by Adrian Foster
Just two weeks later, here I was cruising through the gates of Silverstone motor racing circuit in Northamptonshire at 8am on a bright, sunny morning in a luxurious Range Rover Sport Autobiography thoughtfully lent to me for the occasion by Jaguar Land Rover’s press office. I knew I had arrived at the right place: ahead of me stood nearly 100 gleaming classic English and American sports cars including two Ford Mustang GTs (one with an authentic-sounding Bullitt soundtrack), Triumph TR4s, a Daimler Dart, Jaguar 120C, MGAs, MGBs, a TD, a gorgeous ice blue Monteverdi 375L – a veritable classic car heaven. And there at the end of a row stood an immaculate flame orange Jensen Interceptor Mk 3 that was to be my drive for the day. Owned by Oxfordshire-based Jensen restoration and maintenance specialists Cropredy Bridge Garage, the 1974 Interceptor looked much as it must have done when it first rolled out of the showroom nearly forty years ago.
The occasion was the seventh annual Hagerty Drive it Day, a leisurely fun run from Silverstone to the Donington racing circuit in Leicestershire organised for classic car owners by the eponymous car insurance company. Bacon sarnies and a quick cuppa were followed by an quick briefing and then out into the morning sunshine to find the Jensen. The massive 7.2-litre Chrysler V8 burst into life at the first turn of the key before settling down to a burbling tick-over, before rising to a shouty roar as I slotted the gear selector into drive and pressed the loud pedal.
We set off on the 82-mile run in convoy behind a trio of TR4s, wending our way through the pretty country lanes of Northamptonshire in the direction of Coton and Naseby. At Naseby, where the famous battle took place, we witnessed the oh-so-English sight of three MGs parked at a road junction, their owners talking animatedly and waving pieces of paper and all pointing in different directions. Meanwhile, smiling smugly to ourselves, we headed off up the road – in the wrong direction.
Clouds were gathering and the ominous scent of rain could be detected over the smell of petrol and a whiff of hot oil whenever I put my right foot down to unleash the 290-odd horses. After a stop for petrol, which Angie informed me was being consumed at 9 miles per gallon, we pressed onwards in the direction of Leicestershire, passing through Lutterworth, Thurlaston and Desford. As I got more used to driving the Interceptor I marvelled at how times – and car interiors – have changed for the better over the years. There was no apparent logic to the layout of the switchgear in the Jensen cockpit and I often had to resort to asking my driving companion to find the light switch, adjust the de-mister (no air conditioning in those days) and help me to find the windscreen wipers.
We had just rolled into the car park outside the Donington museum and parked alongside the gorgeous blue Monteverdi when the heavens opened and I ran to the museum to shelter from the rain. Which is where I caught up with Marcus Atkinson, marketing director of classic car insurance specialists Hagerty, the sponsors and organisers of the event: “Hagerty is all about doing our bit to help preserve the hobby of collecting and using classic cars. We share their owners’ enthusiasm and try to encourage everyone to get their cars out on these Drive it Days and show the public just how big this movement is.
“We would like to thank all the car owners for coming out today and helping to make such a wonderful spectacle.”
With more rain threatening we decided to head for home and experience motorway driving in the Interceptor. Arguably, cruising at high speed is what a Grand Touring car like the Jensen was designed for and the lazy 290bhp V8 mated to the automatic gearbox complimented one another perfectly. During the ensuing downpour and resulting spray, the wipers coped manfully and the demister did its best to clear the screen. Even so, I was relieved to hand the keys back after what was without doubt a drive of a lifetime.
Many thanks to Hagerty Classic Car Insurance, to Cropredy Bridge Garage for entrusting their beloved Jensen to me, and to Angie Voluti for her map reading and good company.