Jensen's life of luxury could be over

JENSEN, the luxury car maker that rose to fame with its classic Interceptor and has boasted Clark Gable, Cliff Richard and Henry Cooper among its customers, will go into liquidation unless a rescuer emerges in the next three weeks.

Business advisers were called into the West Bromwich-based firm yesterday after it succumbed to the combined effects of recession, lack of orders and mounting losses. Jensen has debts of pounds 600,000 and has lost pounds 240,000 in the past 12 months.

A creditors' meeting has been set for 8 September when Roy Welsby and Alan Griffiths of Grant Thornton will be appointed as liquidators if a buyer has not been found.

Last night Mr Welsby said he had already been approached by a number of potential purchasers including car manufacturers. 'The Jensen name is synonymous with the finest traditions of British motoring. We hope that it will be possible to sell part or all of the business as a going concern,' he said.

Jensen this year launched its third and latest version of the Interceptor - the six-litre S4 EFI. The car, which is available as a saloon or convertible, sells for between pounds 95,600 and pounds 112,000, accelerates from 0-60mph in 7.2 seconds and has a top speed of 140mph.

The plan had been to produce up to a dozen of the hand-built supercars a year. But in the past six months Jensen has received only one order.

Although the company is continuing to trade, three of its 20 employees have already been laid off. One worker said: 'We are shocked and stunned. We had no indication that this was coming.'

The Jensen marque began life in 1926 when the teenage brothers Richard and Alan Jensen built their first car, the Jensen Special Number One. By 1934 they had taken over the Midlands coach builder WJ Smiths and begun producing cars under the name of the Jensen Motor Company.

It became known as the luxury car for the rich and famous to be seen in after the Hollywood film star Clark Gable commissioned Jensen to build him a sports tourer.

Jensen went into receivership in 1976 but was successfully re- launched as Jensen Parts and Services. Its curent owner, Unicon Holdings of Stockport, took over the business in 1988 and has been supporting Jensen through the difficult trading conditions of the past 18 months.

The Interceptor Mark Three, launched in April, featured in the ITV comedy Stanley and the Women, and is to appear in the next series of Trainer on BBC1. The car is also due to take part next month in the Euro Auto Challenge - a race to find the shortest route between 12 European capitals.

Jensen is the latest luxury car maker to fall on hard times. Lotus this year abandoned production of its best-loved model, the Elan, blaming low sales and escalating losses.

Now another famous name in motoring history faces extinction. Mr Welsby said: 'If we haven't got a good lead by the time of the creditors' meeting it will be a case of breaking Jensen up.'

(Photograph omitted)