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For many, many years I have been fascinated by big exotic grand touring cars. Now I finally got one – and what a car!

Jensen Interceptor. Taste it. Interceptor. In-ter cep-tor. It sounds international, intercontinental, exceptional and with a bit of Thor’s hammer on top – and that is in essence exactly how this car is.

The Jensen Interceptor was first shown in 1966 and quickly became a true jetsetter’s car.

Of course you can discuss what constitutes an exotic in the first place, but to me the Interceptor fits the bill. But maybe more importantly I’ve been crazy about the model for a long, long time – on the theoretical level, as it is so often. As so often is I knew the Interceptor from the classic car magazines, where over the years it has been the main proponent of articles with angles ranging from “Most bang for the Buck”, “Best budget classic” or to – as of lately – “Cars you have to buy before it’s too late”. Everything I took in with all of my senses: Along the way in my classic car career I have got more and more taste for GT cars and what a fine specimen of such an Interceptor is – in fact to the point that it is almost a caricature of a GT car!

Proper Grand Touring means catering for luggage as well – and so the Interceptor does. Here it is the four wheel drive FF.

Here we have to briefly summarize the concept of the GT: Grand Touring (French) or Gran Turismo (Italian) covers the same thing, namely a car for travelling the large open spaces that came with the appearance of highways and motorways in the Fifties and especially the Sixties. Comfort was paramount and so were performance – along with a growing sense of this prestige factor that of course shouldn’t matter in practice. But as in practice actually does mean a whole lot: Class, style, design and presence were mandatory ingredients for a proper GT – and riding on a cocktail of all those ingredients, the GT man was then ready to cross borders.

Again an early model – retrospective known as “Mk1”. Note the brochure’s modest description of the car as a “High Performance four-seater”. 225 km / h and 7.3 seconds to 100 km/h was proper quick in 1966.

I love that category of cars because they add up to grand adventures. More so than you would do in a nice convertible, more than in a pure sports car, more than in a crude racing car. A GT car is a car that gets completely under the skin of the GT man right up to the point where it becomes a direct extension of the GT man’s self: Adventurer, gentleman, cosmopolitan, philanthropist, macho – secret agent? Or for that matter all in one. The GT car is for the big journeys through life in its entirety. Literally.

“Very satisfying high-performance touring car with practical seating for four plus luggage”, Autocar summarized the Interceptor.

In the case of the Interceptor that journey begins long before even starting the engine. The car itself is a fantastic cosmopolite of an automobile: Its classic British boarding school attendence involves a solid handover of old virtues – such as the chassis of its predecessor Jensen CV8. To this traditionalism then comes a flamboyant element of Italian style in the exact opposite direction, namely modernism of the sharpest Milanese style from Carrozzeria Touring. And finally, the cocktail is completed with a surge of torque and power from American Chrysler’s largest engines and best gearboxes.

What was an Interceptor really? This journalist places it somewhere between Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce and points out that it targets the lifestyle that one finds idealized in Playboy Magazine. “Pretty blondes appear out of nowhere to make interesting conversation with you”? We shall see.

It really shouldn’t work. But it does, as I experienced for myself some years ago:

In the summer of 2011 I had finally gone so far as to try my old dream car, and even in a rather proper way: I rented an Interceptor from Great Escape for three days and drove up and down the beautiful Cotswolds. Once again, the stupid saying “don’t meet your heroes” proved wrong, because the Interceptor lived up to everything I hoped for. Except that it wasn’t mine. Since then, it has been part of my – hundreds of cars big – dream car garage with the clear hope that one day an Interceptor would emerge in reality as well.

It wasn’t until the MkII and in particular the MkIII that Interceptors were exported in larger numbers. Which is why the MkIII is also the most numerous version with around 2500 cars built.

Eight years later time had come. At least that’s how it seemed to me when a friend suddenly advised me that a 1973 Interceptor III had come up for sale here in Denmark at a price that seemed quite reasonable for a car that also seemed quite reasonable. I called the seller very shortly after the ad went live to hear more about the car. I liked what he was told, and then thought really hard about the matter: Was this really the right time, in the middle of a house move and more? Yes, I answered my own question – which was rethorical anyway. I was probably also excited as I was in the middle of washing my Alpine Renault A310 which is certainly another nice car.

As far as I remember my wife was not home. I mention this detail after hearing of a poor man who asked his wife when he wanted a Jaguar Mk2 and was turned down. Neither Interceptors nor Jaguar Mk2s are topics for wives, are they? So when I decided I called the seller again – but this time he didn’t answer. When I finally reached him after half an hour of calling it turned out that he had been swamped with callers wanting to hear more about the car – and that meant that there wasn’t much time available before I had to decide: But there I was washing a car in Djursland while the Interceptor was in Copenhagen, more than three hours drive away – and buying a Jensen Interceptor unseen? No thanks, I’m am not that adventurous. So I called a friend over there who was happy to go out to see the car – and I agreed with the seller that if it was as he said it was, we had a deal. My friend called back confirming the state of things – and the seller and I made a handshake over the phone. The Tuesday after I was a Jensen Interceptor owner and owed my Copenhagen friend a couple of really good bottles.

