24th March 2021

British brutes in new suits

We have covered the two venerable British icons of the Jensen Interceptor and the Bristol saloons in the pages before, but until now there was little need for any comparison to be made. With no need for a contemporary-style road test, these two classics have yet to be mentioned together, until now. 

With the recent announcement that the Bristol 411 saloon will re-enter production in 2022, a full 46 years after the last factory-built example left the assembly line, the Interceptor and the 411 will once again be competing for the attentions of the wealthy motorist.

The Jensen Interceptor has enjoyed a renaissance in the last decade, thank to Jensen International Automotive, which has been producing re-engineered examples of the Interceptor since 2010. While the JIA examples keep the exteriors largely period correct – save for some tastefully enlarged alloy wheels to allow for bigger brakes- under the skin is a different story.

Gone is the vast 7200cc Chrysler big-block V8, along with its prodigious thirst and average power output. In its place is a choice of 6300cc Chevrolet engines, either naturally aspirated or supercharged, driving either manual or auto gearboxes. With a power quoted as ranging between 480 and 560bhp, alongside potential fuel economy figures in the mid-20s, the ‘new’ interceptor is in a different league to its identical forebears.

Needless to say, with fully retrimmed interior featuring modern touches such as sat-nav, heated seats and discreetly hidden stereo systems, the rest-mod Jensens provide a pretty tempting alternative to a raft of modern production cars. With prices starting at £105,000, which is the same as the similarly powerful Mercedes-Benz S Class Coupe, but infinitely more exclusive, the Jensen has enjoyed the lion’s share of this marketplace.

With a recent press announcement that engineering is underway and production due to commence in 2020, it seems that Bristol is back and will play the Jensen at its own game. Picking up from a previous attempt to revive the model in 2008, the venerable 411 saloon is to once again begin production under UK IVA rules.

In its time the fastest four-seater saloon in the world, the original 411 came fitted with the same Chrysler V8 as the Jensen but, with some minor tweaks from the Bristol factory, it was reported to enjoy up to 30bhp more than its rival. For the new car, power will be similar to the Jensen, as both will share identical engines and gearboxes as standard – although there is talk of a hybrid-electric powertrain option for the 411 (exact details have yet to be released). The weight advantage that the Bristol enjoys over its rival looks set to remain, perhaps until the rumoured battery packs are fitted.

With both cars being available in 2020, for the first time since 1976, these two British super saloons will once again be going head-to-head. While both share an engine, the resulting packages are wonderfully different in nature. Which would you choose? Let us know in the comments below.