Jensen GT | An Everyday Experience
Museum curator, Ulric Woodhams, acquired a Jensen GT at the end of 2017. The Museum already held the prototype Jensen GT within its collection, but this car was going to serve a different purpose. Woodhams explains,
“For some years , it had occurred to me that even under the duress of today’s pressured road systems, that the Jensen GT had the qualities to allow it to stand up to everyday use. When I say that, I’m talking about multi-faceted everyday use. In other words, some classics lack modernity, some lack sophistication, some lack reliability. But, I believed the Jensen GT could cross the motoring decades, provide modernity, provide sophistication, and provide reliability. It was going to be a big ask.”
Background | Jensen GT | An Everyday Experience
Before any experiment could take place, an appropriate Jensen GT had to be acquired for Woodhams to use. As Woodhams mentioned, the prototype GT was just too unique to use for the experiment. However, to find a good Jensen GT is like trying to find the Holy Grail. Think looking for an Interceptor, but fifty times as hard.
The Jensen GT acquired for the experiment was chassis number 30045. An early Sub-50 GT (chassis number under 50) with the so-called moustache to the front of the bonnet. Woodhams had seen the car when up at the home of former Jensen Owners’ Club Healey | GT Registrar, Dr.David Booth in 2014.
The Pine Green painted car had undergone restoration work, and then been driven for a couple of years by Booth, before being laid up. The car was a good structurally sound car, and was generally original. It was just the type of car Woodhams was looking for.
Woodhams made it clear he would be interested to acquire the GT if it ever came up for sale. Fast-forward to the end of 2017, and a telephone call from Booth led to Woodhams acquiring the car.
Once in Shropshire, Jensen GT chassis number 30045 was given a thorough check over and evaluation. The initial re-commission list lengthened considerably, including a full brake overhaul, a change of all oils and consumables, including doing away with an electronic ignition, in favour of the original points, and a mandatory change of the cam-belt.
The body was rust free, but the paintwork in places (particularly the bonnet) wasn’t marvellous. It was decided to repaint most of the car. At the same time, the ‘moustache’ was re-instated to the bonnet, various rubber seals changed, new old stock door handles fitted. Doors re-aligned better, and cavities rust-proofed.
There was a lot of work undertaken to the interior, including making sure all switches and gauges worked, various work to the electrics, fitting a new old stock 1975 vintage Pioneer Radio / ‘8’ track player (of a type fitted on request by Jensen Motors), and replacing all the speakers.
Further interior work included a thorough clean of all carpets and the corduroy seats. In fact both driver and passenger seat foams had perished leading to the inevitable feeling of sitting on the floor pan. Marque specialists, Rejen, undertook a miraculous sympathetic restoration of the seats, keeping the original corduroy, but replacing the foams and webbing. They also made up two front carpets to original specification.
The list of parts being assembled by Rejen, for the Museum, included a set of refurbished alloy wheels. Co-director, Jason Lawrence, asked what tyres were going to be fitted. It had been Woodhams’ intention to re-use the nearly new Avons fitted by Booth. Lawrence mentioned that the original spec tyres, Pirelli Cinturatos, transformed the drive-feel of the GT. A set of the Cinturatos were immediately ordered from the specialist classic tyre company, Longstone Tyres.
As winter of 2018 moved towards spring, Jensen GT 30045 was nearing completion of its re-commissioning. It would soon be time to get driving.
Jensen GT | An Everyday Experience | Lets Look At The Car
The shooting brake Jensen GT sits well, and a good example certainly lives up to the high £4,500 launch price back in 1975. Qvale was hoping this car could take over as a baby Interceptor (well needed with the petrol crisis emerging at the time of launch), and Qvale’s attention to detail on the GT paid off. The car looks good from all angles.
In fact, it’s not so much about looking just beautiful, in the sense of beauty personified as with the Interceptor. Rather than looking beautiful (in the Interceptor sense of the word), the GT looks interesting and stately. It has that air of sophistication. And, it looks like a hand-made car. Look close, and there are many parts from the Interceptor parts-bins fitted to the GT.
