Austin Healey

After the war, with production of motor cars restricted, Jensen Motors relied for its survival on the manufacture of its commercial vehicles. From the late 1940s, Jensen was fortunate in building a strong and enduring relationship with Austin Motors, a significant player on the British motoring scene and an exporter of cars and commercial vehicles worldwide. From humble beginnings with a few body contracts in Austin’s commercial line, the relationship grew to the point where Jensen Motors became a significant resource for Austin and later the British Motor Corporation following a merger between Austin and Morris in 1952. The merger made BMC the fourth largest car maker in the world and the contract which Jensen Motors signed in 1952 to produce bodies for the new Austin Healey sports car would guarantee Jensen’s survival into the 1960s, providing the financial underpinning for the development of the Jensen cars which followed. For Austin and BMC, Jensen Motors bodied the entire run of 4,000 Austin A40 Sports models and all 74,000 Austin Healeys made until 1967, as well as contributing design inputs to each variation. Prototype work and small runs of body jobs on other BMC vehicles paralleled the main contracts and included utility and passenger bodies on the A40, A70 and A95 chassis and some work on the Gipsy four-wheel drive.

Volvo P1800

In 1959, Jensen Motors was awarded the contract to assemble Volvo’s new sports coupé, the P1800. Despite a promising start, the project was plagued by delays resulting from organizational and quality control issues, with parts and services arriving from widely dispersed sources in England and Scotland with precious little attention paid to important details. Volvo sent its own inspectors over to England to try to resolve the problems, without much success, and a mutual blame game resulted in which all parties sought to excuse their own deficiencies. Eventually, in 1962 Volvo decided to remove the whole production process to Sweden and pay Jensen Motors a hefty sum in compensation. The first 6,000 of the eventual total of about 39,000 P1800s were built by Jensen at West Bromwich. Aside from their early chassis numbers, they are distinguishable by the cow-horn bumpers fitted to all of the Jensen-built cars (and found on the early Swedish production). Rust problems afflicted the early cars and there are relatively few survivors.

Sunbeam Tiger

In 1963, as if to fill the void left by the end of the Volvo contract, Jensen became involved in the building of a new sports car for the Rootes Group. Jensen’s Deputy Chief Engineer Kevin Beattie and his assistant Mike Jones had both worked at Rootes before coming to Jensen and knew the companies inside out, making liaison easier. Jensen’s job was to modify the Sunbeam Alpine body shells and fit out the semi-finished cars with their Ford motors, gearboxes, axles, suspension and interiors before sending them off to Rootes for final pre-delivery preparation. The Sunbeam Tiger was unveiled at the New York Motor Show in April 1964. Production focused initially on LHD cars for North America and Europe with RHDs for the Home Market not becoming available until 1965. Jensen modified and assembled both the 260ci Mk.I version and then the 289ci Mk.II version of the Tiger until production was wound up in 1967. A little over 7,000 Tigers were made, the Mk.IIs being decidedly rare, especially in RHD.


Jensen Car Club Australia