Friday, March 25, 2016

Bang & Mash: 1974 Jensen-Healey

The Jensen-Healey was one of those automotive mashups that didn't quite gel into something memorable enough for everyone to instantly recognize & adore, decades later. The combination of names sounds impressive, but the finished product left something to be desired, unlike the more successful joint ventures that have reached LEGEND status... e.g. Shelby Cobra. Kaiser Darrin. Nash Metropolitan. BMW Isetta. OK, maybe I'm getting a bit far into left field here. At any rate, find this 1974 Jensen Healey for sale in Alamagordo, NM for $6,500 via craigslist. Tip from Johnny Bouncewell.

Compared to lots of low-volume '70s sporty cars the Jensen-Healey looks pretty restrained, even with its angular removable hardtop. This 1974 model has bigger Federally mandated bumpers but retains the old 4-speed Chrysler sourced transmissions - 75 and 76 models got a BMW-spec Getrag 5-speed.

This car doesn't look to be in poor shape and has a claimed 52,800 miles on the odometer. So why haven't J-H values taken off, like the A-H before it? Maybe it's the undistinguished styling, or the compromises that were made to the final spec in order to sell it in the US during the beginning of the emissions control era. Or maybe, you know, the crummy build quality and terrible reliability.

The Lotus 907 engine isn't a swap, it's what these cars had from the factory. It's a 2.0L twin cam 4-cyl that made about 140hp when new. The dual Zenith/Stromberg carbs could be upgraded to a set of Euro-spec Dell'Ortos for a power bump, assuming your state of residence doesn't have a visual emissions inspection for 1974 vehicles.

This interior looks like a decent place to spend some driving time - again - why is this thing so cheap? It certainly couldn't be down to the marque's racing provenance - I myself happen to have driven in a 24 Hours of LeMons race where two Jensen-Healeys were competing, one of which was driven by none other than Neil Peart, drummer of the band Rush (who are finally in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame). So I dunno, maybe the J-H is due for some appreciation.

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  1. Oh, I've driven one of these! Granted I drove it just after it was pulled out of long term storage and just before it became a long term project (it's still in my parents garage...not MY project!).

    This one has a lot going for it, uncracked dash, looks like a new brake reservoir?, someone replaced the stock airfilter setup, which is probably a good thing. Not sure why the plastic around the steering column is off, maybe they replaced one of the control stalks?

    The one in the garage had a lot of rust, it's somewhere in the process of getting new floors and rockers and quarter panels. This one may not have that problem since it's outside the rust belt.

  2. If only they didn't look like someone ran nose first at 2mph into a cinderblock wall and replaced the squished parts with a steel plate.

  3. This was one of the cars in my "head buried in car magazines" stages of my youth that I could hardly breathe until it was released. A new Healey! Wahhh-wahhh. After my initial disappointment deep dislike took hold. I owned one in the 90's. It wasn't terrible.

    The engine had the upper end rebuilt and was always nice to run through the gears, but the neither offend, nor impress anyone styling is still not my cup of Earl Grey.

    Scott: Not your project until it gets evicted from the garage. :)

    1. I really want to believe that I could finish that project, but I hope I never have have to find out since it's my brothers car :)

  4. Not sure why these have not caught on either. Series one Lotus Esprit's go for a pretty penny. Other examples of coach builders using other manufactures engines abound. Fiat Dino's have been exploding in price the last few years now the word is is out that your "fix it again Tony" car has a Ferrari V6 in it!

    If Jensen Intercepters with a 440 Chrysler, and a Ford OSI 20M TS with a Cologne V6 , or Pantera, Sunbeam Tiger, amongst others with proven American engines can fetch big money, why no love for JH?

    Get one before people catch on!

    1. If I had enough money to blow, I'd buy up a couple hundred of these, clean them up, and sell them with the buyer's choice of an LNF turbo or LS3.

      I really believe there is a market for modest (100-1000) product runs of 'updated' old hardware. Whether you can sell them for what it costs to build them (plus enough profit to keep going) is another question.

    2. Good call mrkwong. This is already happening with Fiat 124's out in California. Can't remember the name of the company doing it, but they are buying up delinquent 124s, refurbishing them, and selling them at three different escalating price points.

      I'm in the process of launching a company that takes solid drivers/mechanically sound vehicles and renting them out to the public for organized tours. I think there is a market.

  5. Saw one last year that had an LS3 in it, plenty of room, looked like it'd been built that way.

    Just sayin'...

    I didn't drive it, and I don't know what ELSE had been done or not done, I'm sure the stock Vauxhall rear suspension probably responds to 400 Clydesdales a little differently than 140 Shetland ponies.

  6. A local dealer has one he normally has Muscle car's but he is asking over 13K for it. I laughed !


    1. $14K for what looks like a well kept example? I think the price is spot on. At least from a dealer. Looks better than this example, but this one still looks decent at $6,500.

  8. Grew up riding on the rear bench in one of these w/ my brother, it fit our little family of four just fine (operative word little)! Dad hung on to it until he passed a few years ago and we sold it for Mom (a little over $5k), but I always wanted to keep it and see where the prices went. Was super fun in its day - lots of memories!

  9. Owned one. They haven't gone up in value because: 1. they came pre-rusted from the factory and its been downhill ever since. 2. Mid-70s British build quality. 3. Great engine married to just ok chassis, all revs, limited torque. 3. transitional styling between classic and forgettable. 4. Mention you own a JH and everyone thinks its an Interceptor. Their smile disappears when you explain that it is not. Fun enough cars but not destined to become a collectors item.


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