By on January 15, 2014

04 - Jensen Interceptor Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinAs many of you know from having read my 1965 Impala Hell Project series, I spent many of my formative junkyard-prowling years in Southern California. San Francisco Bay Area junkyards, 400 miles to the north, are pretty good— you’ll find many mostly-rust-free examples of old British sports cars, interesting edge-case Italian machines, and ancient American steel up there— but the self-serve wrecking yards of Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties are so numerous and so vast that you’re guaranteed to find some great stuff. I spent a couple of days in Los Angeles last week, and here’s what I found at the very first junkyard I visited.
11 - Jensen Interceptor Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThat’s right, the first Jensen Interceptor I’ve ever seen in a wrecking yard. Not only that, it’s a pink Interceptor! OK, maybe it was red before decades in the Southern California sun and smog did their work, but it’s pink now.
01 - Jensen Interceptor Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThis Chrysler big-block is most likely the sixth or seventh engine to be crudely swapped into this car during its long and no doubt painful downward spiral to basket-caseness.
09 - Jensen Interceptor Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Interceptor came with a nice limited-slip Dana 44 differential, and of course some truck guy grabbed that right away.
18 - Jensen Interceptor Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinI don’t know enough about Interceptors to tell you what model year we’re looking at here, and I couldn’t find any VIN or build tags on the thing. The holes where side marker lights once lived suggests a ’68 or newer, while the dash seems to be of the pre-1974 type. You can’t go by the single-4-barrel engine, for obvious reasons, so I’m going to leave this debate to the 17 members of the Global Jensen Jihad.
17 - Jensen Interceptor Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinI thought about taking some of these Lucas fuses, to put into 24 Hours of LeMons Camaros as a bad-driving penalty, but I’m not that cruel.
05 - Jensen Interceptor Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s rough, and the glass is probably the only thing of any value left on the car. Still, one of my all-time favorite Junkyard Finds!

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63 Comments on “Junkyard Find: Jensen Interceptor...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Awesome find!

    Didn’t these all come with Chrysler big blocks? Maybe that wasn’t swapped in…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Yeah I was thinking the same thing. What makes you think that this one was a swap, MM?

      • 0 avatar
        BigOldChryslers

        When I read that I wasn’t sure why MM assumed it wasn’t the original engine. The Mopar big block and TF727 are the most reliable parts of an Interceptor.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      Yes, they used either 383’s or 440’s.

      Small observations – Red with blue interior? Yikes. Looks like someone got the Dana 44 carrier out of the housing but the passenger side axle is still in place – unless it’s just sitting in place and not attached.

      The pre 5 MPH bumper models looked pretty good, after that not so much as the big bumpers looked tacked on. The bumper mounts on this one look pretty minimal so I would assume it’s a pre ’73. Really interesting find!

    • 0 avatar

      They came with 383s and 440s, which means that the one in the car now probably came from a ’74 New Yorker, and the one that Jensen installed has been sitting in a backyard in Reseda since 1988.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    U R correct.

    Plus the bestest automatic of the day, the legendary Torqueflite.

  • avatar

    This is my idea of a Hell project. Buy an old Jensen Interceptor and either rat rod it, or redo it with a modern Hemi and transmission from a wrecked Charger. It would either be insanely cool… or it would drive me insane…

  • avatar

    Cool car, but the color and the way the paint is flaking off in that one photo made an image of Tammy Faye Baker flash before my eyes. Creepy.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    There has been too much violence. Too much pain. But I have an honorable compromise. Just walk away. Give me your pump, the oil, the gasoline, and the whole compound, and I’ll spare your lives. Just walk away and we’ll give you a safe passageway in the wastelands. Just walk away and there will be an end to the horror.

    Oops, wrong quote

    The last of the V8 Interceptors… a piece of history! Would’ve been a shame to blow it up.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    As one who drives an LBC daily , I simply refuse to believe you left a pile of non rusted original LUCAS slow blow fuses behind ! .

