A donated article by WBLHS member Richard Peckover.
West Bromwich is justly proud of its industrial heritage.
Salters Weighing machines and balances were exported globally. Likewise, the products of Izons, K&J, Archibald Kenrick and of course EMB.
Should you ride on an older tram anywhere in the world you are likely to notice that the driver’s traction motor control column proudly displays the Logo “EMB West Bromwich”.
All these companies, and this is by no means a comprehensive list, are long established companies dating back at least to the 19th century! However, arguably, the most well-known West Bromwich company outside the shores of this sceptred isle is Jensen Motors, or perhaps their products, but out of all our famous companies Jensen was the shortest lived, surviving barely 50 years.
There is an awful lot of material available on the Jensen marque, therefore, this is intended to give a very brief history of the company’s presence in West Bromwich rather than any real detail of the cars.
The association of Jensen with West Bromwich began, as these things often do, in a rather strange way. During 1931 the Jensen brothers, Alan and Richard, had resigned from their directorships of Patrick Motors and through a chance conversation were introduced to W.J. Smith of W.J Smith and Sons by George Mason the proprietor of the grocery provision company. Smiths were a long-established local coach building company, based in Carters Green, who built commercial vehicle bodies onto customer supplied chassis, one of their customers being the George Mason company. George Masons were having issues with both the quality and the excessive weight of the vans being supplied by Smiths and suggested that the Jensen Brothers could sort these issues out.
Alan and Richard joined W. J. Smiths and during the next three years transformed the company, increasing productivity, quality, and profitability. During this period the 86-year-old W.J. Smith had retired leaving Mr Alan and Mr Richard to run the company. In 1934 the company was renamed Jensen Motors Ltd.
During the next five years and until the outbreak of war, they continued to build commercial vehicle bodies but also began to build some very special sporting vehicles. These cars soon caught the attention of the rich and famous, a trend which followed the marque through its lifetime! The company remained at the Carters Green site through the war period producing both ordinance and military vehicles. After the war two new manufacturing sites were established at Pensnett and Stoke on Trent to increase the build volume of the commercial vehicles. Carters Green concentrating on the car production, initially with a large luxury sporting saloon known as the PW (Post War) followed by the 4-litre saloon and convertible. Then in 1949 by a cabriolet known as the Interceptor, this model was later also introduced in hard top form. Production of this Interceptor model continued until 1957.
During this period the revolutionary 541 sports saloon was introduced, (nomenclature simply denoted that the model was first introduced in 1954) the bodywork of the 541 was mainly formed from reinforced glass fibre, an industry first for a mainstream vehicle manufacturer.
Jensen were now beginning to win contracts to build, assemble or finish vehicles for other companies, the Austin A40 Sports was an early example of this, and it was becoming obvious that the Carters Green facility was being rapidly outgrown, and a larger manufacturing facility was becoming necessary. One of the requirements for the new facility was for it to be in the West Bromwich locality, this was to ensure the skilled workforce, built up over the years, were retained. Some of these employees had joined W.J. Smiths in the 1920s and remained with Jensen until retirement in the 1960s/70s!
A new factory was eventually acquired in Kelvin Way, West Bromwich during the mid-1950s. Initially this took on the lucrative contract assembly work, or in some cases partial assembly, of vehicles for other manufacturers. These contracts were comparatively low volume vehicles or vehicle derivatives which would have disrupted production in the parent companies own high volume environments. These included The Austin-Healey, The Austin Gypsy and The A95/A105 Westminster Estate car bodies, several more contracts were to follow and continue through to the late 1960s.
The Jensen car assembly moved to the Kelvin Way site in the early 1960s and continued with the 541S model, the last department to move from Carters Green being the Service Department. (Several owners would return their cars for service from their homes around the world!)
Jensen car production through the early to mid-1960s remained very low with the 541S and its replacement the CV8 in 1963. The main revenue coming from the contract assembly which included models from Volvo, BMC and The Rootes Group.
The Jensen Brothers left the company after a boardroom dispute regarding the replacement for the CV8. The Italian designed replacement became the most well-known Jensen model in the form of the Interceptor and its 4-wheel drive derivative the FF. Production of the Interceptor continued in various guises until the company closed in May 1976.
After closure two associated companies were formed and continued on the Kelvin Way site, namely Jensen Special Products and Jensen Parts and Service both remained there for a few years.
The Kelvin Way and Carters Green factories are extant, the Kelvin Way site being converted into individual units and Carters Green to an office facility which has been renamed Jensen House.