The Jensen Interceptor – the height of Seventies hand built chic, a GT with one of the best names in our four-stroke kingdom and as unashamedly blokey as Sir Henry Cooper splashing on Brut – is a superbly judged blend of British engineering, crisp Italian styling and big capacity US muscle.
If you grew up in Britain during the Seventies and Eighties far beyond the realm of ‘that there London’, as I did, an Interceptor really was a frequent yet enthralling spot for an I-SPY Cars packing short-trousered car nut. Aston Martins, Ferraris and Lamborghinis may have been popular spots in the gold-lined streets of the capital, but these machines seldom ventured into the sticks.
The Interceptor really was a rare achievement, for it represented a British car done well during an era when its compatriots usually came with a sick note and an apology for tardiness from its troubled manufacturer. All of which made the end of Jensen Motors in 1976 very hard to swallow.
Subsequently there have been attempts to resurrect the Jensen Interceptor – it is a car which has popped in and out of Death’s grasp more often than a pussycat addicted to Russian roulette – but none have been as different as this, a machine nicknamed the Viperceptor. Built by Brook Anderson – an habitual car modifier – he has dubbed his creation the Jensen Interceptor SE. Intended as a gentleman’s GT (the ‘SE’ bit is short for Segrave as in Sir Henry O’Neil de Hane Segrave the racer cum land/water speed record holder) and as a diversion from Brook’s main and frequent modifying muse, the MG MGB GT. (Needless to say, this distracting Interceptor therapy hasn’t really worked…)
“My young lady considers me unwell!” laughs Brook. “When I buy a new set of wheels, she makes remarks like, ‘when you bought the car didn’t it have wheels on it!?!’
“Yes from a very young man, I’ve just found classic cars – more than any other – very interesting. Although I had a brand-new M6 and pulled it apart to take it up to 615bhp, so I have played with modern cars too – but I love cars withcharacter. Cars with personality that you see what the man was thinking when he designed it. Whereas today, you only see ‘will it be reliable and will it be economical?’ which I find a bit dull.”
Just as the second generation Sixties Interceptor could be said to have been a Carrozzeria Touring reinterpretation of the Eric Neale 1950 designed Interceptor, this is the 1966 model injected with a dose of the 21st Century. An enthralling mechanised beast with an exhaust bark to match its considerable performance V10 bite.
“I took it down the Kings Road the other day, and when girls take their phones out to take a picture, you know you have something quite interesting. Everyone was gawping and the sun was just dropping, so the angel eye lights were on. I suppose it was quite mysterious, because no-one could quite label it…”
From where did the idea come? “I was on the internet and I saw a picture of a modernised Interceptor which was a drawing by Keith Anderson, who was associated with the Jensen Owners’ Club, and there was a company which claimed to build them. So I phoned them – no reply; and I emailed them – no reply… I ended up thinking ‘why not build it’?
Initially the plan was to build a visual replica along the lines of Anderson’s sketch. A 1974 car was found in good condition, which had been stored for 20 years. However, once the build was underway, the engine started experiencing trouble.
“I ended up weighing the cost of fixing it – not knowing how many things would be wrong – or replacing it with a Chrysler SRT8 V8… When the engine was removed though, everyone was getting excited at the amount of space there was – saying that the Viper V10 would fit,” says Brook, who took little time to locate a third-generation 8000-mile Viper V10.
“As we now know, it doesn’t fit that easily… To get it sitting back far enough behind the front cross-member to give it quite a bit of balance, which we now have, we had to cut all the bulkhead out, redesign the inner wings, change all the transmission tunnel to get the gearbox to fit and strengthen the chassis.”
So was that the worst part of the build? “Yes, the nightmare of this job was the engine – getting it in, getting it started, getting it running and balanced. The engine must have been in and out 60 times… We had a couple of problems with the custom-made propshaft under heavy load. When you accelerated hard from stationary, there was a certain vibration – but that was resolved and everything runs smoothly.
“The project has taken two and half years, but that was mainly my fault because my interpretation of how it should sit, how the wheelarches, front and rear valances should look.
“In reality, it was not right and it took a number of attempts to get the ride height correct and we had to get that right, before we even made the wheelarches… You know what it’s like, sometimes you can go down a road and it’s truly the wrong road – you’re getting further and further away from where you really want to be with the car. Being a designer, detail is everything to me and I wanted it how it is now – it sits great. What made me happy was when a friend of mine, who is an architect, came to see it before it was painted and said, ‘It looks like a Great White Shark’. I thought, ‘that’s it, that’s where it needs to stay!’”
It’s tempting to think that once all the big hardware was installed, then the rest of the project was all tickety-boo, sweetness and light – but no. Even some of the smaller details decided to get a bit prickly…
Brook recalls: “The headlights are originally from a Chrysler 300C and they sit at a greater angle in that car, but when they were fitted to the Interceptor I don’t think anyone gave it a great deal of thought where the light line would be. What we had to do was open up the sealed units, and juggle all of the innards around to get the light to have some sort of relevance to the MoT.
“So I would rather have someone hit the wing than hit one of the lights! They cost so much to do, because again it was all trial and error.
