British Build Quality: 1974 Jensen Healey Roadster – Sold!

Feb 2020 | Classifinds, Sports Car Saturday

Update: This one got away, but if you have your heart set on something similar, email us the details of what you’re looking for or call Rudy directly at (908)295-7330

Positioned between Triumph’s TR-6 and Jaguar’s aging yet still gorgeous E-Type, the Jensen-Healey convertible sports car such as the 1974 example currently listed on Craigslist in Martinsville, New Jersey enjoyed mild success during its production run between 1972 and 1976.  The current caretaker of this yellow over black example has his car listed at $8,495, which relying on the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms he has his Mark II priced about halfway between the #2 “Excellent” appraisal of $12,900 and the #3 “Good” estimate of $6,400.   

The Jensen-Healey produced from 1972–76, with 10,503 produced, is the best-selling Jensen of all time. The 1974 example featured here is known as a MkII, of which 7,146 were produced.  Launched in 1972 as a fast, luxurious and competent convertible sports car, it was positioned in the market between the Triumph TR6 and the Jaguar E-Type. The 50/50 weight balance achieved by the use of the all-alloy Lotus 907 engine led to universal praise as having excellent handling.

When production of the Austin-Healey 3000 ended in 1967, Donald Healey opened discussions with Jensen Motors, who had built the bodies for Healey’s Austin-Healey cars. The largest Austin-Healey dealer in the U.S., San Francisco-based Kjell Qvale, was also keen to find a replacement to the 3000; Qvale would become a major shareholder of Jensen, making Donald Healey the chairman. The Jensen-Healey was developed in a joint venture by Donald Healey, his son Geoffrey, and Jensen Motors. Hugo Poole did the styling of the body, the front and back of which were later modified by William Towns to take advantage of the low profile engine and to allow cars for the U.S. market to be fitted with bumpers to meet increasingly strict U.S. safety regulations. The unitary body understructure was designed by Barry Bilbie, who had been responsible for the Austin-Healey 100, 100-6, and 3000 as well as the Sprite. It was designed to be easy to repair, with bolt-on panels, to keep insurance premiums down.

Early cars (1973-1974.5) such as the example featured here came fitted with two-piece steel and chrome bumpers originally designed for the Jensen-Healey.  The suspension was simple but effective with double wishbone and coil springs at the front, and a live rear axle with trailing arms and coils at the rear. Brakes consisted of discs at the front and drums at the rear. The suspension, steering gear, brakes, and rear axle were adapted from the Vauxhall Firenza with the exception of the front brakes, which were then widely used Girling Type 14 Calipers.  after experimenting with a variety of engines, Healey selected the new Lotus 907 engine to power his new car.  Not only did this new engine meet U.S. emissions of the period, but this engine was also the first modern dual overhead cam four-valve per cylinder engine to be mass-produced on an assembly line. North American versions came equipped with dual single throat Zenith Strombergs.

Unfortunately, the 1973 Arab oil embargo hit Jensen Motors hard, greatly damaging the sales of its very large Chrysler-440-powered model and thus degrading its financial condition as a whole.  After a slow ramp up, by 1974 Lotus was finally able to supply the required number of engines and production reached 86 cars a week but despite this, the overall situation proved to be too much for the company, which, amid labor strikes, component shortages and inflation, proceeded to liquidate in 1975 and then close in May 1976.

In unrestored and original condition, this example appears to be in well cared for condition with only 90K original miles.  The owner honestly states the current good, bad, and ugly of this 45 year British quality sports car and find it humorous they are willing to trade it for the right BMW Z3, Porsche Boxster, or Honda S200.  Good luck with the purchase!

Here’s the seller’s description:

“1974 Jensen Healey Roadster For Sale.

!! If the Ad is Up She Is Still Available !!

Original, unrestored, numbers matching Jensen Healey, one of 10,503 made. Just passed 90,000 miles. 2.0L 16 Valve Lotus 907 Engine with twin Dellorto 45 carburetors & 4 Speed Manual Gearbox.

The Good:
– Unrestored & Original!
– Starts, Runs & Stops
– Chrome Bumper Model + Original Alloy Wheels
– All Gauges Work
– Pretty Much Complete
– 3 Owners & History is Known
– 30 Years of Receipts for Work Done

The Bad:
– Unrestored & Original!
– 45+ Year Old British Build Quality
– Transmission leaking from seals
– Hot Starting Issue, probably Electrical

Looking for $8,495. May trade for BMW Z3, S2000 or Boxster..”

