If you want to see what has been news in the 541 community in the past months, take a look below.
Each month I'll take the best of the news items and preserve them here. Happy Browsing!
** Warning - they are now out-of-date **
This month's news has a Transatlantic feel about it - so welcome to anyone based in the continent of North America. Do get in touch if you have any news!
DESIGNER'S RELATIONS TRACED TO USA
The 541 body designer, the late Eric Neale, had a younger brother called Colin who achieved fame in Britain by heading the styling studio that produced the iconic Ford Zodiac Mk2 and the finned Consul Capri. He then moved to the US where he became a major influence on design for many decades. I'm delighted to say he was recently reported as still being involved with old UK cars and he owns a 62 Capri. I have recently traced his address and was told by his daughter "Yes, you have found Eric's remaining brother. Eric was a lovely man and is greatly missed in our family." He apparently loves to talk cars, so I'm hoping to speak to him on the phone.
A time warp 541 that has sat in a garage for over 40 years is back on the market. It is believed to have travelled just 20,000 miles - just about nicely run in! The green car, with an early design of bodyshell, is currently in Leicester.
The buyer of the decaying manual 541S salvaged in an American field has turned out to be both Forum member
and a JOC member. Duane (DKToyz on the forum), owner of the former "Car of the Month October 2010" has said:
Yes I have rescued the 541S Manual car... Engine is out and being rebuilt. This will be a long haul but being one of only 17 known now I feel worth it. Open to any and all communication with other 541 enthusiasts with information.
Duane told me the reg was 616 BXH from the licence plates in the car. Chassis is 102/1027.
Click here for this topic on Forum (new window)
GLASSFIBRE OPEN DAY
Edward Ruskin of Bristol's Dynamic Mouldings Ltd. is interested in working on Jensens. He has an open day on 2nd July, "Refreshments provided by on site cafe offering large range of food and drink; Kit Cars, Race cars and classic cars are all welcome" and his website is:
DynamicMouldings.co.uk (new window)
541 BUILD SHEETS ON CD
A new CD from Mike Byrne.
There are about 350 pages in all. (These are NOT illustrated).
The CD also contains illustrated parts lists for engine/gearbox/clutch/ starter/distributor/
Mike has set the price at £12.00 plus £2.00 postage to anywhere in the world!
Please contact him at email@example.com.
The "Workshop Manual" compilation remains on sale at the same address.
LAGO AMERICA & EUROPA
An intriguing snippet of information passed to me by Mike Lawrence, noted motoring historian and author:
He was informed by John 'Plastic' Pearson (famous '70s Modsports XK120 racer) that during the last gasps of the renowned French marque "Talbot-Lago", they fitted a Jensen 541 rear screen to their "last dozen or so cars" - which would have been the America and Europa (depending on the market in which they were sold). John had one of these cars in his workshop at the time. Production ceased when Simca took over in 1959. Does anybody know anything about this story?
Photo by GS1311
541 IN PRINT
The July edition of [Thoroughbred &] Classic Cars has a comparison between a 541R, CV8 and an Interceptor.
The car is Lennie Boulton's fabulous "pink 'un" so will obviously be immaculate.
MISSED USA CHANCE?
There's an interesting missed chance with US importer Gertrude McWilliams. (See "ENGLISH JENSEN COMING TO USA"). It appears that she was a Chevrolet marketing analyst in the 1970s, and from 1960 to 1980 she and her husband ran Rover/LandRover/BL in North America, following which he took over Delorean Marketing. With credentials like that, if she had carried on importing them, Jensens could have been a huge hit in America all through the 60s - I wonder what differences that would have made?
FATE OF USA IMPORT
The proudly displayed Jensen YEA 668 is pictured on the main news page arriving in America. Last year, its sister car, YEA 669, was sold on eBay as just a pile of bits. What was the fate of YEA 668?
NEIL YOUNG CANADIAN IN USA DRIVES BRITISH 541
Famous musician Neil Young was pictured by fellow musician Graham Nash (also a member of the popular beat combo "Crosby Nash Stills and Young") in work entitled "Neil Young going home to Broken Arrow Ranch, Northern California, 1988." I would be tempted to say that this would make a great screensaver image, but for copyright reasons I must urge you to buy an original. These, personally printed and signed by Nash, come in at around $1,800 (plus frame).
The video clip this month (see below) shows the car of Eric Neal's son Derek at a Canadian motorshow.
Just to prove that it is no "trailer queen", here are some recent pictures of it brightening the Canadian cityscape:
Link to forum discussion
Pictures from: Dylan 890
INTERCEPTOR / FF DAY Event Report
The 33rd Sandwell Historic Vehicle Show at West Bromwich had over 500 mixed vehicles. Steve J reported: "To prove that Jensens do not dissolve in the rain, 28 cars made the effort to give the public a display of West Brom's finest products. The previous night, the usual suspects plus several new faces came to Dudley for a few beers and a mind numbing Mexican meal (thanks to Bill Smith).
Congratulations to club stalwarts Ron and Thelma Smith, as their superb 541R won "Best Jensen", a well deserved award."
RACER AUCTION IN HOUSTON, USA V8 engine transplant
Up for auction in April at an estimated $90,000 - $120,000, but not listed amongst the sales, was this amazing racing 541R. Fitted "in-period" with a Chevy 327ci V8, the car is stripped to the basics. I don't know if it counts as approval of the look, but we were alerted to the sale by the original designer's son!
