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Friday, April 3, 2015

The Jensen GT Was a Lotus-Powered Last Hurrah


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.

At the Geneva Motor Show this year, a newly-revived Jensen displayed a new model called the GT, which is heavily influenced by the old Interceptor of the 1960s and 1970s.
 What many people don’t know, however, is that Jensen already produced a car called the GT just before the company went under in 1976. Unlike the undeniably cool new GT and the old Interceptor, the old GT had love it or hate it styling as a “shooting brake” version of the Jensen-Healey.
The original Jensen-Healey came about as the end finally came for the very successful Austin-Healey. Donald Healey was able to establish a relationship with a struggling Jensen, and a 140-horsepower Lotus Type 907 all aluminum twin cam four (the same motor used in the original Esprit) was sourced and put up front.

As it was introduced in 1972, the Jensen-Healey came out right from the start with unsightly plastic bumpers, but despite these, it was an attractive car and as a performance machine it was thoroughly praised in the motoring press for its power, nimble handling and roadholding.


Unfortunately, the new sports car couldn’t save Jensen. The engine (it did come from Lotus, after all) was a new one and experienced teething problems that wrecked the car’s reputation. Healey bailed on the project altogether in 1974, but Jensen dropped the Healey from the model name and kept the car alive in the form of the GT that it built in 1975 and 1976.

It was a long hatchback or “shooting brake” along the lines of the Reliant Scimitar or Volvo’s P1800 ES, and offered 2+2 seating as well as more luxurious appointments than the original roadster that it replaced. That roof and the extra equipment added up, though, so the Jensen GT actually weighed 300 pounds more than the Jensen-Healey and in terms of price was $2,500 more than a Corvette.

 Not surprisingly, the closed version of the Jensen-Healey didn’t save the company either, and Jensen went into receivership in 1976.

Thanks to rust, limited parts availability and general neglect, even the more common Jensen-Healey roadsters are hard to find these days, and with the more obscure GT it’s even worse. You’d be hard-pressed to find just one of these neat old two-door wagons at all, much less one in anything resembling decent shape. It’s too bad, because the phrase “Lotus-powered hatchback” has a nice ring to it.