1937 Jensen S-Type Dual Cowl Tourer

Brothers Alan and Richard Jensen began their long and celebrated careers in the automobile business in 1926 when they constructed their very first car body – a sporty boat tail two seater fitted atop an Austin Chummy chassis. Their work was noticed by Alfred Herbert Wilde, then chief of Standard Motor Company. Wilde offered Alan Jensen a job at Standard’s New Avon Body Co., where Jensen would design the lovely Standard Avon Specials through 1933. Alan would soon join his brother Richard at an Austin dealer and garage, before the pair moved on to work for W.J. Smith & Sons, a lorry body building shop located in West Bromwich. While at Smith & Sons, the pair designed sporting bodies for cars from Wolseley, Standard, Singer and Morris among others, sold under the Jensen name. 1934 proved to be a pivotal year for the Jensen brothers and their business. First, W.J. Smith died and the Jensens were able to buy a controlling share in the business. They renamed it Jensen Motors Limited and finally had the autonomy to produce the kinds of vehicles they had always dreamed. The second big break came in the form of two bare Ford V8 chassis and a commission from Hollywood entrepreneur Percy T. Morgan to build two cars, one for himself and one for his friend Clark Gable. While the story of Gable and the Ford is a lengthy tale in its own right, it was just the notoriety the Jensen brothers needed to kick start their business.

Jensen’s first proper, complete car was the S-Type, a handsome sports touring car that was built on a modified Ford of England chassis, and powered by either the smallbore Ford V8-74 (just 2.2 liters) or the larger 221 cubic inch, American Ford flathead V8. Jensen offered clients a choice of three body styles; the four-door sports saloon, two door drophead coupe or sporty three door dual-cowl tourer. The S-Type was offered between 1936 and 1941, overlapping with the larger H-Type for a brief time. It is believed that approximately 50 S-Types were built in total, and of those, about 10 are known today, making it an extremely rare model from this storied British car builder.

This immensely charming 1937 Jensen S-Type is one of just five known survivors to wear this distinctive dual-cowl tourer coachwork. Recently out of a large collection of rare and unique automobiles, it presents in very good condition with a lovely, care-worn, older restoration. The history of “AHS 389” was extensively researched by one of its previous owners, who went to great lengths to confirm this car’s early history, as well as the stories of the owners themselves. The history file occupies two large binders, but the basic story is that the car was originally registered in 1937 to John Woodrow & Sons Builders, of Bridge of Weir, in the lowlands of Scotland. John Woodrow himself had died a year earlier, so it was likely his youngest son Jimmy that bought the car and registered it in the business name. Jimmy enjoyed a number of fine cars that included an XK120, XK140 and an Aston Martin DB5.

It appears the Jensen remained in Scotland for many years, and it was discovered there in the early 1980s on a farm by a Canadian Jensen dealer named Blair Hamilton. Hamilton recognized the importance of the car, and he made a deal to buy it. Once in Canada he entrusted the restoration to the highly respected restorer Ed Arnold of Vancouver, British Columbia. The original Ford flathead had long since parted ways with the chassis, so Arnold sourced a similar but more powerful Mercury flathead from the mid-1940s. The body was rebuilt and painted in this distinct orange and brown livery, which suits the car quite well and remains in surprisingly good condition considering the restoration is approaching 35 years old. The body itself is a wonderful design, a graceful four-seat tourer with an enclosed, rear-mounted spare, folding windscreen, dual Brooklands Aeroscreens for the rear passengers and a unique single nearside rear door with hinged rear cowl for easy access to the back seat. The body features a host of interesting period accessories, such as a Raydot spot light, chrome trumpet horns, Lucas “Cat Eye” headlights and a fabulous Eagle mascot topping the radiator shell. Like the body, the chrome remains in good condition overall, and while it appears a bit care-worn in places, it is well suited to the overall feel of this well-loved and cherished automobile.

The interior is trimmed in dark brown leather and carpet, and it presents very well with a lovely patina that invites regular use. The driver faces a centrally mounted instrument panel with Jensen-branded tach and speedo, with a mix of Smiths and Lucas minor dials. The interior is comfortable and beautifully presented. Full weather equipment includes a tan canvas top and a full set of side curtains. Because of the single nearside rear door, the offside rear side curtain is oddly just a simple blind canvas panel. Odd configuration aside, the weather equipment is in good order and fits the body quite well.

It is a bit of a surprise to lift the bonnet of this British touring car to find a 255 cubic inch Mercury flathead V8. The original Ford flathead was lost to time, but the Mercury unit that takes its place retains the correct look with the added benefit of increased power thanks to the larger displacement and the high-performance Offenhauser cylinder heads. Power is sent rearward through a 3-speed manual transmission and a Columbia two-speed rear axle. The undercarriage remains in surprisingly good condition, appearing very clean and tidy. The combination of the eager Mercury engine and overdrive rear axle makes this Jensen an exceptional event car capable of relaxed high-speed cruising.

This unusual and attractively-bodied British-American hybrid has benefited from a long series of passionate owners. The fascinating history is very well documented and it remains in fine order with a very well-preserved restoration. Extensive documentation includes photos, model history, an original Owner’s Reference Book, copy of the owner’s manual, technical data, a binder full of parts and service information and a full manual for the Columbia axle. This charming Jensen is one of just a handful of surviving examples that offers the beauty of fine English coachwork with reliable American power, and with room for four, it would make a most unique and crowd-pleasing tour car.

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