Classic British Driver: 1974 Jensen-Healey

The Jensen-Healey brought together two of the great names of British sports and grand touring design and manufacturing, and the result was a sports car whose performance belied its modest engine size. Early examples experienced more than their share of teething problems, but these issues were soon addressed, and the car went on to be a marketing and sales success for the company. Finding a good one today opens the door to a potentially rewarding motoring experience, and this 1974 model does look like it could be just such a vehicle. Barn Finder Robert T referred the little Jensen to us, so thank you so much for that Robert. It is located in Chula Vista, California, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. If you would like to park this little beauty in your driveway, then simply hand the owner $3,700, and that dream will come true.

The styling story of the Jensen-Healey is an interesting one in itself. Originally penned by Hugo Poole, his work was completed before the company had secured an engine supply deal. When the supply deal was finally negotiated, it was discovered that the chosen engine was going to allow the hood-line of the vehicle to be significantly lower than was originally envisaged. As a result, some restyling work was undertaken by a gentleman by the name of William Town. For those of you who find that name vaguely familiar, his most visible piece of automotive design work was the, er, “distinctive” Aston Martin Lagonda. I have to say that his penmanship on the Jensen was both far more restrained, and definitely more elegant than the Lagonda. Early examples of the Jensen did have their share of quality issues, and the worst of these included very poor weather sealing. Being of unitary construction, rust could be a major problem, and it wasn’t unusual to see very early examples beginning to sag in the middle as moisture that had found its way into the cars and under the carpet caused those vehicles to rust through the footwell area. It didn’t take Jensen long to identify this issue, and by the time this car rolled off the line, it had been largely addressed. Overall, this is a car that shows a lot of promise. It is finished in Black, and the owner does acknowledge that the Jensen did receive a repaint at some point in the past. The photos make it a bit difficult to make a definitive assessment of the car’s condition, but there are no obvious rust problems visible. The fact that the panel alignment, especially those of the doors, is so consistent can be taken as a very positive sign. The owner makes no mention of any problems with rust, and when you couple the alignment with a life spent in California, that gives us cause to be optimistic. The chrome bumpers indicate that this Jensen was produced in early 1974 because later cars did receive rubber items to comply with changing regulations. Those bumpers appear to be in good condition, as does the rest of the trim and chrome. The soft-top looks okay, but it isn’t in pristine condition. The rear window is extremely cloudy, and while that could be replaced, new tops are available for between $400 and $650, depending on the choice of material. If a flawless level of presentation is eventually going to be required, then this could prove to be a sound investment.

The interior of the little Healey generally seems to be in good condition, and before I would consider spending any money in there, I would be inclined to treat it to a thorough clean. I think that it could be returned to a very presentable state with that simple task alone, although there are some items that might rate attention at some point. There are some seam separations and a small hole in the driver’s seat, and while these might be able to be repaired, I suspect that new covers might be on the shopping list. The rest of the upholstery looks to be in good condition, while I don’t see any obvious problems with the dash. Beyond that issue with the seat cover, there is a small but repairable crack in the console, and while it is hard to be certain, the carpet looks like it has become stained and dirty over time. If it doesn’t respond to the cleaning process, then a new carpet set can be found for around $300, which should have the interior presenting quite nicely.

Jensen investigated a raft of engine options for the Healey during the design phase, but all of them came to a dead end. That was until they struck up a conversation with the legendary Colin Chapman. He offered the company the option of utilizing his 1,973cc “Lotus 907” 4-cylinder engine. This all-alloy DOHC engine was capable of producing 140hp, which was in excess of Jensen’s stated minimum figure of 130hp. The canted design of this engine also allowed for better hood clearance than expected, and this was the motivation behind the redesign that I mentioned earlier. Bolted to the back of the “907” is a 4-speed manual transmission, and with a total weight of a mere 2,116lbs, this little car was capable of covering the ¼ mile in a very respectable 16.2 seconds. I have to say that the engine of this Jensen looks very clean, with no signs of any long-term leaks or problems. The owner states that it runs and drives, but he isn’t specific about how well it achieves either feat. I tend to believe that the original Zenith Stromberg carburetors may need a rebuild because the owner is including kits for these in the sale. Beyond that, the car has recently been fitted with new tires and a new battery.

