[weather west bromwich]Nostalgia: The car of my dreams was made in West Bromwich

  In the early 1970s, Philip Cadman dreamed of owning a Jensen Healey, the West Bromwich-built sports car.

  He used to drive into Birmingham each day to work, and heading into the city centre he would often have to wait at the traffic lights at the end of Soho Hill, the ones which overlook the Hockley Flyover.

  Right at that point was Mist’s Garage, which had Jensen and Saab franchises. While waiting for the traffic lights to change he would look longingly at the Jensen Healey in the showroom window.

  There were only two sports cars that caught his eye back then, one was the Jensen, the other was the Alfa Romeo Spider. Philip had first become a fan of the Spider while watching the 1967 film The Graduate when it was broadcast on TV, the lead character driving a Series 1 model. However, the Jensen was made locally and that made it more attractive to him.

  ”I did actually go into Mist’s a couple of times to look at the Healey,” Philip recalls. “On both occasions the salesman – Phil Norridge, I still have his business card – was very kind, showing me all around the car and giving me brochures. I say kind, because I’m sure he realised that I couldn’t afford to buy such a car, so there was no chance of him making a sale.

  ”Thinking back, even if I’d had the money for even a second-hand Healey, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the insurance! Still, maybe he thought – like me – that one day I just might be able to afford one.

  ”Of course, my dream of owning a Healey was somewhat shattered when Jensen Motors ceased trading in 1976. Some years later, when I could afford both the cost of a second-hand model and the insurance, I did seriously consider buying one, but common sense prevailed.

  ”Still, I do regret never having driven a Jensen Healey, particularly since I recently found out that the car was the first to use a brand new two-litre Lotus engine.

  ”When production of the Austin Healey 3000 ceased, Donald Healey spoke to Jensen Motors about a replacement. Kjell Qvale, the largest Austin Healey dealer in the United States, also wanted a replacement. Qvale eventually became a major shareholder in Jensen making Donald Healey the Chairman.

  ”In the end, the Jensen Healey was developed as a joint venture between Donald Healey, his son Geoffrey and Jensen Motors. The car went on to become Jensen’s best-selling model, around 10,500 being made with most being exported to North America.”

  Various engines were tried out at the prototype stage, but nothing really suited until Colin Chapman of Lotus offered the Company’s new 1973cc, Lotus 907 dual overhead cam, 16-valve engine.

  It was the first modern dual overhead cam, four valve per cylinder engine to be mass-produced on an assembly line. As used in the Healey, the engine produced 140 bhp, giving the car a top speed of 119 mph with a zero to 60 mph time of 7.8 seconds.

  ”As for looks, early cars were fitted with chrome bumpers,” adds Philip, “while later cars had thick black rubber bumpers to comply with US Government regulations. I always thought the chrome bumpers looked much better.

  ”That said, ?later cars were fitted with a five-speed gearbox replacing the four-speed box of the early model. The interior design and look was also improved.

  ”Not long before Jensen ceased trading, a coupé version of the Jensen Healey was introduced: the Jensen GT. I thought it was a very nice looking car, somewhat more suited to this country than the Healey (our weather), yet only around 500 were made. Looking back, I think of what could have been.”