Of course, this is a staged image, as a Jensen Interceptor is not a wife car – the lady is on the wrong side of the it. Again it is an early model (the car!) on steel wheels and with the sharp front.

There were just a few issues, though: My new Interceptor III was imported from Sweden and was therefore not registered in Denmark. And had been stood in Sweden for several years. It had had the oil and fluid changed had been prepared before it was revived in Denmark, but both the seller and my friend had pointed out a few things still to be attended to. So I had the car transported to a local mechanic who had to make sure that it did not overheat, was able to brake and, moreover, with at least a certain probability, would be able to drive home to Jutland on its own wheels. The tires were cracked and old so immediately I splashed our on four new balloon tires for the neat sum of ten thousand Danish kroner, and a review of brakes, changing of a lot of brake pipes, manifold gaskets and other leaky cases from pipes to hoses and carburetor cost about the same again. So 3,000 Euro later we were at least going – and I remembered my own words from the article I wrote about the rented Interceptor in England: “No matter what happened to it, it wasn’t my problem”. With my new own Interceptor it was the other way around!

In the real world, Interceptors were run by men. And what men: Here is Jackie Stewart in a FF.

On the other hand the joy of expectation was sky high: After having had the great pleasure of being a curator of a number of lovely classic cars from Jaguar XJ12 to Mercedes SLC and more, the Interceptor stands for me just at quite simply another place in the automobile hierarchy. With a total production figure across all variants approximately 6,400 Interceptors have been built, so it is a significantly more rare car than both the mentioned. Add to that the simple fact that it also has a lot more edge and is just – well, a true exotic. I know even now that it is not a better car as such – but it is something else and more and in many ways in fact far beyond being a car. It is a living testimony to quite another automobile time and history, and I’ll almost state that this is more important than how it drives.

This is a real shocker: Tony Curtis did not drive a Ferrari Dino!

Finally a few weeks ago the day came when I picked up my Interceptor on temporary number plates. It started out rather  badly – as the mechanic was delayed. Very authentic British if you want to see it from the automotive historian’s perspective. On departure it turned out that there was also no light on the car – besides one (yes, only one) fog light. Add to that the other flaws and shortcomings that I had already mentally begun to make small lists of.

My new old Jensen Interceptor at my new old property to where we moved this June. Notice how its “Claret” paint matches the faded woodwork: It must be a sign that this is right!

But the car. MY Interceptor!

I loved exactly that Interceptor from the first time I saw it in the pictures of the ad. After all, I had learned from years of research that collectors will indeed all want an Interceptor Mk1 or an SP – the first or the fastest. But the great Jensen expert Richard Calver says the MkIII is the best. You give up the fine dashboard and the raw power of the SP, but you get the best combination of engine, equipment and matured product development – and you get it for the lowest price. The previous Interceptors with the small (!) 6.3-liter engine are faster, but when I turned the key on mine for the first time and heard my 440 cubic inches wake up to the task, I was missing nothing at all: The Chrysler’s 440 cubic inches corresponds to 7.2 liters , and it’s very much the V8 that gives an Interceptor a heart of cast iron. It is rated at 385 SAE horsepower and about 500 Newtonmeters, but it also tugs at 1800 kilos of continental cruiser. And in any case, neither an Interceptor nor its engine is as much about the numbers as about anything else, and the old Rolls-Royce answer to any performance question seems appropriate for an Interceptor as well: “Adequate”.

The heart of 7.2 liters and 385 SAE-horsepower. But I wonder why someone has fitted a map reading light in the engine compartment?

And then there is the question of style. My Interceptor, as one of 59 MkIIIs, has the color “Claret” and carries its matching vinyl roof with pride. Six cows reportedly were needed to clad the leather cabin and my cows were beige. The ceiling with its fine stitching is pure GT class and the dashboard gives the feeling of being an air captain with wings on the shoulders and stewardesses available for free. GKN aluminum wheels were standard on the III, and are as sharp in design as the rest of the car. The exhaust pipes have the diameter of some serious rocket launchers, and the boot can accommodate suitably large amounts of dynamite, small arms, smokings and false passports for a whole group of 00 agents.

Sure, my Interceptor is right-hand-drive, because otherwise they are too expensive. And as you can see, leather and more need to be cared for. And yes, the pillow in fabric on top of the leather headrest is original. And who knows what will happen to the Mercedes, which by its nature is a bit like an Interceptor?

As sais I am well aware that an Interceptor is not the perfect car. And well, MY Interceptor isn’t even in perfect condition either. But there are few cars that mix the ingredients to the same degree as a Jensen Interceptor, and even fewer that successfully get a tasty cocktail out of it. I absolutely adore this car and am really looking forward to giving ti the TLC it needs – and not least I look forward to living the GT dream with it.

