Jensen S-V8: the sports car killer that never was
Cast your eye through a history of fast cars of the Seventies and you'll expect to find all of the usual suspects- cars such as the original Datsun 240z, the Pontiac Firebird and the Mazda RX-7, these cars did and still do evoke strong emotions among the car community due to their desirable image, performance pedigree and overall nostalgic values. However, one car that frequented the pages of history among those now legends was the Interceptor, a distinctive, swooping 70s coupé that looked like it had just jumped from a detective car chase, so much so that you could find an Interceptor careening round gritty suburban streets in classic shows such as The Protectors and perhaps most notably, The Saint, driven by the one and only Simon Dutton.
As a result of those shows, the Interceptor experienced somewhat of a resurgence a few years ago, with help from Top Gear, but even with this newfound popularity, the company responsible for the Interceptor, Jensen, never really became an established marque alongside its peers, and because of that, the company ceased to trade in 1976. However, in time for the 1998 British International Motor Show, the Jensen name was revived, among fanfare, sentiment and at the heart of it, a new two-seater sports car called the S-V8.
How's that for a number plate? (Jensen)
The Jensen S-V8 was conceived and designed entirely for Jensen to get their foot in the door of the then-burgeoning performance roadster market, which at the time was spearheaded by the BMW 5 Series soft top, Porsche 968 cabrio and the Jaguar XJS Convertible. However, the S-V8's difference between it and those examples was the oily bits- Jensen's offering was to be powered by a 32-valve, four-cam Ford Mustang V8 block pushing out an astonishing 325 bhp, making it the only muscle car powered roadster, putting it on par with the likes of the Porsche 911 and the Nissan 200SX, with the engine bringing the S-V8 from a standstill to 60 in under five seconds, and if you were to keep going, the car would belt all the way to 160 mph without batting an eyelid, which wasn't at all bad for a car built in the West Midlands. Production of the car began in 2001, alongside lots of flag-waving and outcry over the revival of the British sports car makers, but it didn't take long for the cracks to begin to show.
The first signs of trouble came when Jensen started to hit financial trouble while making the £40,000 car, despite a £10 million investment from the Liverpool City Council and the Department of Trade and Industry. The reason for this was while a rather limited run of 300 models was planned initially, by 1999 orders had stalled at only 110 models. Eventually by August of 2001, production of the S-V8 had been flip-flopping between Merseyside and Oxfordshire due to the need for cheaper production as Jensen looked for a way to cover their losses. The company managed to produce 20 cars, which were well received and praised for their handling and performance, but by then the game was up and Jensen's bank account was dry. Production of S-V8s ground to a halt in 2002 as the company went into administration, leaving 18 unfinished S-V8s rotting before they were sold to SV Automotive in 2003, who finished 12 of them and sold them for £38,000 and keeping the others for spares. Meanwhile, the Jensen name lay dormant, before Jensen Motors itself was dissolved in 2011. So then, what went wrong?
Jensen S-V8- what went wrong?
The problem that plagued the Jensen S-V8 and led to its demise in my opinion was, perhaps, the name. The Jensen name doesn't really evoke thoughts of sportiness or fun when compared to other names of its ilk. It evokes thoughts of the British sports car industry, which in its last years before the hot hatch came in churned out more clunkers than the Clash did in their later years. Therefore, there was no reason for people to buy them other than to say they owned a Jensen, which doesn't exactly make you the most popular person in the room. And that's the real shame, because the S-V8 was an extremely capable car, however it was ruined by one question: why should I?
And that's a wrap! Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate the support. I took a break for a few days but I'm back and ready to write again. Cheers, and I'll see you in the next article!