Jensen-Healey Mk.2 1973-75

The Jensen-Healey Mk.2 superseded the Mk.1 in August 1973 at a time when most of the teething troubles with those cars had been sorted out (go here for a review of the Mk.1).

Jensen’s owner, Kjell Qvale, was looking for a trouble-free run in recouping the large amount of money he had invested in the project. Unfortunately for him, and for Jensen, trouble which no-one could foresee lay just over the horizon. The Six-Day war which shook the Middle East two months later sparked off the first of the oil shocks of the 1970s and in its wake came rampant inflation, steeply rising oil prices and the marked downturn in motoring consumerism which would contribute to the demise of Jensen Motors Ltd. two years later.

The Jensen-Healey was phased out in August 1975 just as the refined estate-bodied version of the same chassis — the GT — entered production. One month later, a Receiver was called in at Kelvin Way and a last-ditch effort was mounted to try to find someone brave enough to take over the ailing business. Regrettably, there were no takers, and no support came from the Labour government of the day. As a result, Jensen Motors Ltd. closed its doors in May 1976.

Jensen-Healeys were still being shipped while all this was going on and they have, therefore, a link with the closing stages in the history of the West Bromwich concern. When one looks at them today, it seems to be the Mk.2s — with their improved interiors and 5-speed gearboxes on the last examples — which are the more sought-after variants. They are slightly younger than the Mk.1s, more numerous as well and a bit more refined so, all else being equal, they usually change hands at slightly higher prices. Of course, if you’re rebuilding them for competition or undertaking full restorations, it really doesn’t matter what you start with.

Except for detail changes, Jensen-Healeys don't vary all that much. Jensen Motors saw a fresh opportunity with the Mk.2 to make up for the poor reputation of the earlier cars and consequently greater efforts were made to get the Mk.2 right. Alterations to the engine specification of the late Mk.1s meant that the engines were unlikely to suffer the failures experienced on many early cars. Bodywise, the Mk.2s were an improved car and they looked better too as a result of some simple paint and fittings changes. The hoods fitted properly and water leaks were less of a problem. The cars also came with more stylish interiors.

Mk.2s can be distinguished from Mk.1s by their revised dashboards and consoles which feature a greater blend of woodgrain trim (some fake, some not) and their curved-profile headlight surrounds, the nacelles of which were painted black. Many detail improvements were introduced through the two-year production run, the most obvious being the Federally-mandated heavy impact bumpers on the last 2,200 cars (from approx. VIN 18300) and 5-speed Getrag gearboxes on the final 1,600 cars (from VIN 18900). Mk.2s may also be identified by their chassis numbers which lie in the range 13350 to 20504. Many came with the optional hardtop but this was about the only factory option. The United States operation devised an airconditioning retrofit which was sometimes installed by dealers.

Aside from the regular production, three other Mk.2s were built. One was number 20505, built on a spare shell left over from the 1976 closure and completed for a client in 1977 by Jensen Parts & Service (JP&S), a successor organization to Jensen Motors Ltd. Another was built by JP&S for racing in 1976, used for a second season in 1977, then retired road-registered in 1979. The third was built by JP&S Parts Manager Bruce Collard on a chassis which he purchased from the Receiver in 1976. He built it up over several years and first registered it in 1980. It is the last Jensen-Healey known to have been built.

In all, 7144 Mk.2s were roaded. The total includes pre-production prototype PP104 which was used to test the Getrag 5-speed gearbox and a Borg-Warner automatic transmission (not adopted for production). PP104 was renumbered in the production series as 1140/16200 and sold to one of the factory employees with a 4-speed overdrive box, a modification which became popular in the UK in the 1980s. Not all chassis numbers were brought through to road-going standard.

Coming to the cars, the chassis prefix tells us the drive and market area. Broadly speaking this can be deciphered as follows:

1110 series LHD USA 5759
1120 series LHD Europe 193
1140 series RHD 1192
TOTAL   7144

Although marketed in the States in accordance with the US model year custom, Healeys were not designated specifically in this way by the factory during build and records of the cars exported to the United States under the different model year categories have not survived. However, through the calendar years, Mk.2 Healeys were made in the following quantities:

CALENDAR YEAR TOTAL BUILT All LHD cars Federal spec All RHD cars
1973 1475 982 932 493
1974 4502 3940 3857 562
1975 1165 1030 970 135
1977 1 0 0 1
1980 1 0 0 1
TOTAL 7144 5952 5759 1192

As the figures show, the LHD cars were in the majority, given the export orientation of the Healey project. Over the life of the Mk.2, the proportion of LHD builds rose from 66% in 1973 to 88% in 1975.

It’s interesting to note that, despite the fact that Mk.2s were built in much larger numbers than Mk.1s, there were slightly fewer RHD versions of the Mk.2 than the Mk.1 (1192 Mk.2s against 1278 Mk.1s). It’s a toss-up today as to which type is the rarer. My estimate is that more RHD Mk.1s have been wrecked over the years, making them now scarcer than the Mk.2s. This certainly seems to be the case in Australia which was the next-largest RHD market after the UK.

