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Back in the 1960s and 1970s there was a glut of European sports car and grand tourers powered by honking-great American V8 motors.

It was a much easier and cheaper route to achieving the big power needed to compete with Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Aston Martin. French upstart Facel Vega probably started the trend when it fitted its FV with a 4.5-liter DeSoto Fire Dome V8 in 1954.

Many others followed suit, some of them established players, others new to the game. Bristol, Gordon Keeble, Iso, Sunbeam, Rover, Monteverdi, and - most famously - AC all produced legendary cars fitted with bent-eights from across The Pond.

Perhaps the most successful, though, was British firm Jensen Motors. It first fitted Chrysler V8s to the rather challenging-looking C-V8 in 1962. Then, in 1966, came the Interceptor, one of the greatest cars ever built in the United Kingdom.

The Interceptor married an immense, robust, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive chassis with an achingly pretty body styled by Carrozzeria Touring, and a hulking-great V8. Early cars featured 6.3-liter units, while later cars had mammoth 7.2-liter powerplants. Power? Jensen claimed 280 horsepower for the 7.2, but somewhere north of 300 seems more likely.

This was most definitely not a sports car, but a large, luxurious grand tourer with four proper seats, a big trunk, and a loping gait that could dispatch entire countries in a single stride. Or stride between fuel stops, at least - you would do very well to better single-figure gas mileage.

Jay Leno rather likes the Interceptor so when a fan wrote to ask if Jay would like to see his, the comedian was only too happy to do so. The fact the car was on the other side of the country was of little concern - the owner simply hopped in and drove the 3,000 miles to Los Angeles in a couple of days. And then drove back again. It was worth it, though, as Jay really liked the car. Well, what’s not to love?

Interceptor production ended when Jensen went bankrupt in 1976. 6,408 had been built. There was a short-lived attempt to revive both marque and car in the late 1980s and Jensen Automotive International now does a fine line in restomodded Interceptors powered by GM V8s.

Original cars are now quite rare, thanks to their ability to dissolve at the merest whiff of rain, and the fact that it is incredibly difficult to restore. The chassis was always strong, though, so more than a few UK cars met their deaths in demolition derbies during the 1990s.


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Gallery: Jay Leno drives Jensen Interceptor

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