Sex, Drugs and Jensen Interceptors: How a car from the West Midlands defined a rock and roll era

Updated: Jan 17

This article was originally published in December 2020. It has recently been revised and re-uploaded - enjoy!

Besides keeping pace for the biggest bands of the era, John Bonham, Mick Fleetwood, and Ginger Baker had something else in common. They all owned Jensen Interceptors.

A car made by men in sheds in West Bromwich, the Interceptor seems at first glance to be an unlikely choice for the jet set. I doubt that most people have even heard of one. The Jensen factory closed its doors for the last time in 1976 and the marque has been all but forgotten since.

" Its flared wheel arches like flared trousers, have been banished to the annals of time."

So why did the Interceptor attract such an extraordinary clientele? The car itself was a departure from Jensen's previous models insomuch as the Italian Carrozzeria Touring designed body shell was made from steel instead of fibreglass. The drivetrain too was very different to what had come before. In lieu of the Lotus Twincam used in the Jensen Healey, Chrysler V8s were fitted to the Interceptor, which although available as a manual in 1971, was invariably coupled to a TorqueFlite automatic transmission - more at home in a pickup truck than a grand tourer.

The styling is best described as debonair. The Interceptor's imposing presence miraculously managed somehow to be outrageous and simultaneously restrained. For Jensen money, you could well have turned towards other premium manufacturers and bought faster, more reliable and quite frankly better cars. But the Interceptor held an almost undefinable quality that the Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces of the day didn't possess. They were uniquely cool and not by being the fastest or the flashiest. Instead, Interceptors emanated an air of suaveness. They deftly walked a fine line flanked on the one side by the shouty and brash and on the other by the stately and pedestrian.

Our list of owners from three of the biggest bands of the era, I think says a lot about the Interceptor. Jensens weren't glitzy enough for the frontman, but nor were they restrained enough for the bass player. The complex syncopated rhythms of a Chrysler V8 evidently struck a chord with these individuals and like Bonham, most Interceptors lived fast and died young.

The Jensen interceptor is the vehicular embodiment of its illustrious owners and the period they belonged to. Its flared wheel arches like flared trousers, have been banished to the annals of time. Most have succumbed to rot (and boy do they rot), with surviving examples commanding an ever-growing premium. I'd love to own one, but if I'm honest, I doubt that I could do justice to its reputation.

When television's James May recently declared that classic cars could only be truly experienced in the context of their time, I have to concede that with the Jensen Interceptor, he may have a point.



Second image reproduced courtesy of:

Jeremy from Sydney, Australia, CC BY 2.0


via Wikimedia Commons

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