"ENGLISH JENSEN COMING TO USA". In 1958/59 American magazines ran the following stories:
"English Jensen Coming to US - Sport sedan has 244 cu. in., 6 cyl. engine..." "...after the passage of many years, the Jensen is going to be introduced into the US in quantity and an extensive network of dealers ... the means of transport being the Queen Mary — surely a fitting way for luxury cars to be shipped. ..."
Despite some success in fashionable America (the Hollywood "Clark Gable" car in the 1930s), Jensen had not officially exported either the PW or Interceptor 4-litres to the States. Nevertheless, several examples were imported by their owners. With the arrival of the 541, it seems only one was sent to the United States directly from the factory. Jensen would have been aware of the huge American market which was taking a majority of the Healey cars it was assembling for Austin at the time. However, an entrepreneur called Mrs.Gertrude (Jimmy) McWilliams decided during 1959 to import the 541 and set up the Midland Continental Corporation in New York to do this. Unfortunately, her husband was an executive with Mercedes-Benz in the United States and this was seen to cause a conflict of interest. According to "British Sports Cars In America", the venture was: 'terminated by 1961 after about nine cars were imported. While in operation, Midland Continental placed advertisements, promoted the cars and imported them for sale to select dealers. After Midland Continental pulled out, Bruce McWilliams recalls that the franchise was not taken over by anyone else. According to McWilliams, Jensen had not built the left-hand-drive version they had promised and "selling right-hand-drive cars for $7,750 in those days was pretty challenging." '
First arrival by Queen Mary - YEA 668. "We are informed the first cars came into New York on March 2 . The following shipments have been small but frequent, awaiting the expansion of production facilities at the factory..."[R&T]
Info from British Sports Cars In America 1946-1981 by J Stein. isbn-10: 0911968989 Quotes from [US]Motor magazine 1958 and Road & Track 1959
VIDEO CLIP: Vancouver, Canada
One of [541 designer] Eric Neale's sons, Derek, now lives in British Columbia, Canada, and has restored a beautiful example of his "Dad's Car". While on display at the 2011 Vancouver Auto Show, it was singled out for comment on a morning TV show. See the full report here or below for just the Jensen.
We all knew it, but there is now proof that the 541 is a work of art. I offer no apology for the lengthy item in this month's main News about the car owned when new by sculptor Reg Butler. His fame was at its peak when the car was introduced, and he typified the fashionable & influential motoring enthusiast that Jensen hoped would buy their new car. Contemporary images of the car at speed are all too rare, so the few blurred seconds of video are important. And if you wnat to broaden your horizons, watch the whole short film in the BBC archives.
GLAMOROUS POTTERS BAR
Also in the news is the exciting new Museum in the unlikely surroundings near J24 of the M25 (see opposite). The owner seems keen to invite visitors, providing they are genuine enthusiasts connected to a club, and not just there to leave sticky fingerprints on the cars. Even well-controlled children are welcomed as he hopes to inspire the next generation of classic car owners. Visits during the working week can be at any time - just let them know first, while visitors at the weekend would be asked for a small payment to cover the cost of opening up. If anyone is interested in a group visit, contact me (Stephen Carter) via the link below and we'll try to arrange something.
REPRO PARTS ON HOLD...
Mike Byrne announced on the Forum:
"I have shelved the production of the bonnet locks and half wing nuts as they were not economical to make.
(Originals at bottom of picture).
Price per wheel would have been around £30.00 each and half wing nuts around £20.00.
The patterns are still with the foundry in Norfolk so you could still get a set made
but you would have to finish them yourself.
This would involve machining the center holes
and counterbores and threading (1/2" whitworth) and then polishing.
There is also a spigot to machine on the half wing nut."
pictures (c) Mike Byrne
...REPRO PARTS ARE GO!
I have learnt from a Jensen parts specialist that they are undertaking
a major restoration of a Jensen 541. This will involve the remanufacture
of various missing parts. And this means that they will then be in a position to offer further copies of these to
customers. If there is more news it will appear here!
NAME THAT PUMP
Mike Byrne's eagle eyes spotted that the water pump in April's "Part of the Month" was not an original Jensen part, nor did it come from a Princess or Sheerline. He added "The proper one for the 541 does not have the large hole tapped in the top. There are some pumps that do have this 1 1/16" hole in the top and they were probably for the trucks or combine use. I used to find them at Autojumbles and they had a blanking off plug fitted in the large unused hole and were perfectly useable. Some of the pumps I used to get were also ex.army, so they went back further than the 541!" SO provided the extra hole is blocked, it will work fine.
This is how William and Catherine should have left Buckingham Palace:
NEW MUSEUM 541 EXHIBIT IN POTTERS BAR
I'm sure many of us have had this dream: buy a huge collection of classic cars, make them pay their way by hiring them out to film companies as props, and then open your premises as a museum so everyone can admire your cars. Such as dream has come true in Potters Bar at Studio 434.
You can see their details of their operation at: www.studio434.co.uk ; amongst the many Jensens they hold is an immaculate pale blue Jensen 541.
HEAVY METAL LOVES PLASTIC!