    I mean, really now .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Best Junkyard Find in a long time!

    Here in the UK, even basket case Interceptors are worth a few grand. This one must have been really bad to end up in the junkyard.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      Not at all meant as a slam at Americans, but if this Interceptor was instead towed to a UK recycling yard, it would very well have been bought whole and returned to being road-worthy. I read about a drophead version appearing in worse condition in the UK that was reclaimed and restored.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Very cool back in their day (with one of the best car names ever), but not made to last.

    What surprises me is how ravaged this car is. I can’t believe someone else actually tracked down this donor car and pillaged its parts, because there weren’t that many Interceptors made.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I would venture to guess that’s the reason why it’s well picked. Those that still exist are becoming fairly collectable and need parts that can’t be easy to come by.

  • avatar

    Ties the day I found *three* Maserati Biturbos in one day for epic finds. I miss southern California…

    • 0 avatar

      There’s a Biturbo convertible in the very same yard!

      • 0 avatar
        Synchromesh

        I found a Biturbo once in a MA yard about 18 years ago. It was a sedan. I still have the “Biturbo” script off of it somewhere. That was the very same yard where I found the remains of a Chrysler Airflow. Yup, the one from the 30s. Being an MA car there wasn’t much left but the waterfall grille was instantly recognizable.

        There was another yard that had several cars from the 30s including a ’36 Pontiac. Some other cars I recall seeing there at one time or another were a Volvo Amazon sedan, a ’63 Corvair sedan (yup, took the C-o-r-v-a-i-r letters home), a ’79 Peugeot 504 which was the only 504 I’ve ever seen in MA and a Canadian ’75 Morris Marina that was never sold in the States. Some of these are no big deal for CA but they were uber rare in MA. They used to have an entire 60s section with several American and Euro cars.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        That I want to see!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I always thought the Biturbo was a rebadge of a BMW 3 because it looked nearly identical.

      I’m sure it was much more expensive and nowhere near as reliable.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I bet 85% of people wouldn’t know what this thing was if you showed it to them in mint condition!

    Very advanced, very poorly built. Now I’m off to read what happened to Jensen – I suspect it was folded into BL and then destroyed.

    Edit: Nope, purchased by Kjell Qvale who owned it to the end in the mid 70s. He died 11/2013 at the age of 94, and his son is the one who created Qvale Motors.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      Didn’t he play The Lord Humungus! The Warrior of the Wasteland! The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla! in the Road Warrior? Nevermind, different Kjell.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      Mr. Q actually died on Nov. 1, and his company, British Motor Car Distributors Ltd, of San Francisco, did purchase Jensen Motors in 1970, and shortly thereafter aligned with Donald Healey to build the Jensen-Healey. For any of you who have now or used to have British sports cars in the US, you can thank Kjell Qvale for seeing an MG-TC just after WWII, and arranging to import them to the States, and for serving as the west coast distributor for Aston Martin, Bentley, Rolls Royce, and the deTomaso Mangusta(that’s how the Qvale Mangusta got its name), as well. It’s difficult to imagine a more important guy to the sports car market in America(besides Shelby and Arkus Duntov) in the last 55 years than Mr. Q.
      The New York Times published a fine account of his history at the time of his death.

      • 0 avatar
        Vega

        I’d argue Max Hoffman belongs on that list. He gave us the 300SL, 190SL and the 356 Speedster…

        • 0 avatar
          snakebit

          I do get why you nominated Max Hoffman, he’s not generally well known, but the European cars he brought to the States will certainly surprise people who don’t recognize his name or company. I’m not near my office library this morning, but I know I have a book featuring Mr. Hoffman and the cars he’s been credited with importing or serving as the US distributor for.

