Matters of Moment, April 1972

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A new sports car—The Jensen-Healey

We began the year with the suggestion that a sports-car renaissance might well be a feature of the nineteen-seventies, based on the assumptions that the motor car continues to be a status-symbol or, put less blatantly, a pleasurable possession, and that, in open two-seater form, it adds the benefit and enjoyment of fresh-air motoring, good handling and a sense of fun and individuality.

Great minds are said to think along much the same lines, and in this respect Motor Sport and Kjell Qvale, President of Jensen Motors Ltd., are occupying the same boat, for the recently released Jensen-Healey is an open two-seater sports car. This new Jensen-Healey is seen by Mr. Qvale as a replacement for the Austin Healey 3000, which departed from the sporting scene in 1967. It is a design concept of the Donald Healey Motor Company, with Geoffrey Healey acting as wet-nurse until Kevin Beattie, Engineering Director of Jensen Motors, was ready to wean it. The Jensen-Healey will be built, to an eventual anticipated output of 200 a week, in Jensen’s West Bromwich factory, where Alfred Vickers has installed fresh assembly lines, altered those on which earlier Healeys were made and instituted a spares and service set up. In this respect Jensen Motors should be familiar with open sports-car techniques, because they began making body shells for the Healey 100 in 1952 and built more than 80,000 bodies for the late-lamented, lusty Healey 3000.

The engine for the new Jensen-Healey is one about which rumours and odd bits of information have been in the air for a considerable time—the 2-litre twin-cam 16-valve cast-alloy Lotus four-cylinder power unit evolved originally around a Vauxhall Victor 2000 cylinder block when Colin Chapman was wanting something more potent than a twin-cam eight-valve Ford engine. Having done the development work, to the stage where this very-oversquare 95.2 x 69.3-mm. (1,973-c.c.) wet-liner engine is said to give 140 (DIN) b.h.p. at 6,500 r.p.m. on a c.r. of 8.4 to. 1 for a dry weight of 275 lb. sans clutch. Lotus have promised Jensen they will not use it as a replacement in any of the current Lotus cars. But, having spent three years on it, testing it for 300,000 miles on the road and 2,500 hours on the bench, including its use in a Vauxhall VX 4/90 saloon and a Bedford van, Lotus are obviously going to use their new engine in later Lotus models, having set up a new plant at Norwich at a cost of £500,000 on which to build over 15,000 of these engines a year, on a continuous-path production-line with numerical automated control of Marwin tools which machine two blocks and heads every hour.

The new Jensen-Healey has this interesting Lotus engine, with 16-valve head like an antiquated Bentley (or a modern F1 racing car) and belt-driven o.h. camshafts, angled at 45 deg. beneath its bonnet. It uses two twin-choke horizontal Dell’orto carburetters for Europe, twin Stromberg CDSEs for the American customer.

The Lotus engine is mated to a four-speed and reverse gearbox, top gear being 3.73 to 1. The specification is conventional, even a trifle out-dated, for independence is confined to the front wheels, a normal live axle sufficing at the back, located by four links and sprung, like the front double wishbones, on coil springs. In eschewing i.r.s. the new car lags behind such sports cars as the Lotus Elan, Triumph Spitfire and TR6 and the Jaguar E-type. The brakes are disc/drum, with dual lines and servo action. There is rack-and-pinion steering and 13-in. cast-alloy wheels are shod with 185-70 SR13 radial-ply tyres. The steel body has front and rear wing panels bolted onto an undersealed structure and incorporates all the closed-car features of heater, glove locker, ash-tray, radio stowage, seat-belts, foam seats, carpets, head-rests, wind-up glass windows, etc., now expected of an openable sports car. The counter-balanced, fold-away hood has Velcro retention at its sealing edges and upholstery is in vinyl. There is a reluctance to name proprietary components and equipment in the specification sheets but these do admit that the 14-mm. sparking plugs are of the estimable Champion breed.

This new Jensen-Healey has a 7 ft. 8 in. wheelbase and a gross weight of 2,650 lb. It should be a reasonably exclusive automobile, because it seems as if initially only about three a day will be made and as some 60% of the eventual annual production of about 10,000 Jensen-Healeys a year is intended for the North American market, UK roads should not get too congested with them. This is, incidentally, another Anglo-American venture, for the new President of Jensen Motors is also President of British Motor Distributors of San Francisco, the largest distributors of British cars in the USA, and Donald Healey, who commenced his sporting motoring associations over 50 years ago in an ABC, last April joined Jensen Motors as Chairman of the new Anglo-American consortium which purchased a majority shareholding. There is reason to think that Americans, as a counterfoil to their vast and soggy saloons, will continue to demand British sports cars. But let not we sporting and fresh-air-loving Europeans lag behind! Indeed, if, as rumour occasionally whispers, future USA safety laws outlaw open motor cars, Jensen will need to look especially to this little off-shore Island of Europe, called Great Britain, for customers for its Lotus-Healey. Only the big battalions can arrange to have plenty of cars in the hands of Press writers and for sale in the showrooms by release date, as Lord Stokes so sensibly insisted on in the case of that excellent all-rounder, the Triumph Dolomite. But the very scarcity of the Jensen-Healey, commented on hereafter, may cause those on both sides of the Atlantic ocean who have a fixation about “teething troubles” to delay ordering this newest of sports cars until more is known about it. For all that, it can be regarded as possessing a pedigree, with an engine out of Lotus and the makers of the revolutionary Jensen FF, which owes something to racing driver Freddie Dixon and others, siring it-and we were very impressed with the 4WD FF, though less happy with the handling of the Jensen Interceptor on cross-ply tyres.

We would like to tell you whether or not you should order this latest of open sports two-seaters but, in spite of more than one request to the charming boys and girls at the publicists who are dealing with it, aptly named Good Relations Limited, they were unable to let us drive a Jensen-Healey in time to report on it in this issue, explaining that only a solitary example existed, which was on its way to the Geneva Show. The proof of this Jensen pudding, prepared by chief-chef Healey, will be in the sampling, so Motor Sport reserves judgement until Kjell Qvale allows dinner to be served, presumably with Gethin Bradley handing round the helpings.

At Geneva the UK price of the Jensen-Healey was announced as just under £1,874. So this four-cylinder luxury sports car costs £556 more than the ageing MG-B but is undercut by £346 by the six-cylinder, fuel-injection Triumph TR6, which is a true, hairy sports car.

Transit Light

Lab-Craft Ltd. have marketed a portable fluorescent lamp with a wide range of applications. Its compact size (12 in. x 1 1/2 in. x 2 in.) means that the lamp will hang even in the most confined space. Its strong handle also acts as a mounting and allows the unit to pivot, casting light in any direction required. The Transit Light is supplied complete with a 15-ft. lead and clips for battery attachment.

This light can be used effectively in car, boat or caravan, and is ideal for camping as tent awning mountings are also available.

The light retails at £4.99 (incl. PT) and is obtainable from leading stockists or direct from Lab-Craft Ltd., Church Road, Harold Wood, Essex.

Miniatures News

Lesnet seem to be branching out into the children’s toy field but future “Models Of Yesteryear” will include a 1938 4 1/2-litre Lagonda drop-head coupé and a 1928 Mercedes 38/250 SS, the latter looking like a previous “Matchbox” model with the addition of a hood.