Jensen-Healey | Honeymoon With The Healey
In January 1973 Autocar magazine purchased a new Jensen Healey from Jensen Motors for long term testing. MML 158L had a specification of red along with black vinyl trim. The Museum looks at Autocar’s long term testing of the Jensen Healey.
Jensen-Healey | Honeymoon With The Healey | Hutton’s Loan
Sports Editor, Ray Hutton was the first Autocar employee to be entrusted with the car. Hutton used the car as everyday transport from January 1973, through until September of that year. During that time, Hutton used the car while he was covering several European Grands Prix, and as much as he enjoyed driving the car, it was dogged with mechanical issues.
The car required a new engine, then an engine rebuild, and broke down on various occasions. Hutton clocked up just over 12,000 miles during his nine months of use, and presented his report in the 20th September 1973 edition of Autocar.
Jensen-Healey | Honeymoon With The Healey | Goffey’s Loan
Autocar News Editor, Christopher Goffey took the car over in September 1973, and drove the car through to September 1974. Goffey was caught out by one of the Jensen Healey’s early Achilles Heal.
When the car was parked up on a hill or steep drive overnight, the petrol would siphon itself into the sump. Outside of this strange issue, and some issues with the hood, Goffey found the Healey to be reliable.
6,000 miles were covered during the time Goffey had the car, and Goffey’s report came out in the 28th September 1974 issue of Autocar. In September 1974, Goffey gave over the Healey to Autocar motoring journalist, Michael Scarlett.
Jensen-Healey | Honeymoon With The Healey | Scarlett’s Loan
Scarlett was no stranger to Jensen cars, having previously taken a Jensen FF over to Switzerland. In fact, Scarlett, unbeknown to his superiors, or indeed anyone at Jensen Motors, had taken it upon himself to drive the four-wheel-drive Jensen FF up a ski-slope.
Luckily for Scarlett, his ski-slope escapade was successful, and everyone at Autocar thought he was a hero. As Scarlett was later to admit, if his fool hardy moment of madness hadn’t been successful, he would have probably lost his job.
Autocar had a great story, and Jensen Motors could bath in the glory of their ski-slope beating four-wheel-drive Jensen for the rest of its production.
Taking over the running of the Healey (Scarlett always called the car a Healey, rather than the full name Jensen Healey, as he found that just too long) was going to be a much more sedate affair.
Well, as sedate as any driving could be with the likes of Scarlett behind the wheel ! When road testing a car, he had this incredible knack of making a car look as though it was dancing on two wheels.
Scarlett was a true enthusiast of the great British open top sports car, and had this to say about open top motoring,
“British weather makes it a hardy man or woman who drives with the top down all the time; I am not that hardy, though unless traffic forces me to stop in a sudden rainstorm which has started while on the move, I prefer the hood down.
But, the heightened pleasure and purer satisfaction of driving a responsive, handy, comfy, zestful open two-seater, whether you are hurrying or ambling, is a greater manifestation of the freedom of motoring.
I do not understand ‘enthusiasts’ who say they dislike (open) sports cars; it can’t be put down to the modern young man’s care for his long hair, since my colleague Charles Dickins, of the Art and Production team, who has a Carolean-wig length of his own hair, is as fond of open motoring as anyone.”
From the moment Scarlett was entrusted with the running of the Healey, there is no doubt he had fallen for the car. In his own words, Scarlett mentioned, “…I am silly enough to adore the Healey”, Scarlett continues, “That does not blind me to the fact that the finish and some aspects of construction of this early example are deplorable.”
In particular, Scarlett was unforgiving about the Lotus engine’s propensity to rough running at the top end. He had found the car to have a habit of eating fan belts, and for the belt to slip at high revs. Eventually he tightened the belt to a setting way above what would normally be acceptable, and that seemed to cure the problem.
In fact, what Scarlett found most annoying was the timing belt cover, which had to be removed to change the fan belt. An arduous job. Scarlett commented that if he had owned the car, he would probably have left the timing belt cover off. Jensen Motors had already noted the issue, and later Healeys had a timing belt cover with a cut-a-way section allowing better access.
