Han K’s Barn Find Project

Hans Jensen 541

Over the past few weeks we have had the pleasure of featuring a few of Reader Han K’s international sightings. In our last installment we mentioned Han’s personal barn find, a Jensen. After a few of you asked about it, we thought we should do a special feature on his car and what it took to get it back on the road. Han was kind enough to write up the entire story of his 1957 Jensen 541 and what it took to get it to the condition you see above. His story in his own words right after the break!

Prepped for blasting

I could easily fill 100 pages with my stories about searching for parts and the problems, trials, and errors I have encountered restoring such a rare car. There is no mail order catalogue to order parts from like there is for an MGB or Austin Healey. But I had become a fan of the Jensen marque and having restored a Lotus powered Jensen Healey and a Jensen GT earlier, I was looking for a new and bigger challenge.

1957 Jensen 541 projectAn Interceptor wasn’t my cup of tea, so I decided to go for a 1950’s or ‘60s Jensen, either the Jensen 541 or a Jensen C-V8. So when I read an ad in the Jensen Owners Club magazine: “For sale 1957 Jensen 541 restoration project, cheap, has to go or will be scrapped.” I soon contacted the seller for more information and found out it was #146 of a series of 173 built. I couldn’t bear the thought of such a rarity going to the scrap yard, so I made him an offer and we agreed on a (low!!) price. The car had been sitting in a wet field in Cornwall (GB) for years… The Jensen 541 has a fibreglass body, but the chassis is all steel.

Hans 541 stripped downI hired a truck and took the ferry from Holland to the UK and hauled the ‘wreck’ home.
All my friends thought I’d lost it as the car was in a terrible state. Also the 541 had been fitted with a replacement 4 liter six-cylinder engine of the wrong type. This didn’t put me off and I started dismantling the car methodically. The whole body comes off in one piece more or less et voila a naked chassis is what is left. Step by step taking the engine, gearbox, suspension, steering, and all other components off I was left with a rusty frame. I had the chassis sandblasted so I could see what solid sections remained…

rusted chassis

Cutting out the bad parts, shaping, fabricating, and welding in the replacement sections took about a year of hard and dirty work. The frame was then sandblasted again and coated in black chassis paint. Meanwhile I had been rebuilding all suspension and steering components, gearbox, brake servo, and so on and made several trips to the UK to locate and buy the correct type engine and order a new wiring-loom, kingpins, steering arms, wheel-bearings, stainless exhaust, rubbers and all kind of small bits and pieces. Nothing on this ‘50s car was metric! Every bolt, nut or screw was UNF, BSF or whatever else there is…. And that presented additional problems of course. I ended up buying sets of all sorts of spanners and tools to get the jobs done.

Jensen 541 body

The fiberglass bodyshell, bonnet and bootlid were taken to a company that builds boats for a much needed refurbishment. I had worked with fiberglass before and didn’t feel like doing that dirty work again… The radiator was sent out to a specialist for rebuilding, as were the starter motor and dynamo. Now I could focus my attention on the engine, which I rebuilt. Of course all machine work was done by a specialist company, but I put it all back together. Easy, compared to the Lotus engines I had done before!

Restored chassis

Now that I had a like new, shiny black chassis sitting in my garage the fun part began. All the new parts I had collected and everything else that I had reconditioned were fitted. I made up new fuel and brake lines, new wooden floorboards, alloy boot floor, and a thousand more little jobs were done. Yet another year had gone by. The next stage was refitting the body and restoring the doors. These have an alloy outer skin, but the rest is steel and the bottom had rusted out of course. When this was also done the doors were refitted, the body panels were aligned as good as I could and the car was sent off to the body shop.

Body almost ready for paint

After a lot of sanding, layers of primer, more sanding, more primer and yet more sanding, the body was judged smooth enough for the dark blue color I had chosen. It came out of the paint shop looking brilliant! An upholstery shop rebuilt the seats and door panels in grey leather with blue piping. A new headliner and carpets etc. were made after the patterns of the old ones which I had saved.

Jensen nearly finished

Another difficult job was fabricating a new curved rear window and rear sidelights. These were originally made from Perspex and were cracked and yellowed. The original windshield and door glass were refitted with new rubbers and weatherstripping. All gauges and switches got a thorough going over (I had never done that before) and new speedo and rev counter cables were custom made and fitted. The new wiring-loom fitted and everything was connected with help of a Lucas wiring diagram and a good friend. Next the interior was refitted, the chrome bits, bumpers, headlights, badges and WOW it looked like a pretty car again!

Restored Jensen 541

I got the engine running pretty much without problems, but couldn’t manage to synchronize the triple carburetors correctly. So I drove the car to a firm with a rolling road (test bench) for final tuning. It went in with 86 hp at the rear wheels and came out with 123, which corresponded with the factory figures of 140 flywheel hp! The Jensen 541 is a blast to drive. The low revving high torque engine pulls like a locomotive and the overdrive on third and fourth gear makes shifting down in city traffic unnecessary. It’ll smoothly do 15 mph in fourth and pull from there to 115!

Special thanks to Han for sharing this story with us! If you’ve restored a barn find of your own and documented the process, please feel free to share it with us!

WANT ADS

WANTED 1965-1985 Chrysler Fullsize Roadtrip car for crazy swede Nice original fullsize US car, up for a 5000 mile trip. Max 10 k USD. Contact

WANTED 1958-76 Lambretta Any This is a motor scooter all metal Contact

WANTED 1972 Yamaha G7S (80cc) These are now referred to as “cafe racers”, although we never heard of such a term in 1972. Contact

WANTED 1970 AMC Javlin sst/4speed Looking for rust free car in the mid west area. Contact

WANTED 1949-1952 Dodge Club Coupe Must be in mint condition. Contact

Submit Your Want Ad

Comments

  1. Koolpenguin

    Wow. What a story. And certainly a labor of love, and a beautiful finished Jensen. Love the colors that you picked out.

