Jensen Interceptor III 1971-73 (G, H, J-series)
In this survey, we look at the early Interceptor III, probably the most widely known and recognized Jensen found on roads today. In its final form, the Interceptor III represented the pinnacle of Jensen car development. For those thinking about buying a Jensen today, these cars epitomize what Jensen motoring was all about. There's a plentiful supply of them, the parts availability is excellent and the performance you get from that great big engine can take you to motoring heaven without breaking the bank. No wonder they're so popular!
The later versions are a breed apart, just as the Series IIIs are a different kind of animal to the Series IIs, so in this survey we will concentrate exclusively on the cars of the period 197173 which takes in the Interceptors known as the G, H and J-series cars. A subset of these is the SPs, treated in a separate review (for that, go here).
The Interceptor III made its debut at the October 1971 Earls Court Motor Show alongside the SP and FF III. By that stage, Interceptor IIIs had been in production for a couple of months and the first examples were already in showrooms across the United States and Britain. The event was significant because it marked the first official new model releases under Kjell Qvale, the American importer and British car dealer who had taken control of Jensen Motors in 1970. The transition to the Series III was a gradual process with nothing like the leap in design which marked the transition from the Series I to the Series II in 1969. This means that the early IIIs are very much like the late IIs, the most obvious differences being the interiors and the wheels. But as the months and years rolled by, the Series IIIs began to evolve in more substantial ways.
Because of Qvale's influence, the Interceptor was starting to reflect the growing emphasis on the North American market. Qvale wasn't actually as interested in the Interceptor as he was in the Healey which was after all the real reason he became involved with Jensens in the first place. But the sports car project was still almost a year away from completion and it was the Interceptor which was making the money. If Qvale can be thanked for one thing, it is that he brought about a tremendous increase in Jensen car production, not only with the Healeys and GTs but with Interceptors as well. Through the six calendar years of production from 1967 to 1971, the factory had built a little more than 1000 examples of the Series I and about 1100 of the Series II. But from 1971 to 1973 alone, nearly 2500 Interceptor IIIs were completed. While the IIs had been turned out at the rate of around 10 a week, the Interceptor IIIs peaked at one point at nearly 30 cars a week, averaging better than 20 per week throughout that two-year period. Through the three calendar years 1971 to 1973, the numbers of Interceptor IIIs despatched from the works, including the 232 SPs, were as follows:
|CALENDAR YEAR||CARS DELIVERED|
During the Interceptor III production run, Jensens reverted to the type of chassis numbering sequence used for the Series Is. In this, all cars were numbered in one sequence irrespective of whether they were RHD, LHD, SPs or Saloons. This took some doing because the numbering sequences had been separated for the LHD and RHD Series IIs. The result was that the first LHD versions of the Series III continued to have their chassis numbers following on in the 5000 range while the RHD cars continued to be numbered in the 4000 range, following their predecessors. When the 4000 range ran out, the numbers for the RHD cars jumped to the 8000 range in November 1972. When the 5000 range ran out, the LHD numbers were mixed into the 8000 range in January 1973. If all that sounds like scrambled eggs, don't worry the chassis designators give you the key to the different types and the numbers built. Here's the list:
|VIN PREFIX||DRIVE||MODEL||JENSEN SERIES||MARKET||BUILT|
|128||RHD||Interceptor III||G and H||All RHD markets||703|
|129||LHD||Interceptor III||G and H||Europe||15|
|131||RHD||SP||G and H||All RHD markets||130|
|132||LHD||SP||G, H and J||Europe||12|
|133||LHD||Interceptor III||G and H||All LHD markets||368|
|136||RHD||Interceptor III||J||All RHD markets||735|
|138||RHD||SP||J||All RHD markets||89|
|140||LHD||Interceptor III||J||All LHD markets||424|
OK, back to the cars themselves. In the transmission department, nothing was any different. No manual shifters had been supplied since the last of Series Is in 1969 so all IIIs came with TorqueFlites. Engine-wise, there was soon an important change. In 1972, Chrysler stopped making its old workhorse, the 383. With more than three million of these worthies having been built, the corporation now relied on its low-compression 440 ci unit for the heavy duty sector of the market in cars, vans and pickups. Left without further stocks of the 383, Jensens started fitting the 440s, the largest of the Chrysler engines, to the Interceptor. The change occurred from November 1971 on the LHD cars and from May 1972 on the RHDs. The 1971 G-series 383s, running low-compression (8.7:1) pistons for the pollution-conscious US market, had been down about 10% on power when compared with the earlier high-compression units. Of course, no manufacturer likes to be turning out less powerful cars and certainly not a manufacturer like Jensens. The 440s, running 8.2:1 compression ratios in the Interceptors (and 10.3:1 in the SPs), brought the power-to-weight ratio up again.