Forum member "Budgerian" of the Netherlands has found an interesting BBC clip, showing that KK Downing (apparently a retired guitarist with a 1970s popular beat combo named Judas Priest) owns a maroon 541R. He is briefly shown saying "This is my '59 Jensen, only 400 made. Made in West Bromwich - I love that because that's where I'm from". Judging by the look of the bottom picture below, it's obviously a long-term love affair.
Link to forum discussion
BRISTOL SHOW Event Report
The stand at the Bristol Show in April featured not one but two 541s - as well as a GT and an FF.
As well as the delectable red 541 deluxe, there was the attention-grabbing Abbots Convertible, still in "barnfind" condition.
To the surprise of onlookers, after 4 decades of hiding in a barn it was capable of driving off the trailer under its own power.
Few nowadays, except art experts, remember the sculptor Reg Butler. But he was apparently a key artist in the 1950s 'geometry of fear' group. Plus, Butler designed the winning (albeit unbuilt) entry in the high profile 1953 competition to create a monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner. Although never built, it has the rare distinction of the model being destroyed by a disaffected Hungarian refugee. Butler philosophically said, “You take about a shilling’s worth of wire and bend it about in a certain way and it becomes a symbol powerful enough to make someone want to destroy it”
Luckily, his fame meant that the BBC recorded him with his new 541 deluxe, "793 APP":
'I'm very excited to be alive in the 20th Century... driving fast in a motor car that's shaped like a piece of sculpture gives one that sensation of speed in almost a plastic form... “
Transcript: Rosemary Butler June 2000 interviewed by Gillian Whiteley:
April the 21st 1958, my daughter was born. And just previous to that, John Read made a film for the BBC of Reg in the studio. It started off... I mean Reg was passionate about cars, and at about 1957 … he made some money from one of his exhibitions, and he decided that his image required a fast car, so … he bought, a Jensen 541, a green, racing green, Jensen 541. And the film starts with this car zooming up one of the roads, local roads, which is called The Mile, and it goes up this road with enormous speed and enormous roaring. And then it turns round and comes back, and comes up the drive, and sort of revs at the front door. And this is … obviously the image that Reg wanted to sort of put across, these wonderfully...energy, full of energy, sculptures, and then Reg in this sort of car. Anyway, I was very pregnant at the time...my daughter started to come, I should think, in the morning, about four o’clock, five o’clock, and we sort of got into this car, Reg and I, the Jensen, and we went up to London. (laughs) I think we went through every light and every, everything, you know, just, great, great speed…
Click picture for full film: www.bbc.co.uk/archive/sculptors/12801.shtml
It's not often that we can boast of a video clip especially commissioned for jensen541.com, but this one was! The Leeds American Car Cruise, on 9th of April 2011, was filmed and posted on Youtube by "Camaro5point7", who kindly agreed to cut his 30 minute video down to just the 1 minutes footage of Darren's 541 - just for us! This was the first major outing for the newly restored "SXU 567" - we hope to see much more of Darren and his car over the Summer. If you want to watch the whole video on Youtube, click here.
I regret to announce that due to a warped sense of humour, I "accidentally" published an announcement on
April Fool's day that later turned out to be as reliable as an election manifesto. You can see if you
would have been fooled via a link on the Toolbox page, or
SEEN IT BEFORE?
"The 2012 Ford Focus features new active grille shutters to block airflow through the cooling system
when not required. In addition to an aerodynamic improvement at higher speeds,
active grille shutters reduce underhood temperatures at low speed, increasing thermal efficiency."
The 541 had a swivelling shutter in 1954 and a remote controlled blind in 1960.
In addition, it offered active driver control, where you made the decisions on using it, not the car!
MOT Tests for Historic Cars
Following a meeting with Transport Minister Mike Penning on 20th January 2011,
the requirement to have an annual MOT test for pre-war cars
may be scrapped or altered.
This is largley due to the work of fanatical Jensen enthusiast and backbench East Yorkshire MP, Greg Knight.
Mr Knight has a large collection of Jensens from various eras, and presented trophies at last year's
The meeting took place at the Palace of Westminster and was organised by the
All Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicles Group, which is chaired by Mr Knight.
Also attending was Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, the Group President. After the meeting Mr Knight said,
“Accidents involving older historic vehicles are extremely rare and the majority of owners
are meticulous in keeping their vehicles in good condition.
Having to have an annual MOT test for a pre-war vehicle which may only travel 100 miles in a year
is an unnecessary bureaucratic hurdle”.
The latest news seems to indicate that the change is very likely for pre-1920 cars,
possible for pre-war cars, and being considered for pre-1965 cars! Congratulations to Greg Knight.
NOT FOR SALE
If anyone mentions a 541 bonnet lying around in a scrapyard near Winchester,
I have been in contact with the eBay seller (it appeared in the background of another car advert)
and he tells me "Sorry it's not for sale,
the owner wishes to remain anonymous". Shame!
541 IN PRINT
Tipped off that a Jensen 541 was "featured" in the novel "The Ipcress Files" by Len Deighton, I
obtained a copy and scoured it from beginning to end.
Len name checked many late 50's cars, but only in the last few pages did he write:
On this same day a Jensen 541S sports car went off the Maidstone bypass
while going at an absurd speed.
There was one occupant, a Mr. Dalby; death, they said, was instantaneous.
Luckily the book is well worth a read if you like witty well written spy dramas!