Mk.2s were sent all over the world, principally to North America. The detailed market breakdown looked like this:

USA 5572 Spain 18 Cyprus 2
Mainland UK 888 Sweden 17 Canary Is. 2
Australia 144 Greece 16 Iran 1
Canada 117 Persian Gulf 16 Jamaica 1
Switzerland 77 Lebanon 15 Egypt 1
New Zealand 67 West Germany 10 Malaysia 1
Japan 57 Ireland (inc. NI) 10 France 1
Portugal 36 Guam 10 Unspecified 8
Belgium 26 Channel Islands 8    
Hong Kong 19 Netherlands 4 TOTAL 7144

Among overseas buyers, Healeys were quite popular with US servicemen, particularly those stationed in Europe, but in relative terms nowhere more so than on the tiny Pacific island of Guam. The ratio of Jensen cars to human beings on Guam (where there were also two Interceptors) gave the little island the second-highest Jensen density per head of population in the world (only Britain came out in front, and not by much). What they did on Guam with these cars remains a mystery but presumably they were shipped Stateside at the conclusion of their owners’ tours of duty. Given their exposure to salt air and the lack of normal maintenance facilities on the island, it seems likely that most faded into obscurity soon afterwards. I know of one surviving in the US and another (admittedly many years ago) in Italy.

Jensen cars in general have almost no competition pedigree — with the exception of the Jensen-Healey. Motorized shells and parts were supplied from the factory to Joe Huffaker in California for the development of race cars to compete under the then-current SCCA Class D rules in 1973 and 1974. Driven by Lee Mueller and others, the cars won their class in both years before a reclassification put them into other categories. In effect, they were banned for being too competitive. Naturally, Healeys remain popular with the racing fraternity in North America and continue to compete in track events there.

As with the Mk.1s, the surviving factory records for the Mk.2s are not very detailed, consisting only of the job cards and log of sales, so not much is recorded about the service histories, reliability and so on. Although the Mk.2s were built very much to a formula, and painted the same way, the later examples were produced at a time when Jensen’s managers were having to pull rabbits out of hats to survive. There was a much greater awareness of the need to build quality cars and some of the thinking which had by then led to the design of the upmarket GT seemed to rub off on the last of the Jensen-Healeys. Special orders, while not numerous, were taken and such things as special paint and even leather trim or different wheels were sometimes (rarely) specified for the RHD market. In North America, where the fuel crisis had led to a huge backlog in distributors' yards, buyers could pick and choose from among the standard combinations of trim, paint and options — that is, when finally they came to look at sports cars again.

Jensen revised their paint scheme markedly in 1975, dispensing with many of the older colours and settling on just one range which would thenceforth be used on all Jensen cars — Interceptors, Healeys and GTs alike. As a result, the late model Healeys show a real diversity of paint colours because they include the last of the Healey-specific paints as well as the first of the new range of Jensen-generic colours, plus of course the special requests which were carried out on the RHD cars.

For the record, here is a list of all the standard paint colours recorded on the Mk.2 Healey:

Yellow 1120 Oakland Green 80 Saba Blue 12
White 1072 Copper Brown 58 Aruba Red 11
Red 1046 Brienz Blue 53 Silver Grey 6
Tangerine 1020 Havana 17 Cheviot Brown 5
Black 1000 Silver (prob Sebring) 14 Saturn Gold 1
Malaga Blue 480 Sebring Silver 2 Unspecified 23
Blue (prob Malaga) 440 Nevis Blue 14    
Mustard 659     TOTAL 7133

The special requests on the RHDs were few, as follows:

Cedar Green 2 Dark Lavender 1
Violet 2 Flame 1
Arizona 1 Starfire 1
Brazil 1 Starmist 1
Bright Green 1 TOTAL 11

Of the cars built to the North American specification, here is the breakdown on paint colours used:

Red 903 Mustard 556 Silver (prob. Sebring) 8
Black 901 Oakland Green 77 Sebring Silver 1
Yellow 882 Copper Brown 27 Cheviot Brown 5
White 866 Brienz Blue 20 Havana 2
Tangerine 760 Nevis Blue 13 Saturn Gold 1
Blue (prob. Malaga) 440 Saba Blue 12 Unspecified 21
Malaga Blue 253 Aruba Red 11 TOTAL 5759

The choice of Black or Tan vinyl trim, introduced on the last of the Mk.1s in August 1973, remained with the Mk.2 throughout its life. In all, 3578 cars were trimmed in Black and 3538 in Tan. One special order for New Zealand was trimmed in Magnolia leather and the special build completed in 1977 was trimmed in Red (material unrecorded). Some 27 cars have no trim colours recorded.

The first edition of this article was prepared in 1993 for publication in the Australian Jensen club magazine. It was revised for republication in club magazines elsewhere around the world during the 1990s. This text is a further revision based on information available since 2000.

19932022 Richard Calver

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