Jensen Interceptor II 1969-71


This survey looks at the Interceptor II, an interesting vehicle which in a sense marked the half-way point in the evolution of the Interceptor as it developed from the original Italian design of 1966.

The Interceptor II made its debut in London at the October 1969 Earls Court Motor Show and had a model life of two years, being superseded in August 1971 by the Interceptor III. The last examples rolled out the door during September 1971, by which time Interceptor III production was already underway.

The IIs were slightly more numerous than their predecessors, although with a much greater proportion appearing in LHD. You would think that, as a result, the RHD Interceptor IIs would be much rarer than the Series Is. However, wrecking over the years seems to have taken a great toll of the Series Is which are now fairly scarce.

There were two chassis series for the Interceptor II, one for each drive configuration. The following quantities of each were produced:

CHASSIS PREFIX EXPLANATION NUMBER BUILT
123 RHD automatic 694
125 LHD automatic 432
EXP Experimental cars 2
TOTAL   1128

Unlike the Interceptor Is, which were all numbered in one sequence, the IIs were numbered in two different sequences, one for each type designator. The RHD cars run from 3551 to 4244, following on from the Interceptor I range. The LHD cars were given an entirely new range beginning with 5001 and ending at 5432. There were, in addition, two experimental chassis — one RHD and one LHD — neither of which is known to survive. Production was pretty constant at around 10 cars a week, the run through the three calendar years being as follows:

CALENDAR YEAR NUMBER BUILT
1969 122
1970 528
1971 478
TOTAL 1128

Carl Duerr, the American troubleshooter who came to Jensens in 1968, was on the way out by the time the Interceptor II entered production. Jensens' other American influence, Kjell Qvale, was by then in the final stages of negotiation to buy the company and when he took control in April 1970 Duerr had little choice but to leave. Duerr's departure was a loss to the company in that, while he was never as well-liked by the management as he was by the men on the shop floor, he was instrumental in giving the firm a renewed lease on life. His business methods had been successful in turning the company around, instilling in the workers a sense of pride which had been lacking ever since the Jensen brothers retired. Those who came after him never really filled his shoes and it was, as Duerr himself recalled later, with a sense of sadness that he packed up his desk and walked away.

When he left, Duerr took with him an ex-factory demonstrator, an early LHD Interceptor II which he kept for the remainder of his life. In 1980, he joined the JOC in England as an ordinary member and in 1986 he took his car back to West Bromwich for a full restoration. In a sense, the Interceptor II is the Carl Duerr version of the car in the way that the Interceptor I was Kevin Beattie's car and the Interceptor III would be Kjell Qvale's creation.

This is what happens to them when they get old. Once upon a time, 3558 was known as XEA 1H, a factory
demonstrator painted Pistachio and trimmed in Olive hide. But that was then and this is now. Who'll save a
raggedy old Mk II these days? Except perhaps me, of course. Thanks Dino.

Another way of looking at the Interceptor II is to think of its specification as having been worked out on the last of the Interceptor Is which, as some unkindly souls have suggested, were never properly sorted until the end of their model life in 1969. The last improvements on the Series Is, carried over to the Interceptor II, included the balljoint suspension and radial tyres, the Girling brakes, the taller axle ratio (2.88 became the norm), the power steering (Pow-a-Rak as on the Jaguar XJ6) and the higher output alternator. Gone were the Armstrong Select-a-ride dampers — in came air-conditioning as an option, a crash-padded dashboard to suit the North American market (with a nice set of rocker switches replacing the I's central toggle panel) and some greatly improved seats which many Jensen owners still find the most comfortable of all the variations fitted to Interceptors. Reliability was up somewhat on the earlier cars, though it still wasn't all that satisfactory.

The basic specification of the Interceptor II didn't change during the two years of production. Except for a couple of oddballs (including the SP and F-type development car, Big Bertha) all of them had 383 ci engines (either E, F or G-series units with 4-barrel carburettors) and a TorqueFlite automatic transmission. Their changing detail specification reflected a time of flux at Jensens and the range of gradual improvements and updates make the Series IIs, like their predecessors, incrementally different in lots of ways.

