Jensen Motors Road Tester | Day In The Life
John Taylor joined Jensen Motors in 1964 as a mechanic, and by 1972 was one of two Jensen Motors Road Testers, undertaking routine tests on new Healeys. As Taylor states today, as far as he was concerned he had the best job at Jensen Motors. Taylor gives us a Day In The Life of a Jensen Healey Road Tester.
I left school at 15, and managed to get a job as a trainee mechanic at a local garage in Smethwick, close to where I lived in West Bromwich. I had been working there for a good number of years, and was by then a fully trained mechanic.
One day in 1964, I was talking with my Father-In-Law to be, Syd Shephard, who was working as a labourer at Jensen Motors. He said to me, you should get a job at Jensen Motors, they’re looking for mechanics at the moment, and the pay is really good. With that, he said he would get me a job application form, and the rest was down to me.
Well, Syd was as good as his word, and gave me an application form, which I filled in and sent off. Not long after, I received a letter back asking for me to go to Jensen Motors for an interview.
I can’t remember who interviewed me now, but, in short, I was delighted to get an acceptance letter through, to start work at Jensen Motors on a wage of £30 per week. Bearing in mind I was working for £12 a week up to that time, the money was fantastic.
So, in September 1964, at the ripe old age of 21, I started work as a mechanic on engine assembly for the Sunbeam Tiger. Back then we worked on the Piece Work System, although in later years this was changed to Measured Day Work.
After working for three years on the Sunbeam Tiger assembly line. Jensen Motors’ Tiger contract was finished. Quite a few lads were made redundant, including me.
Having been made redundant from Jensen Motors in 1967, I managed to find employment at the Heron Group in Birmingham. They were a big company selling a variety of different car makes.
I worked in their service section quite happily, until one evening I received a telephone call from Jensen Motors Mechanical Foreman, Arthur Harper. He was telephoning around to some of those that had been previously made redundant, asking if they would like to come back to work at Jensen Motors.
Times had obviously changed at Jensen Motors, and they needed to increase their work force. Anyway, Mr. Harper asked me if I would like to come back as a mechanic on the Interceptor assembly line. I immediately said, “You Bet”, handed in my notice at Heron, and went back to work at Jensen Motors in 1969.
For the next three years I was working on the Interceptor assembly line, fitting engines. During 1972, I heard through the grape-vine that the Company were looking for another Jensen-Healey road-test driver, since production was being increased.
What a job, I thought to myself. With that I put myself forward for the job immediately, and was asked to go for an interview in the Personnel Department. Once again, I can’t remember who interviewed me, but they seemed quite happy for me to have the job. They did mention me changing jobs would have to be okayed by my line Foreman, as he would obviously be losing one of his mechanics. Anyway, the Foreman was okay about it, and I became the Jensen-Healey Road-Tester, along with Dave Thomas. I loved my new job, and even to this day, I reckon I had the best job at Jensen Motors, along with my co-tester, Dave.
I remained at Jensen Motors, road-testing Jensen-Healeys until the Company closed. In fact in 1975, when the new Jensen GT came out, our Foremen, Bert Daniels (mechanical), and Arthur Holloway (trim), asked Dave and myself to road test one of the first Jensen GT cars together. This was so we could both get the hang of the car, and come to grips with it, as we would be road testing GTs, along with Healeys in that last year of Jensen Motors.
My Day In The Life is late 1972 , and I’m a Jensen Healey road-test driver. We were expected to road test approximately 7/8 cars each a day. Everything in this Day In The Life happened, but certain events have been merged from various days in late 1972.
Up to about 1970 / 71, the shop floor used to start work at 8, and finish at 5. But, for some reason, management changed the hours to 7.30 to 4.30. I can’t say I was enamoured with the earlier start. I was living in Kingswinford, and it was about 11 or 12 miles across to Jensen Motors at Kelvin Way, taking me about 20 minutes.
Typically I left home about 7.0 (or just gone), and today was no exception. I was driving a Ford Cortina at this time, and sometimes, my work-mate, Clive Kendrick, who also owned a car, would come with me, and sometimes I would be picked up by him. In fact sometimes we used to pick up a couple of other local chaps en route that worked at Jensen Motors, as they only had push bikes.
Today, Clive and the lads are coming with me. At Jensen, there was a car-park immediately in front of the factory, just the other side of the Kelvin Way road. However, this used to get filled up pretty quick, so rather than trying to find a space there, I used to drive down by the Service Department, to the secondary car-park.
Having clocked in, I meet up with my fellow Jensen Healey test driver, Dave Thomas. Us two were lucky, since as road-testers, we weren’t required to wear overalls. As such, we used to turn up at work in a sort of smartish casual dress. I always wore a shirt with a top pocket, where I had a couple of pens at the ready for filling in the Road-Test sheet. Together we walk over to the Foreman’s Office, to collect our trade plates which we use for road tests. With plates in hand, the two of us walk over to the Healey bay, where cars are sitting awaiting testing.