DRIVE IT DAY
This year’s Drive It Day is on Sunday, April 17 – a week earlier than usual.
A spokesman for the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, which organises the event,
explained the date change.
‘Drive It Day is usually held on the nearest Sunday to April 23,
which was the day chosen six years ago to commemorate the Thousand Mile Trial.
That was when 64 cars that set off from London on April 23, 1900, to try to dispel prejudices
against the motor car. This year, the event will be a week earlier to take into account Easter Sunday,
which falls on April 24, and we hope this will help avoid the worst of the traffic congestion
associated with the Easter break.’
A Jensen-built A40 enjoys a previous Drive-It-Day outing.
For details of events in your area: www.fbhvc.co.uk
NEW LOOK FOR REJEN - NEW WEBSITE ADDRESS
For some time, Jensen specialists Rejen have been contactable by email as well as telephone and eBay, but now they have a website as well.
You can see their stock at: www.jensenparts.co.uk Or you can contact them on the usual number: +44 (0)1962 777400.
Details of our other Jensen specialists are in the JOC magazine, and also on the Links page: Links
YET ANOTHER MODEL!
Bored with your 1:76 Oxford Diecast scale models? Tired of Reno Red, Deep Carriage Green and Imperial Crimson?
What you'll need is their new "Gunmetal" coloured 541 model.
It's pictured below, with "793 APP", the car that inspired it.
You'll notice they have taken some liberties by using a real 541 and turning it into a 541R.
The gunmetal paint and oxblood interior look correct though.
Link to Oxford Diecast
INSPIRATIONAL NEWS FROM JUSTIN 541S finally hits the road (er... field)
After two years' hard work, on a restoration that was already 10 years old when he acquired it,
Justin has finally got his car mobile (just) and taken it for a noisy spin around a field, to the joy of his Springer Spaniels. I felt his achievement deserved one of those "Motivational" posters:
Martin R said "Many thanks to all who organised and attended the weekend, making the Spring Weekend so enjoyable.
The weather was kind, company very good ... the hotel provided good friendly service and the food,
I think everyone agreed, was some of the best mass catering any of us have had!
Amongst the Interceptors and FF's were a CV8, some Healeys and a 541.
Spot the 541! Spring Weekend at the Charnwood Hotel, Blyth, near Worksop.
MORAY MOTOR MUSEUM March 29th - 24th October
If you find yourself in the far north of Britain, near Aberdeen or visiting the Cairngorns,
don't miss the chance to visit the Moray Motor Museum.
An independent reviewer commented,
"They only get about 3000 visitors per year and this musuem is probably one of the best
in Scotland in terms of classic & racing cars.. My favourite is the silver grey Jensen 541R -
it's been there for years .." You can't argue with that!
After contacting the owners they kindly provided the following information:
Jensen 541R 1960. Reg 212DFK. CHASSIS 541R/4746011
Bought 1982. Total Restoration by museum, work to concours condition.
Lightened Flywheel. High Comp Pistons – Suspension lowered one inch.
They also provided some pictures:
Amongst the exotic machinery at the Museum is a Lagonda V12, with an engine that once sat in a Jensen 541 (not the 541 on display.) If that's not enough to make you pay just £4.50 for a visit,
parking and refreshments are apparently available from the Decora DIY store cafe, across the street!
... you've probably seen this via the Forum - Justin posted this on YouTube at my request, and shows him testing his newly mobile 541S without being chased by his dogs!
A year ago I suddenly found myself with a website to manage,
as the 541 site was about to be closed through lack of interest.
Suddenly I find March has come round a second time, and I seem to be doing much more each month than I planned to!
It gives me a good excuse to contact people and ask questions about their cars, and I hope to pass that information
on to the Jensen community. This is a JOC website, not a personal one, so all contributions are welcomed! So here's to the next year!
FACTORY BUILD SHEETS
Mike Byrne has supplied me with one of the new discs (see FEB news) containing the 541 build sheets.
These have two main sets of information on. Firstly, the description and quantity of raw materials (36" of 1/4" ply, 5 yards of edging material, 15 x 2-inch 3/16 BSF bolts, etc.)
Secondly, there are the bought-in items where the supplier and reference number are named.
I've been playing a game where I try to trace these items in current supply.
After 60 years it's unsurprisingly not easy but I've come up with some successes -
a few obscure grommets that can be bought new across the counter,
and the 541R ashtray which was used in the MG RV8 and can be ordered from stock!
Reminder: Mike has set the price at £12.00 plus £2.00 postage to anywhere in the world!
Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
541s FOR SALE
Recently, there have been several 541s in varying condition, including complete rebuilds, up for sale.
The person who knows the details of these rare cars is usually the 541 Registrar (see
Club Contacts page).
Remember, they like to help you out and may keep your name on file until a suitable vehicle comes along,
but they will always want to prioritise members of the JOC.
David Ancona, who has spent almost 30 years in the automotive design field (recently with Volvo Barcelona), wrote in the Forum:
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Neale in 1983 (I think) in the IBCAM pavilion
at the Town and Country show at Stoneleigh, where he was kind enough to do a walk round Ron Smith's car
discussing various points of interest.
He indicated that the wheelarch bulges were primarily a smart way of getting some extra section into the bonnet
to increase the longditudinal stiffness. He also explained the process ... of drafting a master section
(the grille shape) and then developing it right through the car, section by section,
finally adding and fairing in the headlamp bulges and cabin.
