Rare Shooting Brake: 1976 Jensen GT Project

In the late 1960s, Jensen Motors was hanging by a thread, almost done in by US safety regulations. Kjell Qvale, a distributor of cars on the west coast, teamed up with Donald Healey to rescue the company: Qvale took a majority financial stake, and Healey was named its chairman. These efforts birthed the Jensen Healey, a pretty convertible sports car with an albatross of a motor – the Lotus 907 four-cylinder. Unfortunately, Jensen’s efforts to cut costs resulted in the purchase of these motors at a cut-rate price, but without warranty coverage from Lotus. The motors experienced teething problems in the form of oil leaks due to low-quality gaskets and lines and a failure-prone water pump, none of which augered well for sales. Meanwhile, the finances of the company were further compromised by fixing these faults for customers. Donald Healey quit, and Qvale tried one last hurrah, a shooting-brake GT. The GT was not allowed to use the Healey name, but it was based on the convertible. Here on craigslist is a 1976 Jensen GT project with an asking price of $4900, located in Winnetka, Illinois. Thanks to Pat L. for this rare tip!

Only 511 Jensen GTs were made before Jensen Motors entered receivership and eventually vacated its premises. The last GT rolled off the line in May 1976. The photo shows one of the culprits conspiring toward its downfall, the 1973 cc Lotus twin-cam motor, with two Zenith Stromberg carburetors. In this trim, the car was good for about 140 bhp, zero to sixty in ten seconds (it’s heavier than the convertible and so suffers performance-wise), and a top speed of about 110 mph. The Getrag five-speed manual was a great feature but not enough to overcome the stigma imposed by early mistakes. It’s fair to mention that the issues accompanying early 907 installations can be easily fixed today. Furthermore, the seller says this car starts, runs, and stops.

The interior is a reminder that the company was trying to move upscale with this car, akin to Lotus when it brought out its 2+2. The cloth covering with vinyl facing was a plain Jane solution but the wood dash saturated with gauges is swanky. The rear seating was barely more than a parcel shelf. This interior is in good condition considering the 85,000 miles on the odometer.

And now, if you didn’t see a hint of this in the first photo, here’s the rub: Rust! These cars rusted with abandon. Meanwhile, here is the market’s opinion of a non-running rusty project, and here, of a slightly better example. Note the very narrow gap. That’s about how much headroom you have to make the subject car into a better car. What do you think, is that gap enough to make this GT worth the work, or would you want a lower price?

Comments

  1. Henry Davis Member

    Looks like Barn Finds is morphing into what Bring a Trailer used to be! That’s outstanding! Finding cars for “everyman”, giving an unbiased explanation of good and bad points by a person who loves cars but doesn’t have a dog in the hunt. And I haven’t seen the first Ferrari up for sale! Keep up the good work.

    Like 7
    • Michelle Rand Staff

      Thank you but I will tell you a secret. I always wanted a Jensen GT! It’s a crappy car, it looks weird, but then it has these offsetting niceties, like that GREAT dash. So although I would never buy this one, I do kind of love them which makes me a little biased.

      Like 5
      • Cobra Steve

        Michelle, I have a love/hate relationship with my Renault Dauphine, too.
        Quirky cars are cool in their own way…most especially since they’re DIFFERENT!

        Like 4
  2. alphasud Member

    Rust is definitely the scene here. Great project for a body guy with nothing to do. This should keep them busy for a while. Decent looking but it’s just too bad they ran out of ideas to meet the 5mph. bumper standard. Any relation between the 2 liter twin cam on this and the Esprit? I will need to look that up.

    Like 2
  3. bobhess bobhess Member

    The engines were a flaming disaster and rust was built in at the factory. $900 should cover the transmission and the carbs before it’s hauled off to the happy hunting grounds.

    Like 4
  4. angliagt angliagt Member

    I knew a guy whose father was a lawyer,& then he became one.
    His mother told me that one of his first cases was to sue Jensen –
    (or the importer) over a GT they bought new.
    Evidently it was a real lemon.

    Like 3
  5. Cadmanls Member

    This is one rusty car, not too sure it’s worth trying to repair, nope rebuild. If it’s stripped and dropped into a chemical bath I don’t think too much with come back out. At half the price it’s too much , not saying it can’t be repaired but why? Quite a striking look when new though.

