Survivor With Pedigree: 1974-1/2 Jensen-Healey

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Twin cam engine by Lotus. Chassis by Healey. Interior and styling by Jensen. Why, oh why doesn’t the Jensen-Healey get more respect? This survivor is a near-pristine example of one, having been stored for 30 years! It’s located in Lenoir, North Carolina and is offered for sale here on craigslist for $9,500. I have no one to blame but my own craigslist searching for this find!

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I don’t know where the car was stored but evidently it was taken care of well. Presumably this is original paint; I know it’s an original color for these under-appreciated convertibles. Okay, I admit I don’t care for the color either, but it’s representative of the typical British palette for the time; it’s similar to if not identical to an MG color. The seller doesn’t specify running condition, but they have re-cored the radiator, added electronic ignition and replaced all belts and hoses, so I’m hoping it runs and drives as good as it looks.

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With a period luggage rack and a factory hardtop, you pretty much have all the Jensen-Healey options covered. I’m hoping that’s a replacement stainless exhaust system as well; that would be one more potential problem averted. The larger black bumpers of these later cars aren’t as clean looking as the early cars, but this means it’s a late enough car that it has the Getrag 5-speed manual instead of the Sunbeam Rapier sourced four-speed of earlier cars, a trade off I’d gladly make.

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As you might expect, the interior looks great too, although the different colors of veneer bother me a little. I’d want to see closeups of those (the seller states in the ad they will send more pictures on request) before assuming the wood is nice. I’m unsure whether I’m seeing cracks in the dash or not; if there aren’t any that will be a first for me since the 1980’s. If the buyer wants them and is willing to swing by Raleigh, I have a spare set of seats they can have for free!

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Here’s the Lotus 907 engine. I’m wondering if it has been worked on, as none of the black paint is present on the valve covers and it looks almost too clean to be real. I know the very first thing I would do if I purchased this car, unless there was a receipt and I could tell that it had just been done, is replace the timing belt. New ones are less than $30 here, but I would seriously consider changing the pulleys over to the later Lotus design as well, because then you can stretch the normal 18,000 mile belt change interval to at least 60,000 miles. Also–for those of you wondering if you could put air conditioning on, a friend of mine converted an MGB kit quite successfully many years ago and had the rest of us envious on really hot days. So there you have it; imagine a survivor TR6 in this condition–you’d expect a $20,000+ price. This is less than half of that and appears to be in superb shape. So would you give it a go?

Fast Finds

Comments

  1. wagon master

    I love these! Looks like a screaming deal!

  2. Howard A Member

    The Jensen-Healey was kind of the “Rodney Dangerfield” of British sports cars, ” I can’t get no respect”. While the later ones seemed a little better, the early ones had a lot of issues, and turned many people off. Gone was the steadfast reliability of the old push rod engines, and the camshaft(s) were turned by a belt. Something most Americans ( me included), just weren’t ready for. And for good reason. I’d NEVER buy a car with a timing belt again. To me, that ( the timing belt) was just a ploy to limit the longevity of a motor. This one looks incredibly clean, but I’d stay away from it, and still go with the TR-6. I’m sure I’m not alone, and many people that bought these, probably wished they’d have gone with the TR-6 as well. And this color, sheesh.

  3. Brakeservo

    I worked for the largest Jensen/Jensen Healey dealer on the west coast when these were new – awful, terrible cars. If I saw one while driving, I’d say to my passenger – just watch, something will fall off – and it usually did! I was just a 19 year old kid and washed cars on the lot and swept the floor. One day actor William Conrad came in with his son to look at these. The salesman and son had been gone for 45 minutes on a test drive so Conrad asked me if such a long test drive was usual. Being a smart-assed kid I replied that when they were gone that long, usually we’d see them either pushing the car back or calling for a tow truck. Five minutes later, there was the salesman and Conrad’s son, pushing the little sports car down Van Nuys Blvd. back to the dealership!

    • A.J.

      Good story!

      The V12 XKE from the same era was similar (break down 50% of the time) but gets more respect. I would guess because it is better looking. Those wheels just never did it for me either.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Brakeservo, William Conrad, pushing a car? That I’d have liked to see. In case some younger readers don’t know who he was, he was a big man, starred in TV’s “Cannon” and “Jake and the Fat Man”. ( clearly, he was the “fat man”) I suppose the Jensen was one thing, but he’d never push that Lincoln.

