How Jay Leno fell in love with the Jensen C-V8

On the list of vehicles that have visited Jay Leno’s Garage, there have been any number of British sports cars, and of course a healthy dose of American muscle machines. The latest car to appear on camera combines the two, and Jay describes it as “a Road Runner that went to Oxford.” But what does that mean, exactly?

For starters, it’s a 1965 Jensen C-V8—an interesting concoction of Jensen styling and a 383-cubic-inch Chrysler V-8. The CV-8 debuted at the 1962 Earl’s Court Motor Show, featuring a tube chassis as the base, while the rest of the car was built up using a smorgasbord of different materials—a sheet metal floor, fiberglass body, and aluminum doors.

The styling was polarizing, with four headlights giving the front end a rather distinctive look, to put it gently. As Jay highlights in the video, opening the hood requires an odd three-part process. A small locking panel at first appears to hide the fuel filler, but instead covers a lever to unlock the hood latch, and a final safety latch under the leading edge allows the driver to see the large Chrysler motor underneath. Working under the hood would be tough, though, since there is very little clearance to access, well, just about anything.

Fortunately, the engine won’t need much work, since it is a big, unlabored American V-8. The Chrysler 383 pumped out 330 horsepower when new and paired with a three-speed automatic transmission. Post-1965 cars did have the option of a manual four-speed transmission, but even with the slushbox, these Jensens could hit 60 mph in five seconds. That’s seriously quick for the ‘60s.

Jay claims he has been looking for a C-V8 for quite some time, which makes sense since the 1963–66 production run totaled just 499 cars. Just 10 left-hand-drive examples were sold, explaining why Jay is seated on the right side of his new dark blue trans-Atlantic special. He was shopping for an Aston Martin, but upon finding the C-V8 Jay couldn’t resist—Bond heritage or not.

For his money, Jay considers the C-V8 to be, in all likelihood, more reliable and faster than the Aston at a fraction of the price.