However, a slipping fan belt was going to be the least of Scarlett’s problems. Driving back from the April Silverstone International Trophy meeting together with his fiancée and young nephew, Scarlett became aware of a mild engine clatter.
Taking his chances, he nursed the Healey back home. The next morning he started the car up, and the clatter was still there, and worse. Scarlett was in the slightly awkward position of having promised to take his father, John, to Euston station.
Making light of the noise, his father positioned himself in the passenger seat, and the two men drove into London, Scarlett driving rather gently. As the Healey drove ever closer to the station, the engine was getting worse, and was now misfiring.
Arriving at the station, the Healey came to a much needed halt, and Scarlett’s father disappeared into the station to catch his train. Back outside, Scarlett attempted to start the engine again.
The car turned over, but there was no suggestion of the engine firing. Eventually, there was no alternative apart from the embarrassing scenario of pushing the stricken Healey around into a side street. Parked as well as could be in the circumstances, Scarlet penned a short note, “Engine Bust”, which was placed in the windscreen, and took the train to his office.
Once in the office, Scarlett first telephoned the police. This was the 1970s, and the IRA were known for leaving car bombs in prominent places, such as near stations. He explained that the illegally parked red Jensen Healey round the corner from Euston station had truly broken down. Luckily, the police were sympathetic to the situation, and thanked him for phoning.
Now Scarlett needed to arrange collection. Contacting the London Jensen distributors, Charles Follet, the car was transported off to their service section. Once stripped and checked, it was found out that the camshaft belt had slipped, with consequent damage to the valves. Eight valves needed replacing, and the work was undertaken free of charge to Autocar. The Healey had covered just over 19,000 miles.
Undertaking his own investigation as to the cause of the problem, Scarlett found that there was an issue with toothed belt camshaft drives, particularly on Ford’s 1600 RS model. Apparently, if the tension isn’t right, it’s possible for the belt to hop a tooth under momentarily high loads at the instant of starting from cold.
Charles Follett were also asked to deal with some other issues that Scarlett had found with the car. The clutch had been slipping slightly, and the passenger door release didn’t work from the outside.
Jensen-Healey | Honeymoon With The Healey | The Honeymoon
Scarlett and his fiancée, Alison, had arranged to be married in July 1974. In fact they married on the 20th July, 1974 – the day the Turks invaded Northern Cyprus. The couple were married by the Bishop of Bedford, in the church of St Mary the Virgin, Great Bealings, near Woodbridge in Suffolk.
After the reception they spent the night in Orford nearby. The next day the couple made off in a rather jam packed red Jensen Healey for a two week honeymoon. Initially driving up to York, and then on to Glenalmond in Scotland.
The newly married Alison quickly realised her husband’s passion for cars. And in this instance, a car that he actually didn’t own. Scarlett had noticed that both the front and rear bumpers had started to rust, and what better time to remove the bumpers and repaint them, than when he was on his honeymoon.
Scarlett was later to comment about the bumpers, “the bumpers on my car (a MK.I) are very much more flimsier and lighter shells of pressed steel than they actually look on the car. The later (MK.II) bumpers are of huge rubber manufacture capable of a 5mph impact. No wonder they help to add an extra 1cwt to the MK.II.”
Scarlett packed enough material so he could remove the bumpers while on his honeymoon, strip and paint them. So, 60 foot of three core extension cable went into the boot, along with sanding discs, a full set of tools, and a ½” two-speed Black & Decker electric drill.
As much as Scarlett had tried to conceal these ‘important’ accessories, they hadn’t gone unnoticed by his new wife. She let him get away with this one, but made it known she wasn’t entirely happy.
Jensen-Healey | Honeymoon With The Healey | Harvest In The Highlands
From Glenalmond, the couple explored the surrounding area of Perth. Then, they drove down to Cornwall. Stopping over in the picturesque town of Falmouth, the couple did some sight seeing, and by chance stumbled across a large painting in a gallery, which the Scarletts immediately fell in love with.
The antique watercolour was entitled, ‘Harvest In The Highlands’, and the frame and glazed watercolour was some 100cm x 70cm in size. After some deliberation, and measuring, it was worked out that the painting would just fit in the back if the hood stayed down.
