Jensen SV8

10 Jun, 2003 6:07pm Tom Barnard

If you do the sums, this car should cost a cool £1million. After all, Jensen's investors spent £10m producing an exciting new roadster, but the venture failed after just 10 cars had rolled through the factory.


It's a tragedy that the SV8 will not reach a wider audience, as it would fill a niche between TVR and Morgan. Some of the development work was not completed, but the Jensen is still great to drive. With only 10 models produced, this is a chance to own a unique piece of motoring history.
If you do the sums, this car should cost a cool £1million. After all, Jensen's investors spent £10m producing an exciting new roadster, but the venture failed after just 10 cars had rolled through the factory. Not even McLaren can charge that sort of price, so how much is being asked for one of the last SV8s left to be sold? A far more reasonable £34,650.

The cars were bought from Jensen's receivers in various states of completion by a company called SV Automotive, based in Carterton, Oxfordshire. They are slowly being finished over the course of the next few months and being sold, at £8,000 less than the previous asking price, to customers looking for a slice of history or just something a little different.

Having followed the project since the beginning, we were resigned to the fact that we'd never get behind the wheel of an SV8. But we persuaded the sole dealer, Oselli of Witney in Oxfordshire, to let us have a go.

Even on the forecourt, which is packed with classic Astons, Ferraris and MGs, the Jensen attracts a lot of attention. It's not surprising, as the SV8 looks like a thoroughly modern machine that could easily have been made by a big mainstream manufacturer.

But it's not all good news. While it appears smart at first glance, there are a few build quality howlers, betraying the fact that money was running out before the end of the car's development. Wires are visible through the engine vents, the canvas hood doesn't seal properly and you can fit a finger in the panel gaps. It's a similar story inside - the innovative styling is let down by Ford components and dodgy materials.

Once you start it up you'll forgive the Jensen almost anything, though, as under the bonnet burbles a Ford Mustang Cobra's 4.6-litre V8. It sounds suitably purposeful, yet doesn't have the harsh anti-social exhaust note of some other British sports car rivals.

Slip the gearlever into first and the SV8 has a surprisingly sporty, positive feel without being as heavy as you'd expect. Pull away, squeeze the throttle and the Jensen will certainly get a move on if asked, but it's happier just wafting around using the torque from the big V8. Even at 70mph, the engine barely ticks over at only 2,000rpm.

The steering doesn't feel quite so at home on the motorway, though, as the slightest movement of the wheel makes the car wander alarmingly. But it's fine at A-road speeds and around town, with excellent feedback through the airbagless Nardi steering wheel.

Chassis dynamics were never going to be class leading, but Jensen's engineers can hold their heads up high. The car corners fairly well, and there is enough grip to prevent the driver getting into trouble, while still allowing some fun. Its ride is more refined than other big-wheeled, stiffly sprung roadsters - this vehicle is built for enjoyment on the road rather than the track.

The Jensen is remarkably resistant to scuttle shake, especially with the roof in place, indicating the bodyshell has been stiffened in all the right places. Only the tyre and wind noise spoil the refinement. Oselli is honest about its role. It says the SV8 isn't going to be an everyday car, but will appeal to enthusiasts who don't mind the odd quirk in return for something unique. It won't sell one to a buyer who doesn't understand that. Look at it as an alternative to the likes of a classic Aston or Jaguar, and the Jensen suddenly seems a bit of a bargain.

Key specs

* Partially built roadsters bought from Jensen's receivers
* Available only through Oselli Limited. Call 01993 849610