Unlike any Interceptor testing which required slave seats, slave speedo, even slave wheels & tyres, the Healeys didn’t require any of that. I guess in part, because we were only putting about 15 test miles on each car, as opposed to Interceptors which were having something like a couple of hundred miles put on them.
Having picked the first two Healeys in the row for testing, we fire them up, and slowly make our way around to the fuel pumps, which were situated near to the main entrance building.
I’m not sure how much petrol we put in each car for test purposes, but it wasn’t a huge amount. Each car was driven on test for approximately 10-15 miles, and we had been instructed not to put too much fuel in the cars. Interestingly, many of the cars are left-hand-drive, although it doesn’t make any difference to us if they are lhd or rhd.
After fueling up, we drove via the Gate House, where the Commissioner entered into his ledger the time we left, and the time we returned. Generally myself and my co-road-tester Dave Thomas drive in convoy and keep each other in view, just in case there are any problems.
Here we are at the entrance, signalling to get onto the Kelvin Way, where we would drive and end up getting onto the motorway at Junction 1, so that we could put a few motorway miles on the car at speed before returning.
While on test, I monitor all the gauges to make sure they are working properly, likewise I’m listening for any unusual noises which may reflect a problem.
We are back from the first road test, and the Commissioner records we are back. I drive the Healey back around to bay, write up the Work Sheet that is sitting there on the passenger seat.
Once completed and signed off, I get out and get into the next Healey in line. Off we go again.
Lunchtime. Our lunch period is between 12.30 and 1.00. I have to clock off for lunch, so I make sure whenever possible, that I have got back to the factory before 12.30, ready to clock off. Generally I take sandwiches into work, along with a flask of tea, and today is no exception. I sit myself down with a few of the other lads.
Lunchtime over and its back around to pick up the next Healey. Once again, I fuel up directly after Dave, and off we go past the Gate House and onto Kelvin Way.
I’ve just got onto the motorway and Dave has put his foot down and sped off into the distance, I was about to do the same, but sense the car is faltering. Next minute, its about to cut out, and I just get myself onto the hard shoulder. I try and start it again, but it’s not having it. It doesn’t take long for me to realise the problem.
The electric fuel pump has packed up. Luckily I’ve stopped close to one of the motorway breakdown phones [no mobiles back then]. I’m speaking with the motorway breakdown people, tell them I work for Jensen Motors, what the car is, tell them my trade plate number, and where I am.
Meanwhile, I hear beeping, and see an Interceptor flying passed me. It’s a new car from the factory, and unless I’m mistaken it’s my mate Ken Beauchamp [Chief Line Inspector]. Anyway, I’ve just got off the phone, and the Interceptor’s beeping me again from across the motorway, yes, it is Ken. He speeds off to junction 1, turns back around and parks up just in front of me.
I tell Ken what’s happened, and he says jump in I’ll take you back to the factory. “You can get one of the chaps to get a replacement fuel pump and come out with you to fix the car.” You have to remember this is 1972, I guess you wouldn’t get away with leaving a car on the motorway hard shoulder today.
Anyway, I jump in the passenger side. Now you have to see the picture. This car just has a slave seat for the driver, there isn’t a passenger seat, and the back seat squabs aren’t in place. I place myself inconveniently on the floor, and as I’ve closed the door, Ken has put his foot down, which throws me around in the cabin much to Ken’s enjoyment.
Back at the factory, I arrange a replacement fuel pump via the foreman, and one of the chaps drives me back to the broken down Healey, where he quickly changes fuel pumps. With job done, the car fires up, and I run it back to the factory.
Before I know it, its nearly the end of my day. One last job to do before I clock off for the day. Its back to the Foreman’s Office to deposit the trade plates. Dave has been road-testing while all my fun and games have been going on, so we haven’t been in convoy this afternoon. I get to see him at the Foreman’s office, and fill him in with what’s taken place.
Having clocked off, I walk over to the car-park and pick up my car. My friend Clive and the other lads are already waiting for me. I stop off en route at one of the local flower shops, as I normally buy my wife, Veronica, some flowers once a week. And yes, I do have to put up with some of the ‘your under her thumb’ jokes from the other lads !
NOTES: According to Taylor, generally the Jensen Healeys were reliable at the point they were being road tested. It was quite a rare occurrence for a car to breakdown whilst out on road test. Typical faults would be non-working dials or excessive rattles, squeaks etc.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: Both John Taylor and Ken Beauchamp are photographed in the July 1974 House Magazine of Jensen Motors, Torque.
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: John Taylor, former Jensen Healey Road Tester at Jensen Motors
COPYRIGHTS: Jensen Museum | John Taylor
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