Then one gets to the interior.
“At 6’ 3” I’m not exactly short”, states Woodhams, “so, roof height within the Jensen GT had initially concerned me. The car doesn’t look large, particularly in comparison with modern vehicles. Back when the Museum had acquired the prototype Jensen GT, it had surprised me just how much head height there was inside the car. In fact the GT seems really nicely set up for a tall driver (unlike many Lotus cars I might add).
There is plenty of movement on the seats, allowing a personal driving position to be easily honed. The seats are very comfortable, particularly since the foams have been replaced. The seat height is also perfect, and one doesn’t feel as though you are sitting too low in the car.
From the driving seat, one looks at the fine walnut veneered dashboard with its array of clocks and switches. The dash looks rich and sophisticated. Qvale definitely got that right, and must have gone a long way to make the original buyers feel they had made the right choice. The interior gives off a feeling of British hand-made finishing, but at the same time a sporty feel isn’t lost on the occupants. I never liked the GT steering wheel. Although leather wrapped, its satin black bi-spoke design always cheapened the look for me. That said, I have learnt to get used to the look of it, and it certainly does allow unhindered viewing of all the clocks.
There is good vision out of the large windscreen, out across the equally large bonnet. The driver’s vision generally is also excellent on this car. Once seated, and in aircraft style (by 1975 standards), a red light comes on to let you know you have to fasten your seat belt. Very Boeing 747.
For those of you interested in the mechanical basis of this rare car, here goes. The Jensen GT is fitted with the Lotus 907 engine. This all aluminium engine has four pistons, 16-valves, with belt-driven dual overhead cams. The engine is positioned at a 45-degree angle, which allows for a much lower bonnet line. Displacing 1,973 cc the engine has an 8.4:1 compression ratio, and two home-market Dell’Orto DHLAs (USA destined cars were fitted with Zenith-Strombergs for emission compliance). The Type 907 engine made 140 hp at 6,500 RPM and 130-lb.ft. of torque at 5,000 RPM. This remained enough to push the GT to 60 MPH in less than 10 seconds, and on to 114 MPH. The manual transmission is the Getrag 235 five-speed gearbox. This features the controversial dog-leg first and close ratio gearing, making fifth a non-overdrive 1:1.
The GT was lauded for its nimble, well-sorted handling. Although the GT retained a live rear axle, the Vauxhall Firenza-derived coil-spring suspension, and steering system were precisely tuned. The Girling front disc/rear drum brakes (shared with Triumph’s TR6) were powerful and effective. “
Jensen GT | An Everyday Experience | Maiden Voyage
Lets Get Driving
It’s May 2018 before GT chassis number 30045 is ready for everyday driving. The maiden voyage is going to be a bash down at Shelsey Walsh in Worcestershire. Our local solicitors, Lanyon Bowdler, are having a marquee at the hill climb event, and asked if retired partner, David Battisby, would bring his Jensen Healey, and for the Museum to bring a Jensen GT. The cars would be parked either side of the marquee.
It would be an excellent maiden voyage for the GT, with a round trip of just under 100 miles, taking in some of Britain’s best countryside.
Woodhams picks up the story again,
“With the car waiting, I slide myself into the driving seat. The weather is beautiful, so a chance also to try out the full length sunroof. The sun roof is straight forward and opens neatly. The smoked Perspex wind deflector is set in place.
So, its time to fire-up. The car has an electric fuel pump, so turning the key initially activates the pump. You can clearly hear the pump working, and stop after a few seconds when the carbs are primed up. Time to fire-up. This car fires up almost instantly, and in mild weather doesn’t even need any choke.
There has been lots of discussion about the Getrag gearbox, and its ‘dog-leg’ first. They were quite fashionable during the 1970s, particularly on performance cars. The reasoning was more frequent shifting between second to third, than from first to second.
