Jensen heritage for the next generation
Jensen FF Chassis 119/117 | Press Car

Jensen FF Chassis 119/117 | Press Car

Jensen FF, chassis 119/117, was acquired for the Museum collection in 2007. The Jensen FF was used as a main Press Car for Jensen Motors, and was famously abused by motoring journalist, Harold Dvoretsky. With Dvoretsky in the driving seat, 119/117 was given a punishingly hard 2,500 mile jaunt around Europe and back to the UK. The Museum looks at the history that his held so far on 119/117, and looks forward to hearing from anyone with further information about this car.

Jensen FF car details:

Chassis number: 119/117

Engine number: 1529/19E

Registration number original: UEA 999G

Registration changes: From UEA 999G to private registration not known. Then WYF 258G, then to AAB 9, and then back to UEA 999G

Registration number now: UEA 999G

The 119/117 chassis was scheduled as a factory demonstrator. The specification was agreed on Stratosphere blue with red leather trim. The car would have sundym glass, and a Voxson ‘8’ track /radio as options.

119/117 was first registered on 21st April 1969 as a demonstrator car for Jensen Motors Ltd. The car was assigned the Birmingham registration ‘UEA 999G’.

Initially 119/117 was used as a works car for the first few weeks, after which it was passed on to Good Relations Ltd, to be used as an FF press car. Immediately Good Relations received 119/117 for promotional work, the car went into earning its keep.

By June 1969 119/117 appeared on the back cover of the magazine Horseworld, how Good Relations arranged this isn’t known, suffice to say the publicity for the FF appeared on the magazine free of charge.  July saw 119/117 embarking on a series of road tests, first with the freelance journalist David Phipps, then with David Benson from the Daily Express, and finally with Ian Morton from the Evening Standard.

The following months saw 119/117 employed in a similar vein, but being used primarily for demonstration work rather than press work. It was while being used as a demonstrator that 119/117 was involved in a 2,500 long haul test across to Calais, through three countries and back, for a feature article in Modern Motor magazine.

Jensen FF Chassis 119/117 | Press Car

Harold Dvoretsky and his wife, Angela, check out 119/117’s interior, before setting off for the continent.

Harold Dvoretsky, the European Editor for Modern Motor magazine, was given the ‘arduous’ job of testing 119/117. After completion of the journey and the safe return of the FF, Dvoretsky set about writing the article. He headed the article FOUR WHEELS THAT WORK. An extremely positive and enthusiastic article opened with the initial paragraph,

“After 2,500 miles through three countries in all types of conditions, I find that the Jensen FF effortlessly lives up to its ambitious advertising slogan of, the world’s most advanced car”.

Dvoretsky’s style of motoring was quite severe, especially with the Jensen FF, which he wished to push to its limits…..and maybe just beyond. After the journey, Dvoretsky was left with the opinion that few drivers would ever dare match the car’s cornering potential. This opinion was based on two reasons, firstly few drivers having purchased the FF for upwards of £5,500, would wish to use their car for such extreme driving, and secondly, caution would overcome bravery on most occasions.

Jensen FF Chassis 119/117 | Press Car

Some of the abuse given to 119/117 with Dvoretsky at the wheel.

Jensen FF Chassis 119/117 | Press Car

119/117 being pushed passed its limits.

The limit of the car – and just beyond ! was reached by Dvoretsky. An outline of the car’s limits was recounted by Dvoretsky,

“I should mention here that there is a “limit”, high though it might be. As the instruction book points out, the ultimate limitation of car control is the grip between the tryes and the road surface. The Ferguson system of all-wheels-control helps the driver to use this grip to the best advantage under all conditions, but “it cannot increase the available grip. Therefore, the car should always be driven with due regard to the prevailing conditions”. This means that if you push hard enough on a slippery surface (but it has to be very slippery), you can get the tail to break away  and lose adhesion. Fortunately, it takes but a little correction to bring the 36 cwt. car on course again.”

Outside of Dvoretsky’s off road antics with the FF, there were a couple of ‘close-shaves’ during his ‘on road’ use,

“Hurrying back to Calais to catch my Townsend ferry across the Channel on one of those drizzly northern France mornings, I met a lot of traffic coming the opposite way as the few French citizens not on holiday wended their way to work. My speed was just over the ‘ton’. One Mustang driver with a death wish and no conceivable idea of approach speeds suddenly left the line of traffic coming the other way and looked me head on at very close distance. He would have been travelling around 80 to 90 mph – perhaps more. Our combined closing speed was nearing 200 mph. As I stomped on the anchors, my immediate reaction was to wonder what way the skid would start. There are very few cars (if any) of that weight, travelling at that speed on a wet surface, which could guarantee to brake in a straight line. I reckon I have as much feel of a car and it’s braking potential as most drivers, yet the feel of the Maxaret giant anchor being tossed out  – as the car lost speed – was something I would have found hard to emulate. Angela, in “the seat nearest the accident”, forgot to be nervous and commented as the Mustang driver slowed badly back into the queue, what a wonderful feeling of safety there had been during the whole episode.”

