1969 Jensen Interceptor

1969 Jensen Interceptor

Ali James loved the Jensen Interceptor at first sight. Over 30 years later, we’re putting her behind the wheel. Will she enjoy a luxurious drive to match its striking looks?


Words EMMA WOODCOCK

Photography JORDAN BUTTERS

‘It won’t throw me back in the seat – it’s too refined for that’

The List Will big-GT enthusiast Ali James warm to the Jensen Interceptor?

1969 Jensen Interceptor

If only someone sold Jensen Interceptor as a fragrance,’ Ali James muses. ‘An acquired taste, perhaps! This mixture of oil, fuel and just a little leather would make for a wonderful scented candle.’ We’re peering into the cabin of her 1969 dream machine, moments before Ali sets off on the drive of a lifetime. She’s wanted one of these ever since she went shopping for her first car. ‘My sights were set on the obvious superminis – but then my gaze fell on this amazing, gorgeous shape in dark, dark green. I was drawn to it.


1969 Jensen Interceptor

‘My father followed me across the auction hall and I asked him what this car might be. He told me. It was an Interceptor, once allegedly owned by Sean Connery.’ A three-decade interest had been sparked, but it wouldn’t begin with a reckless purchase. ‘It had broken down and was leaking a lot of oil, so never made it into the auction. Dad would never have let me buy it anyhow! It would have made a terrible first car. I ended up with a Ford Orion. But I never lost my interest in the Jensen, which is why I’m here today.’

She gazes in at Cropredy Bridge workshops, where showroom specimens rub shoulders with minor maintenance projects and epic restorations. The Oxfordshire establishment has served the marque since 1972, with a particular focus on the Interceptor and related FF. ‘What an incredible sight! I have a real respect for craftsmen who still know how to care for machinery by hand, particularly when their specialism is so niche. These cars are like gold dust and everyone here is dedicated to them. I love how genuine the team is too. I’ve rocked up randomly on their property, but people keep stopping by to have a chat.’

Director of operations Leah Guilliard-Watts believes in making everyone welcome within our hobby, with a particular passion for supporting car-loving women. ‘The automotive space is male-dominated, which is why I set up Driven Collective to help female motoring professionals support each other. I just love to give women more access to classics – and to get them behind the wheel of Jensens!’ She passes Ali the keys to a Crystal Blue MkI example, which is owned by one of Cropredy’s clients. ‘I’ve driven so many Interceptors and theyall have their own individual personalities. Early cars like this particular one are the traditional ones and are absolute classics.’

1969 Jensen Interceptor

‘My trusty steed,’ Ali grins. She ducks aboard, drinking in the space around her. ‘Cars aren’t something to boil down to a zero to sixty figure. I enjoy them for all their aspects and appreciate them as an entire experience. The Interceptor is a vehicle of hand-built love and attention, of artisan capability and detail, which the cabin embodies. Leather and walnut veneer are integral elements in creating its discerning elegance. The dashboard is a delight, with none of the plastics that began to appear in the Eighties. Knowing the history of its marque, the whole interior recalls a quintessentially English craftsmanship that we no longer have, or retain only in small pockets.’

As the Jensen settles into a rolling idle, a smile spiders ever wider across Ali’s lips as she lingers, before tugging the door shut. ‘I’m a big engine girl. I like a V8 or a V12. Those are the proper sounds of how a car should be.’ Having exercised her friend Damian’s current Ferrari 400i and previous R107 Mercedes-Benz 380SL, she boasts a connoisseur’s knowledge of how both engine layouts suit a grand tourer, yet listening to the Interceptor sends her far deeper into her memory banks. ‘The burble takes me back to being a little girl in my grandfather’s Daimler, as he drove us to lunch every Sunday.


1969 Jensen Interceptor

‘Good to see there’s a nice sticky indicator,’ she smiles as we turn onto the road. ‘That’s the sign of a true classic car! Already, the Interceptor gives me that nostalgic feeling of driving as it should be, with no interference from electronic aids. It asks for a very definite style, where turning the wheel creates a very clear response. I really like that; I can’t stand a car with spongy steering. But the brakes feel dead and very spongy, which Cropredy Bridge advised but hasn’t been asked to work on.’

‘I’m very comfortable and really feel like part of the car. The seating position is very unusual, with its long footwell – I’m closer than usual to the wheel, yet there’s plenty of space. I don’t feel like my head is on the roof, nor that the windscreen sits too close. In fact, the glazing is what really stands out. I love how light comes in from every angle, giving a clear view in every direction. I’m driving in the scenery, not through it!’

Ali pulls to a halt atop Burton Dassett Hills – but the view can’t hold her attention long, not when there’s an Interceptor to admire. ‘It’s a very beautiful car and quite feminine with it. The styling hints at the American muscle car, but elegance is its key feature – something I associate more with women. I’m fortunate enough to know some very elegant men as well, though – and it could suit them just as well!

‘It’s a shape defined by the second look, which suits a more discerning driver. Where Lamborghinis and their ilk are all first-take obviousness, I see the Jensen as a car that starts conversations with people who haven’t seen one before. There’s nothing of the hard-charging and testosterone-fuelled midlife crisis writ across the exterior, which nods instead to how modernity appeared in the late Sixties and early Seventies. I see it in the script across the rear vent and the little fanlights, with their opening flick, though the focus remains that rear window.’

