Today’s Rare Ride will mark the third Jensen featured in this series. Both our prior Jensen examples were produced by the company in 1975, but for very different customers and at very different price points. The P66 seen here is one of just two prototypes ever produced, planned to launch an all-new line at Jensen. But what happened?
In the early Sixties, Jensen produced exactly two cars: the four-seat C-V8 grand tourer, and the 541S that was a slightly smaller four-seat grand tourer. Both cars shared the same 105-inch wheelbase and were available with V8 engines. The C-V8 was a newer design as it debuted in 1962, and replaced the 541S in production between 1960 and 1963.
At the time, BMC was in charge of Austin-Healey and Jensen and wanted a combined replacement for the C-V8 and the Austin-Healey 3000. BMC chose the C-V8’s designer, Eric Neale, to work up the Jensen-Austin replacement car which would wear Jensen badges. The primary request was the new car be suitable for the US market.
Project underway, Neale penned an aluminum body on top of a tube chassis. The heavier construction was in contrast to the fiberglass norm at Jensen. Built as a 2+2 grand tourer, the newly minted P66 would be available in coupe and convertible formats. P66 was a bit smaller than the C-V8 it was to replace and had a 102-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 176 inches (C-V8 was 184″). The company was also considering a new name for the design: Interceptor.
Power for the P66 arrived from America, in the form of 4.5- or 6.3-liter Chrysler V8s, the latter of which was also used in the C-V8. Transmissions were also Chrysler, a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic or four-speed manual. A more affordable model, the new P66 was to cost 37 percent less than the V8-powered C-V8.
The convertible was shown first at the 1965 London Motor Show to favorable reception. The media noticed the strakes over the wheel arches looked dated, so when the second (coupe) prototype was produced, Neale removed the strakes. Though the reception was positive enough for both Jensen brothers (the company founders) to recommend the P66 enter production, they weren’t the ones in charge. The Norcros Group holding company held financial control of struggling Jensen since 1959, and its directors had a different view. While they agreed a P66 type car needed development, they felt it should have bodywork styled by an Italian. Other management agreed with the view, and the company contracted with Touring of Milan to draw up a new car instead. Said design would eventually be called Interceptor and was produced in Italy at the Vignale factory.
The cancellation of the P66 project left its designer and both Jensen brothers annoyed and feeling they had no place at Jensen. All three resigned in short order. The convertible P66 was taken apart and sold off, though the coupe remained intact. That leads us to today’s Rare Ride. The only P66 in existence, the coupe has been thoughtfully restored and presently lives in the Netherlands awaiting a buyer. This one-of-one is yours for $238,000.[Images: Jensen]