Launched in 1962, the C-V8 was a ‘shock and awe’ makeover of the 541, featuring more than 300bhp of American muscle and slightly gaudy looks. A beefier chassis for 1963’s MkII boasted Selectaride dampers, while equal-sized headlamps and a walnut dashboard identify the MkIII of 1965/6. Only 499 C-V8s were built and values have struggled until recently.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Glassfibre bodywork should be reassuring, but be very wary. Underneath the rust-free outer skin there’s a beefy tubular chassis and
a lot of steel beneath the scuttle. The sills, hidden behind the glassfibre, are prone to corrosion too. Repairs are best done with the body removed. The floor is steel, so it’s very important to check it thoroughly, including both front and rear footwells. Watch out for cracks, starbursts and any clumsily applied filler trying to mask an issue. Glassfibre isn’t too bad to work with if you know what you are doing. Door skins are aluminium, so check for paint peeling and oxidisation. Stainless steel bumpers are available for the MkI and MkII, but not for the MkIII currently. Trim is hard to find.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
The tough Chrysler V8 should be OK, but rebuilds can get expensive and questionable modifications are a worry. None of them is in the first flush of youth, so watch for blue exhaust smoke, tappety top ends and bottom-end knocks. They can run hot, and watch for bowed and leaking thermostat housings. Don’t be surprised if an electric fan has been installed, though it shouldn’t try to run all the time. These days, original numbers are desirable. Check Richard Calver’s book Jensen: the chassis data to see what each car should have. Listen out for exhaust leaks, especially manifolds. Chrysler’s Torqueflite transmission should be smooth and jolt-free. A handful of MkIII manuals were built, but some manual conversions have since taken place. Listen out for excessive rear axle noise – they give fair warning that a rebuild is due.
The Dunlop disc brakes have a lot of performance to rein in, so make sure that they’re up to the job. Pulling to one side could indicate a seized caliper, but rebuild parts are readily available. Power steering was never fitted from new, but many have been retrofitted more recently. Wheels can shatter, so keep an eye for stress cracks, and get them crack-tested between tyre changes.
INTERIOR AND ELECTRICS
If you need to overhaul it, refurbing the plush interior can rapidly overtake how much it costs to fuel it and can also be a tricky space in which to work. Water ingress needs to be watched for as it’ll soon rot stitching, carpets and floors if not kept at bay. Electrics tend to be reliable, so a quick operational check is all that’s required. Electrics suffer less than most GRP cars’ poor earthing. MkI has a handle on the bonnet, and MkIII can be easily identified by its equal-sized headlamps. The remainder with unequal lamps and a flap on the bonnet are MkIIs.
If you are a fan of raw power, the unfussy manner in which this beefy V8 propels you down the road will have you handing over the readies in no time. Yes, it’s rather thirsty, but try finding a 1960s sports car that isn’t. A healthy C-V8 beats the performance levels of an E-type, seats four comfortably, and is far more exclusive!