaps would have saved the company, for a time anyway, from going belly up. But for that to happen, the Jensen-Healey needed to be much better than simply ordinary. In the end, a little over 10,000 would be sold, not enough to save Jensen, who went into liquidation in 1975
A sporting estate named the Jensen GT almost kept the model alive for another 509 models with a well sorted engine, five speed Getrag gearbox, electric windows and optional air conditioning. Possibly being priced too highly it couldn't prevent the Jensen finally shutting up shop in 1976