This is the Federal dashboard in its earliest iteration. Carl Duerr presided over this significant change to the
Interceptor specification in 1969. Two vents up front, two in the rear, chrome shifter knob, early style Formula
steering wheel, pull-down flap on the glove box lid. Ah, it gets me all nostalgic for the Ferret, except the Ferret
doesn't look this good. VIN 3558 again. Thanks Dino.

Leaving aside the engine and carburettor differences, the most obvious visual change is perhaps the dashboard layout, with the early IIs having two air vents up front and two for the rear seats. Later cars had all four on the dash. The very first cars used the Series I tail-lights (the flatter Federal version as seen on IIIs was not introduced until 1970). Other differences include the door locks, which change from push button to sliding lock; the gear knobs, which change from chrome to leather-trimmed; the backlight demister, which is U-shaped at first as on the earlier cars and later straight across the glass; cannister-type oil filters giving way to modern disposable units; oval mufflers with chrome tail-pipe extensions giving way to round mufflers with resonators; three-piece front bumpers on the early cars; large fan shrouds on later models, not to mention subtle layout differences around the cabin and engine bay. The US models look a little different but are not so varied — they were built very much to a formula which didn't change much. The RHDs are much more individual.

Again the rich and the famous came to buy them including novelist Harold Robbins (back for his second), singer Dusty Springfield, actor Tony Curtis, comedian Mike Winters (again), Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, racing driver Ron Horton (his second), Lords Carrington and Strathcarron (both updating their cars) and golfer Peter Butler buying his first. There were no gimmicky Interceptor IIs along the lines of the Director or Topic cars but they were in the public eye to a greater extent. Interceptor IIs were loaned to several movie companies and appeared in such films as Mandrake, Villain and the TV series  The Protectors. Many years later, the Pythons chose an Interceptor II for the Death scene in The Meaning of Life.

The Interceptor IIs have always been overshadowed by the later cars, chiefly on account of their smaller engines, steel wheels and supposed lack of sophistication when compared with the IIIs. As always, there are pros and cons to such an argument. Personally, I think it's a bit pointless to compare cars built at different times. Certainly the IIs are no mean performers — the E-series engines ran 10:1 compression ratios and were good for 330 bhp gross, giving them shattering performance for their day. The 1971 G-series units, running low-compression (8.7:1) pistons to beat the US pollution legislation, were down about 10 % on power and lacked the bite of the earlier units. These engines were fitted to the first of the Interceptor IIIs until the end of 1971 when the 440 became a standard fitting (for the US market cars) and this brought the power-to-weight ratio up again.

For odd reasons, two production line IIs were fitted with 440 engines as standard. One was a RHD, completed in October 1970 to fill a customer request. The other, in LHD, was delivered in April 1971. The RHD has since been broken and the LHD survives, as I understand it, in pretty poor shape..

Steel Rostyle wheels (6in. rims, up from the I's 5in.) were standard on the IIs. The US versions of these were generally chromed around the rims as well as on the spokes. The GKN alloy wheels introduced on the Interceptor III were tried on the Interceptor II, not only in an experimental sense but also as a fitting from new on one vehicle, delivered in Hong Kong. It was given the type III suspension as well, by special arrangement with the supplying dealer. The car survives today in Australia and is, to my knowledge, the only Interceptor II which is really entitled to wear the alloy wheels.

The export market for Jensens widened considerably with the release of the Interceptor II which was the model most responsible for the start of the Interceptor's image as an international car. The following table shows quite clearly the impact of exports on sales. Whereas 87 % of Interceptor Is had been sold in Britain, only 56 % of the IIs were sold there. With Kjell Qvale at the helm after 1970, the United States began to assume a significant position in the Jensen export market — one which would be expanded in the years to come. In addition, the European markets had begun to show growth, in part due to Carl Duerr's persistent demonstration of cars on the Continent. A substantial dealer network was being established in Europe and elsewhere — Australia became Jensens' largest export market after the United States. The full market breakdown looked like this:

COUNTRY NUMBER COUNTRY NUMBER COUNTRY NUMBER COUNTRY NUMBER
Mainland UK 633 Ireland (inc NI) 8 Greece 2 Lebanon 1
United States 334 Austria 7 Japan 2 Malta 1
Australia 28 Belgium 7 South Africa 2 Monaco 1
Canada 24 New Zealand 6 Zambia 1 Natal 1
Switzerland 23 Denmark 4 Barbados 1 Nigeria 1
West Germany 14 Channel Islands 4 Cyprus 1    
Netherlands 8 France 2 Kuwait 1    
Hong Kong 8 Spain 2 Portugal 1 TOTAL 1128