Do you have a Jensen Healey story you’d like to share?  Comment below and let us know!

1 Comment

  1. Analog Man

    I had a 1972 Jensen-Healy in the 70’s, which I bought right after selling a mid-engine V8 Corvair. Stupid and naïve college kid that I was, I rationalized that the Jensen-Healy would be more “practical” and “sensible” transportation for a cash-strapped college kid than the race car Corvair (being old now, I can’t use the young and naïve excuse anymore, so it’s down to just plain stupid…).

    It was my first British car, though followed by a string of others. Lots of other kids at school had MG’s; I wanted something different, something more ‘sophisticated’. The Jensen-Healy was certainly that. The Lotus engine was a revelation; it’s smooth, purring song was deliriously intoxicating. It put to shame the tractor-like rackets clattering from my friend’s pedestrian MG’s and Spitfires.

    Though it didn’t have the dramatically curvaceous and sexy styling of the Austin-Healy 3000, the Jensen-Healy was uncommon even at the time. I never saw another one on the road (maybe that should have told me something). Even with somewhat restrained styling, it looked and felt exotic, a cut above more common British iron.

    At the ripe old age of 19, I’d already been through about 30 cars by then. The Jensen-Healy made me feel refined and cultured far beyond my very modest means and lowly roots. I thought it was the perfect car in which to take my love-of-my-life, impossibly beautiful but also staggeringly intelligent and irresistibly interesting and captivating, and totally out of my league, girlfriend at the time out on dates. What could be better than tooling around the curvy, bucolic, leafy country roads of upstate New York in an “exotic” European convertible sports car with the girl of my dreams by my side?

    It was her favorite car of all the ones I’d owned until then. She liked the velvety yet edgy music of the exhaust. She could tell it was me coming from a block away when I would pick her up at school. She was tickled by how her friends would take notice of the guy in the sharp blue sports car coming for her – it sounded completely unlike the typical lumbering ‘Merican muscle cars most of the guys drove at the time. She didn’t realize that I spent hours honing and perfecting that finely-tuned exhaust note by strategically drilling holes in the muffler until it had what I thought was a close approximation of the glorious noises I fell in love with watching the races at Lime Rock (I didn’t have the money for an Ansa exhaust, and drilled only through the bottom of the muffler, rationalizing that airflow would keep fumes from getting inside and killing too many brain cells)(time has shown that I was probably very wrong about that).

    Being my first British car, I learned first-hand about English construction quality. Which was, honestly, abysmal. The car’s recent history as a theft recovery probably didn’t help much. It wasn’t the easiest car to work on, with the distributor thoughtfully and conveniently located underneath the intake manifold. I still have a few burn mark scars on my hands as helpful reminders to never touch a Jensen-Healy distributor unless the engine has completely cooled overnight.

    I remember the convertible top making extensive use of Velcro rather than snaps or some more secure mechanical method of fastening. Even though it was only 5 years old by the time I had it, the deteriorating Velcro already had at best a tenuous association with holding power. It worked fine up until about 50 mph. At higher speeds it would slowly start unpeeling. Long highway trips would be a repeating series of incidents where the top would pull away from the frame and billow like an out-of-control spinnaker on a sailboat, attached only at the windshield. This required stopping about every 20 minutes or 20 miles (whichever came first) to re-Velcro everything back together. It was especially entertaining in the rain and at night. Having the top blow off on a dark and rainy chilly night was not at all amusing to my amazing girlfriend, decked out in an eye-popping dress as I tried to impress her on a fancy dinner date (as fancy as a poverty stricken college student could afford). She wasn’t quite as smitten with the silken exhaust sound after that.

    With the car falling out of favor with my dream-girl girlfriend, it was time to move on. Having had enough of British blacksmithery for the moment, I thought I should try something from the opposite end of the spectrum. A car built to exacting standards, by a company and country renowned for craftsmanship, engineering prowess, and dependability. Something… German. Being a part-time employed college student with very limited funds, yeah, that was gonna work out really well. I traded the Jensen-Healy to a guy who had done his own backyard amateur bondo-filled ‘restoration’ of an unbelievably rusty 1962 Porsche 356 Cabriolet.

    I should have asked my girlfriend first. She liked the Jensen-Healy better. It was an omen of how things would go with the 356 (and, unfortunately, with my out-of-my-league girlfriend too….).


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