|Engine size||3,993 cc|
Although the prototype was exhibited in 1953, the Jensen 541 did not enter production until 1955. Widely considered to be the best-looking car ever to emerge from the West Bromwich factory, it was styled by Jensen's Eric Neale and was not just attractive, it was also highly aerodynamic with a Cd figure of just 0.39, one of the lowest recorded at the time.
The production cars used lightweight fibreglass bodywork consisting of three major mouldings and the entire front could be raised for engine access. The body was mounted on an immensely strong, tubular-framed chassis featuring independent coil-and-wishbone front suspension, a leaf-sprung hypoid bevel rear axle, cam-and-roller steering and Girling hydraulic brakes. Power came from a 135bhp six-cylinder, triple carburettor version of the 4-litre Austin engine, driving through a four-speed transmission with optional Laycock de Normanville overdrive.
The car was very well received by the motoring press, typified by these comments in 'Motor' in September 1955: "What really appeals is the outstanding manner in which it runs either quite gently or very, very quickly, according to the driver's wishes... Magnificent top-gear acceleration is available between 10mph and over 80mph, without any trace of a flat spot, and it is rarely necessary to change down for hill-climbing."
First registered in Bradford in March 1957, this particular 541 has been in the current ownership since 1987. In regular use until 1992, it then failed its MOT due to some corrosion to the chassis and was put into storage where it has remained to this day. The car is said to be complete although the sill covers have been removed at some point to expose the chassis tubes and the cylinder head has also been removed to trace a fault which turned out to be a crack on one of the exhaust valve seats (still unrepaired). Both sill covers and cylinder head are included in the sale and will need to be re-attached once the necessary repairs have been completed. Welding is also required to the floorpan and rear section of the chassis. The fuel tank, spare wheel carrier and exhaust system have been removed for access and are included in the sale.
The car comes with a fair amount of documentation including various repair bills from the late 1960s, an engineer’s report from 1987 which gave the car a clean bill of health at that time, several old MOTs from 1982 to 1991 and an original Jensen 541 instruction manual. An old buff log book from 1960 and a more modern V5 indicate that the car was owned by Harry Mann of Sheffield in 1960, then by James Robson of the same city in 1981, Malcolm McArthur of Stockton-on-Tees in 1985 and by the current vendor since 1987.
These really are fabulous looking machines that are very easy to live with and will cruise all day at 90mph at just 2,500rpm. With top examples now making well over £30,000 this one looks excellent value at the modest guide price suggested today and will amply reward the straightforward restoration that is now required.
Not that this car needs it, but your cataloguer also knows of a brand new 541 chassis that is available from a source in Evesham at very modest cost, so if any other 541 owners would like to get in touch...