‘What a striking, panoramic design, but with incredible visibility and practicality. I do like a bit of usability in a car, so I really appreciate the gigantic boot and the rear seats, which are large enough to seat adults without forcing their knees around their ears. As a woman, purchasing a classic car for herself, the Interceptor wouldn’t feel alien to use, with a refinement to its driving experience that strikes me as more feminine.’

‘There’s a real sense of climbing aboard something different. The feeling reminds me of Damian’s 400i. They’re such smooth, comfortable and unusual machines, though the Ferrari doesn’t really get going until at least 60mph. His old SL Mercedes-Benz was smoother and much more responsive.

The Jensen is quirkier and somehow distinctly British, when weighed against the 380 and its German solidity, yet both cars share that same elegance. ‘I was one of those teenagers with a Porsche 911 930 Turbo and Lamborghini Countach plastered across my bedroom wall – sandwiched between posters of A-ha and Stefan Edberg! I’m very lucky to look after Damian’s cars when he’s away with work, so I’m used to turning circles that are the size of a small elephant. Which is just as well, really!’

She hauls the wheel round. ‘I’m not surprised by the relatively limited manoeuvrability, but the steering is very heavy – easily the heaviest of the three grand tourers I’m comparing.’ Wrestling with the gearlever, she takes a quick break to catch her breath. ‘I can’t put the transmission in Park while the car is running, which is a conundrum when it’s as sweltering as today. Let’s just say I’m starting to glow without air-conditioning!’

‘I don’t actually like the transmission,’ she adds as we glide away. ‘It’s a bit sludgy and lacks positivity, with a shift action that isn’t certain or clear. The gearknob doesn’t appeal as an object to hold and use. I have to pull it really hard, while pushing down on the release button in precisely the right way; even then I’m left unsure whether it has gone into gear. An automatic should operate really smoothly, which the other classics I’ve driven come closer to achieving.’

‘That single complaint aside, I still feel like I’m driving something of real quality. The seats and the driving position remain supremely comfortable after hours aboard, while the seriously chunky tyres create the kind of ride I hoped a sophisticated carfrom this period would have.’ Her only other reservations belong to the twisty roads we’re on, which offer scant chance to gain speed. ‘I was expecting a bit more poke from an engine of this size, though that might reflect more on my caution and these roads. Low revs and pootling aren’t what the Jensen enjoys.’

When the asphalt straightens out, Ali finally gets her foot to the floor. ‘It’s a refined kind of acceleration, with no sense that the car is going to suddenly take me away, but what a wonderful, grunting soundtrack! You don’t get that from a smaller engine. Now we’re building more momentum, the Interceptor is really picking itself up. It’s so much friendlier and more honest. I’m really impressed by how it hugs the bends. The whole car feels less heavy and much more responsive, especially the steering.

‘I’m really enjoying the chance to try the Jensen on the kinds of roads I use every day, but how it handles them isn’t vital,’ she reflects. ‘Style wins out over the specifics of the driving experience for me; so many of my favourite objects are well designed or very beautiful. Overall, I love the Interceptor for the way it looks and the love that went into building it.


1969 Jensen Interceptor

‘To pilot one is to experience an icon and feel the elegance that comes from sitting in this hand-crafted cabin. I adore the attention to detail. I sense it in the Jaeger clocks and their beautiful fonts, the toggle switches, and the wood panelling that holds them all, then see it just as clearly in the piped leather and the sculpted rear seats. It’s like travelling in a Sixties aeroplane. ‘The Interceptor is still very much the Seventies celebrity,’ Ali reflects as we burble back to Cropredy Bridge. ‘Driving and seeing it up close has been such a wonderful opportunity, and a far cry from watching one dribble fluids on an auction hall floor!

The experience justifies keeping it in my top ten. Looking at my real life, with my ever-sensible head, I fear the Jensen would sit just beyond the realms of usability and I’d buy a Mercedes-Benz SL instead. Taking costs out of the equation? I’d have an Interceptor just for the way it looks. I wish I were less practical!’


TECHNICAL DATA 1969 Jensen Interceptor

  • Engine 6276cc Chrysler V8, pushrod OHV, Carter four-barrel carburettor
  • Max Power 325bhp @ 4600rpm
  • Max Torque 425lb-ft @ 2800rpm
  • Transmission Three-speed Torqueflite automatic, Powr-Lok limited-slip differential, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Rack and pinion, power-assisted
  • Suspension Front: independent by double wishbones, coil springs, lever-arm dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, Panhard rod, Armstrong Selectaride telescopic dampers
  • Brakes Servo-assisted hydraulic discs all round
  • Performance Top speed: 133mph;
  • Acceleration 0-60mph: 7.3sec
  • Weight 1675kg (3695lb)
  • Fuel consumption 14.5mpg
  • Cost new £4728 1969 UK
  • Classic Cars Price Guide £18,500-60,000

‘It’s a very beautiful car… there’s a refinement to its driving experience that strikes me as more feminine’

The handbuilt dash was a source of pleasure for Ali Gearknob was one of the few niggles in an evocative drive.

Artisan allure of the badge was a backed up by the experience The 6.2-litre V8 satisfied the needs of a ‘big engine girl’

‘It gives me that nostalgic feeling of driving as it should be, with no interference from electronic aids’

Seventies style really hit the spot for our guest driver.

Article type:
Review
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