    Like 5
  6. Martin Horrocks

    Good article. Colin Chapman seemed sometimes too clever for his own good. It was said at the time that the contract with Jensen allowed Chapman to design and build his new motor but have Jensen pay the warranty claims for the under-developed unit.

    By the time the engine was fitted into a Lotus, it was a more reliable unit.

    Like 4
  7. Kurt Member

    Very unique appearing. Reminds me of a Corvette-station wagon I once spotted. Or the hearse Jag XKE from Harold and Maude.

    Like 2
    • Benchseatbonanza

      Thanks Kurt. As I was scrolling through the comments, I thought I would be the first say it. The Harold and Maude-mobile. Totally gave me a flash back to Harold lighting up the cutting torch Lol

      Like 1
  8. Dave Member

    I may be wrong but I think this car has been bouncing around on the internet for awhile. This is a case of buying a higher priced sorted example would be money well spent.

    Like 3
    • TomP

      Huh?? Buying another one in better condition?? This isn’t a Chevy Cavalier, there are no other ones for sale out there…

  9. Darryl fling

    Went and looked at a hord of Jensen Healeys for sale on CL 3 years ago in Washinton state. 3-5 cars depending how you count. Lots if spare parts, even a freashly rebuilt/upgraded Lotus motor. He also had a GT he want to sell seperatly. I think he wanted $5k for the lot. They had been decient cars stored inside when he took the photos. But all were now outside for years. So not much worth saving. As I was leaving, he started getting desperate, how much would you pay for them? He asked. I said even if they were free, the cost is too high;-) sad, sad.
    I read a great article about the whole Jensen/Healey/Quale project. Talk about a cluster f##k. They had to change Motor, transmission, suspension, diff, from original design, during development. It is a freaking miracle that any got built at all. And that any of them still are around.

    Like 3
  10. Frank Sumatra

    Who knows how to pronounce “Kjell Qvale” (The author does not get a turn!) Also, he did not live on the west coast- He lived in San Francisco which is a completely different thing. He has a few dealerships on San Francisco’s “Auto Row”- Van Ness Boulevard.

    • Frank Sumatra

      “Had” a few dealerships. Sorry.

      Like 1
    • Howie

      Frank i do, i had two of his Mangusta’s.

      Like 2
    • gippy

      Shell Kavahlie

      Like 1
    • angliagt angliagt Member

      Pronounced “Shell Kavolly”

      Like 1
  11. peter k

    Great idea for a sport wagon. I remember this version with a Chrysler 440 in it that always seemed to be nose heavy to me. I think that this car despite the cancer in the system would be a prime vehicle for an american small block in some form or fashion coupled with a 5+ speed transmission.

  12. Steve

    Someone needs to hurry and buy this before rust eats it up entirely and it disappears.

  13. Jay Bree

    It may have started life as a hideously designed little runabout, but at least now it’s a rusty money pit!

    Like 4
  14. Frank Battaglia

    I am the owner.
    Yes it is a Lotus engine.
    The title is now clear and in my name.
    The price is now $4,100

    Like 1
    • Howie

      Frank great, but it says $4,200 in the ad.

  15. TomP

    I like it. It’s a very cool and rare car. Don’t let the negative comments cause you to lower the price. Not being a Camaro or fastback Mustang throws off a majority of car “enthusiasts”. Car “enthusiasts” are scared of cars that are not in their neighbors driveway to covet. If this was a 1969 Mustang in the same condition with the same amount of rust, you’d see the same people jumping over each other to buy it. Somewhere out there there’s a niche collector of lesser known cars who would love to have this in his collection. I almost bought it when you listed it earlier this year but I have too many rare cars right now…

    Like 1
  16. TheOldRanger

    I liked the look of the Jensen and the Jensen-Healey, but I never did more than look based on several horror stories from previous owners. One guy told me “it’s a great yard ornament but lousy to maintain”. If you had the money, I guess you could garage it at night and during bad weather, but bring it out and park it where people could see it during the day…. as I always thought it was a nice looking vehicle.

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