Taken from the
(opens in New Window - register for free for 541 section)
541 Convertible at Auction -UPDATE This very rare car,
one of only a pair made by Abbots of Fareham on a Jensen base, was auctioned on 25th February.
It reached £16000, against a guide price of £19-25000, which reflected the general mood of the sale.
With fees, the buyer paid just over £19,000.
Laid-up in a Kent barn during 1963, the four-seater has only recently emerged.
I have been informed that it would still be in the barn were it not for the accidental discovery by a
partygoer at the property. Sounds like a good excuse if you want to party!
Last year we celebrated the centenary year of Eric Neale, 541 designer.
I am still gathering information for a mini-biography of the 541's engineer, Colin Riekie.
I now have enough to go ahead with the project but would still welcome any additional material or pointers to where it
may be found, especially photographs.
The special Eric Neale feature is now under the "Old News" section. If you missed his mini-biography,
it has has been moved into the Toolbox (or click below).
Congratulations to DARREN, whose amazing 541 rebuild is now complete:
the car is taxed, MOT'd and ready to go this summer!
In my dreams...
Thanks for the pictures and information about V8 swaps to:
Francis Pullen, Len Drake, email@example.com, and the owners of the 541 "RR".
STILL MORE MODELS...
In September I rashly wrote that I'd produced an exhaustive list of 541 scale models:
(item about scale models)
and last month had to add another 1/42nd (Dinky size) model to that list (see Old News).
Now there are two more - although you are unlikely to come across them.
The first is a very rare 1:43 scale TW Models white metal kit of a 1956 (1954 on box)
Jensen 541 Saloon (reference number 254). The advert and box insert claim it is a Deluxe,
but the moulding is an "R" shape.
TW Models are straightforward to build with few parts.
They were handmade during the 80's/90's in very small numbers (about ten)
so you're extremely unlikely to come across any.
This (mint condition in box) model sold for £165!
And then an unexpected find - what appears to be a 541S (left) in 1/43 scale...
Further enquiries to the vendor revealed that was a
"code 3 model in mint condition". Apparently "code 3" means modified by the seller,
so ensure this is what you want before shelling out the £99 asked!
This particular one has already sold.
I couldn't obtain a clearer picture, but you can just make out the silver grille
at the front and the distinctive air intake across the bonnet,
on the left picture compared to the standard model on the right.
Of course, the S was wider and I can't see if that has been achieved in this model.
In February we looked at some unusual engine swaps.
With a spacious, open, engine bay many people have been tempted to change to something more powerful,
sporty or just more reliable, and a V8 seems the obvious choice.
From pre-war times, Jensen favoured the V8, supplied by Ford, although they were contractually
obliged to avoid the words "Ford" or even "V8"!
However, by the early 1950s Jensen engineer Colin Riekie commented,
"In my time with the firm it was next to impossible to import American engines,
unless one dealt with odd reconditioned engines - it was not the cost, but many restrictions had to be overcome."
So my list begins in 1955 with a significant car that was not even a 541,
but its older and larger sister the 4-litre Interceptor.
Of the 88 cars manufactured by Jensen over a nine year period, there was only one with a V8.
It was built on order for Charles Stockey, Canadian rally champion,
who wanted British handling characteristics but V8 go.
Once Jensen finally agreed to build a car, he went down to Palm Beach, Florida and purchased a 331 hemi from Briggs Cunningham
(of Le Mans fame),
de-tuned it to 275 hp for street use, and then shipped it to Jensen.
After waiting several months for the car to be built he found it had over 1,500 miles on it
and he found a ladies scarf in the back seat!
Apparently it was the second fastest production car built in 1955 (second only to the 300SL)
with a reputed top speed of close to 145 mph, using a Laycock deNormanville overdrive.
This was the first car that Jensen built using Chrysler V8 power, adopted years later as the main engine.
From one rally driver we move to another: car maker, rally driver and Monte Carlo winner,
and designer of the iconic Healeys:
all-round hero Donald Healey. Due to Jensen building his "Big Healey" on their production lines
(to be sold as an Austin-Healey) he had a very close relationship with the factory.
For those long commutes from his works at Warwick to his Cornish home
he wanted something special, and he got it: a 541S fitted with a Chevy small block V8 and two-speed autobox.
This car recently featured in a weekly classic magazine, and I am assured by the owner Francis Pullen that
any reservations about the handling of this very original car have been since addressed by fitting new shocks.
As for Jensen's point of view on this, we can note that in December 1959 they raised the first of
several job numbers for "a 541 MkII production prototype with Chrysler V8 engine"
although all these cars were eventually released with the usual Austin engines.
100/1083, pictured below, (862 EUY) may be one of these as this standard 541S
has a mystery plate on the bulkhead saying 'Chrysler No 61'.
In May 2010 (new window), Chris Holman mentioned waiting to finish restoring his car, chassis no.541/2223849, since 1971 when he bought it. Research via the Club records has revealed it was perhaps used as a V8 test bed for the first year by Jensen!
Not everyone waited for Jensen to fit a V8 -
here's a car that reached America as a straight six, but became a fire-breathing V8 shortly afterwards.
