Wednesday, January 25, 2017

1976 Jensen Interceptor III convertible
1976 Jensen Interceptor convertible
Author's photo
This rare car displayed at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM) is a 1976 Jensen Interceptor III convertible. According to renowned Jensen expert Richard Calver only 509 Interceptor III convertibles were built in the four years of production (including prototypes), with only 54 convertibles built as 1976 models. Calver states that only 375 convertibles were sold in the United States and throughout the entire production run only 42 Interceptor convertibles were painted a red hue like this unrestored example.  

Two English brothers, Richard and Alan Jensen opened a coach-building shop in 1934 and produced cars that used the Ford V-8 chassis. On a visit to England, Hollywood businessman Percy T. Morgan saw one of the cars and struck a deal to sell Jensen bodied cars in Southern California.

According to an article published in Ford Life magazine in 1971, Morgan initially ordered two sporting tourers: one black with tan leather for himself, the other silver with red leather for his friend the actor Clark Gable, who gave Morgan a $1,000 deposit. Gable and Morgan were on hand to see the cars unloaded in Long Beach, and Gable wanted the black car. Morgan refused so Gable drove away in the silver Jensen-bodied car but returned it a few days later and bought a Rollston-bodied Duesenberg Model JN serial number 2585.  

The nineteen fifties era Jensen 541 series sports car used a fiberglass body with aluminum doors as did the nineteen sixties era Jensen C-V8 which can be considered one the first “supercars” as it was powered by a 383-cubic inch Chrysler “Golden Commando” V-8 engine. 
A factory photo of a Jensen Interceptor
The Jensen Interceptor III was a rear-wheel drive sports luxury car with a large wrap-around rear window. Earlier Jensen Interceptor I and II models (built from 1966 to 1971) were powered by a Chrysler 383-cubic inch engine but the Interceptor III introduced in 1972 was powered by a Chrysler 440-cubic inch engine.

Famed West Coast British car importer Kjell Qvale took control of Jensen Motors in April 1970 and brought about the Interceptor III which was aimed at the American market with features that included electric power windows, power steering, power brakes, reclining front seats, a wood rim steering wheel, radio with twin speakers, wooden dashboard trim and an electric clock. 
The Jensen Interceptor III convertible was extremely popular with celebrities with a list that included singer Cher Bono, Frank Sinatra, producer Quinn Martin and actress Lynda Carter.  Author Harold Robbins and politician Winthrop Rockefeller each owned Jensen Interceptor III convertibles and the 1975 Penthouse magazine “Pet of the Year” was given an Interceptor III convertible along with other prizes.

Qvale also hatched the idea to build an affordable sports car  to replace the Austin-Healy 3000 and planned build 10,000 Jensen-Healys each production year. Unfortunately, just a few more than 10,000 Jensen-Healy cars were built and sold throughout the entire four years of the car’s lifespan. As a result of this sales shortfall, Jensen Motors fell into serious financial trouble and Jensen production including the Interceptor III ended during 1976.  

For more information about the Jensen Interceptor sports cars visit Richard Calver's excellent website:

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