The wonders of the Jensen FF and its amazing cornering abilities was summed up by Dvoretsky,

 “It’s the nearest thing to ‘going round on rails’, I’ve ever encountered.”

The completed article appeared in the November 1969 issue of Modern Motor.

Jensen FF | Jensen Museum

Gethin Bradley.

The editor of Car magazine had contacted Gethin Bradley at Good Relations during the summer of 1969.

The magazine had tested an FF back in 1967, and wanted to do another feature entitled, The FF a Reassessment.

Bradley quickly contacted the factory and was told the magazine could have loan of 119/117. The schedule could fit in after Dvoretsky had finished with the car.

In between times, motoring journalist, Ronald Barker would also be having a short loan of the car.

At the beginning of September, the journalists from Car magazine were given 119/117 on loan. The FF was going to have another gruelling marathon.

The itinerary for the chaps from Car magazine, was to catch the ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland, drive through Holland into Germany, back through France to Le Havre.

The two motoring journalists had concerns about this FF from the outset. The 100 mile rush to Harwich, with the beginnings of a frost coating some of the trickier corners and roundabouts, had cast doubts about the validity of using crossply tyres,

“…the problem was not one of controllability but of sheer cornering power, which was demonstrably lacking by comparison with so many of the more recently introduced luxury GT cars which we had tried since our earlier experience of the erstwhile Car of the Year.”

Unflattering comments were also made about the interior,

“…it was a shock to find how dreadfully out of date the décor in general looked by comparison with such rivals as, for example, the Aston DBS. Switches and dials of contrasting sizes appeared to be scattered at random, some hooded, others angled, a few both at once, with warning lights and switches punctuating the gaps and overflowing down into the centre console.

 Garish colours (red and cream were two of them, in a dark blue car !) did nothing to ease the impression of disorder, and there were some downright shoddy touches including a pair of sun visors that would disgrace even a Ford Escort. And finally of course there was the heating and ventilation system, which we remembered as the Achilles’ heel of the original design and which evidently had not been changed. Complex, ugly, difficult to regulate and above all inefficient, this setup can only have infuriated owners throughout the currency of a model, which, at the time we tried it, was fortunately more or less obsolete.”

Other concerns had related to the rear shock absorbers, which the two men believed might be worn out, even the shock absorber mountings were emitting a worrying clonking sound to the inside of the car.

The steering they found vague and the Maxaret braking system seemed faulty. Perhaps the severe hammering the car had just previously been given by Dvoretsky was showing, and typically Jensen Motors were always ‘running with the wind’ with deadlines.

Just how much attention had been given to 119/117 after the car’s return from Dvoretsky is not recorded, but it would not be the first time a demonstrator car would be given a quick service and polish up before being released for its next assignment.

Certainly it would seem this was the case with 119/117. Jensen Motors had often been very lucky to come off so positively in the media light, it looked as though their luck had just run out.

Gethin Bradley had already heard some rather negative comments about 119/117 from Ronald Barker, when the chaps from Car magazine outlined their disappointment with the car.

This was not the response Bradley wanted to hear, and with the criticisms of 119/117 still ringing in his ear, he immediately telephoned Jensen Motors.

The new much improved MK.II FF and Interceptor had just been launched and Bradley was determined to turn this catastrophe around, by getting hold of a MK.II FF and giving it directly over to Car magazine –  hopefully in time before the article went to press.

Duerr and Graves, realising the serious of the situation, had their second MK.II FF ( which had just been completed), driven down to Good Relations. Bradley telephoned Car magazine offering the new MK.II FF for immediate appraisal.

Luckily for him, and more particularly for Jensen Motors, The FF a Reassessment article hadn’t been completed, and the magazine jumped at the chance of trying out the new MK.II.

Bradley’s quick thinking had saved the day. Car magazine were delighted with the modifications fitted to the MK.II, and also with its performance. When the article finally appeared in the January 1970 issue, it was quite damming about the initial FF they had been given. Luckily the article ended on a distinctly positive note when talking about the wonderful new MK.II car.

