The Jensen 541
Author: Mike Billmore
February 1953. Discussions are underway at Jensen Motors for a new four seater GT saloon using the DS4 Austin 4 litre engine in a Jensen designed and built chassis. Not only is the chassis a first for Jensen as they have previously used other manufacturers; use of new materials for body panels in the form of glass fibre and polyester resin is a production first for a motor manufacturer.
The first prototype shown at the Earls Court Motor Show in October that year was received well by the public, also drawing the attention of other manufacturers interested in the new bodywork technology.
Eric Neale had done a wonderful job in designing the streamlined bodywork, the drag factor when tested was extremely low in comparison with contemporary designs resulting in good stability at the high speeds the car was able to achieve. October 1954 saw the car in full production and on display at the Earls Court Motor Show. Optional extras available were a high-compression cylinder head and twin exhaust system, overdrive, rev-counter, windscreen washer, heater, 15″ wire spoked wheels and high-power headlamps.
The Jensen 541 Deluxe
“The unique distinction of being the first British company to market a production saloon fitted with disc brakes to all four wheels has been achieved by Jensen Motors Ltd with the introduction of a Deluxe version of the Jensen 541 — it is equipped with the latest version of Dunlop disc brakes.”
From The Motor, October 17, 1956. 1956 saw Jensen achieve another industry first with the adoption of 4 wheel Dunlop disc brakes on the Deluxe model, also including as standard all the optional extras available to the 541 which stayed in production alongside the Deluxe model. 53 Deluxe models were built.
The Jensen 541-R
1957 saw the introduction of Austin’s DS7 engine with increased power output to 150 bhp, rack and pinion steering plus numerous styling changes to the bodywork. A very favourable road test by The Autocar in January 1958 achieved a top speed of 127.5 mph. Only 43 DS7 engined cars were built once supply of the engine ceased, later cars being fitted with the DS5 engine.
Introduced at the 1960 Motor Show, a completely restyled body being 4” wider than the previous model with 11/2” more headroom and again using the Austin DS5 engine, this time with automatic transmission as standard and the option of a manual gearbox (20 manual box cars were built). Jensen fitted seatbelts as standard equipment on the 541S notching up another first for the company by being the first British manufacturer to do so. Performance was not up to the 541R model due to extra weight and the automatic transmission, a road test in February 1961 by The Autocar showed a top speed of 108.5 and slower acceleration times. Production continued until 1963 alongside the new CV8 model. Total 541-S production was: 127.