The Jensen Healey was first introduced in 1972 and it was marketed as a luxurious but fast two-seater convertible. The birth of the Healey is an odd one. When Donald Healey’s original idea for a convertible, the Austin-Healey 3000 finally met its demise after a popular and successful life, he turned to Jensen Motors, his supplier of bodies for the original Healey 3000. The Healey was a joint venture between Donald Healey himself, his son Geoffery and of course, Jensen Motors.
The design of the Healey is simple and elegant. There are no sharp lines or square corners, everything is round and smooth. It’s effortlessly fluid in terms of styling. You’ll be surprised to know the reason why it’s so simple is not just aesthetic however. When Barry Bilbie was designing the unitary body structure, he wanted to make it easy to work on and perhaps more importantly, cheap to fix. The bolt-on panels meant that a replacement panel was neither expensive nor difficult to swap. The American-spec Healey received “5mph” bumpers due to silly Government regulations. Some people would later remove them due to the fact that they were ruining the entire design of the Healey.
The biggest dilemma was arguably the engine. Many options were tested but initially none of them were deemed fit enough. The first 2.3 liter Vauxhall engine met U.S. regulations but did not meet the 130 hp requirement. The subsequent Ford V6 they looked at was good performance wise, but the Industrial action meant supply would be poor. BMW was not capable of delivering the needed amount of engines and soon rescue came in the form of Colin Chapman from Lotus. The 2 liter Lotus 907 he offered was great on all fronts. Lotus could handle the large supply needed and with 144 hp on tap, the unit surpassed even the original expectations. The top speed was just shy of 120 mph (119mph) and the zero to 60 mph time stands at 8.1 seconds.
The European-spec cars were fitted with dual side-draft twin-throat Dell’Orto carburetors while the U.S. ones had single-throat Zenith Strombergs to meet the stricter emissions regulations. Originally all Healeys came with a Chrysler-sourced four-speed transmission however they were later equipped with the Getrag 235 five-speed, a transmission found in the BMW 2002. The close-ratio gearbox only solidified its position as a true sports car even further.
The Healey was mostly praised for having excellent handling due to its alloy Lotus engine, giving it a perfect 50/50 weight distribution. This made it an obvious candidate for a race car. The Jensen Motors factory team entered the SCCA Championship in 1973 and 1974 where they proceeded to achieve something incredible. Despite being their debut year with a brand new car, Jensen went on to win the 1973 championship, effectively making the Healey one of the few cars to win an SCCA championship in its first year in the SCCA’s entire history. Needles to say, it won the 1974 D-Production championship as well but financial trouble put an end to the factory sponsorship that same year.
A lot of the racing Healeys have been subsequently used in various other Vintage races and still are to this very day. Most recently, a Jensen Healey won the 2013 Rolex Monterey Historics where it was also awarded the prestigious Presidents Cup.