      • Brakeservo

        Perhaps it’s funny, but I remember the car Conrad drove in – an Eldorado, not a Lincoln and for me, I remember him best as the narrator on the “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” I guess because I was really into cars, I remember a lot of the celebrities we sold cars to and what they drove – tennis star Billie Jean King drove (when it was running that is) a Jensen-Healey the same colour as this one, Peter Fonda, Kenny Loggins and David Cassidy all drove silver BMW 3.0CS Coupes (all were four-speeds except for Cassidy’s,) Angela Cartwright and Tony Franciosa both had Malaga (Maroon) BMW’s, Angela’s a 2002 automatic and Franciosa’s a Bavaria, Dennis Weaver drove an orange BMW 2002 tii, and although not a customer of this dealership, the very first Cadillac Eldorado I ever saw belonged to “TV Tommy” Ivo who lived around the corner from my childhood home. Oh, and it was Conrad’s son, not the actor who was pushing the JensenHealey with the salesman.

    • bill bazen

      brakeservo….please read my posted comment.great story!

  4. pat k

    I loved Healey’s, have owned two different models, and always lusted for a Lotus, but never have had the opportunity. I was just out of college when these came out, and wanted one badly. Sadly all I could afford was a used 72 B. I promised myself, once I got established financially, I would buy one. They did not last long enough for that to happen. I still think they are great looking cars, and what should have been a great combination of components…..except that air cleaner, it looks like a muffler….

  5. Brakeservo

    Geoff Healey told me years after this debacle, that originally they wanted to use the BMW 2002 engine in the Jensen Healey – what a magnificent automobile that would have been, but they couldn’t buy them from BMW. So, Jensen wound up being the Guinea Pig for the undeveloped Lotus 907 engine which was an absolute piece of junk when first produced and responsible for most of the car’s bad reputation and ultimate failure.

  6. Dolphin Member

    Interesting that the preferred engine for the Jensen Healey was a BMW. I’m not surprised that BMW would not sell them, especially to a British firm at a time when BMW were starting to have their first big success with their own winner in the marketplace, the 2002.

    It’s also interesting that BMW used a timing belt on exactly one engine series, the M20 series in the E30 cars, and then went back to timing chains on all subsequent lines. The M20 was a very reliable engine and the belt was easy to replace, but you had to keep track of the mileage on it to know when the next change was. I think BMW ended up having some of the same concerns that Howard had about belts.

    I remember some of the car mags saying they liked the Jensen Healey when it first came out, but a road test wasn’t like owning one long term. It was hard seeing so many of the British brands go downhill and get poor a reputation for quality and reliability after pretty much owning the import car market in No America for so long, especially around the time that the Japanese car industry was coming on strong, based as much on reliability as cheap prices. It really showed that developing and reliability testing your product before the selling started really mattered.

    • Steven C

      I wonder what it would have been like if they had gone totally out of the box for the time and had sourced a japanese dohc of some sort? That would have been great probably.

      • Brakeservo

        Were there any hot Japanese twin cams mass produced in the early ’70s?

  7. ROTAG999

    There s a local Dealer near me has one for 13K never going to sell it for that..

  8. Steven C

    I want one of these bad! All the issues with them are known and easily dealt with at this point. It has got to sound and feel awesome to wind out that 907 with the top down.

    Like 1
  9. Thetrick

    Had one and a dream to drive. Parts were tricky.

  10. HeadMaster1

    I like them, but would prefer the Jensen GT…….and of course it’s an Interceptor that really gets me excited

  11. Old geezer

    These cars were really Under appreciated because the car was not on par with the engine. One of the first 16v fours on the market. The engine was good, the car not so much. Prone to rust. However the interior was spacious by British standards.

    I snapped a timing belt and bent 8 valves. The valves are tricky to adjust because of the labor involved in shimming them. I had a tough time finding a mechanic who would do it.

    Sold it soon thereafter.

    Like 1
    • Brakeservo

      Admittedly for the early ’70s it was an advanced, almost exotic four banger with DOHC architecture and four valves per cylinder, but the early execution was terrible, oil blowing out the cam towers, camshafts seizing, porous aluminum castings and timing belts that would fly off below red line. Apparently all those problems are fixed now, but the poor Jensen Healey buyers were the test drivers for Lotus.