          You and I are in agreement about the importance of the 300SL and Porsche Speedster. I want you to take this only as my opinion, but I don’t hold the 190SL as a hallmark for Mercedes, and I haven’t since its inception. If there is anything to congratulate the 190SL for, it would be for proving to MB that there was market in the States for a roadster several wrungs(sp) down the ladder from the 300SL, so that MB would develop cars like the Pagoda model (230SL-250SL-280SL) and the later succession of six and eight cylinder SL models. I’ll have more to say about Mr. Hoffman when I get back to town and find the article about him.

  • avatar
    Numbers_Matching

    Cool car. The convertible, sorry, drophead version of this car is a real looker. Too bad the execution was not up to standard. But you could imagine a company like this, back in the 70’s probably needed to scrounge for whatever was available off other OEM’s shelves – and somehow put it all together. Very much a cottage industry attempt at building a high-end car.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Let’s keep a little perspective here. The Jensen Interceptor was no worse than any other hand-built high performance car back in the late 60’s. It had the advantage of a pretty reliable American V8 and transmission, though that came at the cost of it being horrifyingly thirsty by Euro standards. It was CERTAINLY better built and more reliable than anything Ferrari or Lamborghini made back then, at half the cost. And it was better built than any cheap family car of the day. ALL cars were pretty crap then, this one was at least pretty fast and a looker. Pretty sweet way to swish from London to the South of France…

      Today the problem is that they just aren’t worth enough to be worth restoring except as a labor of love. Which is pretty much true of everything other than certain Ferraris.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    These cars are my idea of the perfect car. Not too big, large practical hatch, big V8 with tons of torque, available AWD. If I had stupid money one of these in mint near-stock (I’d upgrade the engine some) condition would be my daily driver.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    If memory serves, there is a company in the UK that makes new OEM Jensen parts. They acquired the tooling and all of the build sheets as well. Was on an older Wheeler Dealers episode. Pricey things though.

    • 0 avatar
      Numbers_Matching

      “Was on an older Wheeler Dealers episode”
      Is that the show where the fat guy goes out and buys a car … and the tall guy fixes them up?

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        Yes, that’s the one. What always bothers me is that they never include the cost of the mechanic’s (the tall one) labor in any of their project summaries. They have to lose money on every single one!

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I mean it’s totally worth it to put $7000 and 225 labor hours into a 94 Saab 900!

          • 0 avatar
            kmoney

            Haha, so true. The episdode with the Morgan frame was the best, where it cost $800, but with ~100 hours of labour to re and re. Course it gets booked at $800 cost alone.

            The last couple seasons have gotten a bit better as they seem to actually have some money behind them. They have fixed up some near/true classics (Fiat Dino, Lambo Urraco, Renault Alpine).

        • 0 avatar
          JMII

          The labor on some of them is isane, like when do paint work, everyone knows the prep (sanding, primer, more sanding) is DAYS of work. They always mention “a shop would charge 15 stones (or whatever Brit call cash these days) but you can do it yourself” Yeah right…if you have a full lift in your garage plus every tool known to man and nothing else better to do because its always cold and rainy outside. Great show, ridiculous premise. I guess the whole idea is basically flipping projects cars, just make enough to buy another project. If you were a car junkie (with the garage and time) this would be considered a hobby.

        • 0 avatar

          Yes, this has bothered me as well. The fat one always seems so excited about all the money he will make (he actually rubs his hands together sometimes, like Uriah Heep)and then sells the car for the original price plus parts and not much else after a vast amount of work gets done . If they would make some serious money the tall (and excellent) mechanic could get something done about his hair.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Holy shiznit, has Crab Spirits seen this thing yet?

    This car is Inspector Clouseau meets Austin Powers…just nuts.

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    The veddy British dashboard is what I always loved best about those. Too bad an indestructible Mopar drivetrain couldn’t compensate for the energy crisis, a shaky Seventies economy and shoddy build.