    I always tell people that the most expensive car that I’ve ever owned was a “free” Alfa Romeo Spider. I’m sure that Han poured an incredible amount of $$ into this car as well as his countless hours of his own time and labor.

    Keep these kind of stories coming, Josh and Jesse!

  2. Robert J

    O my goodness Han, you have really done a fine job there. Hats off to you sir. I have always loved Jensen Healeys so needless to say I savored every word about this absolutely wonderful resurrection you have performed. Congratulations and thank you kindly for sharing a bit of what must have undoubtedly been a monumental effort.

  3. Rick

    What a great story and what a bitchin’ ride!!!

  4. rancho bella

    Hans,

    Stunning……………
    Being a weldor for decades I can understand the work you did, my hat is off to you.

  5. sunbeamdon

    Well done – what a resurrection of a fine vehicle – I bet it’s a great grocery-getter!

  6. paul

    WOW, Han, I lack the patients, the skill set & the shop space that you have & accomplished in this wonderful Jensen, that I have never seen before. Being a retired auto body shop owner I do appreciate the huge effort that went into this project, hats off to you, you are very talented.

  7. Dolphin Member

    Han is a saint to save this Jensen…a very skilled, hard working saint. Congrats!

    I like a lot of things about this car’s story. One is that it uses ‘floorboards’ that are actually made of wood. And in England no less, which is known to be somewhat damp at times.

    And those triple SU carbs—three of the best carbs ever invented, providing they are properly set up, as the HP reading going from 86 before tuning to 123 after tuning shows. Triple SUs are a great solution for a straight-6 engine like this, and also on the tri-carb Healey 3000 I owned years ago.

    Another is that ‘Glas body, the perfect solution for a place that’s damp so much of the time. And you can get it fixed by any boat yard.

  8. brian

    Having accomplished this restoration, you can officially do anything! Preforming brain surgery should be a snap! I admire your skills and congratulations on a restoration VERY well done!

  9. rapple

    Han,
    Well done! Thank you for saving this rare and handsome car from completely decaying away. It was obviously a labor (lots of labor!) of love. I would love to see more photos of the finished product, including the interior.

    • Han

      Rapport, I would be happy to oblige and send you more photo’s including the interior if only I had your email address…..

    • Han

      Rappie ,I would be happy to oblige and send you more photo’s including the interior if only I had your email address…..

  10. MikeH

    Thanks Han–I think your estimate of 100 pages documenting this car is probably underestimated No one understands the hours spent researching and locating parts for a car like this–unless they have done it. Doing a car like this is nothing like doing an MG, Jag, Chevrolet, etc.

  11. jim s

    the before and after photos show an amazing of work/love went into this car. great great job. as for the car it self i learned something new today as i did not know about the 541 or how it was built. thanks very much for sharing again.

    • jim s

      should read ” amazing amount of work/love “

  12. rjc Member

    Great story, nice work!! great looking car.
    Thanks for sharing with us Han.

  13. BrentF

    Extremely well done! I have to han(d) it to you!

  14. Han Kamp

    Thank you guys for all the compliments, you make me blush…
    I am an amateur /hobbyist mechanic and it took 4 me years to accomplish this. Moreover this was not in England, but Holland. I have not been working on the project every day, as there was my rallying and other fun stuff too that helped me to recharge the energy needed for the 541. Would I do this again? You bet…once finished I bought another barn find, a 1954 left hand drive (1 of 3 built) Jensen Interceptor 4 litre in the US that I heard of when visiting a Jensen meeting in Tenessee. Only 88 of these Jensens were ever built from 1948 – ’57. Talking about rare?!
    Bought another (very bad RHD) in the UK as parts car, but due to a major change in life I never finished that project and sold it. If Jesse allows this, I am more then willing to post pics and a story about that adventure

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Please send them in Han! We have all enjoyed reading about your adventures.

      • Han Kamp

        Allright Jesse. Give me a couple of days to refresh my memory and to dig up some pics as I’ve just arrived at my holiday home in France, whereas my paper dossier is in my home in Holland.

    • jim s

      yes please do. this is going to be fun. thanks

  15. Martin

    I hope to see you on Hollands roads one day. A brilliant piece of work!

  16. geomechs geomechs Member

    Excellent, Han! You’re proof that a person with patience and determination can do a museum quality restoration. Good luck with your future endeavors.

  17. Don Andreina

    Fantastic work Han. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to the Interceptor Chronicles.

  18. James Neill

    You can’t help but get a Buzz when you see these old Cars, a number of the cars you see were common, when growing up in the North of Ireland. The older Jags, Mercedes Benz Convertible, license Plate BYH ??? Was Barbarah Huttons, I think Hitler had a similar Model. Allards etc.
    Hats off to the Renovators, big problem is storage whilst you do the work, in addition to securing parts etc.
    I loved this Reno, keep the stories coming guys.
    Q? Are there any or many girls doing these Reno’s.
    Jim

  19. Plasticman

    Great piece of work; agree that the 541 is the pick of the Jensens, it has an elegance later cars lack and the authority of a Bristol.

  20. Gerilynn

    stunning car- never seen one. I’ve had the dubious honor of working on a few of the later Jensen Interceptors with the Chryslerr 440 engine- not fun to work on but a very nice ride.
    I’d prefer this one…

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.