JENSEN 541 REVIEW

The Jensen 541 was stylish and innovative. We uncover the appeal of this delightful British classic.

The first thing to strike you when you settle behind the 541’s wheel is the simplicity of the interior.  There are enough dials to keep you informed but everything is easily visible and switches are within easy reach. It’s comfortable too, and many owners are happy to cover substantial mileages without complaint.  The fact that it is hard wearing is an added bonus.

A properly sorted example should start easily and settle to a steady tickover, so be wary of a rough-running car. Out on the road, the torquey Austin lump makes for relaxed progress but the 541 was pretty rapid for its time, with a top speed of over 120mph in higher states of tune helped by the smooth bodywork.

You won’t keep up with a modern car on a twisty road but the Jensen is safe and surefooted, while those standard disc brakes inspire confidence. The simple and proven mechanicals mean the 541 may not have been at the cutting edge of technology but if you are looking for a British GT that can act as a sports car when required, it’s well worth considering.


VITAL STATISTICS

1954 JENSEN 541

Engine                                    3993cc/6-cyl/OHV

Power (bhp@rpm)                  130bhp@3700rpm

Torque (lb ft@rpm)                 209lb ft@2200rpm

Top speed                                116mph

0-60mph                                  10.6sec

Consumption                            21mpg 


WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK & CHASSIS
 

The body is mostly GRP, but while rust isn’t an issue, it does need checking for signs of stress cracks, crazing, and bodged repairs. The door skins are aluminium and need checking for signs of bimetallic corrosion where they meet the steel door skin. Another area worth checking is the pivoting flap that acts as the radiator grille. This is a simple cable-operated affair controlled by a lever in the cabin, but you’ll want to ensure it moves freely since it manages engine cooling. 

Rot can set-in around the boot-mounted battery tray, and around the shackles for the rear leaf springs. Check the chassis tubes beneath the sills, and take a good look at the marine ply/aluminium sandwich floorpan which can harbour rot. It pays to spend plenty of time checking the chassis of a potential purchase though should it be too far gone, new chassis are available. That said, you’ll need to budget around £8000, so negotiate the asking price accordingly.

 

ENGINE

 

The 4.0-litre straight six Austin engine started out as a truck engine and is generally bullet-proof given proper maintenance. In fact, comfortably over 100,000 miles is often possible before major work is needed so quiz the previous owner about their maintenance regime. Cooling systems can weaken and blow the head gasket – check for oil or water leaks, or any signs that the two fluids are mixing. Oil leaks are an occasional problem but rarely serious. Standard ‘DS5’ engines had three SU carburettors, the ‘DS7’ unit fitted to ‘R’ models just two, though there is little to choose between them for longevity.

 

RUNNING GEAR

Manual gearboxes are either a four-speed Austin unit with overdrive, or a four-speed Moss. Each is fairly slow, but robust – any whines or rumbles means problems. The rarer GM automatic is tough, but will cost £2000 to recondition. Clutches and rear axles shouldn’t give any problems, but replacements are easy to source.

The front suspension uses lever-arm dampers and is derived from the Austin Cambridge, so parts availability is good. Likewise the rear leaf springs. There are plenty of greasing points that need regular attention so ensure this has been done. Stiffness in the steering (early cars used a cam and roller set-up, ‘R’ models rack and pinion) could mean the king pins haven’t received the required 1000-mile lubrication.

 

BRAKES

The 541 was the first British four-seater to use Dunlop disc brakes all round, and apart from a tendency among sparingly-used cars for the pistons to seize, shouldn’t give any trouble. Unusually, vacuum pressure for the Lockheed servo system was stored inside the left-hand chassis tube, so weak brakes could be a sign that rotten chassis tubing is allowing air to escape.  A ‘Coopercraft’ brake upgrade is a popular addition and further improves efficiency; consider it a bonus if this has already been done on a given car. 


INTERIOR

Interiors are simple, robust and trimmed in vinyl, leather, or a combination of the two.  There is little to watch for apart from normal wear and tear, but avoid any that are very tatty or incomplete. Items such as replacement switches are hard to come by and will mean a likely extensive and time-consuming hunt for second-hand parts. It will be cheaper in the long-run to find one in good condition to begin with than to restore a tired example


OUR VERDICT

When you consider the ingredients – a great British marque, a stylish yet robust four-seater sports car and a dash of innovation – it is hard to see why you wouldn’t want a Jensen 541.

With an incredibly thick GRP body, simple steel tube chassis and proven mechanicals, the 541 is a reliable and comfortable classic car. Resisting the temptation to make a complex car with specialist underpinnings, Jensen created a car that, almost 50 years on, still doesn’t break the bank.

Like any British classic of the period, there are things to consider before taking the plunge, but there are fewer pitfalls than you might expect of a car of this vintage.  Which makes it a very tempting ownership proposition. The thriving JensenOwners Club and plenty of specialist support available seals the deal as far as the lovely 541 is concerned.  If it is a Jensen you want but are put off by the complexity and thirst of the Interceptor, the quintessentially British 541 is well worth a closer look.

A 541, well-sorted, makes a glamourous and reliable car. There are areas that need careful checking, but while a substantial restoration isn’t too scary a prospect, you shouldn’t spend too much on an example that needs fettling. Buy the best you can find and enjoy that film-star feeling.

Recently Added

Img 0418Sponsored Ad
1954
£25,000
  • 116,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1100036
Underneath is as good as top has her original, underneath is as good as top has her original, has...
11
07971024412
View details
Photo2285Sponsored Ad
1994
£6,750
Range rover Classic 300tdi
  • 141,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1099676
Late model, automatic, soft dash, leather trim, major service including Cambelt kit, New air spri...
7
01904633332
View details
1tSponsored Ad
1973
€12,950
Giardiniera 1973 very good condition
  • 56,842
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 LHD
  • Refcode: TA1100048
Fiat has produced the popular 500 from 1960 till 1975. The estate version is known as Giardiniera...
8
+31 416 751393
View details
Fritz 004Sponsored Ad
1997
£295
Classic
  • 123,324
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1099297
Manual, engine and gearbox alone is probably worth the asking price. Owned the car for about ten ...
6
07526994473
View details
20171026 133932Sponsored Ad
1968
£51,250
Fastback
  • 50,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 LHD
  • Refcode: TA1084563
1968 Mustang Fastback in lovely condition
30
07742 604906
View details
20170918 150338Sponsored Ad
1965
£22,750
  • 50,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 LHD
  • Refcode: TA1061967
A neat little coupe with the options everyone wants. "A" Code four barrel Carb V8 and Four speed.
22
07742 604906
View details
S l1600Sponsored Ad
1965
£46,250
Fastback
  • 50,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 LHD
  • Refcode: TA1100047
A lovely example of one of the most sought after models of Mustang, A 1965 GT four speed example
47
07742 604906
View details
1Sponsored Ad
1961
£15,750
  • 94,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1090237
Air Ride Suspension. Car is in factory colours of Blue with a White roof. Bodywork and interior a...
30
07809896824
View details
Silver coupe 053Sponsored Ad
1966
£26,500
  • 50,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 LHD
  • Refcode: TA1100045
An amazingly good condition restored car from California Rust free and stunning, We have added ...
22
07742 604906
View details
S l1600 42Sponsored Ad
1968
£50,750
Fastback
  • 50,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 LHD
  • Refcode: TA1084564
A stunning show quality 1968 Mustang Fastback Now in stock Will be sold UK Registered, MOT'd an...
40
07742 604906
View details
See All Classic Cars for Sale