The 1957 Jensen 541R was converted the same year to Corvette power (327/375hp) and a Muncie 4 spd,
by Najarian Auto Sports of Boston. It was bought in 1977 and street raced it for six months
(earning over $10k), since when it has undergone a protracted rebuild.
Another converted US V8 car (484/6011, a 1960 541R) apparently passed through "Jim Truman’s racecar shop in Ravenna, Ohio in the early 1960’s" (this racer is the 541 registrar's fantasy car!)
Finally, maybe your dreams have wandered in the direction of fitting the 541
with a truly special V8, all British, and refined - a Jensen 541 "RR" with Rolls-Royce engine.
This dream has come true as such as car
does exist - I have been asked not to reveal any details as it is awaiting a complete rebuild, but here is the proof:
CAR OF THE MONTH:
... this month - twin exhaust plumes reveal the V8 engine in the ex-Donald Healey 541S!
... previous featured car pictures are stored in an Archive page. Go to the "Toolbox" tab to find this.
ONLY A 50 YEAR WAIT
Most 541s are now at least 50 years old, so you would imagine that not much new was happening at the Club. However, this month I can announce that the extraordinary news that data unavailable for decades can now be obtained on a CD by the public! Mike Byrne contacted us to say: "I have just bought the 541 build sheets. These were the sheets that Jensen used to buy all the components for building the cars.This is like finding the Holy Grail!!! Now I intend to put all this to CD as I firmly believe that all this info should be shared." What more treats may emerge in years to come? See below for CD details.
BUILD SHEETS CD These typed sheets cover all parts of the cars and are mainly 541 and R orientated although some of the metalwork for the chassis would be the same for the S. Every nut/bolt/washer etc is listed ,with grade of bolt and size and length.Most of the suppliers are given as well.There are about 350 pages in all. (These are NOT illustrated). The CD also contains illustrated parts lists for engine/gearbox/clutch/ starter/distributor/generator. There are 25 sections of which the build sheets take up about 6 or 7.Mike has set the price at £12.00 plus £2.00 postage to anywhere in the world! Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The "Workshop Manual" compilation remains on sale at the same address.
Last month I reported a garaged red 1956 541, discoved by a Dutchman in Germany. This "missing car" was identified by Mike Byrne, who knew the UK owner and then in the 70's when it was sold to Germany he sold the new owner some parts. "Small world" as he says.
MODS AND UPGRADES...
Long-time CV8 owner Ian Northeast has been lucky enough to acquire a "rather dilapidated 541DL from a very nice chap in Scotland", and is looking for subtle modifications to help the cars cope with modern traffic situations. When the time comes I will be aiming to rebuild the car to as standard as possible, with a couple of provisos: whilst I don't intend doing anything particularly extreme with this car, I do intend to drive it as much as possible. Anything I can do to make it safer and more reliable will be considered. So your suggestions and experiences please! Perhaps a database of modifications and there related experiences would benefit all? No I'm not volunteering!
Join in with the discussion on this Forum thread. (opens in New Window - register for free for 541 section)
RARER THAN A 541 -UPDATE In January I asked if anyone could identify the cars in the picture illustrating the Ragley Hall concours. As I hoped, "jjorj" from the Forum stepped forwards to identify his own cars, supplying this month's picture which clearly shows them both.
The golden car is a Farina bodied Rover P4 - a one off that never reached production.And the car beyond that is the only hardtop Marauder built - some Rover employees formed their own company in the early '50s and built a Rover based touring car. After only 15 were built production ceased and they returned to successful careers within Rover. The hardtop was apparently bought to haul goats in a trailer, with the boot stuffed full of ivy for them. Not the glamorous image the manufacturers had hoped for! As "jjorj" restores his own 541 he hopes to identify parts in common with Rovers of the period.
SCOOP NEWS! 541 replica model In September I wrote an item about scale models of the 541, and concluded that there was no current 1/42nd (Dinky size) model available new.That's just changed! A UK company has started importing what looks at first like mint Spot-On Jensen models.
On close inspection, these turn out to be brand new accurate copies of the 1960's Spot-Ons, in reproduction boxes. They have been upgraded to wire-wheels, and the moulding is in white metal and looks to be superior to many of the original castings on which it is based. Cost is a fixed £44.99 incl. postage, which is much cheaper than an orignal Spot-On, if you don't care about originality. These are based on toys, and will not have the detail found in the Oxford 1/76 models.I enquired of the supplier if there was a limit to the number of items available and he suggested "Regarding units to be made, it would depend on how good the castings/mould lasts, guessing around between 150 - 200 spread over 12 months." Or unlimited IF a new mould is made.To order, go to ebay.co.uk and search for "SPOT ON N0.112".
PLEASE NOTE: my assessment of these models is based on the pictures online, and I cannot vouch for the vendor or quality of the actual item.