It became obvious to all involved, that 119/117 was already ‘tired’ when given over to Car magazine. However, it was obvious even if the car had been brand new and functioning well, that the MK.I layout was by now out of date in comparison with its rivals. The modified MK.II was just in time for the market place.

By the end of September 1969, and with 119/117 just back from its disappointing tour of duty with Car magazine, the decision was made for the FF to be sold.

In readiness for 119/117’s disposal, the car received a 16,000 mile service on the 1st October, at which time 119/117 had covered 14,665 miles.

With the new MK.II version of the FF and Interceptor just being launched, Jensen Motors did not wish to have obsolete MK.I cars being used as demonstrator vehicles, especially after the disappointing comments made by Car magazine.

An agreement had been reached with Freckleton Service Station.  They would take both 119/117 and the other MK.I FF demonstrator, 119/144. The two cars were delivered to them on the 2nd October, the cost of 119/117 was £4,900, while the cost of 119/144 was £5,100, since this car had less mileage.  Both cars were immediately prepared for resale.

Jensen FF Chassis 119/117 | Press Car

Sales invoice from Jensen Motors to Freckleton Service Station dated 2nd October 1969.

A couple of months after the purchase of 119/117 by Freckleton Service Station, the hub assemblies required changing, these were changed on the 17th December 1969.  In January 1970, 119/117 found a new owner in one Keith E.G.Maxey, of DAC Air Services Ltd, based at London Airport, Hounslow.

Maxey had already placed an order for a new Jensen FF. The order was placed with the export distributors Hallmark, and the car delivered in late 1969. Why then he had purchased 119/117 as well isn’t known. Maxey liked his new four-wheel-drive cars, and from the outset kept in contact with Jensen Motors, and with David Millard, the Service Manager, in particular. Eventually, Millard would find this contact obsessive and annoying, but for now he found Maxey a pleasant enough, quietly spoken client.

It is believed that Maxey kept 119/117 until 1972, putting a private registration on the car during his ownership. Maxey  traded or sold the car with R.D.Pocock, a secondhand car dealers in Reading.

Jensen FF Chassis 119/117 | Press Car

Jensen FF 119/117 photographed in 1972.

In October 1972, 119/117 was purchased from R.D.Pocock for £2,800 by Douglas Smith. He ran the local garage and petrol station in Fyfield village.  In 1974, Smith had his private registration of AAB 9 assigned to 119/117.

Fyfield Garage. The photograph was taken in the 1970s, when the garage was still operating. When the garage closed down, the Smiths continued to live in the small cottage seen behind the red van. The garage where 119/117 was stored was to the right of the parked Jaguar.

 

Fyfield Garage. The small garage behind the red Austin-Healey is where 119/117 was stored from 1978 until 2007.

 

Jensen FF Chassis 119/117 | Press Car

Douglas and Shiela Smith photographed in the 1990s.

By 1978, ill health had stopped Smith from using the Jensen. The 68,000 mile car remained garaged, and as the years past, more and more items were simply stored down the sides of the car, and then on top, until eventually the car was completely hidden.

In 2003, Smith died, and then in 2006 his wife, Shiela, died. Their daughter inherited the car in that year, which led to the acquisition of the car by the Museum in 2007.

Jensen FF Chassis 119/117 | Press Car

119/117 undergoing mechanical work for the Museum in 2009.

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119/117 Conservation | Restoration

The focus of the Museum is always towards conservation rather than restoration.  The unusual storage of 119/117 undoubtedly helped to conserve this car. When the Museum acquired the car in 2007, it remained largely on its original paint. The interior had survived in exceptionally good condition. The decision was made to stabilise areas of the body and to treat the leather. Various mechanical work was required.

Body: The car is of sound structure, and remains largely on its original paint. We have removed the sills, checked and treated the chassis tubes. New sills have been fitted. There is some rust to the rear wheel arches, and to the front and rear valances. This will require sympathetic restoration, and at that time the car would need to be resprayed.

Mechanics: Mechanical work has been undertaken, including replacing all brake calipers.

Interior: The original  red leather trim has survived in particualrly good condition. The majority of the original red carpets can be conserved. The Museum intends to deal with the interior from a preventative conservation method, rather than undertake any physical restoration.

REQUEST: We are keen to hear from Keith Maxey, or his family, to help us fill in more history of this car.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Gethin Bradley | Katie Edwards

COPYRIGHTS: The Jensen Museum

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: If you have any additional information about this car, please contact us at archive@jensenmuseum.org or telephone on: +1694-781354