2003 Jensen S-V8

Lake Vyrnwy, Wales– American power and Italian looks made the British-built Jensen Interceptor a happening sports car in the ’60s and ’70s. Dormant as a manufacturer since 1976, Jensen Motors is inching back into business with the S-V8 roadster. The shape might not delight everyone, but the two-seater turns heads and prompts excited questions.

Key elements include aluminum body panels and a control-arm suspension at all four corners. Unlike its Chrysler-powered ancestors, the S-V8 gets its grunt from the hand-built DOHC 4.6-liter V-8 from Ford‘s Special Vehicle Team, producing 320 horsepower and 317 pound-feet of torque. With a smooth-shifting five-speed manual gearbox, the 2922-pound Jensen’s potential for smoking tires and pumping adrenaline is immediately apparent. Our time blasting around Wales gave credence to Jensen’s claims of 0 to 60 mph in less than five seconds and a top speed in excess of 160 mph.

Neat instruments and supportive seats create a positive impression that’s reinforced by the user-friendly clutch, superb steering, and the brawny V-8’s inspirational music. The car offers a good compromise between comfort and agility, although seriously sporty drivers will wish for stiffer suspension settings.

The S-V8 boasts good packaging behind the spacious, comfortable cockpit, too. The soft top stows beneath a flush-fitting panel, the trunk is big enough for a weekend’s worth of luggage for two, and the twenty-gallon fuel tank provides an adequate cruising range.

The revitalized Jensen Motors is now faced with the challenge of finding buyers for some 600 S-V8s a year (none of them in the United States). In Britain, the car costs more than such rivals as the S, which shows how much tougher things have gotten for small-scale players since Jensen last cruised down the freeway of love.