If we just consider the RHD Interceptor cars, the Interceptor IIs are by far the rarest of the saloon variants. Over the years they have suffered more than the relatively plentiful IIIs at the hands of uncaring owners and many have been broken up for parts. If you like something out of the ordinary, an Interceptor II is nice but it can be a pain when it comes to getting spares, some of which are no longer available off the shelf. The IIs might look a lot like the later cars but it's a superficial resemblance only and one which can cause problems if originality is your aim. They do tend to be cheaper, though, unless they've been fully and properly restored. Actually, come to think of it, with the possible exception of Arto's silver beast, I have never seen an outstanding Interceptor II, and here I speak as a long-suffering owner of an early example. For a look at the infamous Ferret, go here!

There were lots of colours on the Interceptor IIs although, as with the build details, it's only the RHD cars which show real diversity. Some of the standard colours like Pistachio, Pimpernel, Tangerine, Mango, Beluga and Cassis are wonderfully evocative of the late sixties to early seventies period. Interceptor IIs which have been restored sympathetically to original condition, including the paint scheme, make a powerful statement of what high performance motoring in the flower power era was all about. Unfortunately, Carrs Paints in Birmingham were responsible for most of these shades and they don't make them any more so you have to settle for next best. Silver Grey was the commonest colour, followed by Reef Blue and Metallic Quartz, but there were nearly 40 colours in all. The only all-white Jensen ever made was an Interceptor II. Now that’s what I call a “White Lady”! Have a look at this list:

COLOUR MADE COLOUR MADE COLOUR MADE COLOUR MADE
Silver Grey 162 Cassis 41 Pistachio 11 Moorland Peat 1
Reef Blue 103 Berkeley Brown 34 Garnet 11 Mist Grey 1
Metallic Quartz 101 Royal Flag Blue 29 Flag Red 9 Black Pearl 1
Metallic Fawn 94 Brazilia 27 Stratosphere Blue 5 Caribbean Aqua 1
White 92 Frisco Blue 23 Royal Blue 4 Connaught Green 1
California Sage 85 Oakland Green 21 Primrose 3 Galleon Green 1
Cerise 53 Pimpernel 20 Special Blue 2 Crimson 1
Crystal Blue 46 Beluga 19 Spring Gold 2 Dubonnet Rosso 1
Tangerine 43 Mango 19 Valentine Yellow 1 Metallic Charcoal 1
Yellow 43 Black 15 Regal Red 1 TOTAL 1128

If you don't want to be like everyone else and paint your car blue or burgundy, why not give some thought to one of the above? And just to make it interesting, 12 Interceptor IIs had the Duotone paint option in which the roof was painted a contrasting colour to the body. The vinyl roof hadn't arrived at Jensens at this stage so none of the IIs got the plastic top.

Trim colours on the Interceptor IIs were mainly standard but there were a few exceptions. The full list of leathers used was as follows:

LEATHER MADE LEATHER MADE LEATHER MADE LEATHER MADE
Black 430 Red 80 Dark Blue 4 White Gold 1
Beige 320 Olive 31 Old Blue 1 White 1
Tan 153 Grey 9 Green 1 Unspecified 1
Blue 89 Mocha 6 Bright Red 1 TOTAL 1128

Of the 1128 Interceptor IIs built, I have fates for less than 250 in the past five years — not many out of the production run. If you know of any of these cars, drop me a mail at tfmuch@bigpond.com — I'm always interested to hear about survivors. If I can, I'll help owners with queries about the histories of these or any other kinds of Jensen.

If this kind of thing interests you, you ought to study up in detail. Try to find a copy of the Jensen databook first. To read about this mine of information, go here

To buy a four volume set of my books, go here.




The first edition of this article was prepared in 1992 for publication in the Australian Jensen club magazine. It was revised for republication in other club magazines around the world during the 1990s. This text is an update prepared in line with information available in 2000.

 

19922016 Richard Calver

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