“Jimmy at Valley Gas Speed Shop did 75% of the work, the interior was undertaken by Trimmania and the engine was both done by another company. The guy who did the paintwork, Andy, was a really talented guy – you can see a feature line going down the side of the car and for us to get that spot-on, was very very difficult for him. So there were about four companies involved, I always tried to go to the shop which specialised. Talking of the side, you can see the detailing – the way it kinks out – well, if you look at the new Camaro, that is exactly where it comes from…”
Inside the theme of evolution continues because Brook wanted to retain the Jensen vibe – especially its dash, front and rear bucket seats – even down to those original headrests. In order to spot the differences, it’s necessary to whip out the magnifying glass to examine the double-stitching on the leather, the two different types of leather hides on the seats (one is softer on the seat faces for better comfort) and echoing the centre console, wireless Bluetooth dials that are sunk into the dash are framed with Alcantara (the original analogue dials wouldn’t co-operate with the V10).
Rolling on 20inch Jeep alloys – yes, Brook is keen on maintaining the Chrysler connection – with Falken FK45 228/30R20 tyres, the brakes are far beefier than before. Suitable Hi Spec brakes were found for the front, but for the rear bespoke discs and calipers had to be made.
“The braking is so different! I have a standard Jensen, which is going to be the donor car for the next one, and I’ve been driving it quite a bit and the difference in the braking is utterly unbelievable. It’s a lot of car and it needs a lot of braking,” says Brook.
“The springs have been upgraded and the dampers are all adjustable – at the moment the way its set it’s bordering between soft and firm, which keeps it nice. So if you turn into a corner at high-speed it keeps pretty flat. The comfort is there though and the great thing about it is there is room. You don’t feel like you’re being shoehorned into a high-performance car – despite it being high performance.
“I think if it was any stiffer then it would be a bit rattly and I don’t what that – it is really a GT – so you want something with straight-line speed and comfort. The only problem is the stainless steel Magnaflow exhaust is a bit ‘boo-ey’ but that’s because I wanted it to have that really chunky sound.”
So is that it then – is it all done and dusted? “I’m not mad about the steering, it’s a bit light and we were thinking about putting a restrictor on it to make it a bit heavier but I think the main problem is the age of the steering. I think it would maybe benefit from electronic steering, a newer rack or something like that.
“You know, when driving cars, steering is so important – it’s like the seat of your pants – it gives you the confidence to do what you want to do with the car. So on the next one – which there definitely will be – I will do an electronic system. It’s such a difficult thing to get right, the steering on this has improved a lot by simply changing the pressure in the tyres. There are so many things which can interfere with the type of feedback you get…
“I’m very happy where it is now though – it is finished. I’m not mad about it, because for me, it’s the doing not the having.
“I’m thinking of doing a lightweight one with the SRT8, manual gearbox, lots of carbon fibre, two seats, Alcantara interior and rollcage. To describe it simply, if you look at this as being the gentleman’s carriage, the next one will be the hooligan’s wagon.
“If I can take the weight off this – there are various parts, the bonnet is so heavy it’s unbelievable – it will make up for the slight loss of power running a V8… So if you can think of a car in satin black or white with carbon fibre, that will be the finished thing. Imagine it with hidden headlights behind a full-width grille – like the 1968 Dodge Charger – to give a Basking Shark type mouth… I’m also thinking of changing the rear lights too,” admits Brook.
“At the moment the V10 is to Viper tune, but what I’m planning on doing – if I keep the car – is changing the management so I can play around with it a lot more… There are some very good systems out there, but it depends on how much use I get out of the car and if I fall in love with it. At the moment I like it, but I’m not in love with it. I’m thinking more about the next one.”
So you’re obviously thinking of building more? “If I build these, I want every one to be different. I’m not trying to go out there and say that we will be supplying you with a modern-day Jensen, what we’re really doing is tailoring a suit. Something that fits you, so you know that you can drive, for example, from here to John O’Groats and no-one is going to pull up with the same car…”
Jensen Interceptor SE Technical Specification
Custom all-steel bodywork and trim, de-locked diode-operated doors, black chrome, Chrysler 300C angel eye headlamps, Sixth-generation Ford Fiesta door mirrors. Re-fabricated bulkhead, transmission tunnel and inner wings to accept V10. Stiffened ssuspension towers, front suspension cross-member fully boxed in and strengthened, chassis tubular strut bars. 1 5/8 in CDS tubular chassis cradle fully welded into OE tubular chassis.
Third Generation 8.2-litre Dodge V10 running OE management, tubular manifolds with merge collectors in stainless steel, custom induction kit, custom-made 3in stainless-steel exhaust system with balance pipe and Borla exhaust boxes, custom-made tail-pipes
Four-speed automatic from SRT10 Dodge, limited slip differential.
Front: stiffened uprated coil springs, fully adjustable dampers, stiffened boxed-in A-arms fitting with urethane bushes. Uprated anti-roll bar.
Rear: live axle with uprated leaf springs, fully adjustable dampers, uprated anti-roll bar, twin tubular anti-tramp bars.
Front: Hi Spec 14½in vented and slotted discs with six-pot calipers.
Rear: Hi Spec 13½in vented and slotted discs with four-pot calipers
Wheels & Tyres
Jeep 20in alloys with Falken FK45 228/30R20 tyres.
Leather custom retrim with wireless Bluetooth dials, leather three-spoke Moto Lita steering wheel and blue courtesy lighting.