While the Series IIs display a bewildering array of detail improvements throughout their two years of production, the early IIIs show almost no variation at all. Most of the differences are cosmetic and relate to the level of optioning or the paint and trim specification. As with the IIs, there were some substantive differences between the US and other cars, a result of the burgeoning Federal safety and pollution requirements. Again, the US cars were built very much to a formula laid down by the law while the RHDs were much more individual and more likely to be tailored to a specific buyer's tastes. For example, one British buyer insisted on having a high-compression E-series 383 engine in place of the heavier, detuned 440 not a legal move in the States.
In August 1972, some of the "options" which were standard on the US cars were standardized on the RHDs. These were the air-conditioning, the Sundym glass and the Town & Country air horns. The other main extras the vinyl roof, the stereo tape player, the whitewall tyres, driver's door mirror, rear seat belts and the fog and spot lamps all remained elective. Special paint and trim could be specified at extra cost. Woodgrain console and gearshift panels, frequently found on US and European cars, were available on RHDs as well, though few got them. A couple of buyers in Britain specified the Mk II steering wheel, preferring it to the blander two-spoke wheel normally found on the III.
I'll go out on a limb here and say that, on a purely subjective basis, it's probably fair to claim that the Interceptor reached the peak of its development during the 197173 period. Looking back on that era, it seems as if these cars offered the best all-round blend of performance, comfort, style and value for money of all the Interceptors built between 1966 and 1976. As against the earlier models, they boasted improved interiors with the seats, transmission tunnels, consoles and door trims all revised. The door locks were better, the brakes were better, the cars looked 'better' most of the equipment was better. Externally, the cars were upgraded with cast headlight surrounds and the handsome 15×6½" GKN alloy wheels. Louvered bonnets were introduced to cope with the greater heat throw of the 440s, a condition exacerbated by the reduced air space in the engine bay. The louvres were a no-cost option on the RHD cars for Britain though LHDs generally got them as standard from 1973, as did some of the RHD exports. The quicker and quieter 3.07 axle came back in 1973 too, with the touring 2.88 ratio phased out except on the SPs. The cars which came later were even more luxurious but they were not as quick, being burdened down with all the extra pollution gear. They also cost a lot more money as the inflation induced by the oil crisis pushed manufacturing costs through the roof. By the end of its model life, the contemporary press was thinking of the Interceptor as an anachronism.
The rich and the famous were no less interested in the Series III than its predecessors and again all sorts of personalities came walking into Jensen showrooms to buy them. Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham got one second hand and then decided to buy one new. Golfer Peter Butler bought his second and third Interceptors during this period and the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, was back for something like his fifth. Other notable buyers included world motorbike champion Phil Read, entertainer Danny La Rue, comedian Mike Winters, Miss World contest founder Eric Morley and a relatively obscure Australian businessman who was becoming interested in yachts Alan Bond. Freddie Corbin, on the Jensen Board in the 1940s and 50s and a great friend of Richard Jensen, bought one as did John Ball, the chap who had commissioned the "Topic" Interceptor back in the days of the Series I.
There were no gimmicky Interceptor IIIs along the lines of the Topic special but the cars were increasingly in the public eye. Interceptor IIIs were used in films as well. The horror movie studio Hammer Films bought a Positano Yellow car which was apparently written off in 1976. I haven't been able to find out whether it ever appeared in a movie but the car itself seems to have come back from the dead. Early Series IIIs featured in quite a few films including Aloha Bobby & Rose, The Players, Red Tape, Switch and Russian Roulette. You can take a look at Bondie's car in the Australian movie Harlequin. And if you're one of those insomniacs who watches TV into the small hours, you'll find the odd cameo role for Interceptor IIIs in some of the television serials they seem to repeat endlessly shows like Dial M For Murder, Police Woman, The Chinese Detective, Z-Cars and heaven knows what else.
