The Chassis Data was the first instalment of my multi-volume history of Jensen. It sold out in 2016, 25 years after release, so for a quarter of a century it was the go-to source for anyone who needed to know the particulars of a Jensen car. A new edition is now in preparation and may be a year away from publication.
There are two versions of the original book. On release in March 1991, it was produced in a softcover binding. In November 2004, 275 copies of the softbound edition were rebound as a limited edition in Cabra leather with marbled endpapers, gold foil blocking, head and tail bands and a numbered bookplate in the range 1 to 275. In February 2008, the softbound edition sold out and only the leatherbound version was available. The last of these was sold in February 2016. The contents of the two versions are identical.
For historical purposes, the following is the text used to describe The Chassis Data.
A History of Jensen: The Chassis Data ISBN 0-646-03563-0 is a kind of telephone book for the Jensen marque. It features a one-line entry for every Jensen car ever made, or at least those which were known when the book went to print in 1991. The book lists each car's chassis number (or VIN) and cross-references it to the original engine number, first registration number, paint colour, roof colour, trim colour, listed options, date of despatch, country of sale and fate, as far as these things were known in 1991. Included are the stats on the pre-war cars, the postwar PWs, the 6-cylinder Interceptors of the 1950s, the fibreglass-bodied 541s and C-V8s, the steel-bodied Interceptors of the 1960s and 70s, the Lotus-powered Jensen-Healeys, the four-wheel drive FFs, the Jensen GTs and lastly the Interceptor S4s made during the 1980s and 90s.
That adds up to around 19,000 cars in all, 448 large-format pages and a shipping weight of around 1.8 kg (4 lb).
Front cover of original softbound edition (no longer available).
Aside from the great shots on the covers of the original softbound version, there are no pictures in this book. All you get is the chassis data, annotated with additional information about some of the cars. Other volumes flesh out the basic data and three of these later books — the Service Bulletins for the V8 cars (Home Market edition), the historical treatment All The Models and the technical Original Interceptor & FF — are available for purchase (see Service Bulletins, All The Models and Original Interceptor & FF).
So, why would you want a book with no pictures? Well, you might be a very silly person. On the other hand, you might be very serious about Jensen history. If you are, then you already know what a Jensen car looks like and you don't need me to go over that for you. If it's hard data you want, you have no choice you need the databook. If you're thinking about buying a Jensen, you definitely need the book. Once you have it, you'll know whether the guy at the end of the phone is trying to sell you a car or sell you a line. As the saying goes, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. If you don't have the statistics, you'll wind up being suckered in by the lies. Don't buy a Jensen until you know what you're buying. Make sure of what you're buying by consulting the databook.
Text sample shown smaller than actual size and in much lower resolution (original is 1200 dpi)
Here's an example of what you'll find in the book. Let's look up the table of Interceptor IIIs. Here's chassis number 2210/9369. The book tells us that the 2210 prefix denoted LHD saloons made for the non-California USA market. Number 9369 is the sequential number of this particular car. It came with engine number 4C12409 which may be decoded as a 1974 model Chrysler 440, Jensen serial number 12409. The car was painted in the standard factory colour of Tangerine and came with Black leather trim and a Black vinyl roof. The codes tell us that the vinyl roof was specified as an extra, as were a Black coachline and Krimmer Moritza sheepskin seat facings. The car left the factory on 1 February 1974 and was shipped for sale to the United States where it was known to be registered and still on the road in 1990, the year before the book was published. In fact, it is still on the road and doing just fine in care of its latest owner in New York.
The leatherbound edition (no longer available).
Here's another one, a four-wheel drive FF. Its chassis number is 119/025 which indicates an early series car, number 25 in the overall production. It carried a Chrysler 383 B-series engine (Jensen number 680/19B) and was first registered in England as MEA 444F. The EA registrations are West Bromwich issue and this one was certainly licensed by the factory. Painted in the standard colours of Stratosphere Blue with a Mist Grey roof, it was trimmed in Black leather and optioned up with Quartz halogen fog lamps. The footnote tells us that, after appearing at the 1967 Earls Court Motor Show, MEA 444F was taken into service as a factory demonstrator and registered for road use on 11 October 1967. It was built partly by the factory's Engineering Department and partly on the production line. It was, in fact, the first FF to receive an entirely English-made body shell as opposed to the Italian bodies which had been used up to that time. In 1968, Autocar magazine took MEA 444F to Switzerland to test the four-wheel drive capabilities and the review featured photographs of the car parked on a ski slope. After the factory disposed of it on 23 December 1968, MEA 444F passed into private ownership and eventually fell on hard times. It survived at the time my book went to print, though in rather poor shape. This FF, I'm sorry to say, was one I'd hoped to save when I bought it in the late 1980s but the job was beyond my resources and I sold it on. The restoration is now underway to a high standard.
Marbled endpapers and a book plate add a touch of quality to the leatherbound edition.
How about Jensen-Healey 1141/16348? The 1141 prefix tells us it was built for the Australian market, 16348 being the car's sequential production number. The engine number B74.04.6837 denotes a Stromberg carburettor engine manufactured in April 1974, sequential number 6837 in the engine production series. Painted Black and trimmed in Tan vinyl, this car came with no extras and was passed off the line on 29 April 1974. It was shipped to Australia where it was first registered as LYB 174 (a Victorian number). Today it wears Victorian historic plates and survives in care of a club member.
These are but three examples of the 19,000 or so entries in the book. You can learn a lot about Jensens by studying the data in this way. Unfortunately, like most good things, you can't get the book anywhere. If you want one, check the usual listings for used books or check with your Jensen club. They might have a copy to sell, or know where you can get one. Failing that, send me your details and I'll let you know if I have a second-hand copy for sale. Otherwise, just wait a year or so. Once a new databook is available, you won't want the old one anyway. If you want your car to get a current listing in the Fates section, tell me about it now.
© 2004–2018 Richard Calver