Looking a bit like an awkward and slack-jawed Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, the Jensen 541 was England’s non-Jaguar answer to the inline-6 sports car. Like the 300SL, this Jensen was the absolute king of speed, setting the record for four-place automobiles at 127 miles per hour, thanks to a low-for-the-time 0.39 coefficient of drag figure. The fastest Mercedes two-seater was capable of 160 MPH flat out, and featured a Cd of just 0.38. Differences between the two? The Jensen is crafted of lightweight fiberglass reinforced plastic, had seating for four, cribbed the suspension bits from an Austin A70 sedan, and just about everything else.
When the 541 was first launched in 1954, it incorporated a triple-SU carburetor setup on an Austin 4-liter inline 6 officially rated at 135 brake horsepower. Thanks to a steel tubeframe and the lightweight body, the 541 line weighed in around 2700 pounds. Interestingly, while Jaguar built the first car to feature Dunlop’s disc brakes, it was the 541 to bear the honor of the first four-seat car to use the cutting edge technology in 1956. When slightly updated bodywork arrived for 1957 the 541 was updated to ‘541R’ spec. Along with the name change came rack and pinion steering, a larger flow twin-carb setup, a higher compression ratio, and a corollary 15 horsepower bump.
For the 541's 9-year production run, only about 550 cars were produced for worldwide consumption. Just 193 of those were ‘R’ models. Of those R model 541s, this one is said to be one of just 20 or so built with a performance kit from the factory, comprising a third high-flow carburetor. All of this conspires to make this Jensen quite the rare piece of kit.
This particular Jensen is about as nice an example as you could find, based on the photographs, and looks absolutely the business in Milano Red over caramel Italian leather and authentic woolen carpeting. All of the chromework has been redone, including the non-standard factory-installed front grille.
This Jensen was once owned by a gent named Quentin Keynes. Keynes was an interesting man who needed an interesting car to match. Great-grandson of Charles Darwin, and nephew of famed economist John Maynard Keynes, Quentin busied himself with African and sub-equatorial island exploration. If you hope to craft yourself into a unique human being, buying this Jensen is a good place to start. You can bid on it when it comes up for auction during Russo And Steele’s Scottsdale Auction in late January.