An American musician who bought his Interceptor new in Hollywood in 1972 used it to good effect on the cover of an album he recorded in 1985. Look out for Max Bennett and Freeway in the second-hand record stores; the album's called The Drifter. When I spoke to Max a few years ago, he was thinking of a reissue on CD but unfortunately that hasn't happened.
Although it was the Healey which was the focus of Jensens' export drive in this period, the bent-eights didn't do too badly. Sales of the G, H and J-series Interceptor IIIs by country were as follows:
|UK Mainland||1537||Netherlands||19||South Africa||3|
|West Germany||33||Ireland (inc. NI)||11||Unspecified export||1|
As far as rarity goes, there's nothing really special about an Interceptor III. They seem to be everywhere and they're the model most people want so that makes them relatively easy to buy and sell. But as with all Interceptors, condition as opposed to rarity is the vital consideration. To determine an Interceptor's true condition takes some experience. At least you can get most parts for them.
There was an incredible range of colours on the Interceptor III although, as with the Interceptor II, it is only the RHD cars which show real diversity. Of all the models made over the years by Jensens, it is the Interceptor IIIs which display by far the greatest range of colours something like 70 different paints were used throughout the production run of the 7173 cars with another 10 or so colours used on their successors. For the G, H and J-series cars, here's the list of all paints used:
|Silver Grey||350||Pacific Blue||85||Copper Brown||13|
|Royal Blue||276||Oatmeal||80||Regal Red||12|
|Tangerine||167||California Sage||55||Positano Yellow||5|
|Reef Blue||159||Metallic Fawn||54||Colorado Yellow||5|
|Yellow||153||Oakland Green||52||Copper Red||5|
. . . AND THESE SPECIALS
|Four each of||
Aquarius Blue, Crystal Blue, Dark Brown, Metallic Quartz
|Three each of||Golden Olive, Metallic Violet, Velvet Green||9|
|Two each of||Blue (unspecified), Dubonnet Rosso, Flag Red, Light Lavender, Metallic Light Blue, Metallic Tangerine, Old English White||14|
|One each of||Alpine Grey, Aqua Verdi, Aztec Gold, Brewster Green, Burnished Red, Burnt Straw, Caribbean Blue, Dark Blue, Dark Lavender, Dark Metallic Gold, Gemini Blue, Golden Glory, Heather, Laguna Beige, Le Mans Blue, Light Golden Glory, Marathon Blue, Mediterranean Blue, Metallic Brown, Metallic Silver Mist, Metallic Gold, Metallic Lilac, Metallic Silver, Monza Blue, Opalescent Green, Roman Purple, Sand Green, Silver Blue, Silver Mink, Turquoise Green||30|
People often ask whether they should repaint their car in the original colour or whether it's OK to paint it something else. Despite the amazing range on this model, it seems as if nobody likes the original finish. Most would argue that it doesn't make much difference what colour you paint it, especially if you intend to keep the car. After all, the original owner could have specified anything, within reason. However, bear in mind that, when the time comes to sell your pride and joy, prospective purchasers are going to have their own ideas about what constitutes the right paint job. Even if you like them now, you couldn't have had today's Ford or Chrysler colours because they didn't exist back then. Something else to remember is that you can't get some of the original formulas any more, so a certain amount of leeway is called for even where you intend to keep it "original".
Trim colours for the early Interceptor IIIs were mainly standard with a few special requests. The full breakdown on leathers is as follows:
"MPDB" is shorthand for Magnolia leather with the seat piping in a contrasting Dark Blue. Contrasting piping was a definite rarity at the time, but people often add it to their cars these days when doing full retrims.
Of the 4255 Interceptor IIIs built to the end of the run in 1976, I have fates for about 1800 at some point in the past 20 years quite a good percentage, although many are pretty old now and could use updating. As always, I'm interested to hear from anyone who owns any kind of Jensen car and I'm happy to help with queries about the histories of Jensens of all sorts. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first edition of this article was prepared in 1993 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 after 2000.
©1993–2020 Richard Calver
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