Although the licensing agreement between Jensen Motors and Harry Ferguson Research had been signed on the 31st December 1964, appraisal and development work for a Jensen four-wheel-drive car, had been taking place between the two companies for almost two years beforehand.
During this time, Brian Spicer the Chief Development Engineer at Jensen Motors, and Tony Rolt the ‘hands-on’ Managing Director of Harry Ferguson Research, were closely involved in testing the four-wheel-drive system.
Much of this testing took place with a 3 Litre Ford Capri, which had been suitably converted to four-wheel-drive. Spicer made frequent visits to Harry Ferguson’s headquarters at Abbotswood, Stow-on-the-Wold, where the two men would put the car through its paces.
Kevin Beattie was kept informed of progress, and by late 1964, it was agreed the system was adequately tested to both companies satisfaction. Now the ‘legal boys’ had to pen the licensing agreement, ready for the company heads to sign.
On the 31st December 1964, Richard Jensen, Brian Owen, Kevin Beattie cialisforsalecanada and Len Fernley left Jensen Motors bound for Harry Ferguson’s headquarters. Arriving at Harry Ferguson Research, the ‘Jensen’ men were greeted by Tony Sheldon, Tony Rolt and John Peacock. As the group sat around the board room table, it was left for Richard Jensen and Len Fernley to sign the agreement on behalf of Jensen Motors Ltd.
Tony Sheldon and John Peacock signed on behalf of Harry Ferguson research Ltd. It must have been a special moment for all present, but especially for Richard Jensen. He had dreamt of a Jensen four-wheel-drive production car, and this moment was bringing that dream closer. The agreement was a formality, since back at Jensen Motors the drawings for a Jensen FF were already completed.
Beattie had recognised the chassis of the Jensen 541; with its perimeter rather than inboard main tubes; would make an excellent basis for the FF’s new chassis design. This had helped to speed up completion of drawings. Work on the prototype car would start at the beginning of the New Year.
The original CV8 prototype car with chassis number JM/EXP/103, and registration number ‘261 FEA’ had served its useful life. The car was technically scrapped, and at the beginning of 1965, given over to the Body Engineering Department. They were told to remove the body and modify it as required for the first prototype Jensen CV8 FF.
With the body removed, the chassis was given over to the Chassis Engineering Department and told to convert this to the first Jensen CV8 FF prototype.
The converted chassis was assigned the experimental number JM/EXP/110. Work on the new four-wheel-drive prototype car would carry on over the coming months, although Spicer and all those concerned with the project, were aware the finished car was required for an October (Motor Show) deadline.
Management at Jensen Motors were keen to have the revolutionary new four-wheel-drive Jensen on display at the October 1965 Earls Court Motor Show. The new concept; which was priced at £5249.7s.1d (including purchase tax); was certain to create public interest.
The new four-wheel-drive CV8 FF looked remarkably similar to the standard two-wheel-drive CV8, but had a longer front to accept the four-wheel-drive system and front differential. The longer front wings had large grilled air intakes to the sides, a practise which was to continue on both the Italian designed Interceptor and FF. Special badges consisted of just one chromed metal ‘FF’ fitted to the front, and another to the rear panel of the car.
As October loomed, the prototype FF was still undergoing final finishing. As was often the case at Jensen Motors, the car was completed in the nick of time. Although ready for the show, there had been no time left for any initial testing of the car, road testing would have to wait until after the show.
The new CV8 FF painted in gleaming carmine red, and finished with black leather trim, certainly created interest at the show, both with the public and the motoring press. The staff on the Jensen stand had a busy time, explaining the new four-wheel-drive concept and handing out a huge number of brochures.
Throughout the days of the show, the CV8 FF bonnet was open more than it was closed. Brochures for the FF had been printed in time for the show, but since the actual carmine red car wasn’t finished at the time of printing the brochures, a photograph of a conventional two-wheel -drive CV8 had to be used. At least the text would create the interest,
“Jensen FF– It is not a new car. It is a new kind of car. Under the sleekly power packed lines of the Jensen CV8, is the formula for the future. The Jensen FF. Once again Jensen Motors are first to lead the way towards finer cars – but this time the innovation is a gigantic step into the future, even by Jensen standards. The Jensen FF with it’s revolutionary 4-wheel drive and aviation developed anti-skid braking system, blends speed and safety as never before. Here is a car which can be driven as no car has ever been driven. The Jensen FF opens a new era in motoring – an era of faster, safer driving. Driving the Jensen FF is an electrifying experience. It gives the motorist comfort, relaxation and a new kind of confidence.”
The Jensen FF was positioned near the ill-fated Jensen P66 convertible car. The Jensen brothers, along with the then Chief Engineer, Eric Neale, were keen to have the P66 put into production, and had decided on reviving the name ‘Interceptor’ for this model.
Both Brian Owen, the Managing Director of Jensen Motors, along with Deputy Chief Engineer Kevin Beattie, believed the way forward was to have a new car styled in Italy.
Meanwhile the company proudly displayed the new FF technology under the skin of the old CV8. The public and motoring press, were definitely impressed with the four-wheel-drive concept, oblivious to the arguments which had been going on within the board room of Jensen Motors.
