Jensen Owners’ Club | Their First Car Membership Badge
Unbelievably there had not been a club dedicated to Jensen cars until 1971, although it was the following year before it was officially named The Jensen Owners’ Club. Founder, Len Jackson, immediately set about creating a membership badge which could be fitted to the car.
The badge design was complex, and after some years, and a myriad of problems, the badge was abandoned in favour of an easier to produce design. With the help of two founding members, Mike Byrne, and Tony Hunt, the Museum looks at the beginnings of The Jensen Owners’ Club, and the incredible story of the Club’s first car membership badge.
Jensen Owners’ Club | Their First Car Membership Badge | Starting a Jensen Club
The Jensen Owners’ Club first car membership badge is interconnected with the formation of The Jensen Owner’s Club. The Year was 1971, and motor engineer, and 541 owner, Len Jackson from St.Margarets in Hertfordshire, placed an advert in the Exchange & Mart paper, offering various 541 parts for sale.
It seems he was surprised by the amount of 541 owners that contacted him, all mentioning there should be a club devoted to 541 cars, which could help owners with parts and advise.
Jackson liked the idea, and along with two other 541 owners, Mike Byrne, and Peter Wallis, formed the so-called (and unofficial) Jensen Register. Jackson took the privilege of being member number ‘1’, Byrne became member number ‘2’, and Wallis number ‘3’.
The first recognised meeting of the few members acting as a ‘club’ took place on 18th December 1971. The meeting took place at the home of Stanstead Abbotts-based member, David Waite. Jackson, and Byrne were also present, along with another friend of Jackson, Bernard Meadows.
Meadows was the Secretary of the Singer Owners’ Club, and was in a position to offer valuable advise on the running of a car club. Tony Hunt, another early member (number 10) at the meeting, tells us more,
“I recall a discussion of the fledgling committee, whereby we intended buying a block insurance from one of the cartels at Lloyds, and sell individual spaces to members, thereby gaining cheaper car insurance.
To do this, we had to be a recognised car club and to be a recognised car club, we had to apply to the R.A.C. To be recognised by the R.A.C., we had to have a minimum of fifty members, which we didn’t have.
One of the first committee members was a friend of Len Jackson, in fact, a neighbour of his, Dave Waite. Because there was no real record of membership at this early stage of the Club, he elected to be called member No. 50. That way it looked (on paper at least) that we had fifty members. The ruse worked, we got recognition by the RAC, but for some reason, we never went ahead with the insurance scheme.”
There was also another issue to deal with. It had been quickly decided the name Jensen Register wasn’t wholly appropriate, and after some discussion, the name The Jensen Owners’ Club was agreed upon.
It was decided to make contact with Jensen Motors, one to make sure they were ‘onside’ with the idea of a Jensen Owners’ Club, and secondly to make sure they were happy with the Club using the name Jensen.
Jensen Owners’ Club | Their First Car Membership Badge | Approval From Jensen Motors
The letter from the fledgling Jensen Owners’ Club landed on the desk of Marketing Director, Richard Graves. Tony Marshall, Sales Manager, remembers the letter from the Jensen Owners’ Club,
“Most mornings I would end up in Dick’s [Richard Graves] office to discuss what was going on for that day. On one morning I think around 1972, I was in Dick’s office discussing various sales related matters.
At the end of the meeting, Dick said, by the way Tony, I have just had a letter through from a Jensen owner mentioning they are forming a club devoted to Jensen cars. He is asking if we are happy for them to call themselves The Jensen Owners’ Club.
Dick went on to say that similar had happened when he was at Rolls Royce, and that care had to be taken not to get too involved. In particular, not to get involved in any financial way.
So, a letter went swiftly back to this new club, stating that while Jensen Motors were happy for the club to call themselves The Jensen Owners’ Club, they would not wish to help with financial sponsorship.”
With a new name, and some basic club rules, it didn’t take long to put together a committee. Initially Jackson acted as a Chairman, but quickly took the role of General Secretary, with another early member, Athol ‘Andy’ Anderson-Wright (member 15) taking the post of Chairman. Byrne became Registrar / Historian, Wallis, newsletter editor, Hunt as Secretary.
Another passionate Jensen enthusiast, Lord Strathcarron, also joined the fledgling club in 1972, being assigned membership number 60. He was asked if he would accept the rather grand title (for such a small club) of President of the Jensen Owners’ Club, which he was happy to accept.