If this 1974 Jensen-Healey is a solid and clean car that drives fairly well, then it could make a pretty respectable sort of a project car. Values on these little British classics haven’t gone stratospheric, and it is possible to buy some really nice examples for less than $20,000. If this one is rust-free and is in need of little more than a fresh coat of paint and those few detail items that we’ve mentioned so far, then it could be a very good guy at the asking price. Of course, I would always recommend some form of personal inspection to confirm that all is well. However, if it does check out, then this is a car that could potentially provide its owner with plenty of Summer fun.

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Comments

  1. Achman

    Cheapest way to get a running twin cam for your Europa.

    then swap in a $500 BP from a Miata, sell car for $5k.

    • CJinSD

      The Esprit used this engine, but Europas had Renault or Ford based engines.

      Like 2
  2. Jeff

    Actual junk. I owned one these for a short while in the early 2000s. They make Fiats look like highly engineered German cars.

    Like 3
    • bevis

      Really??

      Like 1
  3. Walsh

    Three greats come together not two. Jensen, Healey and Lotus. By the way, this engine is totally different to the Europa.

    Like 3
  4. Michael House

    As a mechanic at Hollywood Sport Cars in ’74-’75 I got to drive just about everything, Jag, Triumph, MG, Lotus, Austin, Healy, Jensen. Other than my ’67 Elan S2, the Jensen Healy was the most neutral handling car I’ve had the pleasure to drive. The Master Mechanic for Lotus and Jensen Healy that I worked with, Al Scrivner, set some of these cars up for racing and they were simply unbelievable!

    Like 6
    • Les Durland

      I knew Al well as he took great care of my 74, especially after he left Hollywood to ser up his own shop. Sure could use him now as engine has seized and little chance of finding a replacement

      • bevis

        Although I’m on the easy coast, I have about 15 engines(used to have 26 cars). However, there are plenty on your side that have engines. Hopefully, your on the JHPS website(it’s free) and that would get you started: http://www.jensenhealey.com/forums/
        This was started by Greg Fletcher and is a VERY useful source for detailed info
        good luck, bruce/ RedRacerbm@gmail.com

  5. KEVIN L HARPER

    Outside of a Triumph Dolomite these are one of my favorite LBC’s.
    They are higher maintenance than a lot of them but they also drive much better. They do need a few upgrades like a better radiator and replace the bumpers with something lighter, but when right they are an enjoyable drive.

    Like 1
  6. Mark Member

    Just sold my 73 for 4K. I had it for 3 years, spiffed it up and it is the closest thing to a go kart I have driven. Problem spots: Rust, gears pop out as oil warms up,
    check oil pressure right after start to ensure it rises. Good owner group and folks either love the style or hate it. Fairly easy to work on. The 907 revs strongly and you need to get it beyond 4000 RPM to really start enjoying the little rocket. I had a blast and so did my friends. I was going to prepare it for vintage racing but decided to go FF. This could be a very good buy but do a good inspection.

    Good luck!

    Like 2
  7. Snyder

    Kind of unfair to peg Towns to the Lagonda without also crediting him for the DBS. I’ve come to think of these as having more than a little DBS styling in them. Look at the interior against the Aston Martin, seats, sloping dash, door panels, gauges… tail lights the same, and subtle fender line haunch at the rear. From the back, very thin. Also similar to the Rover BRM turbine Le Mans entry from the mid sixties, just before this was designed, also by Towns. Better build quality, and a leather upgrade to the interior and have a great sports car with a pretty solid engine proven out over years of production and development. Sorry for all those past owners who never got them sorted. It’s easy to do today, and they deliver when you do.

    Like 3
  8. Claudio

    2000 to 2005 toyota mr2 is a good choice
    Convertible, nimble, flashy, toyota reliability, no carbs , 4 wheel discs, airbags, abs, music,and more
    Oh did i write NO CARBS

    Like 1
  9. Les Durland

    Thanks, Bruce. I’ll definitely check it out

  10. Ken Cooper

    I owned one for a few years. Loved it. I had the d’ellorto carb setup, stepped up cams and headers and turn six suspension bits. Very quick. Mine had the “deluxe” interior as this one does. Weird problems with it. someone put the wrong distributor cap on it and it would arc out the ignition when it got warm. Nobody could figure it out. I finally took it to Glenn’s MG in Tampa and they got it right. The valve adjustments were shims. That sucked. Also, it had no torque in the low end. You had to drive it like you hated it. I’d get another, but a no A/C car in Florida is a pain.

    Like 1

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