My name is Graham and I have a bit of a thing about 70s cars. Particularly GT cars. There, I’ve said it. Jensen, Aston, Iso, Jaguar, I love them all. And the more proprietary their parts, the more I love them. Which is why I nominate the Jensen Interceptor as the best British GT car of the 1960s and 70s. Here’s why. Luckily, and without a hint of smugness, I’ve been fortunate enough to drive most of Britain’s GT output from the 1970s as part of my day job running Great Escape Classic Car Hire. Not all of them, but enough to perhaps make a judgement call.
The daddy of British GT cars for many, tr Aston started life as a svelte 60s DBS and ended it in the 80s as a white bodykitted acid casualty. In between it adopted fancy wheels and a bonnet cowl, and a hand built v8. I’ve driven a Volante and coupe from the 70s and 80s. The coupe runs the Jensen very close for style and probably edges it for on-road presence and drama, but it lacks the refined, cohesive feel of the Jensen. It’s heavy, noisy and feels like a combination of components rather than a fully formed design. As a buying proposition its major downsides compared to the Jensen are purchase price – at least twice that of a Jensen – and the twin devils of a handbuilt v8 and, to be polite, ‘premium priced’ specialists. Oh, and the Volante is awful, a pumped up badly built Mustang with a terrible case of the tremors.
Laughable as it may now seem given their respective values but the DB6 was a close rival of the Jensen when they were both launched in the mid 60s. Today a semi-decent DB6 is 10 times the price of a comparable Interceptor. And the Jensen is a much, much better car. The Aston, likey all Astons, has remarkable presence but to my eyes it doesn’t look as good as the Interceptor. It does have superlative steering and a decent ride, plus proper space for 4, but it again lacks the refinement and comfort of a good Interceptor. The engine feels agricultural and the car drives rather like a truck. I love the Aston for its sense of occasion; my point is to burst the bubble a little that puts the DB6 in the rarefied world of exotica. On simple merits, the Jensen is a better car.
Jaguar had been slowly turning the E Type into a GT during its lifetime but only truly hit the mark when it launched the XJS in 1975. Combining styling cues from a variety of GT sources, the Jaguar was meant to be the exclusive GT with the reassurance of mass manufacturing behind it. The big hole in that concept, of course, was that the mass manufacturer in question was BL, a company whose workers could threaten to walk out if their tea bags were changed from PG to Tetley. The big v12 Jag is a very, very good car, far better than it ever gets credit for. It handles neatly, rides brilliantly and has a super smooth v12. The problem for me, compared to the Jensen, is that it’s very familiarity makes it a bit too mainstream and unremarkable. The three speed auto box is also useless, blunting the engagement, and the interior is pretty low rent on pre-90s cars. It runs a Jensen close, but no cigar. Still, buy an early one before they go intergalactic.
As the last Jensens shuffled off the production line, along came the 928. The 928 came from a different planet, an advanced, aerodynamic GT right at the cutting edge of trans continental mile munching so beloved of GT man. The trouble is, whisper it, it’s not very good. I owned one for a couple of years and grew to dislike it intensely. Sure, it cost me thousands and thousands of pounds, which I could have forgiven if it had been astonishing to drive. It wasn’t. The 928 looks good, it is well built and it is comfortable. It’s quick. It grips the road. But it’s too wide, too heavy and tries too hard to be a sports car. A true GT is a cruiser that can lift it’s skirts when it neess to. The 928 gets the balance all wrong – it wants to race but is too lardy to be much good. It’s a good car, just not a great one.
Pitched against the list above, the Jensen isn’t perfect. It’s an old skool ride with basic engineering. It has poor ventilation. But it does so much so well. It rides well, it has lovely steering and a slurry, robust gearbox. The engine pushes the GT vibe to the limit with 7.2 litres. It handles ably. It is superbly comfortable. The interior, whether you go for an early or late car, is space age GT. And it still looks brilliant. A- if you had to draw a GT car blindfolded, chances are it would look like an Interceptor. So there you have it, an entirely subject but frankly entirely correct assessment of the 70s GT. Now, where’s my Cinzano?
We have various GT cars for hire from several locations. Www.greatescapecars.co.uk 01527 893733