Lord Strathcarron remained as the Club’s president for the rest of his life. This was no file-away title, Lord Strathcarron was present at virtually every major event held by the Club.
Jensen Owners’ Club | Their First Car Membership Badge | Complicated Manufacture
However, even before all these posts were being put together, Jackson had penned a design for a new Jensen Owners’ Club badge. This was going to be a large and rather complex badge design.
Jackson’s design was loosely based on the Jensen Motors winged badge, which had been in use on all the Jensen models until the Italian-made Interceptor – but larger.
And large being the operative word, with a wing span of 7 1/2″ it was wider than the Jensen Motors winged car badge by an inch. Hunt had his own take on what was to become known as ‘Len’s Baby’,
“The badge was too big and in your face. It did nothing to compliment the grace of the cars it was meant to adorn”.
The firm Jackson finally found to manufacture the badge was DCMT Ltd (Die Casting Machine Tools Ltd). The Company was based in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, not far from where Jackson lived.
They primarily made toys, being quite well known in the 1950s for producing the Lone Star range of toy soldiers and souvenirs. The Lone Star cap firing die cast gun, was just one iconic toy produced by the Company.
They agreed to manufacture the badge, to which Jackson had given them an initial (rather bullish) order for 200 units. DCMT stated that a new casting method called spin-casting, would work for the nature of the badge.
This would work best due to the fretted nature of the word JENSEN. It also saved on the high up front cost of die manufacture. Other constraints placed by Jackson, was that there would be two threaded fixings to the reverse, and their placement would be exactly the same as on the Jensen Motors winged badge. His thoughts were that some owners might like to remove the front winged badge, and put their Jensen Owners’ Club badge in its place.
For some reason it was agreed that the badge would be Rhodium plated instead of chrome plated. This was an extra expense, as Rhodium is a rare metal, more expensive than gold.
Of course there were benefits to Rhodium, it had a very pleasing appearance, looking a cross between silver and platinum, with a slight yellowish hue. However, since everything else on a Jensen was chromed, it was a strange decision.
Additionally, the finished badge was to have a red enamel inset to the winged design. This was perhaps one of the worst errors for this ‘epic’ badge. Rather than using the age old process of hard enamelling, which is made from molten coloured glass, and then polished smooth to the edges, DCMT used a soft enamel, which has a somewhat bumpy appearance to the eye.
Other issues with the soft enamel is that unlike hard enamel, which can be pantone referenced to an exact colour, the soft enamels were pre-mixed colours. If you wanted red, you had the pre-mixed red. However, the major downside to the soft enamel process was longevity.
For a badge which might be spending most of its time in an outside environment, the soft enamel could come loose and fall out. And this is exactly what happened to Byrne’s badge, which spent its life on his 541.
One of the first newsletters sent out to the fledgling membership was in August 1972, and this was concerning the Jensen Owners’ Club badge. Jackson confirmed the badge design, and the early photocopy newsletter shows a sample of the un-enamelled badge in actual size.
The membership is told that a circular devise to the lower centre is there for the engraving of the member’s Jensen Owners’ Club membership number. They are also told that an initial batch would be ready at the end of August, awaiting chroming, and presumably enamelling.
Further mention of the new (and as yet undelivered) badge within the newsletters continued, and in fact continued through to 1974. The price for the badge was set at a somewhat expensive £6.25.
Jensen Owners’ Club | Their First Car Membership Badge | Delays
August came and went with no initial batch of badges on the horizon. Then 1973 came and went without any badges, as did 1974. In the November 1974 issue of the Jensen Owners’ Club magazine, an apology appeared.
The membership is told that due to a world shortage of Rhodium, this has led to various delays. The membership are told that plating is now taking place on the initial batch of badges and should be available in a matter of days.
Strangely, and inexplicably, the completed and enamelled batch had an error. Neither the ‘O’ and the ‘R’ of the word ‘Owners’ had been enamelled. But by then it was too late, and the badges had to be engraved with the appropriate membership numbers in readiness to be sent out to members post-haste.
True to word (this time), the first batch of badges were made available, by which time there was a waiting list for them. Once the appropriate membership number was engraved in place they were sent out to the various owners.
Hunt believes this initial batch of badges was small, less than fifty units, and more likely around twenty. The first (and only) batch of badges were finally posted out to members at the end of December 1974, or beginning of 1975.
Of the twenty or so badges made, one was destined for Jensen Motors. Possibly sent to Richard Graves to keep the factory ‘on-side’, and in the loop with Club affairs. This badge remained in a desk drawer at Jensen Motors until 1976.
