Motoring Trailblazers - Jensen FF

Sat 22nd Sep 2018

The world of motoring is hurtling headlong into a bright new future of all-electric, automated, connected technology - and Marty McFly is not behind the wheel! But what were the cars that were ‘back to the future’ of years gone by?

There have been many different trailblazing motors which were seen by the critics to be ahead of their time, and in this series, we will investigate and showcase many of the best in class.

Jensen FF
Elsewhere in this series we have extolled the virtues of the AMC Eagle, and gave that American car a little credit for the development of four-wheel drive. However, let us rewind thirteen years prior to the Eagle’s launch and look at a British car, the Jensen FF, which had both four-wheel drive and an anti-locking braking system.

Described as a Grand Tourer, perhaps the Jensen FF never got the credit it deserved as it didn’t look like a car that required four-wheel drive, or could even use it if it went off road. But every other sense, this was a car that definitely had an eye for going off piste. The clues for this lie in the car’s FF, an abbreviation which stands for Ferguson Formula, a company which had made its name building tractors.

The FF had many other off-road features, including front seat belts, a tachometer and even map pockets. The braking, which included a Dunlop Maxaret mechanical system, only previously seen on aircraft, lorries and racing cars, was another element of the technical innovation that Jensen brought to this unique car.

Unfortunately all this technical wizardry came at quite a high cost to the consumer, 30% more expensive than its similar looking brother, the Jensen Interceptor, it was a car that was costlier than many of the GTs from some of the high-end car brands of the time.

This unique technology also made for a rather problematic design issue, the system was set-up for right-hand drivers, and there were never any thoughts given to making the cars left-hand drive, automatically ruling out several markets, including the United States.

So, the Jensen FF certainly continued the British company’s history of producing world class design and engine brilliance, but due to the costs and the limited market, the forerunner to many other four-wheel drives was only given a limited lease of life and after producing just 320 between 1966 and 1971, the brakes were put on the project forever.