    If Qvale had managed to make it go another 10 years or so like Jag, Lotus, Aston, Rolls and Bentley did, perhaps the Iaccoca-era Chrysler might have bought them up.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    On todays Hemmings blog is a featured Interceptor for sale. Using the asking price of the Hemmings car as a guide, they’re not worth much when they are road-worthy. Maybe the condition kept this one down.

    http://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/carsforsale/jensen/interceptor_3/1622187.html?refer=blog

  • avatar
    SixDucks

    Not a swap job! They came with 440’s. I replaced a blown up engine in one of these once (due to the Rube Goldberg remoted oil filter, a necessity due to the location of Jaguar rack and pinion steering). It was a somewhat crude installation, Jensen sort of built the car around the engine. The job was challenging and time consuming. A very nice driving car, but really too close to a similar vintage Dodge Charger to warrant the extra $$$.

    • 0 avatar

      These cars came with Chrysler big-blocks, but I guarantee that the one in this car is not the original engine.

      • 0 avatar
        snakebit

        Murilee,

        What specifically is the point behind telling us twice that you don’t think the motor in this junkyard Interceptor is the original one. Do you know something from first hand experience about the reputation of Chrysler motors in Interceptors, have you seen photos of the engine compartment of new Interceptors that don’t match the photos you took of the junkyard car? Is someone challenging your comments about this being a replacement motor? Why is this point so dear to you, and I don’t bring this up as a rhetorical point.

        • 0 avatar
          mechimike

          From the experiences of others who have owned these cars, the massive big block shoved under the tiny bonnet led to chronic overheating problems. Also, since BB Mopars are still pretty cheap, unless the car is a concourse resto piece it’s usually cheaper to replace a blown or tired engine with a good running used one. While Interceptor values have been climbing recently, they’re still not in the rarified air of other BB Mopar powered vehicles. Plus, I imagine for an American-engined European GT car, it’s nearly impossible to verify a “numbers matching” drivetrain, if such a thing can even exist.

          I doubt MM has any exact info that this engine isn’t original, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet it wasn’t the one it left England with, too.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Not sure if this is true but I recall reading somewhere that the failure of the Jensen-Healey was to blame for the end of Jensen as it left no money to redesign the Interceptor.Other people have blamed the two Seventies gas crisis , particularly in the British market.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    My father and his old school-friend ran a tuning business out of our home garage in the early 70’s. He said he really learned how to swear trying to balance the triple twin barrel carburetors on a Jensen Interceptor.

  • avatar
    hawox

    the interceptor, such a great car! but with a ridiculous buldt quality.

  • avatar
    Paul Lewis

    Hi All,

    I’ve registered on here specifically to answer some of the questions raised and to give you a little more information on Jensen cars and in particular this Interceptor.

    This Interceptor is a Mk II version, the additional indicators (flashers) are behind the side grill. Mk II Interceptors were produced between late 1969 to mid 1971. These models featured a new type ‘soft’ dash rather than the Italian designed Mk I dash to comply with US crash regulations. The early Mk II had a two vent dash with the later cars having a four vent dash. Also the seats are from a Mk II. I would hazard a guess that this is a 1970 or 1971 car. All Interceptors had a Chrysler big block engine and a Torqueflite 727 gearbox. Mk I and Mk II cars had the 383 ‘B’ engine and also some of the very early Mk III cars. In late 1972 the engine was upgraded to the 440 ‘RB’ engine because the power output had fallen off quite considerably due to US emission regulations. The engine in this car does look like a 383 in Jensen spec but if the original poster knows that this has been changed then who am I to argue. The chassis plate is on the inner wing and should be 125/xxxx. For information, there were 1128 Mk II Interceptors made with the breakdown of 694 (123 series) RHD, 432 (125 series) and 2 EXP (experimental series). If the chassis number could be obtained, I could tell you the exact engine number, original colour, original trim colour, factory fitted options and the date that it was ex-factory (when it was considered a full car).

