For my 40th birthday last December my wife bought me a voucher for a weekend’s use of a Jensen Interceptor from Great Escape. We redeemed the voucher this weekend, and spent 48 hours with a beautiful 1973 Interceptor Mk3.
Back in the day, the Interceptor was bought by the rich and famous, and generally considered a step above contemporary vehicles from manufacturers such as Aston Martin. Even Eric Morcambe had one. I’ve always loved this rare car, and have seen only a few in my life. I love the body shape, the understated styling. It’s like a combination of the best of British and Italian, with an immense 7.2-litre Chrysler V8 to haul it along.
In this eco-conscious world, and an environment of soaring fuel prices, the engine in this car is simultaneously fantastic and ludicrous. It’s often said that V8 engines “burble” – a sound that appeals to most red-blooded males and a few red-blooded females. The Chrysler in the Interceptor doesn’t burble; it doesn’t even gurgle – when pulling away at a junction it delivers a positively open-throated gargle that turns heads and frightens dogs at sixty yards. It’s supposed to do 12-14 miles to the gallon, but I guess that means around ten. I spent £70 on fuel over the weekend, which was actually less than I was expecting.
Occasionally, at low speeds the vehicle can sound almost agricultural, chugging along like a tractor as the eight pistons thump around in the lump at the front, as if barely awake. The Interceptor seems happiest at 30-40 miles an hour. With a 3-speed automatic gearbox, above around 50mph the car feels as though it needs another gear to drop into, which seems odd given the size of the engine. It’s great to tootle along at 20-25 then give it a slight burst: “garrrrggggllllle”. Overall, the Interceptor’s a very positive drive and easy to steer – it just goes where you point it, with no surprises.
The interior features wonderful vintage switchgear and instrumentation by Jaeger. Each switch has a single function: horn, wipers, de-mist, and so on. There’s just one delicate stalk off the steering column, and it’s for the indicators alone – no multiple, multi-function columns here.
The seats were soft and luxurious, and even though those in the rear look small, they were (I’m told by my kids and an adult friend who sat in the back) very comfortable.
We picked the car up on Friday, which was quite nerve-wracking to begin with as I was scared of damaging the car somehow, or being the victim of someone else’s carelessness. By Sunday, however, I was very comfortable with the car and thoroughly enjoying it.
We went to Ragley Hall, and saw the room in which the ball scenes from Dr Who’s The Girl in the Fireplace were shot. We got caught in the rain only once, and had a fantastic weekend, enjoying admiring stares, frightening dogs and turning heads.
Great Escape has several classic cars available for hire, so if you fancy a weekend as enjoyable as the one we had, forget about the price of petrol, give Graham a call, and hire the kind of car you’re never likely to own for 48 hours.