Two names from the glorious British past - Jensen and Healey - resurfaced as entrepreneurs attempt to become micro-automakers.
Jensen Jensen, founded in the UK in 1935, was one of the first European manufacturers to recognize the advantages of using a big American V-8. Jensen faded out in the 1980s, but last week it returned.
Creative Group, a privately-owned UK automotive, tooling and design consultancy, acquired the marque two years ago. Now it has developed a running prototype of the S-V8 two-seater, powered by the 4.6-liter, 325hp, Ford V-8 from the Mustang.
Production could start in late 1999, said joint managing director Keith Rauer. More than 30 Jensen enthusiasts have ordered the S-V8 on the strength of reports and drawings, he added. The customer profile includes airline pilots and musicians.
Creative Group invested over $2.5 million in the factory at Redditch in central England. It plans to build 230 cars in the first 12 months of production, ramping up to 500 annually. The car will sell for $55,400 plus taxes.
Design Q, a Creative Group company, developed the 'stylish shape that is both timeless and contemporary,' Rauer said. A team of 20, including two people who had worked for Jaguar, 'consulted closely with the Jensen Owners' Club to incorporate the marque heritage into the design and styling.'
The result is a conventionally laid out convertible with an all-aluminum body measuring 4163mm long.
The Frogeye Sprite, a famed sports car shape of the 1950s, returned under new management.
Styled externally as an exact replica of the Austin-Healey Sprite, the new Healey Sprite Roadster is handbuilt to modern standards on a stainless steel chassis and powered by a 1.8-liter Ford Zetec engine.
The Healey Sprite Co. is not connected with Rover Group, the heir of the Austin-Healey name. The company, owned by Brian Rayward, hopes to produce up to 400 units a year in Maidenhead, west of London. The car is priced at $20,400 before tax.