    Restorations of these cars are not as daunting as you might think, however it is worth remembering that they are hand built cars. The interior alone has over 6 full hides of leather. Nearly every panel is available with the exception of the roof. Some trim pieces are hard to locate as well as door handles. The Jensen suppliers in the UK and the US sometimes re-make parts that are obsolete.

    The cars were built using quite high levels of ‘build quality’ for the 1960s and 70s. Bodyshells were dipped and treated before the paint was applied. Significant layers of ‘red lead’ were applied to the chassis rails, and the entire underside was coated in underseal.
    In the US there is a extremely good restorer of Jensen Interceptors in SNOHOMISH, WA. Their website is http://www.interceptor.org

    Below is a little more information on the Jensen Interceptor (taken from our website http://www.joc.org.uk )

    Shown at the October 1966 Earls Court Motor Show alongside the technically advanced 4 wheel drive FF, the Touring of Milan designed Interceptor was quite a sensation and received much praise. The fact Jensen had in the space of a year produced two completely new models was also outstanding, particularly as the two companies involved in the project were 680 miles apart. The original design penned by Touring of Milan was taken to Vignale of Turin who had the capability to produce the car in much higher numbers than Touring. Fully trimmed and painted bodyshells were delivered from Italy for assembly at West Bromwich by October 1966.

    Both new cars had the 330 bhp Chrysler 383ci (6276cc) V8 engine and Torqueflite 3 speed automatic gearbox as fitted to the previous C-V8 and shared body panels from the front A-pillars back, the chassis of each car were however quite different. The Interceptor was originally a modification of the successful C-V8 chassis, the FF model was heavily modified with a different main tube arrangement to accept the 4 wheel drive system also being 4” longer. Whereas the body on the CV8 had been glass fibre, both the Interceptor and FF were of all steel construction. A new type of wheel was used, fully chrome plated 5J x 15” Rostyle wheels were fitted to both models.

    The original cars built by Vignale in Italy required much work inside and out to meet the quality standard required by Jensen, eventually the contract was terminated and Jensen started producing the cars themselves at West Bromwich. There are many subtle differences on the early cars due to constant updating for production purposes and detailed records of changes were not kept up to date.

    Mid 1969 the front suspension was redesigned replacing the king-pin type carried over from the C-V8 with independent, coil sprung, ball jointed wishbones, the lever arm dampers also being replaced with telescopic type. The twin piston Dunlop callipers front and rear were replaced with Girling triple piston types improving braking, radial tyres were fitted making the Interceptor even more sure footed than before and power steering was standard fitment.

    For the October 1969 Motor Show a MkII version of the Interceptor and FF were displayed signalling the end of Vignale and MkI production with a total of 1033 produced.

    Interceptor Mk II
    Changes to the rear lights having a larger flatter area and no chrome trim although some early cars had the MkI lamps, new slimmer bumpers and flatter overriders, the front bumper being 2” higher with new indicators mounted beneath. Black trim around the headlamps as opposed to body colour with the chrome headlamp bezels removed and a remote opener for the rear hatch operated from within the driver’s door shut replacing the push button on the rear panel.

    Many more improvements were introduced, the largest being a completely new interior. Totally different in appearance to the Italian styled MkI with new seats, centre console, dashboard incorporating a glovebox and air conditioning is now offered as an optional extra. The wheels changed, keeping with Rostyles now being 6J x 15” with a chrome centre section and a silver grey painted rim.

    Interceptor SP
    Sales figures coupled to the cost of manufacturing the FF led to a new model being introduced as the company flagship for the October 1971 Motor Show, the Interceptor SP. The 383ci (6276cc) engine was replaced with a 440ci (7212cc) version from Chrysler in a very high state of tune incorporating three dual choke carburettors known in the USA as the “Six Pack”, hence the new model designation of SP. A high compression ratio of 10.3:1 required the use of five star fuel to develop the 385 bhp this engine was rated at, some 55 bhp more than the 330 bhp of the 383ci engine.

