#FlashBackFriday to my exclusive review in 2015
Read my original review first published on Motoring Middle East with my my pictures:
I’m literally LOLing and nursing a severe attack of the Mangiggles, as I raise the kind of racket not heard in these leafy and serene Oxfordshire byways, since Spitfires were taking off from nearby airfields in WWII. Over 600bhp from a classic Chrysler V8 with a mighty supercharger bolted on top, and no silencer, will certainly make itself heard before it gets seen. But you can’t possibly miss it when you do see it, because it looks utterly outrageous!
Logically I should be absolutely terrified right now: I’m driving an extremely rare one-off Jensen Interceptor FF (which by the way is one of the coolest car names on the planet!) ; it’s taken two years to get from ravaged and rusted barn find to this sensational state; and over £300,000 (about AED1.8m) has been sunk into its restoration by its car-mad owner, Mike Robins, who is keeping a wary eye on me from the standard Interceptor ahead of us.
Oh and I can only see about two-thirds of the world ahead of me because that towering blower, sitting towards the driver’s side is obscuring the rest. Ford Mondeos completely disappear behind it, left turns need planning permission and judging how much space I have on the left whilst driving these narrow roads is like playing the UK National Lotto.
Fortunately kerbing it won’t be easy as it has massive radial tyres that eschew ‘low-profile’ for beefy drag-racer style rubber, which you can just imagine watching in bullet-motion creasing up as all four wheels deploy over 600lb ft of torque to the terrorised tarmac; soon to be uprated to over 750bhp as Bavarez, classic restoration and customisation experts – and Jensen specialists – continue to work on this rolling showcase of vintage British thunder. The Army-style stencil ‘Bavarez’ print on the tyres just somehow makes them even cooler.
Already though it’s a feast for the eyes. Bavarez Owner/Operator Gregg Alvarez described how the team spent over 1000 hours on the body alone, after decay and corrosion had eaten away at pretty much most of the shell. This numbers-matching 1969 FF (a Mark I and number 142 of just 196) had only two previous owners but sat to ruin for over two decades. Mark III doors and roof skin were grafted on and the car was widened, plus of course that hole had to be cut into the bonnet.
And then they decided to leave it totally bare (but varnished) complete with bumps, grinds, welding marks, stains and even a rippled surface proudly wearing its bruises and bumps for all to see. It’s strangely organic and you can’t help but put your hand to the metal and stroke it, feeling all the contours, ripples and surface changes.
The FF itself was unique and is highly regarded as the first production sports coupe to offer all-wheel drive and ABS anti-lock brakes. FF stands for Ferguson Formula and is a nod to Ferguson Research that developed the four-wheel drive.
The ABS came from Dunlop Maxaret and was previously used on aircraft and trucks! Everything has been retained on this car, including the original block and the TorqueFlite 3-speed automatic. The suspension has been updated with custom coilovers and independent dampers and is adjustable, but the brakes are standard.
Even the supercharger is a period-correct Dias unit and they went for carbs resisting the temptation to go for fuel injection. They did have to use custom mounts for the motor as the torque was simply too much and more room had to be made for the differential.
Inside it has been completely and tastefully retrimmed and is remarkably restrained, that is until you notice the gigantic speakers sprouting out of the doors – each of which cost about a thousand pounds sterling. In fact the entire entertainment system alone cost £40,000 and was still in the process of being installed when I drove the car.
Not that I could see the point of it though. Because this car is so loud that you can barely have a conversation as you’ll see from the video. But you love it anyway. You just want to keep clearing yourself gaps, check for cameras and then plunge the throttle to revel in that magnificent noise – which admittedly sounds even better from outside the car than from within.
Now considering that this is a ‘custom classic’ – that is to say it pretty much has an original drivetrain and engine – and yet, as Greg says, they’ve taken what was normal and made it mental – you’d expect this rowdy and raucous, over-powered, barely legal, wannabe drag-racer, to be a temperamental, moody monster of a wild animal that’ll do your head in and be a snap-happy crazed handful.
It’s actually not.
The smooth automatic transmission (which doesn’t appear to have any issues with the power on tap) plus the incredibly light and surprisingly play-free, responsive and accurate steering make it a very easy car to drive. The ride is superb, firm but supple, with great damping, due in part no doubt, thanks to all that rubber around the wheels. And despite being a large car for these roads, thanks to excellent all-round visibility (apart from the front!) with the aid of classic thin pillars and large wrap-around rear-window, it’s not intimidating to drive or difficult to place.
In fact compared to a well-restored standard Interceptor this car not only has better brakes, and a very solid feel thanks to its refreshed strong structure, with hardly any twist or flex and hence few squeaks and rattles (confirming top-notch restoration work from Bavarez) it also handles better.
There’s no lurid slidey-widey nonsense. Traction is instant and it just goes with minimum fuss. It’s not the instant pulverising performance of a Dodge Hellcat, but a more linear build-up of force and momentum. And then you get to a corner and… it all behaves itself amazingly well. Turn-in is great for a classic and if there was more feel and weighting from the steering, you’d have the confidence to push it even harder.
I drove both cars over many miles of country roads and both remain true to their long-legged sporty Grand Tourer philosophy, even the Silver Slammington despite all its visual insanity. You could actually daily drive the Interceptor (although probably not the Slammington) and get a lot of respect and appreciation for an Interceptor.
The Jensen Interceptor FF Silver Slammington though is rolling theatre. A spectacular eye-grabbing special occasion of a car that’s bound to go viral whenever it is out causing a commotion on the streets of the UK. And yet all the while the driver would be cruising around in comfort – listening to an epic sound system (mechanical or musical!). Now I just wish someone in our region would commission a similarly bonkers bespoke design from Bavarez and ship it to Dubai. That would be so cool!