Old British sports cars and rust go together like Forrest and Jenny and today’s Nice Price or No Dice Jensen GT is no different. Let’s see if there’s enough of this rare ride left to make its price palatable.
Regardless of whether it’s a traditional British bomb or a car like yesterday’s 1990 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, there’s a certain inexorable draw to a small sports car with a straight-six engine. Our candidate convertible may have had more miles under its belt than many of us would have liked, but its condition and reputation as one of the last of the bank vault Benzes served to balance the distance. Ultimately, its $7,500 asking price proved more than just palatable, earning the Mercedes a sweeping 88 percent Nice Price win.
Speaking of British bombs, let’s pour out a 40… of Guinness, I guess, for today’s 1976 Jensen GT. This is a model that died in one of Jensen Motors’ many financial crises after just over 500 had been built. That makes it the rarest of Jensen’s junior league cars.
The GT’s story started inauspiciously enough with a phone call in 1970 from consultant Donald Healey to American auto importer Kjell (pronounced ‘shell’) Qvale. Qvale lamented to Healey the loss of one of his most profitable imports, the Austin Healey 3000. Donald Healey suggested that a successor be created, and informed Qvale that the cottage carmaker, Jensen, was on the financial ropes, making it ripe for the picking. Healey’s idea was for Qvale to buy Jensen’s manufacturing assets and together they would build an Austin Healey replacement.
The result of that plan was the Jensen Healy, a handsome and thoroughly modern rendition of the traditional small sports car form factor. The model would slot under Jensen’s big gun Interceptor giving the company a solid lineup. Traditionally, small sports cars take some of their parts from more mundane cars. In the Jensen’s case, the Vauxhall Firenza served as a donor for steering and suspension bits. The engine, however, was a different matter. Qvale and Healey would tap Lotus for its brand-spanking new all-alloy 907 DOHC 2.0L-four. This would be the first production use of the 907, an engine that would go on to power all matter of Loti for years to come. In U.S. guise, the twin Zenith carbureted 16-valve engine managed 140 horsepower.
While Donald Healey and Kjell Qvale would have a falling out over Jensen’s direction causing the former to leave the partnership, machinations for the small Jensen’s future were already planned. What Qvale wanted was a more upscale car that would warrant a higher price and hence more profits. It couldn’t be as high in price as the bigger Interceptor, and in fact, the resulting GT shooting brake was intended to be a “Baby Interceptor” from the get-go.
The changes from the Jensen Healey included the enclosed bodywork, a 2+2 interior (with split fold-down back seats!), and a more luxurious dash featuring a lot of wood and leather over the convertible’s plastic and vinyl. The GT still uses the lovely Lotus mill, but adds a five-speed Getrag gearbox in place of the Jensen Healey’s four-speed. The later convertible cars received this update too, along with a name change to JH5.
This car is interesting because while it is offered as a project with rust invading both fenders and footwells, it is otherwise complete and, if the photos are to be believed, looks to be in remarkably good shape.
According to the ad, the car “Starts, runs and stops as it should,” and the seller deems its interior to be “better than average.” That rust is described as “severe” but the car comes with a spare front fender and the seller says you can drive the car while making the repairs. Naturally not at the same time, though. Additionally, the holes in the floorboards could allow you to run and stop the car with your feet, Fred Flintstone style, which could prove handy at times.
The title is clear and the car comes with a claimed 85,000 miles on the clock. What might a classic like this be worth in its present condition?
Now, I’m going to have to sit this one out as I am a bit biased being the owner of my own Jensen Healey project (albeit an earlier convertible), and am keen to see any car like this go for a pretty penny. This one asks for $4,500 in those pretty pennies and now I’d like your opinion on whether that feels like a deal.
What do you say? Is this Jensen GT worth that $4,500 asking? Or, is this just a rust bucket with a price that doesn’t carry water?
H/T to Frank B for the hookup!
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