    New 6.5J x 15” 5 spoke alloy wheels manufactured by GKN were fitted enabling the fitment of wider tyres and larger 10.75” ventilated discs with a dual circuit system. To make the SP stand out compared with lesser models a contrasting vinyl roof was standard plus two sets of louvres were punched in each side of the bonnet for three quarters of the length. The front bumper was altered losing the number plate mounting, the rear now had a single rear number plate lamp as opposed to two and cast aluminium surrounds made for the dual headlamps having tapered light apertures. Every optional extra was standard on the SP including the Lear-Jet Stereo 8 track tape player-radio and electric aerial. The interior was also updated having new seats and door panels, the centre console was restyled and the dashboard received two extra eyeball vents.

    Performance figures gave the SP 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds, 0-100mph in 16.8 seconds and a top speed of 145mph.

    Interceptor Mk III
    With the introduction of the SP, the Interceptor gained the same interior and exterior treatment becoming the Interceptor MkIII. The GKN alloys and brakes were also added and the culmination of so many small details gave the whole car a fresher, more modern look compared with the previous models. The 383ci engine remained but as time went on Chrysler were having difficulty meeting emission regulations and the power output was dropping so 1972 saw the introduction of the 440cid engine with a single four barrel carburettor. This MkIII model was the most successful achieving the highest production figures of any Jensen at 3432.

    Interceptor Convertible
    When the motoring world were assuming US safety law would see the end of convertible cars, Jensen had in development a convertible with a hydraulically operated hood they released in March 1974. US safety law did not change leaving Jensen as one of the very few manufacturers with a luxury convertible on the market at a time when most others had ceased production and development. The convertible sold well with over 467 being sold during the next two years.

    Very little chassis work was required to improve strength and rigidity, a new rear end was designed with a boot lid which lent itself well to the giving a very balanced look. The roof folded hydraulically at the push of a switch, continued pressure lowering the rear quarter windows down into the panels out of sight.

    Interceptor Mk III S4
    Visually a very similar car to the MkIII Interceptor except for badges, but numerous detail changes under the skin. A massive change to the interior came a few months later with the replacement of the moulded plastic dashboard and the introduction of a completely redesigned dash in leather-trimmed walnut. Matching walnut panels (previously an option) on the centre console were now standard.

    Interceptor Coupe
    Unveiled at the London Motor Show in October 1975, the Coupe used the convertible rear panel work, a Jaguar XJ6 rear screen and a roofline designed by Panther having a unique dark blue tinted panel behind the rear windows continuing across the roof. Only 54 were built as the company was in receivership and at the time there were 3 prototype fixed head cars utilising the standard Interceptor rear quarter windows with the XJ6 rear screen.

    I hope this information helps clear some of the confusion. We have a very lively international club based in the UK. Please see http://www.joc.org.uk where there is also a link to our free to use forum.

    Kind regards
    Paul Lewis
    Chairman
    Jensen Owners’ Club

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Thank you for this!

    • 0 avatar
      Nick

      We may have spoken once or twice before. I found a silver Jensen Interceptor behind an abandoned garage…I was able to find an unpaid parking ticket from many years before. It was all still there, but a complete rust pile.

    • 0 avatar
      Ron B.

      Back in the 1970’s I knew a guy who had restored a burnt out SP . With my foot to the floor it was one the quickest damn things I had ever driven and despite the naysayers comments above ,handled really well on winding roads. His was white but they look incredibly beautiful in Black . This car looks pretty good compared to some of the resto projects I have come across in the last 40 years ,afterall these were typical cars of their day…drive one in a damp climate and it will rust .
      The poor interceptor has had more owners than a naughty foster child with a ‘corporate’ rebirth every decade I think.

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    The Interceptor is quite a car. I think it’s ugly as can be, but I know from personal experience that it’s quite a ride. I borrowed one once for a couple of days in Zimbabwe, and that thing positively screamed. (Very little concern about police or traffic in those days.)


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