"Home Country' Sources For Jensen Motorcars
By Stephen B. O'Brien
In the late 1980's I was living in Wiesbaden Germany and spent many hours on the Autobahn travelling throughout Europe to teach for my university. My transportation at the time was a left-hand drive 1972 Jensen Interceptor "SP", with the 440 cubic inch high performance engine. Travelling long distances at 130-150 miles an hour was a great adventure. However, finding bits and pieces for a rare British car with an American engine while living in Germany was somewhat of a challenge.
This year, the first week in October to be exact, that challenge was repeating itself in a different format. A short visit to Europe gave me the opportunity to rediscover European sources for the bits and pieces needed for a complete restoration of another left-hand drive Interceptor "SP", the second one for me. Ray Younkin of Stripmaster Inc. in Milton, Florida is accomplishing this restoration for me. Our collaborative goal is to return this car to its original condition, including the original color.
I had made earlier contact about a possible visit with two of the greatest British sources for Jensen knowledge, for Jensen restorations, and for the parts or "bits and pieces" that the different members of the Jensen motorcar family require. The two I knew about, but had never visited, were Cropredy Bridge Garage near Banbury, and Martin Robey sales, near Nuneaton. My plan was to visit them both in one day. The experience would have been exciting for any Jensen aficionado, but in this case was made even more pleasurable by the courtesy, helpfulness and professional knowledge of the people in these two organizations.
Cropredy Bridge Garage was my first visit. True to its name Cropredy Bridge Garage is located near the old stone bridge on the eastern outskirts of the village. The drive through the English countryside was worth the trip. The garage itself is recessed behind stone buildings in the picturesque rural landscape bordering the river. From the road there is little hint of its extent, or its special nature.
Alan Tebbutt, the parts manager, met us upon our arrival. In spite of a busy Monday he escorted us on a tour of the complete works. We also met one of the garage owners Robert "Bob" Cherry, working on one of the ongoing restorations. Walking into the first building of the rambling complex any Jensen lover would have thought they'd died and gone to heaven. Just inside the doorway was a rather rare right-hand drive Interceptor "SP" that had undergone an upgrade. Alongside it was an Interceptor saloon from the Isle of Wight that had very limited mileage, and was for sale at what I thought was a rather low price. Beyond these two cars were at least six more Interceptors in some stage of upgrade or restoration. The cars I saw ranged from Jensen Healeys through CV8s to Interceptor IV's, and the work required ranged from mild upgrades to complete restorations. What a sight! What a marvelous sight!
Conversations with workmen during our tour indicated that they had an encyclopedic knowledge of all the Jensen variants. It was marvelous to be able to ask any question about a favorite year or style and receive a detailed answer. Another building behind the first held cars being readied for work, and in sheds around an open court there must have been twenty more Jensens of various types. Cropredy Garage has restoration work already scheduled through 2004!
In terms of the "bits and pieces" needed for these restorations and for people who call with orders for specific parts, Allen Tebbutt is a wonderful source. He is knowledgeable in his subject, and dogged in his search. He knows most of the existing sources in England for that rare or simply hard to find part needed to return any Jensen to the road, or to it's exact original condition. He is particularly adept at finding excellent used parts sometimes needed to return a rare model to its original state. In addition, he has observed restorations on every type of interceptor, and is able to answer questions about what "really" belongs in any Jensen that has been altered by a previous owner.
Driving away from the Cropredy Bridge Garage, I was happy, as a Jensen Interceptor owner, to know that there existed in the midlands of England such a marvelous center of knowledge about restorations for every type of Jensen motorcar. I was also sure that I would call (and visit) again. My restoration project is far from completed, and there will always be questions about the beast to be answered.
The second visit that day was to another marvelous Jensen source, Martin Robey Sales, also located in the midlands not far from Birmingham. The center is located in the western suburbs of the town of Nuneaton. Coming into the center we were met by Bruce Collard and Bettina Evans, the Jensen representatives. The center was impressive for its obvious ability to provide "bits and pieces" for every type of Jensen motorcar (As well as Jaguars). Pictures of Jensen Healeys and Interceptors adorned the walls.
A little history may be helpful here. Martin Robey brochures explain that in 1993 they took over the entire assets of the Jensen Car Company. They re-established the Jensen "Works, Parts and Service Department", under the Martin Robey name. This means that the plant, equipment, expertise and in many cases the skilled personnel from the old Jensen Car Company are now providing service to Jensen owners through Martin Robey sales. I can attest to the "skilled personnel" portion as Bettina Evans had indeed worked for the old Jensen Car Company, and provided much needed support for my original Interceptor "SP", back in the late 1980s. The parts brochures and the computerized system we observed at the Martin Robey center gave detailed descriptions of parts for all varieties of Jensens.
The professional knowledge of the Jensen representatives was outstanding. I ordered a few small parts to be delivered to the U.S. They pointed out that Martin Robey manufactures and distributes a wide variety of parts for all types of Jensens. These range from large body panels to small electrical items. They also can provide quick response to availability questions using their computerized system. Restoration services were also available, but evidently limited . I was told there was a restoration of one Mark II Interceptor going on at the time we visited.
Summing up the day's visits, I can say I was greatly impressed by both Cropredy Bridge Garage, and by Martin Robey Sales, but for different reasons. Cropredy Bridge was focused on restoration of Jensen automobiles to the highest standards, and the finding of bits and pieces needed to do that. Martin Robey Sales was focused on manufacturing and providing parts for a wide variety of Jensen's, with limited restoration activity. I would recommend that Jensen aficionados located in the U.S keep in mind that the shipping charges for single large items from these sources will be high. It may pay to check with our U.S. suppliers for price and availability prior to placing any order with the "Home Country" sources in England. It is however helpful and comforting to know that these sources exist, and that some of the original pool of creativity and expertise that brought Jensen motorcars into being is still available.