How many survive?

I'm often asked how many of the almost 19,000 Jensen cars survive. That's a tough question to answer because obviously not everyone who owns a Jensen tells me about it.

I use rolling averages in 5-year blocks to estimate the survival rate. I figure that, if I haven't heard about a car in the last five years, it's no longer safe to assume it's still around. Maybe it is; maybe it isn't. Conversely, if I have heard about a car sometime during the past five years, then I'm assuming the worst hasn't happened yet and it's still in one piece somewhere.

I track cars all over the world and I'm always interested in hearing about those which survive or are scrapped. Based on that tracking, here are the tallies of known survivors among the different Jensen models in the trailing 5, 10, 15 and 20-year periods dating back to 1997. Included for comparison is a tally of all cars known as lost through breaking, write-offs or theft. 

The way it works is that a car which has been in the most recent trailing period, but which has not been heard of in more than 5 years, will slip into the trailing 10-year category, and so on down the line. Equally, a car which may not have been heard of in say 15 years might come to notice. In this case, it would climb into the trailing 5-year period, boosting the numbers there and in the trailing 10-year period but leaving the trailing 15 and 20-year tallies unchanged. 

Cars which have not been heard of after a while are never lost to the statistics — they just slip down a peg in the fates. After 20 years with nothing heard, they drop off this table but remain in the statistics which back the table, and can be reinstated as necessary if they reappear.

A word about the column on the right — the declining ratio. This shows the proportion of cars known to survive in the trailing 5 year period as compared with survivors in the trailing 20 year period. Obviously, if this ratio is 100%, it means that all known cars continue to be known as the years go by (no cars are being lost). A high value indicates minimum loss over time while a low value indicates a high loss over time.  

The declining ratio is the result of real-world things. One, it is related to the intensity of the search for survivors. If continuing deliberate efforts are made to locate survivors of a particular model, then the trailing 5-year rate and thus the declining ratio will both be higher. Two, if cars are not being wrecked in large numbers but are being saved and restored, then there will be a more stable survival rate anyway, and the declining ratio will hold up, assuming scrutiny holds up as constant.

The declining ratios bear this out in a broad sense. The Healeys show the lowest declining ratios, meaning they are the cars which are being reported less frequently as time goes by. The C-V8, FF, Interceptor I and SP have the highest declining ratios, meaning they show the least rate of decline over the past 20 years. As it happens, these models are all being tracked by their respective JOC marque registrars, and this will certainly have boosted their statistics.

5 years
10 years
15 years
20 years
  2016–2012 2016–2007 2016–2002 2016–1997 all known 5 yrs to 20 yrs
Interceptor 6-cyl 19 30 38 41 3 46%
541 154 209 327 368 13 42%
C-V8 217 336 368 375 20 58%
Interceptor I 189 285 340 373 73 51%
Interceptor II 221 352 441 488 58 45%
Interceptor III 616 978 1294 1512 116 41%
Coupé 18 25 30 36 0 50%
Convertible 141 219 292 326 3 43%
SP 68 86 105 113 16 60%
FF 134 195 226 239 27 56%
Healey Mk 1 165 326 486 670 86 24%
Healey Mk 2 345 742 1087 1499 202 23%
GT 99 142 215 234 45 42%
TOTAL 2386 3925 5249 6274 662 38%

Based on the production totals (for those, go here), the corresponding survival and demised rates for these periods are shown in the following table. This introduces another way of looking at survival rates — the capture total. This is the simple sum of the 20 year survival rate and the demised rate. It gives a rough idea of how well I know the population over the long term. A high number (such as seen for the FF, Coupe, 541 and C-V8) indicates that the population has been scrutinized closely over many years and the fates are generally well known. A low figure (such as for the Healey) indicates that there is relatively little data available and the population is largely unknown.


5 years

10 years

15 years

20 years

  2016–2012 2016–2007 2016–2002 2016–1997 all known 20 yrs + demised
Interceptor 6-cyl 21% 34% 43% 47% 3% 50%
541 28% 38% 60% 67% 2% 69%
C-V8 43% 67% 74% 75% 4% 79%
Interceptor I 18% 28% 33% 36% 7% 43%
Interceptor II 20% 31% 39% 43% 5% 48%
Interceptor III 18% 28% 37% 44% 3% 47%
Coupé 38% 53% 64% 77% 0% 77%
Convertible 28% 43% 57% 64% 1% 65%
SP 29% 37% 45% 49% 7% 56%
FF 42% 61% 71% 75% 8% 83%
Healey Mk 1 5% 10% 14% 20% 3% 23%
Healey Mk 2 5% 10% 15% 21% 3% 24%
GT 19% 28% 42% 46% 9% 55%
AVERAGE 13% 21% 28% 33% 3% 36%

Bear in mind that these figures are not the actual survival rates — they are only estimates of the survival rates, based on the available data. Don't ask me what the actual rates are — I don't know. If I go back 65 years, I can account for 100% of these cars. If I go back one week, I can account for only a handful. That's why you see rolling estimates. Based on the available information, they are the most reliable and unbiased guide to survival rates, not least because they allow a direct comparison between the different models. In other words, what seems intuitively to be the case (such as the supposition that we should see more Interceptors surviving than Healeys) can be checked against the one consistent yardstick. 