This will not be until the 2020 season for a number of reasons: The Danish autumn weather has disappointed me and before we know it, winter is upon us. The amount of small and large tasks on the Interceptor is also a little too much for a rush job (unless the price doesn’t matter, and it does – I’m the GT man on a budget!). For example, the very first and arguably most important job the mechanic had with the car, namely to make sure it did not overheat, he did not get resolved: Mine, like so many other Interceptors, gets too hot when leaving the beaten highway. In addition in features numerous lamps that are illuminated even if they should not – and some that are not illuminated even if they should (the headlights, however, woke up at home on the way home so they appear to be fixed – easy!).

But as I see it at the moment, this just adds more joy – and more time to organize one of my biggest automobile adventures ever: “Operation Interceptor”. This will involve a rendezvous in secret places, enigmatic flashes with the four headlights on dark waterfronts, the company of charming but dangerous ladies, encounters with card-playing squarejawed and cat-friendly men, car chases on exotic mountain roads, full-throttle scenes through echo tunnels, and then quick getaways into horizons with blazing sun and que music. Probably with a couple of fuelling stops thrown in along the way.

So now the secret is out: My new classic car? The name is Interceptor. Jensen Interceptor.

 

10 Responses

  1. Tony Wawryk

    Wow, Claus – what a car you’ve bought! I’ve long admired the Interceptor and its 4WD sibling, the FF – a superb combination of Italian style, US power and UK build quality….well, maybe that last one isn’t quite so superb! You are so right about the name, and your car is a terrific colour! Looking forward to reading about some of your adventures in it (though I have a feeling they might not be quite as exciting as in your imagination… ;) )

    Reply
  2. Banpei

    Congratulations on your Interceptor ownership!
    I have worshiped them ever since I saw one being driven by Inspector Linley in the earlier series. I think they were spot on: in the earlier series Linley was more of an aristocrat playboy while later the Bristol 410 suited the “family man”-Linley.
    Anyway: I hope your wife didn’t mind not involving her in the decision making of purchasing an Interceptor! :D

    Reply
  3. Claus Ebberfeld

    Thanks, both.

    We’ll see about the adventures, @tony – maybe I can’t even report on everyhting that happens as it might be too exciting or even illegal! And we absolutely agree on the colour, which I simply love.

    Regarding the worshipping it’s a funny thing, @banpei – but I don’t really know where my admiration for the Interceptor comes from. And regarding my wife she’ll probably enjoy the driving (with me at the wheel, of course…) as much as I will. I also honestly think she’ll prefer NOT to be too closely involved in all of my many car concerns!

    Reply
  4. Dave Leadbetter

    So you bought a not entirely working Interceptor, one that’s been standing, isn’t registered in the country where you live and has the steering wheel on the wrong side, and you did this over the phone without actually seeing the car yourself?

    I doff my hat to you, sir!!

    Reply
  5. Andrew Boggis

    Claus probably has a day job working in lobbying for oil industry or is this a Halloween story for Miss Thunberg?

    I like the idea and chunky shape…but the fuel consumption would make me tearful. Might I disrespectfully suggest that GT could also mean “Great Thirst” in some particular cases ! ;-)

    Reply
  6. Claus Ebberfeld

    @andrew, I know the reputation of the Interceptor. of course – but as always I am an optimist: Surely it can’t be THAT bad?!?

    I brimmed the car in Copenhagen and drove it back here, but haven’t yet refuelled it (and now I don’t dare!) so can’t say yet.

    But anyway I figure the Interceptor will never do so many miles that it really matters much. Will it perhaps do 2,000 miles in 2020? Judging from initial reactions here in Denmark I know it will make many people on its way happy and that counts for something as well.

    Reply
  7. yrhmblhst

    Many congratulations – these cars are way cool. Had a buddy – RIP AJ – that had one -RHD- over here; he traveled the Turner turnpike twice a week at that time, and the first few times thru, blew the tollbooth attendants mind; AJ would approach the booth, pull over to the side, then swing around and BACK THRU the opening. Then he handed them his change, backed out the other side, swung over to the side, three pointed around and took off in a roar! :)

    Tin worm and electrics are your only potential issues as you know – the drivetrain is bulletproof. That B motor – well, technically , the 440 is an RB [raised B {taller deck height} as is the 413 and 426 wedge. 361, 383 and 400 are plain Bs] is a torque monster and reliable as the day is long. Parts are available and its easy to work on should you need to…except when stuffed in too tight of an area. Could be a challenge in your case… keep the oil clean and watch the coolant and youll have no problems.
    The 727 is tough as a boot too ; the army even used a modified version in some tanks! Drag racers used it for years in much higher horsepower and higher abuse arenas than you ever will. Once you get used to its upshifting too quickly, itll be great.
    Enjoy!

    Reply
  8. John H

    Had a ride in an Interceptor many years ago around a wet skidpan – I thought it seemed pretty well-balanced. Back then you’d occasionally see them advertised for $15k, but I’d assume those probably would have quickly swallowed $30-50k… Good luck with it.

    Reply

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