SWAPS As promised, this month (news being thin on the ground this time of year) the 541 site will feature cars with engines swapped from the 4-litre Austin original.  With a spacious, open, engine bay many people have been tempted to change to something more powerful, sporty or just more reliable.  Indeed, a decade ago even Han Kamp - who eventually restored his wreck to a beautiful and very original specification - was considering the alternatives: My intention is to be using the 541 daily when finished, so I have been thinking if it might be a sensible idea to fit a modern / reliable 6 cylinder
John Wild came back to warn: Have you driven the 541 with the original engine?I bet most reliability problems are the old relays, 40 year old electrics,locks/switches wearing out, single circuit brakes, stub axels etc.I doubt that sticking a modern 6 cylinder engine will result in morereliability than a properly rebuilt Austin unit. By the time you havesorted out the fuel injection, ECU wires chafing, cooling system leaks,custom exhaust, fancy fuel tank for the injection etc. You have to developall these bits from scratch, and many will fail. A second hand modernengine may be cheaper than a properly rebuilt Austin unit. This is theonly benefit I see, apart from performance... I think the 541 has a superb engine baylayout. It really looks the part... I think the 541 is a very very special car, and I just can't see how amodern six would make it more reliable.
Not everyone agrees, so here are a selection of engine changes:    First contender is a 3.8 Jaguar 541: The auction house said: Although the Austin 4-litre was an immensely torquey unit, it was also very heavy and hated to be revved.  Ideal for long-legged cruising, it was a bit of a disappointment for the more sporting driver and a fair few cars were soon being modified by their owners to take the far more exciting (and lighter) Jaguar XK engine instead.  This transformed the car and made it into an astonishingly capable machine that could outperform virtually everything else on the road at the time.  Modified in this way, the 541 had some success in racing, most notably in the hands of gifted sports car and F1 racer Peter Whitehead, and his half-brother Graham.  First registered in July 1958, this 541R was fitted with a 3.8-litre Jaguar XK engine many years ago.  It was acquired by the current vendor as a non-runner in 2000 and then treated to a comprehensive restoration which resulted in the fine specimen you see today.
Perhaps that is a little too much power for the rear axle? In that case a Jaguar 2.4 might be more to your taste. One has been inserted into this 1960 Jensen 541R in need of full restoration. As well as avoiding breaking the halfshafts, the smaller Jaguar unit (from a Mk1) with its Solex carbs is apparently a very smooth unit.
Now we come to surely the most exotic engine ever fitted to a 541 – a racing V12 from the same stable as the 1950’s Aston racing team.The 4 1/2 litre V12's were made under David Brown's orders as a luxury Lagonda engine. However, the all-aluminium block would not retain the bearings when it heated up (unlike the iron engine it was based on) so the bearings were made a tighter fit. Now they only worked properly when warm, so both oil and water had to be heated up before insertion into the engine. Not really an ideal road car design.It appears that only 3 chassis were originally made, of which only two were built up, but up to 5 engines were made. During the cars' subsequent racing history, there was the usual swirl of chassis and engine changes and re-bodying that was common in this period. This means that when one of the engines was placed in a Jensen 541, it was not necessarily actually one that had ever been in a Lagonda.
What a sight and sound that must have been in a 541, and imagine the performance with an engine which pulled almost 150mph at Le Mans.In the '80s, the car registered 677 DAR was bought by a Mr McWhirter and the body shell was rebuilt over twenty years into a car with a new chassis to original plans and the engine was plucked from the 541. This Lagonda continues to star in historic motor racing and on display at the Moray Motor Museum. The fate of the engineless 541 is not known, although Mr McWhirter has restored a different model of 541 for his museum.
Then there is Barry Stone's amazing BMW powered car, where the Austin lump was replaced so long ago it hardly features in its history. What better way to introduce it than to quote from the intro to his YouTube clip: "A 1959 Jensen 541R fitted with a BMW 1.9 straight six; five speed box; Capri three litre servo with Coopercraft calipers; and Sierra steering eack. Owner/ restorer Barry Stone makes the case for the defence." And the personable Mr Stone does just that! See this month's video clip.
Next month - V8 solutions to the quest for power. There will be a factory test bed, a very famous hero's car, an American street racer, a 1959 Interceptor that has somehow slipped onto the site, and a transplant where you may not believe your eyes.
NEW YEAR, NEW CARS
You'd imagine that by now, most 541s have been located and identified, or have long been scrapped.
Yet still they emerge from barns and garages around the World!
If you read the JOC club magazine, you'll have heard of several recently - and I have been contacted by someone in
the Netherlands who has located a garaged red 1956 541, very suited to restoration.
On further enquiries it turns out that this is a "missing car", believed possibly written off many years ago!
No-one expects a treasured 541 to be driven over ice, snow and salt, but once the weather clears a little
there are some people who are not afraid to get their wheels dirty. Let me know if you have a picture of your car
having an outing in the late Winter or Spring weather! As inspiration, here is Keith Lee's early 541
in the rather damp conditions of 2010's Lake run.
And if all else fails, we can copy the Russians, who prepared their 1950's cars for bad weather by putting them on skis
and equipping them with giant propellers - all the better for SMERSH to battle the agents of NATO!
THE YEARS ROLL BY ...
15 YEARS ONLINE...
JOC on the InterWebNetThingy - It's now 15 years since the first JOC Home Page:
1996: Your [Magazine] Editor [Keith] has recently published the Jencraft Homepage which can be found on: 'http://ourworld.com-
puserve.com/home-pages/JENSEN'. It's not completely finished yet but offers Jensen history, some interesting pics and lots of technical advice! In just a few short weeks this new homepage has proved very popular.
Thanks to the efforts of Keith Anderson and his helpers, it looks rather more slick than this nowadays,
but the message is still the same - "What do JOC members want on their Home Page? Please advise".
For this 541 spin-off site, suggestions are always welcomed.
