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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced from:1938 - 1939
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:December 15, 2008
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Click here to download printer friendly versionIn 1936 the brothers Alan and Richard Jensen launched the first car bearing their name. Up until then they had merely produced bodies for chassis constructed by others. Particularly their elegant designs for Austin and Standard chassis were very popular. Following in the footsteps of William Lyons the two brothers decided to expand their business and offer complete vehicles, resulting in the 'Model S' that entered production late in 1936.

To save time and expenses, the Jensen brothers decided to build their new car around an existing engine; the popular Ford flat-head V8. Displacing just over 3.6 litre, the sidevalve engine produced 89 bhp. Shortly after the launch of the first Jensen, the range was extended with a smaller version of the same engine. Although this cheaper version was intended to attract more customers it did not sell very well because the 2.2 litre V8 completely lacked power.

One of the more unusual features of the Jensen was the drivetrain, which featured two gearboxes. The engine itself was mated to the standard three speed gearbox. However, to add performance a Columbia two-speed axle was fitted to give a total of six forward and two reverse gears. The Jensen built chassis was a very conventional affair, consisting of a steel ladder frame, suspended by a beam axle at the front and a live axle at the rear.

Not surprising the real beauty of the Jensen Model S was the carefully crafted aluminium coachwork. The Jensen was available with a choice of open and closed bodies. Especially the four-seater Sports Tourer version was a work of art. The rear passenger compartment was separate from the driver's and sported two small windscreens. Access to the passenger compartment was through a single door on the left side of the car.

As they were still considered a coachbuilder, Jensen Motors ltd. was not allowed to display their cars at the popular Earls Court Motor Show. The company was nevertheless noticed and quickly found customers on both sides of the Atlantic. The motoring press was unanimous in their praise for this remarkable newcomer to the market. With its relatively low weight and potent engine the Model S also faired remarkably well in races and rallies. In 1937 one example won its class in the Welsh Rally.

In 1938 Jensen was finally allowed into Earls Court and they marked the occasion with the introduction of the Model H. It was similar to the original Jensen but was fitted with independent front suspension and the fantastic Nash straight eight . The advanced twin-spark engine put out 120 bhp. Especially for the American market some Model Hs were fitted with a Lincoln V12 engine. A final development was the Model HC with coil sprung rear suspension.

Production was eventually cut short by the outbreak of World War II and once peace returned to Europe a new range of Jensen vehicles was under preparation. The company would continue to build both complete cars and separate coachwork for some time to come. Like the original late 1930s models the most successful post-War Jensens like the CV8 and the Interceptor used American powerplants.

Today the pre-War Jensens are very rare and little known. Fortunately some have survived to remind us of the craftsmanship of Alan and Richard Jensen and their employees. Possibly the best example is pictured above. Fully restored, this Model H Sports Tourer was shown at the 2008 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance where it looked right at home.

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  Article Image gallery (8) Specifications