Don’t Overlook Me: 1974 Jensen-Healey

By Nathan Avots-Smith

Pity the poor Jensen-Healey, the overlooked British sports car. Much of this, I think, has to do with being born too late; like the unloved Triumph TR7 of a few years later, its purely ’70s style lacks the olde-world romance of the knockoff-wheeled roadsters of the 1950s and ’60s, many of which continued in production into the ’70s, exuding an archaic charm that this froggy-faced Austin-Healey successor couldn’t match. This particular Jensen-Healey seems to have been overlooked itself for some time, but if you’d like to be the one to rectify that, you can find it on craigslist in Whiteville, North Carolina with an asking price of $2,900.

Image: bringatrailer.com

The seller of this ’74 has only provided one picture, so here instead is a little inspiration, courtesy of a driver-quality Jensen-Healey of the same vintage offered via our friends at Bring a Trailer a couple of years ago. It may not be the most beautiful, but it cleans up nice, doesn’t it. Looks aside, there’s a lot that’s interesting about the J-H, starting with its engine—it was the first car to carry the Lotus 907 four, later shared with the Esprit, Elite, and Eclat. The 907 was the first mass-produced dual overhead cam engine with four valves per cylinder, pretty exotic stuff for 1972, even if it tops out at an unimpressive-sounding 144 horsepower. In the case of our feature car, that engine is mated to a five speed manual and is said to be fully intact. These are not trouble-free engines, however, and this one likely hasn’t been run in some time. If the engine’s not interesting enough for you, there’s also the (tenuous, totally nutburgers) Zodiac Killer connection, via the involvement of U.S. importer Kjell Qvale, who installed Donald Healey at the helm of Jensen in 1970 to develop an Austin-Healey successor after becoming a major shareholder. Hey, whatever gets this car saved.

Image: bringatrailer.com

Besides the shaky mechanicals, the other enemy of the Jensen-Healey is rust, and this one’s got it in the floors (at least). Still, it’s not the rustiest Jensen out there…but that brings me to the part that gives me the greatest pause: the price. The really nice J-H in these pictures sold on BaT for $6,800; it seems awfully ambitious to ask nearly half that amount for a car that’s been sitting for years and needs rust repair before even addressing the easier cosmetic issues. What do you think—what price would convince you not to overlook this Jensen-Healey’s potential?

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Comments

  1. JimmyJ

    Always wanted a jensen being that is my last name
    Cant afford an interceptor but these are cheap enough that u r better to buy a real nice one id like to grab one and put an s2000 vtech in it

    3+
  2. MSG Bob

    I don’t think I would bite on this one even if I got to inspect it in person, but the design itself looks nice – if a bit generic. Maybe if I found one at the right price with good body and junk motor, I’d pick up a drive train (other than Lotus) and happily tool off into the sunset.

    1+
  3. Ken Kittleson

    To put it in perspective, I bought my ’74 JH in ’09 for $3500, a complete, good-running two-owner 44K mile car. Only 10K JH’s were produced in its 5 year run and it’s estimated that only 500 still exist. But it shares the fate of the Kaiser Vagabond, in that it’s incredibly rare but no one cares so the value languishes. Meanwhile, early Mustangs sell through the roof even though they made millions of them. By ’74, JH had most of the quality gremlins worked out, only to have Jensen go under in ’76. Most people mistake mine for a Spitfire or Fiat 124.

    3+
  4. Howard A Member

    Great write up, Nathan. The Jensen came out when I had my MGB, so naturally, me and all my sports cat buddies took notice. We all read about it, but nobody had the grapes to actually buy one. Fact is, I did a lot of sports car rally’s, and general “sports car scene”,( Road America, and such) and I don’t ever remember anyone having one. I think it was the engine. Fantastic race motor, sitting in L.A. traffic at 100 degrees,,,not so much.In ’74, the only other cars people knew about that had timing belts, were Pinto and Vega, and one broken belt ( belt technology has come a long way since, btw) and a shmeared motor usually deemed the car to this type of location,,,out back in the weeds. I think the V8 would be too much, but a V6 would be fun. I guess you could still do that. Now that would be a neat car.

    4+
    • Greg

      Maybe a 215ci aluminum Buick/Rover v8 would be a great fit! But this particular car is too far gone for that price. There’s four on Hemmings right now for $10-12k. I like these cars though!

      1+
      • Howard A Member

        Hi Greg, I read, several engines were considered. The Vauxhall 2.3 didn’t meet the power minimum, German Ford V6 almost made it, but a strike ( I think) limited supply, as did BMW. Lotus was the only one to step up to the plate with this motor. It was the 1st multi valve ( 4/cyl.) engine to be mass produced on an assembly line. It really was a cool motor, like I say, just not for sitting in traffic @ 100 degrees.

        0
  5. Pete

    Great little car, banned by SCCA after two or three consecutive years of demolishing the opposition. Still quick and drives well plus comfy. Being 6’4″ it is the only sportscar where I was really relaxed. With normal maintenance the engine is truble free. Pertronix is agood idea though as the dizzy is rather inaccessible. The factory hardtop is a boon and has a heated rear screen.

    3+
  6. Wayne

    I was looking for one these that was not rusty. All the measurements indicate that a 5.0 Ford will fit with no major issues. And the engine will
    sit far enough back to be mid-engine ( pretty close). There was a time a couple of years ago that you could buy these all day long in the western states, non-rusty). I for $400 a pop. I know. I missed several. Now all I see are rust buckets for $2,500 and up. The Lotus engine is why Lotus now uses Toyota power.
    I will pass on this one.

    1+
  7. Brent Stewart

    These were a vile automobile. As bad, or worse, than the Daimler SP250. I can hop in my air cooled 911 with the comfortable assurance that I can reliably cross the U.S. I have owned well maintained Lotuses that have repeatedly standed me around town. This thing is worse, Lotus unreliability minus the rust-free GRP bodywork.

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  8. Tom

    Nathan, I’m just impressed you could work the word “nutburgers” into this write up!

    1+

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