QUOTE: from the December "Octane" magazine:
"if the Jensen 541 was a bespoke but slightly chunky suede brogue,
the succeeding CV8 had steel toe caps that glinted through the leather."
Nice to know where we stand. (literally!)
MORE ON THE FORUM
If you regularly visit the forum you can find out more about the cars mentioned here - and leave feedback yourself.
For instance, dicussion on the Convertibles shown opposite had Mike Byrne suggesting,
"Interesting bonnet latching mechanism...
I guess you would first have to open the moving flap to gain access to the latch.",
and Tony Marshall was able to give an insight into the way that Abbotts worked in 1958:
"Ford supplied the fully built cars minus rear window and boot lid, ... with the rear ends covered with canvas sheets."
Incidentally, the red car has a lifting bar (towel rail style) on the bonnet, similar to the 541 Motor Show prototype,
and Ian's car runs with a specially designed grille instead of a flap.
Mike Byrne has contributed several items for later inclusion on the website - here's a late Christmas gift from him,
an AA 541 parts list from 1959. It includes the code for a complete engine and gearbox
- that's what I call a proper roadside repair!
541 PARTS LIST
PDF copy - created by the AA and provided by Mike Byrne: Click here to open the Parts list PDF
Some months ago, I asked if anyone knew anything about this advert:
Thanks to the eagle eyes and sharp memory of reader Francis Pullen, he was able to supply me with a picture and
accompanying letter from a 15 years old Classic Car magazine which seems to explain the mystery.
In the letter, former owner Gordon Beer says:
My 541, which I owned in the early Sixties, was the only one produced by Mssrs Jensen with fins for the
1956 Motor Show... as you can see... these fins were far from tasteless.
This last comment is in response to the comments on the tasteless Zephyr bodied car,
which Russ Grief was able to establish was not the same car.
Francis also reminds me that the name "Batmobile" was not just an infantile reference to a comic strip,
but could also refer to a hugely influential series of Alfa Romeo prototypes from 1953-1955,
named after Bertone's "Berlinetta Aerodinamica Tecnica" - BAT5, BAT7 and BAT9.
Now we are left with these two puzzles:
Who owns the car now? (It is currently road-taxed)
And was it really at the 1956 Motor Show? It was originally registered in October 1955 - a full year before -
and I have read the description of the '56 Earls Court Jensen stand, and there is no mention of special bodywork.
THE FUTURE'S BRIGHT, THE FUTURE'S SILVER
Last month I mentioned the vivid orange car of our (prizewinning) Club Membership Secretary, Keith Andrews.
It was sold this summer and the new owner contacted me to tell me that it is no more (boo!) -
but that it has been reborn with a shiny new silver paint job (hooray).
GET READY FOR SUMMER: DROPHEAD 541s
Early in the history of the 541, a pair of chassis were given to Abbott of Farnham, famous for converting production cars,
to work their magic on the 541 and turn it into a Drophead Coupe De Ville (convertible).
Eric Neale was a firm believer in this process: "I still think", (he said in 1985), "there is a market for a company to
build a "chassis only " unit which is driveable with a temporary seat fitted for delivery to the customer so that a
specialist body can then be mounted on it.",
but in this case the results were less than stunning and no further cars were converted.
Here we see the original Abbott brochure:
Amazingly, a low mileage 1955 convertible has emerged from almost 50 years of storage in very original condition.
Reg: WPK 541, Chassis: 541/PT34564, Engine: 16B0350M.
It will be auctioned in February at H&H. For the full description, see video clip below.
The other Abbott still exists - a 100% survival rate! - and moved to New Zealand in the last decade.
Finally, Ian Forster owned a 541 which needed heavy restoration; he decided to remove the roof and make it into a convertible.
The result seems to be much more attractive than the attempts of the coachbuilders. Maybe they should have stuck to
the original lines!
Amazing news of the fate of 541R "UUX 400". It seems that its body is going to be fitted to a powerful V8 chassis:
0-60mph in 7 seconds perhaps? Whether you approve or not, I'm sure most of us have had fantasies of something like this.
In the words of Bell Classics of Luton:
We have taken a 'barn find' 541R and shortened and widened the body to fit a TVR 350i chassis
and running gear. The car is being created to the requirements and diagrams of our customer.
The result will be a totally unique fixed head coupe that will be recognised by a Jensen 541 enthusiast.
The first decision was whether to go with a drop head or fixed head coupe
The customer decided to go with fixed head and the diagrams provided us with early direction.
The boot area has now been completed and an internal hinge has been fitted and is working with the correct clearance.
No prizes for guessing the video clip this month - a comprehensive film guide to the Abbott drophead mentioned above.
I like the way the invisible assistant prepares the car for filming as panels mysteriously open and close!
Please note that the car is not as dumpy as it looks, the video is slightly distorted.
CAR OF THE MONTH:
...an occasional series of feature cars...
... this month - The newly restored car of Massimo Bottoli from Italy. Complimenti, Max.
picture supplied by M.Byrne
... previous featured car pictures are stored in an Archive page. Go to the "Toolbox" tab to find this.
PART OF THE MONTH:
...the 541 has many interesting and unique parts... here's one of them...
The graceful boot handle dips aross the enamel badge on Max's car - it's the Part of the Month
Come back in a month for another obscure part!
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