With the winding down of the factory, Head of Maintenance, George Parker, was looking for ‘souvenirs’. In an office drawer in the sales offices, there was an envelope containing the Jensen Owners’ Club membership badge.
The badge was devoid of an engraved number and remained in as new condition. Parker took this, along with many other souvenirs, all of which remained in a suitcase in his attic for the rest of his life.
This initial batch of badges quickly sold out to the waiting members, and there was still a waiting list of members wanting a badge. The February 1975 magazine states the Club has run out of the initial batch and is hoping to re-order soon.
A caveat is quickly thrown into the mix – “we cannot hope to hold the price down to £6.25, which was the last order price”, and to further put ‘salt-in-the-wounds’, “We do not expect the new order to be available for at least three months.”
Jensen Owners’ Club | Their First Car Membership Badge | An Alternative Badge
Enough was enough, and at the Bluebell meeting (which was the next meet-up of members and committee), an ‘on-the-spot’ committee meeting prompted by Hunt took place. It was agreed by the committee they would seek alternatives to the Jackson design, and Hunt was charged with the job.
It seems by this time that even Jackson was at the end of his tether with the ongoing supply (or should one say none supply) issue from DCMT.
Suffice to say he also agreed to Hunt looking into an alternative design with another company.
The May 1975 magazine states that the committee hope a sample of the new design would be available to view at the Woburn meeting to be held in June of that year.
1975 was a pivotal year for the Jensen Owners’ Club. Membership numbers had increased, and were well into the 400s.
Although, bearing in mind the Club’s decision not to re-issue used numbers, there would have always been less members than the actual membership number dictated. Hunt is also quick to sum up the state of ongoing membership,
“Whatever the membership number issued at any given time, could probably be halved. In the beginning, we had members leaving as fast as new members joined.”
But, forgetting the intricacies of Club membership numbers, Jensen Motors decided to play a more active roll with the Club. It was a far cry from Graves take on the fledgling club back in 1972.
The Company’s Service Manager, David Millard, came to present the trophies at the concours, and the now President of Jensen Motors, Kjell Qvale, had agreed to accept the title of Honorary President of The Jensen Owners’ Club. Once again, Hunt remembers the lead up to Qvale becoming Honorary President,
“There was no lengthy correspondence between the Club and Jensen Motors, we sent just one letter offering the title of Honorary President to Kjell Qvale, and (perhaps to our surprise) we received a letter back stating he would be delighted to accept.”
Amidst this uplifting backdrop for the Club, Hunt had been successful in finding an alternative membership badge, and – more importantly – one that could be offered to the membership without nonsensical wait times, and one priced reasonably. The design was shown at the Woburn AGM, and was accepted by the committee, and looked upon positively by the membership.
Hunt tells us more,
“Because of the problems with the original badge, I was asked to look into alternative suppliers. I approached three companies in the Birmingham area, but only one replied to my enquiry. From memory I think this was Gaunts of Birmingham, a company that had a long history of providing badges to automobile manufacturers and car clubs.
I was sent a catalogue of their products and one stood out to me. This was a chromed laurel leaf design, topped with a crown and a badge bar mount at the base. I sketched our club badge and asked if this could be represented in red on a dark blue background, and with a crown inside the laurel leaves. I also asked if the badge bar mount could be removed and two studs affixed to the back, allowing it to be mounted to a car’s grille.
To my amazement, I received a sample badge within a week or so together with a price for a minimum order of fifty badges. I presented the committee with the results and was given the go ahead to place an order. On doing so, I was told on receipt of payment, 49 badges would be dispatched within a fortnight.
I guess that made the 50 along with my sample. The unit cost was very acceptable, allowing us to sell them at £4.75 including postage to members, and still making the Club a small profit on each of them.”
The new badge, incorporated many aspects of the original Club badge, including the circle where the member’s number had been. This new badge was of excellent manufacture, with good chrome plating and with hard (glass) enamel.
It was detailed in the next Club magazine of February 1976. From 1975 to date, the design of The Jensen Owners’ Club car membership badge has remained the same.
Jensen Owners’ Club | Their First Car Membership Badge
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Mike Byrne, Jensen Owners’ Club member ‘2’ | Tony Hunt, Jensen Owners’ Club member number’10’ | Tony Marshall, former Sales Manager, Jensen Motors.
COPYRIGHTS: Jensen Museum | Mike Byrne
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