Junkyard Find: Jensen Interceptor

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find jensen interceptor

As 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.

That’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.

This 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.

The Interceptor came with a nice limited-slip Dana 44 differential, and of course some truck guy grabbed that right away.

I 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.

I 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.

It’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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  • Paul Lewis Paul Lewis on Jan 20, 2014

    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 www.interceptor.org Below is a little more information on the Jensen Interceptor (taken from our website 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 www.joc.org.uk where there is also a link to our free to use forum. Kind regards Paul Lewis Chairman Jensen Owners' Club

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    • Ron B. Ron B. on Jan 29, 2014

      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.

  • AllThumbs AllThumbs on Jan 27, 2014

    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.)

  • SPPPP It seems like a really nice car that's just still trying to find its customer.
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  • Akear Lets be honest, Lucid will not be around in five years. It does not matter that it is probably the world's best EV sedan. Lucid's manufacturing and marketing is a complete mess. The truth is most EV companies are going under within the decade.