Overall, the rate of Jensens known to survive at some point in the past 20 years has been stable at in the mid-30% range for many years now, falling to the low 20% range over the trailing 10-year periods. The average capture total of 36% means that we really don't know what happened to roughly two-thirds of the cars. Looking at it another way, there is a big middle ground between the 3% known as broken and the 21% known to survive at some point in the past ten years. It means there is a long way to go in finding out what happened to the others. The chances of covering that historical ground now are not great.

Whatever the real rates of survival — and they will be higher than those shown here — there is no doubt that the number of survivors is falling. Rust never sleeps and every year more cars succumb to the tin worm, are broken for spares, get stolen or are lost in accidents. To date, I have tracked 662 Jensens by chassis number as having been lost in these ways. This is an increase on last year when the tally stood at 645. In the preceding years, it was 633, 606, 592, 578, 529, 528, 517, 508, 498, 484, 416, 379 and 315. It is obvious that this is one statistic which rises all the time. It means I am always hearing about cars which have been lost, either recently or in some cases many years ago.

For as long as I have been keeping statistics, the Jensen-Healeys have been the most under-represented model with a recorded survival rate over the past five years of just 5%, a declining ratio of 24% and a capture total of the same. All indications are that this model has been broken in large numbers. The fibreglass and aluminium cars are holding up well and seem to survive in greater percentages than the later steel-bodied cars, although there are still many examples with no known fate. The C-V8 statistics are particularly strong, the result of continuing deliberate efforts by the JOC's registrar, John Staddon, to follow up leads on these cars. The FF survivor figures are also high, these cars having been tracked for decades by FF guru Ulric Woodhams. Equally commendable efforts by Steve Hickey to trace surviving Interceptor Is have not yielded comparable survivor stats, the long term figures for this variant being less than those of the Interceptor II and III, which are not being tracked in the same way.

OK, that's what the numbers tell us, but it's only the numbers I know about. If I don't hear about cars, I don't record them and the stats reflect the deficiency. Hence my regular appeals to those who like to see survival statistics made as accurate as possible. If you have a Jensen, I'd like to hear about it, at least once every five years. If you see a car going to the scrap yard, get the VIN and pass it on so that we know what happened. If you have a spare engine lying around, or a piece of trim with a chassis number crayoned on the back, record that number and pass it on because then we'll have a link to a car which has probably been broken. 

I update this list of survivors towards the end of each year so be sure to check back and see how we're doing.

Where are they likely to be?

Give or take a handful, something like 18,976 Jensen cars were made between 1935 and 1992. The vast majority — 91 per cent — were sold in North America and Britain.

United States 50.1%
United Kingdom 38.4%
Canada 2.2%
Australia 1.8%
Switzerland 1.0%
Rest of world 6.5%
TOTAL 100.0%

The "rest of world" category includes all destinations with less than 1% of the total. There are approximately 50 of these smaller markets so, if you're looking for a Jensen, North America and Britain are the best places to be. 

In general, I receive relatively less information about cars in the USA than anywhere else, which would go a long way to explaining why the observed survival rate of Healeys is so low. Most of them went to the USA and that's the region from which I am least likely to receive news about vehicle fates. To narrow it down further, about half the cars which went to the USA were sold in California. This means that a quarter of all Jensen cars — most of them Healeys — went to that one State. Given that California was the world leader in emissions controls for cars, forcing them off the road if they failed their smog tests, and given that the Healeys were the cheapest Jensens ever made and more likely to be discarded when they wore out, I should think that a high proportion have now been junked. The stats certainly bear out this contention.. 

To the end of 2016, I've traced 3925 Jensen survivors at some point in the past decade, about the same as it was 12 months ago. By continent or geographic region, this is where they are now:

United Kingdom 42%
Americas 35%
Asia-Pacific 12%
Continental Europe 11%
Others negligible
TOTAL 100%

Special note for Interceptor III owners

If your 1975 or 1976 Interceptor has one of the following serial numbers, I'd be especially interested to hear from you. This is because the factory papers on these cars are thin and I need your help to fill out the details. Most of these were exported so they could conceivably be anywhere by now. The VINs in question are:

1402, 1650, 1791, 1813, 1820, 1846, 1871, 1873, 1874, 1900, 1903, 1920, 1922, 1938, 1946, 1949, 1996

Model histories

For more on the individual models mentioned above, have a look in the histories guide.


Richard Calver

© Richard Calver 2000–2016