Throughout the days of the Motor Show, interest in the hastily finished convertible P66 had been totally overshadowed by the FF.
A former employee of Jensen Motors Ltd had unknowingly started a myth about the FF, which was to endure for two decades. He stated to Jensen historian, Keith Anderson, that the FF had not been finished in time for the Motor Show, and when placed on the stand, the car lacked the engine along with gearbox/four-wheel-drive unit.
According to the employee a large sandbag had been placed to the front sub-frame to keep the car at the correct height, and the bonnet stayed firmly closed throughout the show. This myth was perpetuated in both the book, ‘Jensen Interceptor’ by Mike Taylor (published 1983), and in ‘Jensen & Jensen Healey’ by Keith Anderson (published 1998).
The fact was, the FF was complete and spent most of its time with the bonnet raised. The P66 was the car which was not finished in time; lacking its driveline; the car had a sandbag placed to the front cross member. The bonnet remained closed for the duration of the show. This was mentioned to curator, Ulric Woodhams, by David Millard, the Service Manager at Jensen Motors, in September 2004, and was confirmed by Brian Spicer, Chief Engineer at Jensen Motors, in April 2005.
With the show over, the FF underwent thorough road testing and evaluation.
Final checking to make sure the car was safe for road testing took until the end of November, and JM/EXP/110 was registered with the licensing department on 7th December 1965.
Spicer was the first to test the car and to make sure there were no major problems, afterwards Beattie put the car through its paces. Richard Jensen also had his chance to take to the wheel of his dream car.
With boardroom disagreements over the styling of a new Jensen car leading to victory for those in favour of Italian designs, Ghia, Touring and Vignale were invited to submit designs.
The Touring design was chosen, but unable to build the first cars, Vignale offered to build them. With the contract with Vignale signed in January 1966, a CV8 car along with its four-wheel-drive counterpart were made ready for departure to Vignale.
Spicer remembers it was necessary to take the glass fibre body off the FF to make some minor modifications to the chassis.
Apparently this was necessary to accept the new Italian designed coachwork. Suitably modified JM/EXP/110 was re-designated as JM/EXP/113. The motorised chassis was sent out to the Turin-based Vignale coachbuilder sometime around May 1966. Once at Vignale the chassis was to be fitted with the new Italian coachwork designed by Touring. The car was then trimmed and made ready for shipment back to West Bromwich.
By August 1966 JM/EXP/113; now re-numbered for series production as 119/001; was almost finished. It was agreed to air freight 119/001 from Turin to London Airport along with the second Interceptor ‘HEA 1D’. Once at the Jensen factory, both cars were thoroughly checked over and prepared for the forthcoming Earls Court Motor Show.
Ken Beauchamp, an Inspector at Jensen Motors remembers the arrival of the first ‘Italian’ FF at the Jensen factory, “the ‘secret’ car was quickly moved to the development section, away from the work force.”
Once ensconced within the development section, Spicer set about checking the FF over ready for road testing, as this car was to be used to demonstrate the new Jensen FF to the motoring journalists. The FF was registered with the local taxation department on the 16th September 1966.
JM/EXP/110 had become JM/EXP/113, and under these chassis designations, the car had been registered purely as a test vehicle. On the 10th October 1966 Jensen Motors Ltd contacted the local taxation department, returning the tax disc and advising them that the car had been dismantled and the chassis destroyed. In truth the chassis had not been destroyed, it had simply undergone an evolution to its production numbering as 119/001.
Once again Jensen Motors printed a special full colour brochure for the launch of the new Italian bodied Jensen FF. However, as with the CV8 styled FF brochure, time ran out and the completed car was not back in time for photography. Instead of a photograph, Jensen Motors used a fine concept painting of what the completed car would look like. The text remained basically the same as that used for the CV8 FF brochure.
The price for the Italian bodied Jensen FF was set at £5339.19s.9d including purchase tax. With the Interceptor bearing the much cheaper price tag of £3742.11s.2d. To give some indication of the price being asked for the Jensen FF, you could have bought a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow and had a little change.
By the beginning of October the Jensen factory were busy getting everything ready for the Motor Show. 119/002 had just been brought back from Vignale by Brian Spicer and Mike Jones, and was being prepared for the Jensen stand. 119/001 was checked over mechanically for demonstration use at a special press day at the Goodwood circuit.
119/001 caused a sensation with the motoring press, hailing the FF as a car setting new standards of safety, regarding handling and tractability. An overheating problem on the day did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the press.
Autocar, having had the chance to test both 119/001 and it’s two-wheel-drive compatriot, brought out one of it’s regular evaluation articles in the 14th October 1966 issue. As with Autocar, a multitude of journalists, distributors and would be private customers eagerly awaited the chance to test-drive the remarkable four-wheel-drive Jensen.
Jensen Motors themselves, also needed to further evaluate the long term prospects for the four-wheel-drive and anti-skid braking, so between October 1966 and October 1970, 119/001 was constantly used for testing and demonstration purposes.
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