However, the new Mrs Scarlett was told that she would have to accept that if it started raining, they would have no option but to drive all the way home with the hood down. They took the chance, and luckily it remained dry. The much travelled painting still resides above the fireplace in the Scarlett home to this day.
Scarlett had never been pleased with the manufacture of the hood, a grievance not just of Scarlett’s, but also Hutton and Goffey. As Scarlett mentions, “the hood is dependant for side fixings on Velcro burr strips. Although Velcro is clever stuff, and fine for anoraks, it is far from the perfect material for the hood of a car capable of 115 mph.”
In fact, during Scarlett’s ownership of MML 158L, the hood slowly worsened, with it having a definite wrecked appearance by the time the car was doing the maximum speed runs at MIRA.
A replacement hood was necessary, but precipitated by a vandal slashing the remains of the hood at Covent Garden. This occurred when Scarlett had left the car parked there one evening when he was “out on the town”.
Jensen-Healey | Honeymoon With The Healey | Land’s End Trial
By Easter 1975, Scarlett would give the Healey its last daunting test of endurance, enrolling the car in the yearly Land’s End Trial. Scarlett took part in the Land’s End Trial most years, generally taking part along with his father, John. 1975 would be no exception, and having been given participant number ‘320’, the two men headed off from London down to the Land’s End finishing post.
The last part of the course was the most gruelling, with the route taking them along heavily mudded tracks and across streams. Although the two men didn’t win the day, they did manage to motor past the finishing post in their heavily mudded red Healey.
According to Scarlett, the four-speed H120 (Sunbeam Rapier) gearbox was a delight to use, with reliable synchromesh and good ratios. However, by 22,000 miles, he became aware of a slight noise, which he put down to a bearing. By 31,000 miles, the noise was getting progressively worse, and the clutch was slipping.
It was time to have the work undertaken. The bearing noise was found to be the big ball bearing which carries the input shaft at the front of the box. The case-hardening had packed up on the inner race.
Scarlett found the Jensen Healey to be awkward to service . Mostly due to the canted Lotus, twin-ohc engine. To get at the oil filter, and more importantly the distributor, you have to remove the carburettor air-trunking.
Any work on the distributor has to be achieved by taking it off, which isn’t that easy as it’s partially hidden under the induction system. He had also quickly become aware of the beam flexibility of the crankcase, resulting in roughness of the engine at high revs. That said, Scarlett also mentioned how wonderfully responsive the engine was, and in particular, the mid-range power up to about 5,500 rpm.
After completing his long-term test report, Scarlett had to sum up his experience of the Jensen Healey, “my Healey’s performance is roughness expected, everything a sports-car driver would wish for; that its handling and stability make it one of the very safest cars of any sort made anywhere…as far as I am concerned, although there are details where it could be improved, I think it is a very, very, handsome motor car. Indeed…in spite of its mixed parentage, it is a contemporary classic. It goes, it stops, it corners, it is comfortable, it looks superb, and it is a true sports car.”
In September 1975, Scarlett handed over the keys to the Healey back to Autocar, and they disposed of the car
Scarlett would later comment to Museum curator, Ulric Woodhams, “the Healey was one of the few Autocar long-term test cars, that I was sorry to hand back. I even discussed with my wife, Alison, the possibility of buying the car from Autocar. But, the reality of the work required to bring the car back up to a ‘proper’ condition, coupled with the costs of setting up home with my wife, meant that I had no alternative but to let the Jensen go. Shame !”
MML 158L is known to have been a survivor up to the year 2000, although the condition was poor, and the car required full restoration. If you are the present owner of MML 158L, or know who is, the Museum would love to hear from you.
Jensen-Healey | Honeymoon With The Healey
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Michael Scarlett | Alison Scarlett | Michael Scarlett Photographic Archive
COPYRIGHTS: The Jensen Museum
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: If you have any additional information about this feature, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone on: +1694-781354
We hope you have enjoyed this feature.
If you would like notification of when new features are added to the Museum website, then why not subscribe.
It’s free, and takes just a couple of minutes. Simply press the Subscribe to our mailing list link below.