Today, the ‘dog-leg’ first doesn’t feel natural, so it takes time to re-acquaint oneself with this type of box. Once on the open road the gearbox comes into its own, and two-through to three, through to four and into five is smooth. That said, if you drop into sloppy gear changes, the gearbox will bite back at you. The changes need to be precise. Back to the ‘dog-leg’ first – on the occasion when one needs to drop back into first, it does need thought. However, bear in mind this is still a maiden voyage. I’m sure working the box will come natural the more miles I do.
Anyway, having passed from first into the other gears I’m feeling content. The lotus engine isn’t particularly quiet and one is aware of a constant background exhaust noise. It adds to the charm of the car, but I’m wondering how I will feel about that on long journeys. Being used to driving V8 Interceptors and FFs, this is a different sort of driving.
A new old stock Pioneer 8 track radio unit dating from 1975 was installed, along with new old stock speakers. ‘The Byrds’ Greatest Hits’ 8 track cartridge has just been pushed home, and ‘Mr.Tambourine Man’ is blasting out of the speakers, in harmony with the roar of the exhaust. These Pioneer units were top of the range in their day, and the quality of sound is excellent.
I slide the gearstick into fifth and settle back into the seat. I’m surprised how quickly I feel at ease with this car. The driving position has been mentioned earlier, but I must say, it really is good. Even although the car sits low on the road – in sports car fashion, one strangely feels quite high up, looking out over the expanse of bonnet.
Time to check the gauges. Oil pressure – check, excellent pressure. Ammeter – check – good charge rate, Temperature – check, excellent, sitting just into the first quarter of the gauge. Feeling re-assured that all is okay, my mind drifts off into the pleasure of driving this car, and listening to one of my favourites.
There is a quick stop-off en route to meet-up with David Battisby. He will be travelling in convoy, driving his Jensen Healey. Once back on the open road, the two Jensens cruise along. The GT has swiftly run through the gears and now is back to its lazy fifth, and ‘The Byrds’ has been changed to ‘Junior Walker & The All Stars’. Its hard to drive slow with Junior working the saxophone.
Being a Sunday in rural Shropshire, traffic is at a minimum, it is that quintessentially classic British driving – fast disappearing, but grab it while you can.
I am amazed with the factory option sunroof. Not only does it open with ease, the Perspex deflector works perfectly. The interior cabin is completely free from any wind noise. The two Jensens charge along the country lanes. Battisby; never known to be light with his right foot; keeps the pace up, and the GT follows with ease. Lawrence’s tyre recommendation of original specification Pirelli Cinturatos was well founded – they feel beautifully sure-footed on the road, along with the GT’s already excellent road holding characteristics.
This type of driving is perfect for the GT, and there is a distinct pleasure in dropping from fifth to fourth, up light inclines. This is of course would still be considered lazy driving by some, but is perfect for me – perhaps because of my long history of Interceptor / FF driving.
The racy types would probably look at my style of driving with complete disdain. They would want to see that needle on the rev counter up close to the red line. Constant dropping back to third, would be their remit, making sure they kept the revs right up there. In fact they probably wouldn’t use fifth very much. Theirs is a different type of enjoyment, and a type of enjoyment that the GT is always ready to give to its owner.
With the Shelsey Walsh event having gone without a hitch, Woodhams was looking forward to using the Jensen GT on a regular basis throughout 2018.
The car was driven to a variety of events, and differing road conditions throughout 2018. Woodhams sums up the GT experiment,
“It didn’t take long to become smitten with the GT driving experience. My gut reaction about these rare cars was correct, if you have a well-sorted GT, it will do most things you want in any variety of road and traffic conditions. The car will give enjoyment to those wanting to drive it in a laid-back way, or indeed, to those wanting to drive the car with racy enthusiasm. The main issue is trying to find one to buy !”
Jensen GT | An Everyday Experience
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: David Battisby | Jason Lawrence, Rejen.
COPYRIGHTS: The Jensen Museum | David Battisby
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