      Like 1
  12. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    I’ve seen several of these for $2-3,000, neat looking but never had the desire to pull the trigger. Funny, I have a Lotus, and it doesn’t have a Lotus engine, a 1.6 Isuzu instead, DOHC turbo at least, but has a timing belt as well.

    Like 1
  13. Pete

    Do your oil and belt changes, tighten the belt correctly, add pertronix ignition and you will not have problems. Apart from the above mentioned early development issues any sybsequent problems are down to neglect and ham fisted clods.

    They are real screamers to drive but if you have the four speed the car gets noisy at motorway speeds so rather tiring. Swapping in a eurospec Sierra 2 litre T9 5-speed gives a perfect set of ratios.

    Like 1
  14. 76Jensen

    There are a lot of comments here about how horrible and unreliable the Jensen with the 907 can be. My daily driver is a Jensen GT and it rarely lets me down. These are now old cars and, as long as you respect that, they can and will get you around while also being a blast to drive. The 907 engine, while initially problematic, was years ahead of anything else on the market at that price. And, if they had used the BMW 2002 engine, it would have lost 40 horsepower and what fun is that?

    Like 1
  15. brakeservo

    I think that your car runs well can be attributed to “Automotive Darwinism” in that the cures and fixes for these (and other) cars have evolved over the years so that now you car is quite likely a much better and reliable automobile than these ever were when off-loaded down in San Pedro after leaving the factory. Mechanical evolution.

    Like 1
    • 76Jensen

      Actually my GT is pretty much original, from the interior to the engine. You really need to try owning and operating one rather than relying upon hearsay. People love to share problems.

    • RedRacer

      you are quite right in that most of the original problems have been solved(e.g. leaking cam cover gaskets which lost much oil and had the cams seize up) by “field” mechanics; something the Japanese would have done at the factory. These cars are now quite reliable(one person I know even used it for his work as a pizza delivery boy!). Yes, they rightfully so got an initial “bad” rap, but things have changed dramatically so they are now not only reliable, but handle quite well even by current standards. Plus, they are easy to work on and quite inexpensive to maintain(unless you damage the body).

      Like 1
  16. brakeservo

    I’m glad you’re experiencing much motoring pleasure with your car – but my comments are not at all hearsay but first hand experience gained from working for a dealer that sold them from 1973 through 1976 or so. I’ve probably driven several hundred different Jensen Healeys and probably seen every manner of defect to which those cars exhibited. You have a GT – the roadster had been in production for a number of years before your car was built so has the advantage of all the experience gained through the earlier cars, which I still maintain – were horrible, awful cars . . . but today so many cars that were regarded as horrible or awful for many good reasons when new are now coveted – as examples consider the early VW Beetles, Citroen 2CV’s, Austin 850 Mini’s, old Ford Anglia’s and Prefects, Fiat 850’s and the list goes on and on and on! And I realize I’ve probably offended a great number of people with my list of cars that are now appreciated, but in their day almost hated, but such is life.

  17. bill bazen

    hey brakeservo……do you remember selling or lending an orange with black interior 74 1/2 Jensen healey convertible to an nbc tv show titled…MOVIN’ON?the show starred veteran actor claude akins.an episode was filmed right beside the golden gate bridge in san Francisco,ca. in early 1975.the title was “WEDDIN BELLS”.the episode guest star was janet leigh.janet was driving the car.it of coarse was broken down and along comes sonny Pruitt[claude akins] .he was a truck driver and believe it or not rolled the little orange car up into the back of his semi trailer.you can see this remastered episode at hulu.com.type in movin’on and then look for the season 1 episode weddin’ bells……bill

    • Brakeservo

      Hi Bill, I can’t remember the incident you recall, I do know that we rented some Healeys out to a production company though, and they’d always take three or four identical cars, just to make sure that they had at least one running! One of the dealership owners was some sort of motion picture producer so we always had all sorts of entertainers and actors, writers, directors etc. coming into the store. There’s good reason for multiple cars though, I was watching the filming of a scene in Portland years ago and Ryan O’Neal backed a new Bentley into a pickup truck – that was not part of the scene so it stopped filming until the Bentley could be fixed! There just weren’t any other new Bentleys that color available in Portland that day.

  18. bill bazen

    another shot of the Jensen healey beside the golden gate bridge in 1975.janet leigh is sitting in the car.claude akins is pushing it.

    Like 1

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